The Fourth Horseman is STONEWALLING
Stonewalling occurs when someone completely withdraws from a conflict discussion and no longer responds to their partner.
It usually happens when you’re feeling inundated or emotionally overwhelmed, so your reaction is to shut down, stop talking, and disengage.
When couples stonewall, they’re under a lot of emotional pressure. This pressure increases heart rates, releases stress hormones into the bloodstream, and can even trigger a fight-or-flight response.
In one of the Gottman Institutes studies, they interrupted couples after 15 minutes of an argument and told them they needed to adjust the equipment. They asked the couples not to talk about their issue, but just to read magazines for half an hour.
When they started talking again, their heart rates were significantly lower, and their interaction was more positive and productive.
During that half-hour, each partner, without even knowing it, physiologically soothed themselves by reading and avoiding discussion. They calmed down, and once they felt calm, they were able to return to the discussion respectfully and rationally.
The remedy to stonewalling is to practise physiological self-soothing, and the first step of self-soothing is to stop the conflicting discussion and call a timeout:
“Look, we’ve been through this over and over again. I’m tired of reminding you—”
Remedy:“Honey, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I’m feeling overwhelmed and I need to take a break. Can you give me twenty minutes and then we can talk?”
Failing to take a break will lead to you stonewalling or bottling up your emotions, or you end up exploding at your partner. Either way, it is going pear-shaped.
When you take a break
· Make it for at least 20 minutes. It takes that long before your body calms down.
· Make sure that you make a definite time to come back together to discuss things; otherwise, your partner will believe that you have put a resolution on the “never-never plan”.
· During this time you must avoid thoughts of righteous indignation such as “I don’t have to take this anymore” and innocent victimhood such as “Why is he always picking on me?”.
· Spend your time doing something soothing and distracting, like listening to music, reading, or exercising.
Communication is the backbone of any relationship. As relationship specialists, StartPoint Counselling has helped many couples remove the toxicity in their communication and rebuild their relationships.
Call us now on 07 3458 1725, and we can equip you to change your relationship into one that you will want to be part of.