In the final phase of the negative cascade the couple finally breaks off normal contact.
Gottman found that 85 percent of stonewallers are men. This phase characterizes a stage in the damaged relationship where one of the partners decides that no communication is better than the destructive feelings and words that have prevailed prior to this point. Withdrawing from interaction sends a powerful negative message – and the stonewaller may feel that this is the only option left. It is important to note that a common fighting technique between partners is for one to use the “silent treatment” – but this is not the same as stonewalling. The silent treatment is used on occasion, while stonewalling is an habitual reaction for the couple and is preceded by the first three phases of the negative cascade. Relationships that get to this point are still salvageable, but they are fragile. At this stage, the couple must want to work hard to save the relationship.
In order to address the problem of stonewalling, the couple should address issues like learning to stay calm, speaking non-defensively, and becoming aware of the thoughts that maintain their distress. A therapist can help a couple learn all of these skills.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D.,LMFT
San Diego Couples and Family Therapy provides counseling in the convenient area of Sorrento Valley Road.
We also serve the surrounding areas of La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, University City, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway and Escondido.