The Gottmann Institute has been researching what constitutes healthy partnerships for 25 years. Why are couples happy for years while others lose sight of love for one another? According to scientist and founder John Gottmann, the failure of a partnership can be predicted very early – using four signs that appear early in the relationship. One of them: stonewalling.
Stonewalling: what is it exactly?
Stonewalling is about having one or both partners wall. We can understand the English term almost literally: Stonewalling, derived from “stonewall”, means stone wall in India. One or both parties in the partnership consciously close themselves off and no longer allow conversation.
You can imagine it like this: Something annoys you that you absolutely want to address. If you start the confrontation, the allegations are immediately fended off and the topic is stopped by leaving the room. Here the door is practically closed and an emotional wall is built – neither clarification nor discussion is possible.
Stonewalling: What Are the Consequences?
Each of us has a bad day when we can’t take criticism and just want to pull ourselves out of the situation. But imagine if any kind of critical conversation ends with stonewalling. The consequences would be:
- There is never any real clarification of what is bothering you.
- You don’t feel taken seriously and therefore not valued.
- The relationship cannot develop because problems are not resolved.
- You have to identify your dissatisfaction with yourself because the other person does not want to cooperate.
- You stop addressing problems because you no longer have any hope of clarification, which leads to fewer and fewer conversations.
- You don’t feel understood.
If that goes on for a while, the situation becomes so uncomfortable and stressful that it can lead to a separation.
Stonewalling: what can I do?
If you recognize this pattern in your partnership, don’t panic first. Stonewalling usually only becomes dangerous when three more problematic behavior patterns emerge in the partnership – at least if the Gottmann Institute has researched it. And these are:
- Constant criticism: What is meant here is not constructive, constructive criticism, but rather constant critical accusations. (“You never take down the trash, you only think of yourself!”)
- Contempt: The partner is devalued in his person. (“You are tired? What can I say, I’ve had a lot more to do than you, you shouldn’t complain.”)
- Defensiveness: A defensive and defensive stance that becomes particularly clear in the case of demands or criticism. (“I’m definitely not apologizing, I didn’t do anything wrong.”)
Stonewalling: How should I act?
Even if stonewalling is an issue in your relationship right now – it doesn’t have to stay that way. There are a few tips you can use to relent positively in these situations.
You recognized stonewalling in your partner:
- Pay attention to the right time: After a stressful day at work, the person you’re talking to is likely to be less receptive to problematic words.
- Create a peaceful atmosphere: This way, the chances are better for an open ear.
- Speak of yourself: Your counterpart is less bricking when you start sentences with “I” – then they sound less like accusations.
You recognized stonewalling in yourself:
- Ask for time to think about it: If you feel overwhelmed, communicate this calmly and ask for a break before responding to the criticism.
- Take it less personally: Difficult, but helpful! Your partner is not criticizing the whole person, just one behavior – don’t let it pull you down so much that your wall up.
- See the criticism as an opportunity: Even if you wall up because you are not interested in an argument – a great opportunity can be hidden behind it. Through pronunciation, you can reach a new level of connectedness. Use it!
Stonewalling and Narcissism
Stonewalling is one of the typical behavior patterns that are very common among narcissists. First of all: not everyone who does stonewall is a narcissist. But almost all narcissists practice stonewalling.
Narcissism is a diagnosable personality disorder in which those affected have an extremely exaggerated self-image. Therefore, they cannot deal with criticism at all and brick immediately when confronted. Narcissists are often very ruthless and have little empathy. They use stonewalling as a form of punishment to manipulate the behavior of others. But is the other person really a narcissist? You can only weigh that up when you analyze further behavior.