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.

Relationship Minute: Self-soothing

Are you stressed out? Maybe your resting state just has a layer of anxiety on top of it now, making it easier for you to become flooded.

Flooding is another word for physiological overwhelm, which you may or may not even be aware of as it is happening. Flooding can lead to blowing up or shutting down. And shutting down—stonewalling—is one of the Four Horsemen.

Like the other three Horsemen, stonewalling has an antidote. The cure for stonewalling is self-soothing.

If you find yourself stonewalling, listen up! This antidote is on you to practice and employ. You can’t make your partner self-soothe, and vice versa.

What you can collaborate on with your partner is a signal that either of you can use to let them know you need to take a break to reset. It can be a code word, a hand signal, anything you agree on that means “I’m getting overwhelmed. I need at least 20 minutes.”

Then, take that break and breathe, walk it off, or listen to some music. Just avoid teetering into righteous indignation (ruminating on the conflict that overwhelmed you in the first place) or innocent victimhood (“I can’t believe they did this to me. This is all their fault.”)

After taking the time to wind down, you can engage with your partner again. You don’t even have to be ready to apologize (if that’s what’s in order). But once you’re no longer flooded, you’ll be in a better place to listen and empathize.

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Stonewalling

You may already be familiar with The Four Horsemen (criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling) but now that our context has shifted on a global scale, it’s worth taking a closer look at each and how they might show up at home. 

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 and 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.

On the receiving end, you might feel the frustration of hitting that metaphorical wall. Maybe becoming louder is a way to get through? Or maybe you retreat. Either way, the devastation stonewalling creates in a relationship earns it a spot as one of the Four Horsemen.

But the good news about each of the Four Horsemen is that they have antidotes! The antidote to stonewalling is to practice self-soothing. Can you feel your body starting to build the wall? Do you have a code word or signal to ask 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?

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.