I want to spend several episodes doing a deep dive into communication in our intimate relationships. The first was #170 about conflict and the five stages of relationships. In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, it’s time to talk about stonewalling. I break down what it is and why we do it, stonewalling with malicious intent, and why dodging confrontation at all costs is a form of stonewalling. I also share tips for moving forward whether you stonewall or deal with someone who does.

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Some nuggets from the episode

  • The health and wealth of our intimate relationships, romantic and otherwise, depends on verbal and non-verbal communication and whether we are collaborative and cooperative, not just to the betterment of the relationship but also to ourselves. Our ability and willingness to broach concerns and problem-solve, to express our innermost feelings and thoughts, to recover and grow from conflict and criticism, are a crucial component of intimacy.
  • Stonewalling is when someone uses verbal and non-verbal means to refuse to cooperate, problem-solve or communicate. It limits the other person’s communication and blocks them.
  • Some people use stonewalling to avoid confrontation. They don’t realise that stonewalling is its own form of confrontation. It’s like silent warfare.
  • Not all stonewallers have malicious intentions; it’s learned behaviour that’s driven by fear. They think that they’re trying to be self-protective without recognising how destabilising it can be for the relationship or the other party’s wellbeing.

Trying to figure out what the silence we’re experiencing in our relationship means can be emotionally and mentally exhausting and destabilising.

Examples of stonewalling:

  • Being suddenly too busy when it’s time to talk about something or it’s time to spend close time together.
  • Shutting down conversations.
  • Dismissing or making fun of our concerns. Or making fun of feelings or opinions we’ve expressed.
  • Eye-rolling
  • Won’t discuss the actual issue at hand but will focus on defending themselves or blaming us.
  • Goes off-topic to drag in side issues. Instead of talking about the problem, they’ll bring up a problem that they’ve decided that they want to address instead.
  • Being called “needy”, “too sensitive”, “dramatic”, etc, for trying to communicate, cooperate and problem-solve.
  • Being near-obsessed with not “getting into trouble”.
  • Focusing on being “right” and being willing to hurt others or jeopardise the relationship in the process.
  • When fear of conflict is greater than the desire to solve problems, to communicate directly and clearly, to cooperate and collaborate, that’s stonewalling.

Seeking to avoid conflict at all costs is stonewalling.

  • We don’t have to share anything we don’t want to. Nor do we have to share ‘everything’. But (!!!) if we’ve chosen to be in a relationship, we do need to examine why we are not sharing in those areas of the relationship that require a level of it to progress in a healthy and prosperous manner.
  • Intention is everything. Knowing why we do what we do helps us to enjoy more successful outcomes.
  • It’s not about ‘my way’ or ‘their way’; it’s about collaborating to find the way of the relationship. Empathy and collaboration!
  • When a relationship ends abruptly or out of the blue, this is always a a sign of low communication.
  • Stonewalling is abusive when it has malicious intent.
  • Sometimes, even though we don’t have the malicious intent, we do want to hurt the person via our stonewalling. It’s a destructive form of self-protection. We go against our true desires and intentions.

We’ve all likely stonewalled on occasion. The key is to increase our self-awareness and self-knowledge so that we communicate, problem-solve and cooperate effectively and lovingly.

  • What’s the baggage behind it? Why is that the pattern of dealing with things? Who are you really stonewalling? The person in front of you or someone/people from your past? Distinguishing between the past and the present and allowing me to have a more boundaried response stops me from wielding my baggage and past at people and things that I don’t need to. It allows me to grow.
  • We can retain our identity and be a team player at the same time. Talking about our feelings and issues isn’t what causes us to lose ourselves in relationships!
  • We can avoid stonewalling when we take the approach of, I know that I’m scared of talking about this. I know that I feel a bit resentful about talking about this. But how can I approach this from a place of wanting to for the betterment of myself and my relationship? How can I do this from a place that feels authentic to me?
  • Empathy allows us to recognise how someone else experiences our self-protective behaviour. We might know why we withdraw, but have we considered how someone else experiences our self-protection?
  • The person who stonewalls does need to address it.. We shouldn’t change ourselves into a silent person to accommodate them. All that will do is reinforce the problem.

Links mentioned

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