Every couple goes through a rough patch in their relationship. However, when one of the partners shuts the other out, it can profoundly impact the relationship’s longevity. The emotional effects of stonewalling can be profound. However, people are often not aware that they are being stonewalled. In this article, we explore what is stonewalling behavior and its effects on a relationship with the help of Shazia Saleem (Masters in Psychology), who specializes in separation and divorce counseling.
Stonewalling In Relationships
When things get rough in a relationship, the healthy approach would be to address the issues at hand and figure out a way to deal with them. This approach also entails acknowledging and vocalizing a lot of uncomfortable emotions. That’s why some people react to stressful situations by freezing up and erecting a barrier between themselves and the looming problem, whether consciously or subconsciously. Stonewalling is the term for this type of reaction.
In simple terms, a person creates a metaphorical wall between themselves and the problem or the person they feel is responsible for the problem. It is difficult to solve a problem when a partner refuses to listen. It’s like talking to a wall. Communication is a fundamental principle of a healthy relationship and when that stops, the emotional effects of stonewalling begin to surface. To explain the concept better here are a few stonewalling examples that will help you understand if you or your partner are stonewalling each other in a relationship:
- Obsessive thoughts and behaviors
- Refusing to respond to any questions
- Deflection and scapegoating
- Acting busy or moving on to another task quickly
- Trying to minimize your worries
- Eye-rolling and scowling
- Aggressive body language.
- Communicating defensively
These are a few stonewalling examples that you might not have picked on in your relationship. This inability to recognize stonewalling is a tendency of self-blame or blame-shifting instead of realizing why your partner has stopped reacting toward you or the problem. This can obviously give rise to emotional stress and tension.
9 Emotional Effects Of Stonewalling On Your Relationship
Relationships might witness the emotional effects of stonewalling if it persists over some time. Because stonewalling makes it difficult for a couple to address their issues, it can lead to little squabbles spiraling out of control. When faced with it, stonewalling psychology may often lead people to a point of desperation, making them say or do anything to break the pattern of being shut out.
The severe frustration that the stonewalled partner may have could lead to a more serious disagreement than the original issue justified. As a result, stonewalling causes not only problems but also compounds existing issues between a couple. At the heart of it all are these 9 emotional effects of stonewalling that have the potential to tear apart your relationship:
1. Stonewalling can leave you feeling isolated
In a healthy romantic relationship, a couple must feel connected. However, one of the emotional effects of stonewalling is the feeling of isolation. Since one partner refuses to lend an ear and sort out problems, the other partner can feel lonely even while in a relationship.
Stonewalling makes you feel invisible in front of your partner and alone in the relationship. The metaphorical wall which has been created between the couple pushes them away from each other instead of bringing them closer. In the process, emotional intimacy begins to erode.
Shazia says, “The feeling of isolation in a relationship is unhealthy if one person feels alone, left out, or isolated. He/she may not behave like themselves and it will take a toll on their mental and emotional well-being. They may be disappointed, distracted, and disturbed and will not be able to figure out what to do. Stonewalling can trigger a lot of confusion because nobody likes to be felt alone or ignored.”
2. Being stonewalled can make you feel angry all the time
It is so important to be heard or acknowledged when you are telling something to a loved one. Every relationship has problems but when one partner refuses to solve the problem and lets it burn a hole in the foundation of a relationship, it can pave the way for anger.
Anger is not just directed at the partner who is stonewalling but at oneself for allowing another person to treat one in a manner. The person being stonewalled can feel that they are not worthy of love and hence feel constantly angry at themselves. The stonewalling effects has on the victim are far worse than on the person stonewalling, but ultimately, it ruins the relationship two people built together until one person stopped putting in their share of the hard work.
3. Developing resentment
Another emotional effect of stonewalling is the slow but consistent buildup of resentment in a relationship. In front of you is a person, whom you once loved unconditionally and who also claimed to share those feelings. However, now that same partner has left you alone and discarded your thoughts, your emotions, and your opinions.
It is extremely common to start hating your partner but not knowing what to do about it. Shazia says, “It proves disastrous for most of the relationships. Stonewalling is one of the common reasons for divorce and separation as a feeling of resentment begins to develop. Most of the partners try to seek revenge as they are not in control of their own emotions and things start taking a turn for the worse.”
Related Reading: 9 Things To Do When Every Conversation Turns Into An Argument
4. Low self-esteem can be an effect of stonewalling
When we declare our love for a person, we bare to them our souls and pour out the varied clandestine contents of our hearts that no one has ever heard or seen. There is an invisible sense of pride in knowing that someone loves you and it boosts self-esteem. However, when the same person begins to act uninterested, refuses to communicate, or worse, gives you a feeling that you deserve to be stonewalled as some form of punishment, it can harm your self-esteem. Intentional or unintentional stonewalling can dent the self-esteem of the person at the receiving end, which can become the root cause for bigger problems in the future.
“The person being stonewalled develops low self-esteem and self-worth. Things are falling apart and because they have lost self-esteem and self-confidence, they will not be in a position to handle or manage the situation appropriately. It might also make them feel they are not worthy of love or feel hurt, the ‘why me’ thoughts start creeping in and they lose clarity about themselves,” explains Shazia.
5. Decreased intimacy
Another emotional effect of stonewalling is the reduced intimacy between the couple. The chemistry that once ignited passion flames would begin to seem dull, almost non-existent.
This can drive an ever-widening wedge in the relationship. That’s why, apart from understanding why you are being shut out, you must address another vital question: What to do if your partner is stonewalling you? Let them know that they cannot expect emotional and physical intimacy in the relationship if they continue with their behavior. Sometimes, a lack of intimacy can awaken the partner and force them to open their eyes and accept the realities of their relationship.
6. Stonewalling leads to trust issues
When someone asks, “What’s stonewalling behavior?”, my first instinct is to reply, “It is the total and absolute abolition of trust”. Think about it this way: Trust is the foundation of a relationship. If you cannot trust the person, you cannot be with them. So when a partner indulges in stonewalling, even if it is unintentional stonewalling, they have left no room for the other partner to establish their trust in them. It is one of the biggest effects of stonewalling on a relationship.
“As one person feels ignored or left out, they first slip into self-doubt and slowly it leads to trust issues. It will become very difficult for the person who is stonewalled to have trust in the relationship as they are already confused, overwhelmed, and exhausted. It adds to the troubled relationship. Trust is a very important aspect of any relationship, and if that’s lost, it is very difficult to regain. Relationships need to be worked on continuously while being mindful of how two people are treating each other,” Shazia explains.
7. Create a sense of confusion
Stonewalling can be a coping tool as well as a method to retreat into one’s metaphorical ‘shell’. This space may provide a person with much-needed inner (and occasionally outer) seclusion as they deal with emotional crises. They prefer to ‘vanish’ emotionally when they are unable to express or process their feelings.
However, this evasiveness can lead to confusion in a relationship. It can leave the other partner thinking, “Does he/she not love me anymore?” “Are we going to break up?” But when the partner does not even break up but keeps stonewalling, confusion can be one of the stonewalling effects on the victim.
Related Reading: 9 Signs You Are The Problem In Your Relationship
8. Stonewalling can end the relationship
Even though distancing yourself by stonewalling your partner may bring temporary relief, it can eventually lead to the end of a relationship. Nobody can be expected to put up with the behavior and let it come in the way of their happiness.
Sometimes, unintentional stonewalling does not make you realize how it is impacting your partner. You keep thinking that just because you avoided one argument or dodged one fight, you can ignore the red flags in your relationship, which ironically are being planted by you. The emotional effects of stonewalling can become overwhelming and lead to the partner ending their relationship with you.
9. It can hamper your mental and physical health
Stonewalling psychology can leave a lasting impact on your mental and physical health. The person stonewalling may eventually find themselves peeping through the narrow end of emotional unavailability while the person being stonewalled grapples with poor mental and physical health.
The emotional effects of stonewalling can turn into other psychosomatic diseases. Shazia says, “Mentally, the person being stonewalled gets weak and develops a confused and distorted thought process, which will, in turn, lead to emotional triggers, self-doubts, trouble in decision making, trust issues, low self-confidence, and a very confused state of mind. Physically a person may look weak, lethargic, tired, have sleep issues, and might not indulge much in a self-care routine.”
When a person starts feeling lonely in a relationship, it’s difficult to overcome the trauma and shock. It takes time and copious amounts of support from loved ones to overcome and move on. If you don’t know what to do when your partner is stonewalling you, you can reach out to a counselor. At Bonobology, we offer professional help through our panel of licensed advisors who can help you embark on a path toward recovery.
With that, we come to the end of our list of emotional effects of stonewalling. If you observe stonewalling psychology in your partner and notice its impact on your relationship, do take an action against it to prevent yourself and your partner from hurting each other. Remember, healthy communication breeds healthy relationships.