“I don’t want to talk about it!” Stan said solemnly in response to his wife’s sharing her frustration about their finances. His wife, Jan shrugged in response.
“You never want to talk about money,” she retorted angrily. She looked over at me for support.
“This is what happens,” she said. “I bring up any issue that makes him uncomfortable and he tunes me out. I hate it!”
"Is that true?” I asked, turning to Stan. “Are you uncomfortable talking about heated issues?”
“I’m uncomfortable with heat,” Stan said. “It’s not really the issue,” he said. “It’s what happens when we venture into an issue. It always gets out of hand, so I’m not sticking around for it.”
“But ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away,” Jan continued. “In fact, you ignoring me pushes me away and I just become more resentful.”
Stan was unmoved, willing to allow Jan to seethe.
“I’m curious,” I began, looking over at Jan. “What do you do when Stan tells you he is not going to talk about something?”
“What can I do?” she asked.
“Well, before I answer that, I’d like to know what you do.”
“I guess I do several different things, depending on the issue,” she stated. “First off, I try to get him to talk about something. Sometimes I guess I bug him to keep talking. Sometimes I become angrier and let him know I’m angry. Sometimes I just walk away, but feel resentful.”
“How does that sound?” I asked, looking over at Stan.
“Sounds about right,” Stan said. “She either badgers me or walks away.”
“Folks,” I said. “I’d like to share a few thoughts with you about stonewalling—delaying tactics that sabotage communication. There are a lot of dangers in it that I’m not sure you’ve considered. Would you like to hear what they are and what you two can do differently?”
Let’s consider a few of the primary issues with stonewalling and what to do about it.
First, stonewalling is very damaging to a relationship. Studies have shown that couples who use stonewalling are in real danger. Relationships are built upon the ability to influence each other and find solutions together, while stonewalling impedes working together to resolve problems. Couples who use stonewalling to avoid issues are really creating more problems in the long run.
Second, stonewalling creates a barrier in a relationship. While healthy couples work together to solve problems, couples who utilize stonewalling typically have issues that mount up, layer upon layer. Communication becomes stifled. Problems must be resolved, no matter how difficult or challenging they are to face.
Finally, stonewalling creates resentment. Stonewalling is a statement to our mate that we refuse to listen to their concern. While we may rationalize our actions by thinking that they have no right to feel the way they do, or talk to us the way they do, stonewalling is destructive. We all want to be heard and have our mate be sensitive to our needs. We want to influence our mate and they want to influence us. Stonewalling has no place whatsoever in a relationship.
In summary, remember the importance of wanting to be heard. There is little as sweet or connecting as bringing an issue to your mate, having him/ her listen to you, and hearing them respond with, “I’m with you. What you are telling me is important and I want to help you solve this problem. Let’s work together so that your needs are met.” This may be what the Apostle Paul meant when he said we are to “defer to one another in love” (Ephesians 5: 21).
If you use stonewalling in your relationship, please consider contacting us to learn effective tools for overcoming this problem. We offer a free twenty- minute consultation to help you determine your problem and what is needed to solve it. Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com.You can read about our guaranteed Marriage Intensive: 3 Days To A New Marriage, Guaranteed!
Publication date: July 23, 2012
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