The dictionary defines “stonewall” as “to refuse to comply or cooperate.” Does your marriage relationship involve stonewalling? Stonewalling is one of the big four deal breakers or marriage-enders.
Liz and Barry went on a one-week trip to Las Vegas. Their much-needed vacation had been in the works for some time. Both got caught up in the carnival atmosphere for a few days, but then Barry went quiet…
Barry’s body language and facial expression shouted unhappiness, but he would not say anything. He became emotionally distant from Liz. When Liz tried to talk with him, he withdrew even more. A couple of times when she was initiating a conversation, he just turned his back and walked out of their hotel room. Barry was stonewalling.
The only possible way of salvaging their vacation together would have been clearing the air through discussion. Liz wanted to hear what was bothering Barry, so they could continue their holiday. He refused to cooperate. Both were wishing they had never gone on vacation. Their holiday was ruined.
The fundamental problem with stonewalling is that it takes the “relate” out of “relationship.” While one party is stonewalling, there is no relationship—thus causing marriage problems.
A tendency to stonewall can arise from something as simple as parental modeling—that’s the way dad was. Sometimes it is a means of control. Sometimes people resort to stonewalling out of a fear of conflict; they must keep the peace at all costs.
Stonewalling can arise from the rather dictatorial belief that “I am right; there’s nothing to discuss.” It is a tool of the bully, the international terrorist or…the marital terrorist.
If it is the more-verbal partner who ‘knows she is right,’ her attempts at discussion are thinly veiled attempts to convince her partner of something. He withdraws emotionally and refuses to talk, because he believes she will go on and on until he concedes. In this case, both parties are stonewalling. He is stonewalling because it helps him maintain a sense of self while being bullied; she is stonewalling because she believes hers is the only right way and it is her right and duty to bring him around to the truth.
Let me be clear about something. Stonewalling through emotional withdrawal or verbal bullying is not the exclusive domain of either men or women. Both are vulnerable to slipping into the mode of refusing to relate. We have all been there at some time or other.
The important thing is to recognize stonewalling puts your marriage at risk. So break out of it as soon as you become aware of it.
For you stonewallers who withdraw, take some assertiveness training. Put the fight back into your marriage. What have you got to lose? You are killing your marriage anyway.
For you husbands and wives stuck in terminal rightness, get real. Recognize that you can never have a marriage until you deal with this. Yes, you could perhaps bully and bribe your spouse into staying for a few more years, but a master/slave relationship is not a marriage.
Finally, if you are stonewalling to make the marriage so intolerable your spouse will leave, get some backbone and be honest about what you want. Do the right thing.