Stonewalling: The Silent Killer of Marriages

Are you and your spouse currently facing a tough time in your marriage? You’re not alone. One of the biggest challenges that can arise in a long-term relationship is ‘stonewalling’. This behavior, alongside defensiveness, criticism, and contempt, is often referred to as one of the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse. These behaviors, first identified by Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington’s Love Lab, can be alarmingly accurate predictors of divorce.

Let’s talk about stonewalling. It’s more than just an occasional cold shoulder; it’s a pattern where one partner consistently withdraws from interactions, refusing to communicate or engage. This might look like giving the silent treatment, changing the subject, or physically walking away from discussions. Stonewalling creates a sense of isolation and emotional neglect for the other spouse, which, if not addressed, can severely damage the marriage.

The other three horsemen – defensiveness, criticism, and contempt – are equally harmful. Defensiveness usually springs up as a knee-jerk reaction to criticism. It’s a way of shifting blame and not owning up to our part in a conflict. Criticism, on the other hand, attacks our spouse’s character instead of addressing specific issues. And contempt, the most harmful of all, shows up as disrespect, ridicule, or disgust towards our partner.

It’s crucial to recognize that while these behaviors are warning signs, they’re not the end of the road. There are practical steps and solutions to counteract stonewalling. The first step is acknowledging the behavior and its impact. This involves taking a break during heated moments, allowing time for both partners to cool down and reflect. The real antidote to stonewalling lies in developing emotional awareness, effective communication, and active listening skills.

Remember, the journey to a healthier marriage is a process. It requires understanding, effort, patience, and a strong commitment to change. By addressing these destructive behaviors and replacing them with constructive ones, you can transform your marriage.

In summary, while stonewalling, along with defensiveness, criticism, and contempt, can significantly harm a marriage, there is always hope. With the right understanding and tools, couples can overcome these challenges and build a more fulfilling, loving marriage.

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