Is your partner prone to shutting down and giving you the silent treatment following an argument? Not only can this be incredibly frustrating, but it also has the potential to hinder an otherwise healthy relationship. In this episode of the Wild & Sublime podcast, sponsored by Best Therapies, a panel of sex and relationship therapy experts delve deep into this topic.
The episode aims to guide couples struggling with communication after a disagreement, offering valuable insights to address relationship challenges. Keep reading to discover effective strategies for responding to “stonewalling” and cultivating healthy communication skills with your partner.
Understanding Stonewalling as a Fight-or-Flight Reaction
When faced with significant events and relationship challenges, it’s only natural for us to respond with a fight-or-flight instinct. Stonewalling extends this self-preservation mechanism, where one feels compelled to disconnect from one’s partner. The emotions associated with this behavior may include:
Beneath the surface of these emotions lies vulnerability, a crucial element for achieving true intimacy, as relationship counseling professionals emphasize. If you find yourself dealing with a stonewalling partner, it’s important to remember that their reaction stems from their desire to shield themselves from vulnerability. Understanding where their tough exterior comes from and creating safety in the relationship for each other after conflict is vital to fostering a more intimate and healthy relationship, where openness becomes a shared strength.
Try to Find Common Ground
Needing space after facing any sort of conflict is entirely normal. It can strain your relationship if your partner shuts down and refuses to open up about their feelings. Getting aggressive with them could worsen things. Instead, relationship therapy and mental health experts are on the same page: the best approach is to empathize with them and find some common ground.
Let your partner know that you genuinely understand where they’re coming from. You may have been in a similar situation before and can relate. By showing them genuine compassion and understanding, you can help ease their intense emotions and create a safe space for open communication.
Recognize Thoughts vs. Feelings
Understanding the difference between their thoughts and feelings is one relationship therapy tool to help you deal with a stonewalling partner. The partner who shuts down following an argument often covers up their feelings and projects a thought instead. The following phrases are commonly used when shutting down:
- I feel like you intentionally hurt me
- I feel like you don’t love me
- I feel that you don’t listen to me
Take a step back and realize that phrases starting with “I feel like” are your partner’s thoughts, not their emotions. Focus on the emotion that’s causing them to form that thought. For example, if they say, “I feel like you intentionally hurt me,” the sentiment behind this thought could be hurt.
Remember that getting defensive about their thoughts might not help, so shifting your focus toward the underlying emotion is crucial. Instead of focusing on the thoughts, try opening up a discussion about the feelings involved to find a healthy resolution. Another approach is to ask your partner what they truly need instead of just inquiring about how they feel. It’s about being honest, raw, and authentic in your communication to foster a deeper connection.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Maintaining open lines of communication is crucial, assuring them that you’re available whenever your partner is ready to talk. Give them the required space, but let them know you’re here to work through the conflict when they’re prepared. This demonstrates your care and willingness to address the issue after they’ve had time to process their thoughts and emotions.
Remember to Care For Yourself
Dealing with a stonewalling partner can be incredibly tough. It can affect your mental health, so prioritizing self-care is crucial. Make time for yourself to cope with the stress and stay calm. Remember, it’s okay to recharge and focus on your well-being, especially when your relationship demands more.
At Best Therapies, we understand the challenges and offer relationship therapy to help you and your partner navigate this issue. Contact us at (773) 377-5261 to learn more about our counseling services. We’re here to support you.