Up until very recently, stonewalling, aka the silent treatment, was passed around as the go-to advice, at least in pop culture, for unsatisfied partners in relationships. “S/he’s giving me the silent treatment” doesn’t really raise any red flags and is scoffed off as a trivial, temporary problem. However, stonewalling abuse is a very real threat in relationships, one that might just jeopardize the whole dynamic.
Relationships are built around honest and open communication. By telling each other your wants and expectations, you let your partner know how to make and keep each other happy. When you take away communication from a relationship, you’re quite literally suffocating it.
Even so, couples often spend a couple of days stonewalling each other after fights. How then, could stonewalling be emotional abuse? Why is it done? How does one deal with being stonewalled? Let’s find out everything you need to know.
Is Stonewalling Abuse?
Before we answer whether stonewalling is abuse or not, it’s important to establish the definitions of both stonewalling, as well as abuse in a relationship. Stonewalling in a relationship refers to when one partner completely cuts off all communication, be it verbal or non-verbal cues. For all intents and purposes, it may seem like you’re trying to talk to a stone wall.
The motivation behind stonewalling may be to “punish” a partner, to establish dominance, to avoid an argument or a fight, or even to gaslight someone. Stonewalling abuse is commonly used by narcissists. Those with a heightened sense of entitlement might not even realize the damage they’re causing while giving their partner the silent treatment.
Abuse in a relationship can be defined as any pattern of psychological or physical abuse that causes harm to a person physically or mentally. It’s important to note that abuse isn’t only limited to physical violence, and the types of abuse include emotional, sexual, psychological and financial abuse.
This now brings us back to the question at hand; is stonewalling abuse? To put it simply, stonewalling can be considered a form of emotional abuse. Since stonewalling can be done in an attempt to gain control and dominance, and/or to gaslight and disrespect one’s partner by disregarding their attempt at communicating, it may end up causing significant harm.
Anxiety, self-doubt, self-esteem issues, and depression are just a few of the long-term consequences that prolonged stonewalling can bring. Now that we have an idea of why stonewalling is abusive, let’s take a look at how to deal with stonewalling abuse.
Related Reading: How To Respond To The Silent Treatment – Effective Ways To Handle It
7 Ways To Deal With Emotional Abuse Stonewalling
Being ignored by someone who’s right in front of you can wreak psychological havoc in your mind. Emotional abuse stonewalling can not only harm your relationship but your relationship with yourself as well. More often than not, your self-esteem takes longer to heal than any broken relationship.
Let’s take a look at how to deal with when your partner acts as though you’re invisible. What should you do when your partner, without so much as saying even a single word, screams out, “I don’t respect you”?
1. Don’t assume blame; assess the situation
If you’ve done something to upset your partner and they saw it fit to punish you with a dose of stonewalling, it’s important to not be too harsh on yourself. When you end up blaming yourself for your partner emotionally abusing you, it may lead to self-confidence issues in the future.
Instead of assuming you’re entirely to be blamed for everything that led up to the stonewalling abuse and even while experiencing stonewalling emotional abuse, try to investigate what happened without being too harsh on yourself.
2. Understand the root cause and figure out a solution
Does your partner have a history of emotional abuse stonewalling? Is your relationship going through a crisis? Is there something that you may be doing unknowingly, that’s causing your partner to react this way?
Even though opting to react with emotional abuse stonewalling isn’t an ethical decision, once you figure out what caused it, you might be better able to figure out a solution. Until you know what’s wrong, you can’t really get to figuring out how to fix it.
3. Take care of yourself
“Is s/he going to leave me?”, “Am I the problem?” questions like these can end up wreaking havoc on your mind. It’s important to not let what goes on in your mind affect your body in negative ways.
Try to keep yourself healthy and productive and find a good way to manage the stress that comes with stonewalling abuse. By taking your mind off the tense situation your relationship is in, you’ll be making sure your relationship with yourself doesn’t suffer as a result.
Related Reading: Is Silent Treatment In A Relationship Emotional & Mental Abuse?
4. When dealing with stonewalling abuse, voice your dissent
Just because you should look after yourself by making better use of your time, doesn’t mean you should let your partner’s behavior slide. Make sure you let your partner know how much their abusive behavior is affecting you, and that you’re not going to stand being treated this way.
A pattern of stonewalling emotional abuse usually indicates a very unhealthy relationship, at which point you could even consider leaving. However, if you want to continue, make sure your partner gets to know it is not okay to disrespect you.
One of the fundamentals of any relationship is mutual respect. The fact that you’re Googling “how to deal with stonewalling abuse” might indicate your dynamic is missing that key fundamental.
5. Responding with anger will make it a lot worse
Anger, just like in most other cases, will do you no good while figuring out how to deal with stonewalling abuse. When you’re dealing with a narcissistic partner, it’s possible they might use emotional stonewalling abuse to establish control and guilt-trip you into accepting all the blame.
By reacting calmly and not giving a narcissist what they want, you’ll be forcing them to reconsider their abusive tactics. A conversation usually starts the way it begins, going in all guns blazing will probably result in no survivors at the end.
Related Reading: Romantic Manipulation – 15 Things Disguised As Love
6. Don’t apologize to get it over with
We’ve all been in a situation where we realize that apologizing, even if it’s not your fault, is a lot easier than going through the ordeal of having a huge fight with your partner that doesn’t seem like it’s getting fixed anytime soon.
The problem with giving in and “getting it over with” is that you enable your partner to opt for abusive techniques like emotional abuse stonewalling to get what they want out of you. When a partner gets used to manipulation tactics like stonewalling to get what they want, eventually, they might not even realize the amount of damage they’re causing.
7. Seek professional help
When there’s a storm brewing in your mind, the advice you get from friends along the lines of “this too shall pass” is not going to do you any good whatsoever. If you feel your emotions are becoming too overwhelming and you need help to process them, therapy can help you get over this difficult time in your relationship.
Figuring out how to deal with stonewalling abuse by yourself may just lead you down a road of bad decisions, further deteriorating your sense of self. If you’re looking for help, Bonobology has a multitude of experienced therapists who can guide you through this challenging time in your relationship.
So, now that you know the answer to “is stonewalling emotional abuse?” and how to deal with it, perhaps you can make a more informed decision about what you want to do next. While love deserves all the chances it can get, an abusive relationship is best when it is spoken of in the past tense.
Stonewalling abuse can, in many cases, be used as a form of control. Through manipulation and abuse, stonewallers may be hoping to establish control in their relationship by withdrawing any/all communication.
Examples of stonewalling include when a partner avoids conversing with you on a particular topic, or when they refuse to talk to you at all. Under the guise of being busy with other tasks, they may ignore you completely.
Your partner may avoid eye contact, not give any non-verbal cues, they may shift the topic of conversation or simply walk out on you. Another example of stonewalling is when a conversation is going on, but the other person opts to not to engage or talk about a particular topic.
A narcissist is someone who doesn’t care about how his/her behavior impacts others, and their heightened sense of entitlement makes them opt for abusive and manipulative tactics like stonewalling abuse to get what they want.
Narcissistic stonewalling is done by a narcissist to gain control, manipulate a person into giving them what they want, or just punish the other person.