When a couple begins to use criticism and contempt which leads to defensiveness it is no surprise that one partner begins to tune out the other. This brings us to our fourth horsemen, Stonewalling. Stonewalling occurs when a partner is feeling so emotionally and psychologically overwhelmed they close themselves off from their partner. Rather than confronting the issue with their spouse they, metaphorically, build an emotional wall between them and their partner (Gottman & Silver, 2018). This can look like tuning out, turning away, acting busy, or engaging in another activity. It is important to note that when someone is stonewalling they likely have an increased heart rate, stress hormones in the bloodstream, and be in a fight or flight response. Being in this state makes it almost impossible to have a productive conversation (Lisita, 2022).
There are a couple of antidotes to stonewalling. The first is to stop. Stonewalling sends the message of “I don’t care to help this situation” or even “I don’t care about you.” Instead of flat out ignoring your partner, communicating that you need to take a break can be beneficial. It is important to state a break is needed and when you will come back to find resolution. During the break it is also imperative to avoid any thoughts of righteous indignation such as, “I don’t have to take this anymore.” But instead focus on self-soothing to reduce heart rate and stress
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2018). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the international bestselling relationship expert. Orion Spring.
Lisitsa, E. (2022, January 21). The Four horsemen: Stonewalling. The Gottman Institute. Retrieved March 13, 2022, from https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-stonewalling/