― Daniel Goleman
What once seemed like a story with a happy ending, now becomes a nightmare that depicts a huge wall you ought to climb before the hounds tear you apart. The wall in question is in the form of emotional abandonment that one creates in a relationship in various ways. Stonewalling in a relationship is defined as dismissal of any kind of communication and cooperation by your partner. It is, in many cases, the starting point of a dysfunctional marriage in the long run. The act of stonewalling stems from myriad emotions. It could be because the partner wants to avoid an argument, inherent passive-aggressive traits in the personality, a genuine disinterest in dialog, or even boredom. However, prolonged stonewalling in a relationship turns into a camouflaged abuse, making it difficult for the victim to make a corroborative case and stunting the progress of the individuals, psychologically.
A classic example of stonewalling in a relationship goes like this: It begins with an emotional abandonment, an act that is driven by a need to find your space away from your partner. It is a process that is marked either by a slow decay of your equation or a sudden snapping of the emotional cord. In a circumstance which is sudden, there is always a precipitating incident that can be recalled in the retrospective wisdom for an analysis to solve the problem. However, in the former situation, as there isn’t a point outlining the problem area, it becomes difficult for the victim to climb the wall that the perpetrator builds. This furthers the problem, making it even more complex, and thus frustrating for the one in it and even for those surrounding it.
If your relationship is suffering under the pressures of stonewalling, here are a few ways in which you can salvage it.
However, if we do not learn to forgive or strike a civil dialog to solve the matter at hand, this can lead to a conscious effort at stonewalling. If your partner cannot forgive, then you have to understand the source and the nature of their anger. Begin with doing things together as a couple to break the ice, and seek communication in different setups. This will give the two of you a chance to deal in different scenarios, which momentarily will distract you from domestic conflicts. Despite the hurt that you maybe feeling, be the bigger person, take a step back, and be understanding of your partner’s needs.
With the stretch of your imagination, delve into your partner’s thoughts. Gauge what must have been so hurtful for him/her to react this way. This will give you a change to be more empathetic than emphatic in your reactions. Breaking the negative chain of action-reaction is the first step towards breaking the mammoth wall.
On the other hand, if you intend to deal with stonewalling in your relationship, you need to understand the effect it has on you. Many a time, stonewalling puts the victim in self-doubt, making him wonder what went wrong, making him question his actions, and thus pushing in a venomous blame-game within themselves. The frustration it causes, the guilt it creates, and the helplessness it makes the victim feel, becomes so overwhelming that the victim is left with no choice but to act with certain haste to set things right. This haste becomes the birth of desperate aggressive attempts to mend things. However, all this while, as the perpetrator keeps cool and remains confined to certain quietness, it makes the victim’s behavior seem aggressive. Obviously, in comparison, the victim is only being aggressive out of a desperate need to get the partner’s attention. Thus, stonewalling changes the victim’s behavior, and the problems worsens, making the wall between the two seem even greater and stronger. After all, what the victim could not have changed, changed the victim instead. As it is fair to only accept the truth to live more honestly, understand that you have changed in a way that will not solve your issue. The problem of stonewalling has to be approached in a different way for a solution.
In a stereotypical situation, amidst the insecurity of jobs and rising cost of living, a man finds himself reeling under the pressure of carving his niche and providing for his family. As the pressure increases, he creates a tunnel vision, shutting everyone out to purely focus on his career. His inability and his disinterest in the domestic affairs draws criticism from his partner, leading the man to build a stonewall. Initially, the conversation attempts made by the partner are met with crossed arms, rolling eyes, a stone face, snide remarks, and every other way in which a body can project disinterest through its own language. As this continues, that problem aggravates.
Instead of criticizing your partner, try to be more patient. Tune into your partner’s fears, insecurities, anger, hurt, and confusion. So overwhelming are these emotions that they cannot be dealt with alone, and so gripping are they, that they suppress the person’s ability to express them also. If you truly understand your partner, keep aside your own anger and ego to let him know that you are on his side. To build a healthy relationship is to build a healthy ego. However, at the same time, it is to develop a part that forever remains a stranger to that ego. Only when this is learned, the art of forgiving can be inculcated and causes of stonewalling be eliminated.
In a relationship which has a miasma of anger and doubt looming over it, it is difficult to see the love that once existed. But then again, all the great love stories have one thing in common; you have to fight the odds to make it happen. Allow the anger to dissipate so that the void can be filled in with new feelings towards each other. Letting go of the past is never a sign of weakness. There is power in letting go too, both in bidding the last goodbye and making an effort to move on for a better tomorrow with each other. When the undercurrent of a relationship is still love and respect, no wall can make two individuals stand apart.