16 Emotional Effects of Stonewalling in a Relationship

Emotional Effects of Stonewalling

In the realm of relationships, effective communication serves as the bedrock upon which emotional connection and understanding are built. However, when communication falters, the emotional well-being of both partners can suffer. 

Stonewalling, a damaging communication pattern characterized by withdrawal and shutting down during conflicts can have profound emotional effects on individuals within a relationship. 

In this article, we will explore the sixteen emotional consequences that stonewalling can impose on both partners involved, shedding light on the importance of addressing and resolving this detrimental behavior.

16 Emotional Effects of Stonewalling in a Relationship

In this section, we will embark on a journey to understand the intricate emotional effects of stonewalling, empowering couples to navigate the silent storm and restore harmony in their relationship.

1) Feelings of Isolation:

Stonewalling, as a communication pattern, has the power to create a profound sense of emotional distance and isolation between partners. When one individual engages in stonewalling, they withdraw from the interaction, both verbally and emotionally. This withdrawal leaves the other person feeling abandoned and alone, unable to connect with their partner on a deeper level. 

The absence of open communication and engagement can lead to a pervasive feeling of isolation, where the stonewalled partner may yearn for connection and emotional support that is consistently denied.

2) Frustration:

As stonewalling becomes a recurring behavior in a relationship, the partner who is on the receiving end of this communication pattern may experience escalating frustration. The lack of response or engagement from their significant other can be deeply unsettling and disheartening. 

Each attempt to communicate or address concerns is met with silence or avoidance, leaving the stonewalled partner feeling unheard and dismissed. Over time, this accumulated frustration can build up and manifest as resentment towards the stonewalling partner, as they long for a genuine and open exchange of thoughts and emotions.

3) Anger:

The inability to communicate effectively due to stonewalling can be a catalyst for anger in both partners. The stonewalled partner may feel a growing sense of anger because their needs, concerns, and emotions are consistently invalidated or ignored. 

This anger arises from the profound sense of injustice and powerlessness, as they struggle to make themselves heard and understood. On the other hand, the partner engaging in stonewalling may also experience anger as a defense mechanism. They may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of the conflict or defensive about their own role in the situation, leading them to withdraw further into silence and avoidance.

4) Hurt Feelings:

Stonewalling has the potential to deeply wound a person’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. When one partner consistently shuts down and refuses to engage in open communication, it sends a clear message that the stonewalled individual’s thoughts, emotions, and needs are not valued or respected. 

This rejection can leave the stonewalled partner feeling hurt, unimportant, and unloved. The repeated experience of being stonewalled chips away at their self-confidence, eroding their sense of self-worth and leaving emotional scars that may take time to heal.

5) Emotional Shutdown:

One of the profound effects of stonewalling is its ability to induce emotional shutdown in individuals. When faced with consistent dismissal or avoidance, individuals may develop a reluctance to express themselves and share their thoughts and feelings openly. They become guarded, fearing further rejection or conflict if they were to expose their vulnerability. 

As a defense mechanism, they may withdraw emotionally, protecting themselves from the pain of being stonewalled. This emotional shutdown further hampers communication and intimacy in the relationship, creating a cycle of distance and disconnection.

6) Decreased Trust:

One of the most significant casualties of stonewalling in a relationship is trust. As stonewalling becomes a recurring pattern, the stonewalled partner begins to question their significant other’s willingness to address issues and actively work towards resolution. 

The absence of open and honest communication erodes the foundation of trust that is crucial for a healthy relationship. The stonewalled partner may feel betrayed, as their attempts to connect and resolve conflicts are met with silence and avoidance. Over time, this erosion of trust can lead to a pervasive sense of doubt and skepticism, hindering the couple’s ability to rely on each other emotionally and exacerbating relationship difficulties.

7) Resentment:

The persistent use of stonewalling as a coping mechanism can breed resentment within a relationship. The partner who consistently feels shut out and dismissed may develop negative feelings towards their significant other. 

The accumulation of unaddressed emotions and unresolved conflicts creates a toxic environment where emotional intimacy and connection suffer. The stonewalled partner may feel unheard, unimportant, and undervalued, which can lead to a breakdown in trust and a deep-seated sense of bitterness. The resentment that builds over time can poison the relationship, further widening the emotional gap between partners.

8) Despair:

The ongoing experience of stonewalling can inflict a profound sense of hopelessness and despair on the stonewalled partner. They may feel trapped in a relationship where their emotional needs are consistently ignored or invalidated. 

The lack of acknowledgement and resolution can leave them feeling helpless, questioning their own worthiness of love and emotional support. The absence of meaningful communication can create a sense of emotional stagnation and an overall feeling of being trapped in an unfulfilling relationship. This despair can weigh heavily on their emotional well-being and contribute to feelings of sadness, helplessness, and resignation.

9) Communication Breakdown:

Stonewalling severely hampers effective communication and problem-solving within a relationship. The refusal or inability to engage in open dialogue and address conflicts head-on prevents the healthy expression of emotions and the opportunity to find common ground. 

Communication becomes one-sided, with the stonewalling partner shutting down any attempts at discussion or resolution. The lack of communication perpetuates misunderstandings, escalates conflicts, and inhibits the growth and development of the relationship. The inability to navigate challenges and find resolutions can create a deep-seated frustration and hinder the overall health and stability of the relationship.

10) Anxiety:

The uncertainty and tension generated by stonewalling can contribute to heightened levels of anxiety in the stonewalled partner. The constant worry about the state of the relationship and the lack of emotional connection can take a toll on their mental and emotional well-being. 

The stonewalled partner may live in a constant state of apprehension, always second-guessing themselves and fearing further rejection or emotional distance. The lack of reassurance and effective communication can create an atmosphere of unpredictability, intensifying anxiety and exacerbating existing emotional distress.

11) Depression:

Prolonged exposure to stonewalling can have a detrimental impact on a person’s mental well-being, potentially leading to depression. The constant feelings of isolation, rejection, and emotional distance that arise from stonewalling can wear down an individual’s emotional resilience over time. 

The stonewalled partner may experience a profound sense of sadness, hopelessness, and despair as their attempts to connect and communicate are met with silence and avoidance. The persistent lack of emotional engagement and the erosion of trust can contribute to a deepening sense of emptiness and loss, which can significantly impact their overall mood and mental health.

12) Emotional Volatility:

Stonewalling can result in emotional volatility for both partners involved in the relationship. The stonewalled partner may find themselves oscillating between intense feelings of anger, sadness, and frustration. The consistent dismissal and lack of responsiveness from their significant other can evoke a range of powerful emotions that are left unaddressed and unresolved. 

These emotions may bubble up to the surface unpredictably, causing heightened emotional reactions and further exacerbating the overall distress within the relationship. On the other hand, the partner who engages in stonewalling may also experience their own emotional turmoil, such as guilt, anxiety, or shame, as they grapple with the consequences of their communication behavior.

13) Insecurity:

Stonewalling undermines an individual’s sense of security within the relationship. The repeated experiences of emotional distance and the absence of meaningful connection can sow seeds of doubt and insecurity. 

The stonewalled partner may begin to question their worth and value in the eyes of their significant other. The lack of emotional responsiveness can leave them feeling unimportant and uncertain about the stability of their partnership. This insecurity can permeate various aspects of their life, creating a constant undercurrent of anxiety and doubt that hinders their ability to trust and fully engage in the relationship.

14) Self-Doubt:

The consistent dismissal or avoidance of one’s thoughts and emotions through stonewalling can lead to self-doubt. The stonewalled partner may question the validity of their own feelings and experiences, as they receive no validation or acknowledgement from their significant other. 

Over time, this repeated invalidation can erode their confidence in effectively expressing themselves and communicating their needs. The self-doubt that arises from stonewalling can create a sense of powerlessness and contribute to a distorted perception of one’s own emotional experiences, inhibiting personal growth and hindering the development of healthy communication patterns.

15) Emotional Suppression:

Stonewalling often promotes emotional suppression as a means of self-preservation. In an attempt to avoid conflict or further emotional disconnection, individuals may suppress their emotions and withhold their thoughts and feelings. 

They may feel compelled to bury their emotions deeply within themselves, fearing the consequences of expressing them openly. This pattern of emotional suppression can have long-term negative effects on an individual’s emotional well-being. It can lead to a buildup of unresolved emotions, increased stress levels, and a disconnection from one’s authentic self. Over time, this suppression can strain mental and emotional health, as the buried emotions seek an outlet for release.

16) Relationship Dissatisfaction:

Ultimately, stonewalling takes a significant toll on relationship satisfaction. The emotional effects of stonewalling create a climate of unhappiness and unfulfillment. The persistent disconnection and lack of emotional responsiveness can leave individuals feeling unheard, unloved, and emotionally distant from their partner. 

Over time, this emotional disconnection erodes the foundation of a healthy and fulfilling relationship. The decline in relationship quality may manifest as decreased intimacy, increased conflict, and a general sense of dissatisfaction with the partnership. Without intervention and effective communication, the emotional effects of stonewalling can erode the relationship to a point where repairing the damage becomes challenging.

How can I rebuild trust after stonewalling has occurred?

Rebuilding trust after stonewalling takes time, effort, and a commitment from both partners. Here are some steps you can consider:

  • Acknowledge the impact: The partner who engaged in stonewalling needs to take responsibility for their actions and understand the hurt they have caused. Validate the emotions and experiences of the stonewalled partner.
  • Apologize and make amends: Offer a sincere apology to your partner, expressing remorse for the pain caused by stonewalling. Take accountability for your behavior and demonstrate a genuine commitment to change.
  • Reestablish open communication: Create a safe space for open and honest communication. Encourage your partner to share their feelings and concerns, and actively listen without judgment or defensiveness.
  • Build consistency and reliability: Consistently show up for your partner by being emotionally available and responsive. Follow through on commitments and demonstrate reliability in your actions.
  • Seek professional guidance if needed: Consider seeking guidance from a couples therapist who can assist in rebuilding trust and provide guidance on effective communication techniques and trust-building exercises.

Can stonewalling be overcome, or is it a sign of irreparable damage?

While stonewalling can cause significant emotional harm to a relationship, it is not necessarily a sign of irreparable damage. With effort, commitment, and a willingness to address the issue, couples can overcome stonewalling and rebuild their connection. It may require patience, professional guidance, and a sincere desire to improve communication patterns. Both partners must be actively involved in the process and work together to create a healthier and more fulfilling relationship. By fostering empathy, open communication, and understanding, it is possible to heal the wounds caused by stonewalling and restore trust and emotional intimacy.


The emotional effects of stonewalling in a relationship cannot be overlooked or underestimated. It creates a void of isolation, frustration, and hurt, leading to a breakdown in emotional intimacy and trust. The repercussions include anxiety, depression, and a constant sense of insecurity. To heal and restore a healthy relationship, recognizing and addressing stonewalling is crucial. By cultivating open and empathetic communication, seeking professional guidance when needed, and prioritizing emotional connection, couples can work towards building a foundation of trust, understanding, and mutual respect. Remember, a relationship thrives on genuine and heartfelt communication, where each partner’s emotions are valued and heard.