We’ve been looking at the Four Horsemen from The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage by John Gottman, Ph.D. Today we’ll take a look at the fourth and final of the four negative relational interactions, Stonewalling.
When the cycle of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness continues for an extended period, one spouse may eventually just tune out and give up. They no longer engage inthe argument, they stop trying to give an answer, and will usually just walk away. They stop the back and forth pattern in the
critical and contemptuous cycles, and give up trying to defend themselves. They shut down, walk away, and hide. But in so doing they also walk away from a meaningful relationship.
Stonewalling is avoiding. You avoid the fights, arguments, bickering, and critical hurtful comments. You avoid tension, hostility, and anger. Your defensiveness has found a new tactic as you seek the peace that comes from silence, but it’s at the cost of your relationship.
You avoid the conflicts, but give up hope for being close.
I remember the years of being apathetic in my relationship. I tried many times to find a way to get closer to Darleen, but something wasn’t right. After reading books and going to seminars and still not being able to get close, I thought to myself, “I don’t care anymore.” There would be long periods of stonewalling when I would not engage. I was distant, cold, and unapproachable.
I look back on these years as the desert years. I was telling myself a lie that I didn’t care, when I really cared very much. I wanted a closeness in our relationship but I would get frustrated and distance myself, believing the lie.
After many years, I rejected that lie, and embraced the truth that I loved Darleen very much, and I needed to act on that belief every day by praying for a healing in our relationship. No more stonewalling. It was a time to be fully engaged and to pursue removing the barriers that kept us apart.
I was confronted with a choice: that I could remain apathetic and we’d have another 30 years of a marriage characterized by distance and separation, or I could determine to work on it and we could spend the next 30 years as soulmates.
I chose soulmates, and by God’s grace, we are now enjoying years of closeness like we never had before.
Stonewalling kills a relationship. It signals I would rather be away from you in silence than to be close to you working on being soulmates.
If you see a pattern of stonewalling in your relationship, I hope this has helped you see the need to work through your issues so you can enjoy a soulmate relationship. You must be willing to take the steps to grow personally.
I truly hope that you choose to grow.