As a couples therapist, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to observe how hard women work at their relationships. When something’s wrong, it’s the woman who notices it and wants to talk about it – to figure out what’s wrong and fix the problem. Here’s an example of a frequent complaint from our Relationship Survey:
“We have problems agreeing on the way in which we will deal with problems. I want to deal with them when they come up, and he wants to think about it on his own for a long time and hope the problem goes away before we talk about it.”
Chances are, this woman won’t be able to wait for him to bring up the problem again. She’ll be miserable waiting on him to say something. At best, she’ll feel like it’s just not that important to him. At worst, she’ll feel like SHE’S just not that important to him. As the hours and days tick by, she’ll start to feel more and more anxious about their relationship.
What is stonewalling?
Stonewalling is withdrawing or refusing to respond to your partner. For men, it may be a response to their own confusion or due to them feeling overwhelmed. Early in life, men learn that they have to come up with the answers to problems on their own, so this behavior makes sense. (More about this later in the course.)
For women, being stonewalled by a partner creates excessive anxiety—and anger.
Now, for the surprising side of stonewalling: It’s actually much more damaging to the relationship if the woman is the stonewaller!!
QUESTION: Do you shut him out when he hurts your feelings or does something you don’t approve of?
The female version of stonewalling can be subtle (refusing to talk to him for a few minutes) or dramatic (pouting, stomping out of the room, slamming doors, not speaking for days, etc.).
EXERCISE: Observe your own behavior today. Notice how often you stonewall in response to something he says or does. Remember, your stonewalling may be more subtle, so you’ll have to be a diligent detective.
What can you do about stonewalling? Read more …