Leaving A Stonewaller

Leaving A Stonewaller

When it comes to toxic relationships, one of the most destructive behaviors is stonewalling. This communication breakdown tactic involves one partner completely shutting down, refusing to engage, and leaving the other partner feeling emotionally abused and unheard.

Stonewalling can manifest in various ways, such as giving the silent treatment, feigning ignorance, and avoiding eye contact. It can be a voluntary or involuntary response, and understanding the underlying motivations is crucial in dealing with this issue effectively.

Emotional abuse is a common consequence of stonewalling. The stonewalled partner often feels unloved, isolated, and abandoned. Intimacy suffers, relationship satisfaction declines, and the risk of depression increases.

Key Takeaways:

  • Stonewalling is a communication breakdown tactic in toxic relationships.
  • It involves one partner completely shutting down and leaving the other partner feeling emotionally abused and unheard.
  • Stonewalling can take various forms, such as giving the silent treatment and avoiding eye contact.
  • Emotional abuse, decreased intimacy, and increased risk of depression are common consequences of stonewalling.
  • Understanding the motivations behind the stonewalling behavior is essential in addressing this issue.

Stonewalling as a Defense Mechanism

Stonewalling, a behavior commonly observed in relationships, serves as a defense mechanism for individuals, particularly among men and introverts. It acts as a coping mechanism when faced with emotionally charged situations, allowing them to retreat into their own space and self-soothe.

During stressful times, men tend to take longer to calm down and process their emotions, while women often have a quicker ability to self-soothe. Understanding this defense mechanism is crucial in assisting the stonewalled partner to provide the necessary space for the stonewaller to regulate their emotions.

It’s important to note that if not addressed, stonewalling can lead to a decrease in relationship satisfaction and an increased risk of depression.

Research has shown that self-soothing helps individuals manage stress and overwhelm, leading to a higher level of relationship satisfaction. Effective self-soothing strategies, such as engaging in calming activities or seeking support from loved ones, can aid both partners in navigating challenging times and fostering a healthier relationship dynamic.

Stonewalling as a Punishment

Sometimes stonewalling is used as a form of punishment by one partner towards the other. It is an act of revenge and a way to exert power in the relationship. The stonewalled partner is expected to apologize and make amends in order to resume communication and regain the love, care, and support of the stonewaller.

Addressing stonewalling as a punishment requires giving the stonewalled partner space and time to calm down, followed by assertive communication about the impact of the stonewalling behavior and the need for healthier conflict resolution strategies.

Stonewalling as an Avoidance Mechanism

Stonewalling can be an effective avoidance mechanism to de-escalate conflicts and avoid drawn-out, pointless arguments. Some individuals choose to disengage during conversations or redirect the topic entirely to evade conflict. While this may provide temporary relief from confrontation, it can have detrimental long-term effects on relationships. By suppressing communication and leaving problems unresolved, stonewalling creates a breakdown in communication that hinders the ability to address issues and find resolution.

Open and honest communication is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship, as it allows both partners to express their thoughts, needs, and concerns. Stonewalling not only obstructs this communication but also perpetuates a cycle of conflict avoidance without true resolution. It ultimately leaves both parties feeling unheard and frustrated, contributing to a deterioration in trust and emotional connection.

The Negative Impact of Stonewalling

Stonewalling’s avoidance mechanism can lead to a range of negative consequences:

  • Conflict De-Escalation: By refusing to engage, stonewalling temporarily de-escalates conflicts but fails to address underlying issues effectively.
  • Pointless Arguments: Stonewalling avoids constructive dialogue, resulting in unnecessary and unproductive arguments.
  • Communication Breakdown: When one partner continually stonewalls, communication can become stifled, creating a breakdown in the flow of thoughts, emotions, and understanding.

To foster a healthier relationship, it is crucial to address the issue of stonewalling head-on and find alternative conflict resolution strategies that prioritize open communication and mutual understanding.

Strategies for Overcoming Stonewalling

Here are some strategies that can help navigate and overcome the challenges of stonewalling:

  1. Establish a Safe Space: Create an environment that encourages open communication, free of judgment and criticism.
  2. Practice Active Listening: Actively listen to your partner’s concerns and emotions without interrupting or dismissing their perspective.
  3. Encourage Breaks: When conflicts arise, allow both partners to take breaks to self-reflect and regulate their emotions before continuing the conversation.
  4. Seek Counseling: Consider couples therapy or counseling to explore deeper issues and learn healthier communication techniques.

“Communication is the key to resolving conflicts and building a strong, sustainable relationship.” – Dr. Emily Johnson, Relationship Therapist

By actively addressing and working through the challenges of stonewalling, couples can strengthen their connection, rebuild trust, and create a healthier and more fulfilling relationship.

The Damaging Effects of Stonewalling on Relationships

Stonewalling can have severe negative effects on relationships. When one partner consistently shuts down communication, the other partner often feels unloved, abandoned, and manipulated. The intimacy that once existed diminishes, relationship satisfaction decreases, and the risk of depression increases. Stonewalling prevents the resolution of relationship problems, causing unresolved issues to pile up and ultimately leading to a breakdown in communication and connection.

Research reveals that stonewalling is a significant predictor of divorce, highlighting the detrimental impact it has on long-term relationship success. The silent treatment and avoidance of discussing problems only perpetuate feelings of isolation and frustration for both partners involved. The unaddressed emotional distance caused by stonewalling creates a toxic dynamic, eroding the foundation of trust and mutual understanding.

“When one partner consistently shuts down communication, the other partner often feels unloved, abandoned, and manipulated.”

Unfortunately, stonewalling can become a tool for manipulation and control within the relationship. The stonewaller may use this behavior as a means to gain power over their partner’s emotions and actions. By withholding communication and emotional connection, they create a sense of dependency and control. The stonewalled partner is left feeling helpless, unable to address concerns or express their emotions, thus reinforcing the power dynamic within the relationship.

The damaging effects of stonewalling go beyond the immediate emotional distress. Unresolved problems pile up, leading to an accumulation of anger, resentment, and unresolved conflicts. This toxic cycle perpetuates a negative pattern, further eroding the foundation of the relationship and hindering any potential for growth and reconciliation.

Potential consequences of stonewalling

Effects on Relationships Effects on Individuals
Decreased intimacy Risk of depression
Diminished relationship satisfaction Feelings of unloved and abandoned
Communication breakdown Emotional manipulation
Unresolved problems and conflicts Loss of trust and connection

Addressing the damaging effects

To overcome the damaging effects of stonewalling, open and honest communication is essential. Both partners must be willing to acknowledge the behavior and take responsibility for their role in the breakdown of communication. Seeking professional help, such as couples therapy, can provide a safe space for constructive dialogue and teach healthier conflict resolution strategies.

Creating a supportive and empathetic environment is crucial for rebuilding the emotional connection and intimacy that has been lost. Individuals impacted by stonewalling should prioritize self-care, setting clear boundaries, and actively work on rebuilding trust in order to heal from the emotional scars caused by this toxic behavior.

Recognizing the damaging effects of stonewalling is the first step in breaking the cycle and rebuilding healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

Strategies for Dealing with a Stonewaller

When faced with a stonewaller in a relationship, it’s crucial to approach the situation with care and consideration. Rushing to re-establish communication immediately or responding with anger can often worsen the situation. Instead, employing strategies focused on self-care, setting boundaries, and assertive communication can help navigate this challenging dynamic.

Giving Space and Time

Giving the stonewaller space and time to calm down and process their emotions is vital for both parties involved. It allows the stonewaller to regulate their feelings and provides an opportunity for reflection. This doesn’t mean avoiding the issue altogether, but rather allowing the stonewaller the chance to regain emotional equilibrium and approach the situation more constructively.

Assertive Communication

When the time is right to have a conversation, employing assertive communication techniques can promote understanding and resolution. Express clearly and directly how the stonewalling behavior makes you feel and why it is unacceptable. Use “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory and focus on expressing your own emotions and needs. This approach encourages open dialogue and can foster empathy and compromise.

“When we assert ourselves, we express our feelings and needs honestly, but without violating the rights or boundaries of others. It allows us to communicate our expectations clearly and effectively.”


Amidst the challenges of dealing with a stonewaller, prioritizing self-care is essential. Take time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Engage in practices that nurture your physical and emotional well-being, such as exercise, mindfulness, or spending time with loved ones. Self-care is not selfish but necessary for maintaining your own mental and emotional health.

Setting Boundaries

Establishing and maintaining clear boundaries is crucial when dealing with a stonewaller. Communicate your needs and expectations regarding communication and emotional support. Be firm in enforcing these boundaries, realizing that healthy relationships require mutual respect and understanding. Setting boundaries not only protects your well-being but also facilitates healthy dynamics within the relationship.

It is important to evaluate the overall health of the relationship if stonewalling becomes a recurring pattern of manipulation and control. Consider seeking professional help or reevaluating the viability of the relationship if necessary.

Dealing with a stonewaller can be emotionally challenging, but by implementing strategies that give space, promote assertive communication, practice self-care, and establish boundaries, individuals can navigate this difficult dynamic with resilience and self-empowerment.


Leaving a stonewaller and reclaiming your emotional well-being after a toxic relationship can be a challenging process. Recognizing and understanding stonewalling behavior is the first step in addressing the issue. By implementing strategies such as giving space, practicing self-care, and engaging in assertive communication, individuals can heal from the impact of stonewalling and move forward in healthier relationships.

Toxic relationships can have a devastating effect on our emotional well-being, causing feelings of distress, insecurity, and loneliness. It is crucial to prioritize our own mental health and take the necessary steps to heal. This may involve seeking therapy, building a strong support system, and engaging in activities that bring us joy and fulfillment. Moving on from a toxic relationship requires strength and resilience, but it is possible to find happiness and peace again.

Remember, healing is a personal journey, and everyone’s path is unique. It is important to be patient with ourselves and allow the healing process to unfold at its own pace. As we work towards healing, let us also learn from our experiences and set firm boundaries to protect ourselves from future toxic relationships. By prioritizing our emotional well-being, we can create a brighter future filled with love, happiness, and healthy connections.


What is stonewalling in a relationship?

Stonewalling is a behavior in which one partner completely shuts down communication with the other partner. This can manifest as giving the silent treatment, refusing to answer questions, pretending not to hear or listen, and avoiding eye contact.

Why do people engage in stonewalling?

Stonewalling can be a defense mechanism, a form of punishment, or an avoidance strategy. Some individuals use it as a way to cope with overwhelming emotions, while others may use it as a means of exerting power or avoiding conflict.

What are the effects of stonewalling on relationships?

Stonewalling can lead to decreased relationship satisfaction, increased risk of depression, and a breakdown in communication. It often makes the stonewalled partner feel unloved, abandoned, and manipulated, while issues remain unresolved and intimacy decreases.

How can I deal with a stonewaller in my relationship?

It is important to give the stonewaller space and time to calm down and process their emotions. Focus on practicing self-care, setting boundaries, and using assertive communication to express your feelings and address the issue. Consider evaluating the overall health of the relationship if stonewalling becomes a recurring pattern.

Is it possible to heal from the impact of stonewalling?

Yes, it is possible to heal from the impact of stonewalling. By recognizing and understanding stonewalling behavior, implementing strategies such as self-care and assertive communication, individuals can move forward and establish healthier relationships. Prioritizing emotional well-being and setting boundaries are important steps in preventing further harm in future relationships.

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