Marriage Minute: There are two sides to stonewalling

Sometimes, an argument with your partner can get so overwhelming that you shut down and withdraw from interaction. You’re probably feeling flooded, maybe even panicked, and you might even be trying to protect yourself.

But your partner may not see it that way. Instead, they could perceive an act of stonewalling as you purposely ignoring them.

Those are the two sides to stonewalling, and if it happens often, it’s easy to start entrenching yourselves on opposite sides of that wall.

Fortunately, there’s a way to break down that wall, and that’s to ask for a break, but it can be very hard to come up with the right words to ask for a break when you’re flooded.

So, you and your partner should agree, ahead of time, on how to take a break when one of you gets flooded, such as a “timeout” signal or some kind of word or phrase that both of you can use. Then you and your partner will be able to respect the other’s need for a break.

Once you take a break, take a half hour alone to calm down and self-soothe, and when you feel calm, you’ll be ready to resume the discussion from a rational state of mind.

Additional reading

The Marriage Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 15 May 2018. You can sign up here to get The Marriage Minute delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

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