Stonewalling: What is it and its effects

Communication breaking down between you and your partner can only make stressful situations worse. Especially so when separations and divorces are being considered.

This is called stonewalling and, whatever the intentions, it can be detrimental to progress and could cause relationships to get worse as opposed to better.

In this post, we will take a look at what stonewalling is and go into detail about the effect it has on relationships. 

What is Stonewalling?

Stonewalling refers to the actions of someone who refuses to communicate with another person and can also include dismissive behaviour such as belittling another person or being patronising towards their views and opinions. 

The two types of stonewalling

Unintentional stonewalling

This occurs when the person is acting from learned behaviours to deal with sensitive subjects.

They will dismiss difficult conversations and tough situations because they don’t know how else to deal with them other than to be silent.

Intentional stonewalling 

This refers to the act of someone intentionally using stonewalling as a way to try and get their way in a situation.

What is stonewalling in a relationship?

In relationships, communication is vitally important. Stonewalling can unfortunately be used in relationships to try and punish another person because they feel some sort of injustice or grievance.

Sometimes relationships between people break down for a number of reasons, maybe it is because of unintentional stonewalling. This could happen if one person in the relationship doesn’t communicate their feelings properly because they don’t know how to.

But other times the relationship can break down because of other factors and then stonewalling can occur.

On the other hand, stonewalling can be used as a tactic to try and take control of a toxic relationship. 

However, stonewalling does not solve any of the relationship problems and it should be addressed if both parties want to move forward.

Common signs of stonewalling

Stonewalling can be difficult to spot as it can be subtle. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Partner deliberately ignoring you.
  • Changing the subject when serious conversations arise.
  • Refusing to respond to your questions.
  • Dismissive body language.
  • Passive aggressive behaviour.
  • Denying stonewalling behaviour.
  • Being patronising, especially when you say something.
  • Refusing to take responsibility.

What effect does stonewalling have on a relationship?

Stonewalling never has a positive effect on a relationship. There needs to be positive communication in a relationship no matter the feelings between the two parties.

Positive communication will allow any issues to be resolved. Then the two parties can move on and get on with their lives.

What is the effect on the person being stonewalled?

If you’re someone who is being stonewalled then you can experience a number of negative feelings. These include helplessness, powerlessness and unworthiness. 

Your self esteem can take a beating and you may feel like you’re not able to move things forward. These feelings are natural and it is why stonewalling can become one of the biggest reasons for issues to not get resolved. 

How to respond to stonewalling

As discussed, stonewalling can impede progress massively when it comes to moving situations forward between two parties.

But there are steps you can take to respond to stonewalling and move on from it. The key is to recognise when stonewalling is occurring and assess how the relationship has gotten to this point.

Then you need to focus on the reasons why someone may be stonewalling you and assess what their intentions and objectives may be. 

Now you need to exercise your communication skills and try to engage in positive talks with the other party. This will be difficult but with persistence and an open mind it can become a success.

Hire the help of a therapist or counsellor if you think you need it to help develop your communication skills and confidence. 

Brown Turner Ross: Divorce solicitors

Stonewalling can occur quite regularly during a divorce and can sometimes be the reason things can’t move forward. 

If you’re currently going through a divorce and are experiencing stonewalling then we are here to lend a helping hand.

At Brown Turner Ross we have dealt with all manner of divorce scenarios and therefore our team is very experienced.

Using our extensive knowledge we help people going through a difficult divorce to secure the best outcome possible.
Please contact us if you’re someone who needs help and legal support during your divorce proceedings.

Southport Solicitors

Tel: 0170-454 2002

Fax: 0170-454 3144

11 St George's Place

Lord Street



Liverpool Solicitors

Tel: 0151-236 2233

Fax: 0170-454 3144

The Cotton Exchange Building

Bixteth Street


L3 9LQ