Stonewalling in your relationship means refusing to talk to your partner. This could include intentionally shutting down during an argument, often referred to as 'silent treatment' by frustrated couples. It causes feelings of abandonment, hurt and harms the relationship when it is applied as a strategy to buy space, and time. Worse yet, if this happening regularly, then you might need to address this with the help of your relationship counsellor as it could be the signs of an abusive relationship.
IF it appears to be a one off experience or rare occasion that this happens, here is what you can do:
1. Use a slow, soft approach.
2. Make an observation, not a judgement i.e. "When I see you go quiet, and withdraw into yourself..."
3. Describe how it makes you feel.
i.e. "... I feel lost, alone and without hope for our relationship"
4. Make a request, not a demand.
i.e. "Would you be willing to make some time to touch into this in a way that keeps us both safe?"
Expect a NO. This may require a little more: "I would love it if after we have had some time with what is upsetting us, to address what it is that is causing the most pain. I hate seeing us suffer like this. This is not just your problem, or my problem, this is our problem."
5. Take your best manners to the table, be respectful to your partner, reflect what they are saying and do everything you can to really hear them.
Sometimes we also need to see if we are just avoiding the problem, rather than stonewalling. This is a whole blog post on its own, but know that if you are practicing avoidance, you are probably also engaging in stonewalling if you are not on speaking terms.
I encourage you not to wait until you are both in crisis before you seek help. Couples counselling is effective in offering real relationship skills that can change the course of your entire life, not just your relationship. Clear communication, healthy conflict management, and couple routines are key to maintaining a fulfilling relationship with your partner.
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