What Is Stonewalling And How To Deal With It?

Sanjukta Das

Stonewalling – a predictor of divorce, the ultimate narcissistic behavior.

Stonewalling is a narcissist’s move wherein one partner disengages from the relationship and give their partner a silent treatment. The withdrawal of a partner may leave you feeling incompetent, shitty about yourself and think that they must have done something for their partner to be stonewalling them. But that’s not true. Know that narcissists are anyway not capable to maintain relationships.
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A stonewaller deliberately stops talking and disengages from any conversation that might bring up problems. Perhaps that’s the way they saw their parents deal with arguments. If they had toxic parents who meted out similar treatment to each other, chances are stonewalling is perceived as normal for such people. Perhaps they have been brought up in that way where you “time-out” when things are getting too heated or the emotions are getting too huge to process.

What Exactly Is Stonewalling?

Stonewalling is exactly what it sounds like – a person builds a wall of stone around himself to cancel out the speaker’s thoughts. An otherwise emotionally available person could be stonewalling. It is in the mind of the stonewaller that whatever wrong is being done to them is wrong and the silent treatment is the punishment for that.

And I’ll tell you what’s wrong with that? Apart from everything?

Stonewalling generally entails that even though in a loving relationship, one needs to have a narcissistic control over their partner by stopping any verbal or mental connection with them while things get heated or conflicted. One of my friend’s girlfriends used to stonewall him for the slightest little matter. And while stonewalling, she used to busy herself with a task – like pretending to read a book or be in the process of cleaning the room.

One day she went as far as to say, “I am giving you the silent treatment because you hurt me.” When asked why would she rather not talk it out, she said (and I remember it clear as day), “You did the crime. You have to do the time.”

Stonewalling is sort of the punishment without the rod. It is a mental torment for a partner when you stonewall them.

More importantly, this passive-aggressive treatment shows how people in a relationship deserve to stonewall and to be stonewalled. Some even consider it a mental abuse.

How Do You Deal With Stonewalling?

First thing first. It is easy to stonewall someone back when they are stonewalling you. Like in the case of my friend. It is also a big NO-NO.


Because stonewalling is a jerk move. Period. It proves teaching them a lesson is more important than hashing it out like adults. It is immature and effectively ruins everyone’s vibe and mood making the stonewaller a jerk.

Here’s how you deal with stonewalling.

Just because your partner is taking the narrow, bendy road to relationship town doesn’t mean you have to follow them down the unhealthy trail.

1. Survive but don’t engage

It is easy to stonewall someone who is giving you the silent treatment. You may even double the efforts to stonewall someone because what goes round come back around, right?

Well, no.

Survive the silent treatment but do not treat them like they are treating you. Checking-out of a relationship is a no-no. Saying “Screw you. I don’t need your shit” is a big no-no. Engaging in hurtful taunts and saying hurtful things will do worse damage to the relationship. Learning to survive and not engaging might be tough but it’s the better way.

Stonewalling in relationships

Stonewalling in relationships Image Source

2. Don’t go down the guilt hole

When stonewalled, feelings of anger, hurt, abuse and disappointment can be too much. In moments like these, it’s important to take a step back and assess for yourself if there is anything you really did to deserve such treatment. If your conscience is clear, there’s no need to feel guilty. It isn’t your fault your partner decides to go for a verbal blockade instead of communicating.

3. Let them know about your disapproval on this matter

Your partner has chosen to stonewall you instead of talking about the reason of their verbal lockdown. Let them know what you are feeling. Something like, “It hurts me when you go quiet on me”, can work wonders. Also, “Maybe talking about it will make you feel better?” An understanding partner would consider this and work on improving the communication.

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4. Utilize your time

Instead of feeling hate, anger, pain, disappointment (sometimes vengeful), utilise your time. This “time-out” in the relationship can dampen your spirits but follow the no-guilt pointer and use the time constructively.

5. Work it out with your partner

Ask them how long will the stonewalling last? If you get no clear reply, let them be. Don’t let your emotions engulf you. Use the time-out by engaging with more family and friends time, visiting the places you never get to visit because your stonewaller partner doesn’t like it.

It’s not like you do not care about your partner giving you the silent treatment. It’s more of a self-care treatment when you’re being stonewalled; a sort of distraction from it.

6. Check in with them

While you’re giving your partner some space, do check in with them. No need to pester, just the usual, “How are you? or “Can we please talk about it when you feel better?” will do. It is to let your partner know you’re still there. It is also a push for them to break down the walls and actually start communicating.

Check with them

Check on them even when they ask for space Image Source

7. Choose to engage when you’re ready

When your partner stops their verbal lockdown but you are still dealing with it proceed at your own pace. Set a time. 2 hours? 2 days, 2 months? Set a time and stick to it. Tell your partner: “Give me couple of days to process this”. An understanding partner will respect the process. And maybe will think twice before stonewalling you next time.

Related Reading: What to do after a fight with your boyfriend?

8. Leave the baggage out after stonewalling ends

After the stonewalling has ended, it is important to address all the misunderstandings and differences in the relationship. You can look at it as a rising peak in your relationship.

Address the misunderstandings

Address the misunderstandings Image Source

How does stonewalling affect relationships?

It is said there are Four Horsemen that spell the doom of a relationship. Those are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

The after effects of stonewalling can spell doom for some relationships. Cutting down verbal communication is not a smart move for a relationship.

Stonewalling can cause reactions to it that disbalances the relationship. A desperate partner might do or say something hurtful just to hear their partner speak to them again – things that they may not take back later. And thinks like this can literally harm your relationship and bitterness creeps in.

Some people have the habit of stonewalling a partner for days on an end and this might make the partner feel unloved and uncared for. Repeated bouts of this kind of stonewalling could lead the partner to find love and affection elsewhere.

There are many people who are into stonewalling but they are not even aware themselves that they are stonewallers and what kind of impact their behavior has on their partners. Stonewalling could be a silent killer of a relationship unless you take care of it.

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