Stonewalling: Disastrous to Your Marriage

by | Sep 23, 2019

We’ve talked about killer behaviors when it comes to your marriage—criticism, contempt, and defensiveness. There’s one more that is a sure sign your marriage is in trouble. Stonewalling.

What is stonewalling?

That’s when you shut down and withdraw from conversation or any interaction with your partner. It’s the silent treatment on steroids. Often it’s an act of self-defense when you just have to take a time-out because your emotions are on overload and you can’t take one more thing. Instead of addressing the problem with your partner, you find excuses to tune out, act preoccupied, or distract yourself.

The trouble with stonewalling is once you use it as a tactic it’s easy to fall back on it time after time without ever getting to the root of the problem. If you stonewall, you build a metaphorical wall between you and your partner, making it impossible for your partner to communicate with you. When you keep up your stonewalling tactics, you can frustrate your partner to anger.

Stonewalling: Disastrous To Your Marriage Nancy'S Counseling Corner

How do you stop stonewalling?

It’s important to recognize you are stonewalling and make an effort to stop it. Stonewalling often affects you physically, elevating your heart rate and sending dangerous hormone levels into your bloodstream. You become physiologically flooded, and find it difficult to do anything but shut down for the time being.

So you do need to stop. But you can take a time-out after you let your partner know that you need to take a break, and that you want to discuss the issue when you’re feeling more up to it. Perhaps you can develop a time-out hand signal that lets your partner know you’re overwhelmed for the moment, but that you will be available to communicate shortly.

How do you self-soothe?

Then you need to find a way to calm down. Soothing yourself is a valuable skill, and one you need to apply when you take a break. Perhaps you have deep breathing exercises you can do where you focus on your breath, or maybe you listen to music that calms your nerves. A walk outside in nature might do it. Take 20 minutes or so to get your body back to its physiologically normal state.

When you are ready to get back to your partner, make sure he knows that you want to find a solution to your conflict, but that you need to take care of yourself first. It’s crucial to keep the lines of communication open.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:



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