Relationship Minute: Are You Stonewalling?

What does it feel like when you’re flooded? We know the signs of DPA (Diffuse Physiological Arousal) on paper, but feeling them in your own body is something else entirely. Most people don’t know the moment their heart rate exceeds 99 BPM.

But you might be more familiar with what it feels like to stonewall or what it feels like when your partner is stonewalling.

Stonewalling is the last of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and its presence can signal that the relationship is in trouble. It is what happens when one partner’s flooding causes them to withdraw from interaction (verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically).

As you become increasingly overwhelmed, your body is building that wall, stone by stone. Often, it’s a protective measure but it plays as a power move. It stops dialogue dead in its tracks.

Thankfully, there’s help! The antidote to stonewalling is to practice self-soothing. When you feel your body starting to build the wall, that’s the time to pause. Walk away (with a definite, verbalized plan to return) and give yourself a breather. Perhaps you need a code word or signal to ask your partner for a break.

Pay attention to the whole system. What are your thought patterns like when you’re overwhelmed? What are the physical sensations? What emotions lead to shutting down?

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. Visit their website.