Stonewalling in a Relationship, Types, Signs, Causes

It is difficult to know when the mood of your partner gets off. It could be in the middle of the argument and completely out of the blue, you can’t simply know. If your partner is open and communicative, then you would receive the answer in a few words. Otherwise, your partner would become silent, and you would keep on guessing various reasons for the silence. Today, we’ll discuss what is stonewalling in a relationship; its types, signs, and possible causes.

What is Stonewalling in a Relationship? 

Stonewalling is when one person refuses to talk and communicate with the other person. In the relationship, it means when one partner blocks the other partner both in the literal and figurative sense. When a person becomes quiet intentionally during an argument, it is called silent treatment. It can harmful, frustrating, and hurtful to the health and life of the relationships.

Stonewalling is a form of defensive mechanism for our survival. Sometimes, it is from the childhood of a person, and the other time it happens in the relationships of adults. Some people grow up in such households where arguments and conflicts mean instability and limited safety. That’s why they’re fearful of conflicts and arguments, and they become silent to retain their safety.

Different people define stonewalling in the relationship differently; it could be in the form of the following behaviours;

  • Running away from the deep discussion that would cause stressful feelings
  • Not giving any nonverbal cues or making any types of eye contacts
  • Refusing to answer the questions
  • Minimizing or dismissing the concerns of the other person
  • No comfort while discussing your feelings

If the partners give silent treatment rarely in the relationship, then it would be highly effective. If silent treatment becomes a habit, then it lowers the capability of partners to resolve their conflicts or strength their intimacy.

Types of Stonewalling 

Every relationship is different and people express stonewallings differently in their relationships. The main two types are as follows;

Intentional Stonewalling

It is a type when a partner uses it to maintain control or manipulate the situation in the relationship or to inflict pain on the other partner. If you think that your partner is verbally abusive, then you should talk to the therapist or the counselor.

Unintentional Stonewalling

It is a type when a partner employs it as a learned response to deal with difficult emotional issues. People also use unintentional stonewallings to avoid discussing difficult emotions or the fight that would aggravate.

Signs of Stonewalling in a Relationship 

Some of the main stonewalling in the relationship are as follows;

Distance from Your Partner

Walking away from the intense arguments and taking a break could be a very effective strategy on some occasions. Distancing themselves from their partner allows them to build a stonewall around them, and it restricts the access of the other partner.

Receiving One Word Answer

If a partner starts giving short answers like uh-huh, sure, yup, or yeah in the middle of the conversation or an argument; then it is a great sign of stonewallings. It means the other partner is not intentionally sharing their inner feelings or what they feel inside.


If a partner isn’t talking or gets silent, it’s a great sign of stonewalling; a nonresponsive attitude is one of the top signs.

Some of the other signs of stonewalling are as follows;

  • Not accepting their stonewalling behaviour
  • Exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior like avoiding talking about the problem
  • Showing dismissive body gestures like rolling their eyes
  • Accusing the other problem rather than discussing the existing problem
  • Finding reasons to avoid talking
  • Storming without saying any word
  • Changing the topic when it comes to talking difficult issues
  • Avoiding what the other person is saying

Causes of Stonewalling 

Some of the main possible causes of stonewalling in a relationship are as follows;

  • It becomes a means to end the relationship, attracting complaints about the crisis, and taking a situation to the point of crisis
  • A way to manipulate the situation in order to do what they want
  • Considering their partner as unreasonable and emotional
  • Develop themselves as neutral in a particular situation
  • Hopeless of the relationship that you can’t find any resolution
  • Believing that your partner doesn’t want to resolve conflicts
  • Fearful of the reaction of your partner when you start talking
  • Believing that your partner can’t manage the topic
  • Lowering the tension from the emotional situation
  • Avoiding the conflict, emotional passive

Often, people learned stonewalling behavior in their childhood; because their parents were using this behavior to maintain the peace at home, or to achieve dominance in the family. If stonewalling behavior is becoming aggressive and intentional; you should keep in mind that people with limited self-worth and power use this behavior. It can be a defensive mechanism to pay off their feelings.


Sometimes, people misunderstand healthy behaviors of stonewalling. Setting boundaries and asking for space are the same thing as stonewalling. if you reach a point where partners need to discuss things, they should ask for a space or time.

If your partner wants to discuss things with you in the later stages with the full intentions of doing so, then it is not stonewallings. However, if a partner is using stonewallings to disrespect, demean, belittle, or control the other partner, then it becomes emotional abuse. In such a case, you should share your emotional difficulties with your mental health professional.

Conclusion: What is Stonewalling in a Relationship? Types, Signs, Causes 

After an in-depth study of what is stonewalling in a relationship; its types, signs, causes, and misconceptions; we have realized that stonewallings could badly hurt your partner and relationships. If you’re experiencing silent treatment in the relationship, then you should keep in mind the abovementioned signs to analyze the whole situation in the relationships.