The Silent Killer of Relationships: What You Need to Know About Stonewalling

Suffering and Healing

Stonewalling in a Relationship: What You Need to Know

Are you feeling disconnected from your partner lately? Does it seem like every conversation you have ends in a frustrated confrontation or total silence?

It’s possible that you’re experiencing stonewalling in your relationship. Stonewalling, also known as withdrawal or disengagement, is a common and toxic behavior that can be incredibly damaging to any relationship.

It involves one partner shutting down, becoming unresponsive, and refusing to engage in communication or discussion. If you’re unsure whether you or your partner are exhibiting signs of stonewalling, keep reading.

In this article, we’ll explore the definition, characteristics, and effects of stonewalling, as well as the signs to watch for in your own relationship.

Definition and Characteristics of Stonewalling

Stonewalling is a disengagement behavior that occurs when one partner withdraws emotionally and mentally from the relationship. The stonewaller may appear silent, unresponsive, or disinterested, while their partner is left feeling frustrated, hurt, and unheard.

Stonewalling typically occurs during an argument or discussion, as the stonewaller feels overwhelmed by the intensity of emotions or the conflict at hand. Instead of engaging in the conversation, they shut down or walk away.

Common Characteristics of Stonewalling:

  • Refusing to engage in conversation or discussion
  • Dismissing or neglecting their partner’s viewpoint
  • Avoiding eye contact or physical touch
  • Withholding affection or intimacy
  • Remaining silent or giving short, one-word answers
  • Walking away from the conversation or argument

Effects of Stonewalling

Stonewalling can have serious and long-lasting effects on a relationship. Some of the most common include:


If one partner consistently stonewalls, the other may begin to feel insecure, anxious, or unsupported. They may feel like their feelings and opinions don’t matter, and that their partner isn’t interested in resolving conflicts or making the relationship work.


Over time, stonewalling can breed bitterness and resentment in both partners. The stonewaller may resent being constantly pressured or challenged, while the other partner may resent being ignored or invalidated.

Mental Abuse:

In some cases, stonewalling can be a form of mental abuse. The silent treatment and disengagement can cause emotional pain and distress, leaving the other partner feeling manipulated or controlled.

Narcissistic Behavior:

Stonewalling is often a behavior seen in individuals with narcissistic tendencies. They may feel entitled to have their needs met without considering the feelings or needs of their partner.

Signs of Stonewalling in a Relationship

If you’re unsure whether you or your partner are stonewalling, here are some common signs to watch for:

Lack of Openness:

If you or your partner feels uncomfortable discussing feelings or emotions, or avoids conversations about your relationship, this could be a sign of stonewalling. Instead of engaging in conversation, you may both try to ignore the issue or dismiss it entirely.

Quick Dismissal:

If your partner quickly dismisses or neglects your feelings or concerns, this could be a sign of stonewalling. They may not outwardly acknowledge your perspective or experience, which can leave you feeling hurt and misunderstood.

Avoidance of Eye Contact:

Eye contact is an important aspect of communication, especially in close relationships. If your partner is avoiding eye contact or looking away during discussions, this may indicate that they are stonewalling and feeling emotionally distant.

Unresponsiveness to Questions:

If your partner consistently gives one-word answers or is completely silent during conversations, this is a classic sign of stonewalling. They may be withdrawing mentally and emotionally from the conversation, leaving you feeling unheard and unsupported.

Walking Away:

Finally, if your partner consistently walks away from conversations or arguments, this is a clear sign of stonewalling. They may be unwilling or unable to engage in the conversation, leaving you feeling frustrated and helpless.

What You Can Do About Stonewalling

If you’re experiencing stonewalling in your relationship, there are a few things you can do to address the issue:

Bring it up with your partner:

Start by addressing the behavior directly with your partner. Let them know how their behavior is affecting you and the relationship, and express your desire to work together to find a solution.

Practice active listening:

Both partners need to actively listen to each other and acknowledge each other’s concerns. Work on building a space where both partners feel heard and supported.

Seek therapy:

If stonewalling is a recurring issue in your relationship, it may be helpful to seek therapy. A therapist can help you and your partner work through the underlying issues and develop communication strategies that work for both of you.

In Conclusion

Stonewalling can be a toxic and damaging behavior in any relationship. By recognizing the signs, addressing the behavior, and working together to find a solution, you and your partner can build a stronger, more supportive relationship.

Remember that a willingness to listen and engage in open communication is key to resolving conflicts and maintaining a healthy, happy relationship.

How to Deal with Stonewalling in a Relationship

Dealing with stonewalling in a relationship can be a frustrating and difficult experience, but it doesn’t have to be a relationship-ending issue. With the right approach and mindset, you can confront the behavior and work towards improving your communication and relationship as a whole.

Survival without Engagement:

When your partner is stonewalling, it’s essential that you do not retaliate with negativity. Try to stay calm and control any feelings of resentment or frustration.

Instead of engaging with the stonewaller’s behavior, learn to practice self-control and avoid getting dragged into their negative energy.

No Guilt:

It’s also important that you maintain a clear conscience in your response to the stonewaller. By focusing on a non-aggressive response that does not escalate the situation, you can help prevent any guilt or anger from affecting your own mindset.

Communicate Disapproval:

While it’s important to respect your partner’s space and needs, it’s also important to communicate how you feel when they stonewall. Let them know that their behavior is hurtful and that it’s important for you both to work on communication in order to improve the relationship.

By addressing misunderstandings and taking steps towards better communication, you can make positive strides in your relationship.

Utilize Time Constructively:

When dealing with stonewalling, it’s important to utilize your time constructively. It’s easy to become consumed with the issue, but it’s important to maintain a healthy balance of self-care, family and friends time, and overall distraction from the situation.

Taking care of yourself and seeking outside support can help you maintain your emotional wellbeing.

Check-in with Partner:

While giving your partner space to process their emotions and thoughts, it’s important to still show attentiveness and care towards them. Check-in with them on occasion, ask how they’re doing, and show compassion towards their needs.

By doing this, you can begin to break down the barriers that their stonewalling has put up, and start to build a more open and communicative relationship.

Engage at Own Pace:

When it comes to engaging in conversation with a stonewaller, it’s important to take your time to process your own emotions and thoughts first. Only when you feel ready should you begin to address your partner’s behavior and work towards improved communication.

By having communication control and engaging at your own pace, you can feel more comfortable and confident in your responses.

Leave the Baggage Out:

When dealing with stonewalling, it’s crucial to understand that you cannot bring past baggage into the current situation. Rather than harboring old wounds and resentments, try to turn over a new leaf and begin fresh.

This can help you establish a healthy, forward-thinking relationship that’s free from any baggage or negativity.

Effects of Stonewalling on Relationships

Stonewalling, like criticism, contempt, and defensiveness, can be a relationship doom factor. When one partner stonewalls the other, it creates an environment of negativity, distance, and disengagement.

Additionally, it can lead to desperation, hurtful actions, and bitterness in the other partner. When stonewalling is present in a relationship, both partners are affected.

Not only does it cause the stonewaller to push away their partner and avoid conflict, but it also leaves the other partner feeling unloved, uncared for, and deeply hurt. As the silent killer of relationships, stonewalling can lead to repeated bouts of disconnection and can slowly erode the trust and respect that are necessary for any healthy, functioning partnership.

The good news is that by addressing stonewalling with an open mind and a willingness to work towards a solution, it can be overcome. By implementing the strategies discussed above and encouraging open communication, both partners can learn how to engage positively with each other, leading to a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.

In conclusion, stonewalling can be a damaging and destructive behavior that can undermine the foundation of any relationship. By recognizing the signs of stonewalling, practicing self-control, and encouraging open communication, you can take steps towards repairing your relationship and fostering a more positive and fulfilling connection with your partner.

Remember, addressing stonewalling involves both partners working together, with a focus on listening and understanding each other’s needs. By implementing positive communication strategies and prioritizing mutual respect and empathy, you can cultivate a healthy, long-lasting relationship built on open communication and trust.

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