Stonewalling is when your body shuts down your verbal responses, and you turn your body away. This usually occurs in a quarrel.
Interestingly, men and women don’t generally look the same when they stonewall.
Usually when men stonewall during a conflict, they go silent, fold their arms and look down/away for an extended period of time.
On the other hand, stonewalling may be a bit harder to notice in women. Women tend to maintain eye-contact, however their eyes glaze over and their body friezes.
Researchers such as Gottman, have found that partners who are experiencing stonewalling are also experiencing flight or fight symptoms. They are in distress, their hearts race, they may experience tunnel vision and they usually perceive the things their partner says as an attack against them.
Because of this, it’s quite unlikely that the conflict will be resolved well until the person experiencing stonewalling gets a chance to calm down. If you can identify stonewalling in yourself or in your partner during conflict, it’s a good idea to have a short break or cooldown.
I know this is a tall order during a heated conflict, but explaining to your partner that you both just need a short time out (no longer than 30 minutes) to collect your thoughts may become a significant pillar that holds your relationship up.
If you and your partner would like a bit of help figuring it all out and strengthening your relationship, you can book a couple’s therapy session today.
“When a couple has a troubling incident but choose to avoid discussing it, the memory of the event stays like a stone in your shoe” Gottman.
William Faulkner once said “the past is never dead. In fact, it isn’t even past.” When we ignore a troubling event and choose to rather continue without ever addressing it and processing it, we end up carrying it around with us like a stone in our shoe.
So in a way we end up continuing to live in the past. Because, until the past has been processed, we can’t let it go. It keeps sneaking up on us.
Ignoring the stone in your shoe can end up being more painful than dealing with it.
If you find that you and your partner often end up bringing up the same issues in a quarrel, time and time again. Then perhaps there are a couple of stones in your shoes that you need to take out.
Sometimes all this takes is a few honest conversations with your partner. While these might seem uncomfortable at first, and no-one ever wants to sit down and have a difficult time. These conversations can lead to a stronger and more intimate relationship.
If you aren’t used to this, and you don’t know where to even begin, a couple’s therapist can help to guide you gently through this process.
Choose a stronger relationship, choose to address the troubling events that we are all presented with from time to time, take that stone out of your shoe.
If you are unsure about whether or not online therapy is right for you and your partner, I offer a free consultation. It’s just a chance for us to meet each other, and for you to get a sense of what online therapy with me is all about. You can book a free consultation on my website.
Positive sentiment over-ride occurs when your overall positive sentiment towards your partner outweighs the negative.
According to Gottman, when a couple has positive sentiment over-ride, they are more likely to give one another the benefit of the doubt.
For example if your partner is comes home grumpy one day, instead of automatically thinking that they are angry with you or that they are a bad partner; you may think that maybe they just had a bad day or slept badly or something.
Basically positive sentiment over-ride acts as a sort of buffer against irritability in a relationship. You are understanding of your partner and that helps you to be more forgiving and tolerant of your partner.
If your partner comes home grumpy and you have a negative sentiment over-ride, on the other hand, you may interpret your partner’s grumpiness as a reflection of something that you have done. You will probably be hyper-vigilant towards criticism and put downs and therefore end up misinterpreting some of the actions from your partner to be more malicious or careless than they were.
Perhaps developing a stronger positive sentiment over-ride in your relationship could be beneficial to you and your partner. 🖤🖤
Gottman found that by observing the first three minutes of a conflict conversation, he could predict not only how the rest of the conversation would go, but also how the relationship would go 6 years down the road…with high accuracy!
He found that couples who approach conflict gently by explaining how they are feeling about a situation, rather than by bringing up a flaw in the other person’s character had a much better chance of success.
For example, saying something like ” I’m frustrated because the bills aren’t paid” works out better for the couple than saying something like “You’re so lazy, why haven’t you paid the bills yet?”
Being specific about the problem that you want changed is also key in conflict. The more specific you are, the easier it is for your partner to know what to do differently in the future.
For example saying “You need to be more responsible” is vague and unsurprisingly ineffective because it doesn’t give your partner much direction. However saying something like “It would be so helpful for me if you could pay the bills by the end of the week”. This is a much easier for your partner to change as it is clear and direct.
You may not be able to completely avoid conflict in your relationship (as even the strongest relationships have conflict) but you can control how you approach the conflict. This is important because you don’t want to keep repeating the same negative approach as Gottman has shown that this can have a devastating impact on the relationship.
So remember to gently talk about the situation as opposed to a flaw in your partner and to be specific.
The Psychologist, Shirley Glass found that betrayed partners almost always suffered from a form of PTSD.
In a similar way to how a soldier may feel after returning from war, betrayed partners are hyper-vigilant and on guard for enemies hiding behind every tree.
They may also experience flashbacks or intrusive negative thoughts in which they imagine their spouse together with the other person.
These thoughts often bring on bouts of rage, panic or numbness. They may also suffer from nightmares and insomnia.
No matter how many times their spouse apologizes, their intrusive thoughts are difficult to stop. They are at the mercy of their PTSD.
It is important to take your feelings seriously and not to expect yourself to just ‘get over it’. This is a difficult time and seeing a therapist might help you to make sense of what is going on.
Minuchkin famously said that “Every marriage is a mistake it’s how you deal with it that matters”. Here’s what I think Minuchkin was getting at.
All couples will have perpetual unresolved problems. Yes some couples may have fewer of these than others, but no relationship, no matter how great, can ever be entirely free of these.
This is because, unlike the belief passed on to us through pretty much every soppy love song throughout time, there are no perfectly complimentary couples. No two puzzle pieces that fit together and complete one another.
Don’t worry, this is a good thing, I promise, because it means that you are already a whole human. You don’t need to find someone else to complete you, you are whole in and of yourself.
It also means that you and your partner will sometimes clash. Friction is inevitable, it’s how you deal with it that really counts.
So next time you and your partner find yourselves clashing over something, don’t spend energy getting angry with yourself for clashing, accept that this is a normal part of being in a relationship and devote your energy to dealing with the issue at hand.