Why doesn’t anyone want to talk about this subtle, sneaky cause of divorce?
Because they are STONEWALLING!
This is the 3rd predictor of divorce and one of the hardest to fix.
Because we’re too busy playing games with stonewalling, sometimes referred to as “The Silent Treatment.”
This newsletter and video are a continuation of my 4-part series relating to marriage research by a guy named John Gottman.
He bases everything on detailed data he has on what makes marriages last…or crash and burn.
I’m taking his research and translating it into easy-to-understand language with easy to implement actions for you.
John uses the term “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” which are FOUR BEHAVIORS that he says predict divorce with about 90% accuracy.
So if these things show up consistently in your relationship, you can bet things won’t be going your way in the future.
The four behaviors are:
In each of these videos, I will break down each behavior this way:
a. What is it?
b. What it is not.
c. What is looks like or sounds like
d. How it poisons the relationship
e. How to change your behavior now and start doing something different
In this video, I talk about STONEWALLING.
Stonewalling is the act of withdrawing from interaction, the act of shutting down or closing off from the other person. Stonewalling can be done in many different ways.
Stonewalling is NOT setting a boundary when something happens that is absolutely unacceptable, something really toxic and mean such as physical violence (which happens more often from women to men than we like to admit).
When you’re setting a boundary around physical violence, you’re going to have to stand firmly and make sure that you prevent it. You have to make sure she knows it’s unacceptable and if you need to leave the room; that is NOT stonewalling.
If there’s toxic verbal abuse going on and you say something like: “If this continues, I’m going to remove myself from this conversation until we both calm down and then we can come back together and continue. I’ll check in with you in an hour, but I’m leaving this conversation now.” Again, that is NOT stonewalling.
Stonewalling is more nuanced, it’s more insidious, it’s more manipulative and controlling, where you do things like moving away subtly, or you avoid contact, you have evasive moves like verbally saying “Well I don’t see what the big deal is” or you’ll be obsessively involved in something like using your phone or pretending you’re doing something to ignore or avoid her.
Stonewalling is the deliberate attempt to withdraw from interaction in order to control the situation. Stonewalling does not work.
So how does stonewalling poison the relationship?
It erodes trust, respect, connection and attraction. If either one of you knows that when you get into a conversation that the likely response is going to be silence, that there will be no communication, no interaction, no cooperation, it erodes trust. So then a major part of the foundation of a relationship – which is communication, trust and respect – is gone and this happens every time you stonewall.
Stonewalling also breeds hopelessness. Whenever you get into any type of conversation or interaction around problem solving, and you know that she is going to go quiet, you begin to believe that ‘this will never work’, you begin to believe that ‘it’s hopeless’ and you start to resent the other person.
And that starts to build the next of “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” which is called contempt that I’ll be covering next week. Whenever you continually face stonewalling (or if she faces it from you), contempt comes in which is a boiling energy of hatred and bitterness.
So how do you change stonewalling?
When you’re the one doing the stonewalling, when you’re the one who’s quietly maneuvering away to the garage, avoiding her and giving the silent treatment, you have to know that the stronger man will stand strongly on both feet and stay present, calm and confident.
You can use curiosity or amusement. Stop believing that what’s happening is going to hurt you. Stop thinking that the best relief of the pressure you’re feeling is to run away from it or avoid it because that reaction causes more fear than you standing there with her. Women always say that they feel more fearful when you run away and can’t stand there with her in a conflict – stonewalling is eroding her trust and confidence in you.
What if she’s stonewalling?
What if she’s stonewalling and you’re the one pursuing her?
A lot of times women will do this – give us the silent treatment – it’s almost legendary! You feel cut off. Maybe she’s locked the bedroom door and tells you to go and sleep on the couch – that’s stonewalling!
First of all you can call it out. That’s why it’s good to understand these terms so that when you let her know “What you’re doing right now is not acceptable. I don’t treat you like that and I don’t want to be treated this way.”
Call it out. Make sure she knows that you know what’s going on.
You also need to release the pressure. When she’s stonewalling it means she’s feeling pressure and she’s flying away from it.
The worst thing you can do with women (or horses), is continue adding pressure when they’re already fleeing from pressure. That approach just doesn’t make sense.
You have to back away.
You have to wait for the clouds to clear and the pressure to reduce before you come back together.
Then you can hopefully have a conversation where you can talk about this stonewalling not being acceptable and how it doesn’t help anything.
Make sure you’re avoiding using the first two “Horseman of the Apocalypse” which are criticism and defensiveness when you re-engage.
So I hope this helped you understand what stonewalling is a little bit better and that you now know a little bit more about what to think about it and what to do about it when it happens.
Next week we’re going to talk about the fourth and worst “Horseman of the Apocalypse” which is called contempt.
We love to help men understand what’s happening in their relationships and often what they’re doing unconsciously that is causing their relationship to nosedive.
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