Refuse to discuss issues (How to ruin a perfectly good relationship)

Another easy way to destroy a relationship is to shutdown or stonewall your spouse when they are trying to discuss an issue which is of importance to them.

Stonewalling can look slightly different in different people: being unresponsive, walking away, tuning out, ignoring, turning away, turning to technology, acting busy or saying "I will not talk about this".

When your spouse is making an effort to address a problem, whether attempting to talk about something that is upsetting them, explaining their feelings about an ongoing area of conflict, or trying to reach a resolution or a compromise, and you are pretending that they aren't there, they are likely to reach a level of upset or anger so high that unless this issue is addressed, it is almost guaranteed to destroy your relationship. Here is some research on the impact of stonewalling on relationships.

A word of compassion for you if you are the stonewaller: you are likely engaging in this behavior because you are going through an internal emotional storm within which you do not know how to cope with. Your emotional resources are exhausted and therefore the only thing you can do is physically, mentally or emotionally "check out" of the situation and hope that it goes away.

You use stonewalling as a defense mechanism to help you cope with your emotional storm. You think that maybe if you ignore a problem long and shut it out, your spouse will forget about it and it won't matter in a few days. The problem will disappear with time, you hope.

Here's the thing to know: IT DOES NOT. The issues in your relationship when not dealt with are much more likely to persevere and get bigger rather than go away. AND they create a lot of anger and frustration in the other person. Not a great climate for a healthy relationship.

So what can you do instead if you want to improve rather than destroy your relationship?

When you are in the middle of a conflict and feel yourself become upset or angry to the point where you cannot discuss the issue, follow these simple steps to take a time out:

1. Let your spouse know that you need to take a break because you are angry/upset/emotionally flooded.

2. Reassure them that you will come back to the issue when you are ready to talk again. Give them a time frame of when they can expect to talk about this issue again.

3. Practice self-soothing while you are taking the time out. This is NOT the time to rehearse in your mind all the negative things to say or do. Use the time out with the express intention of calming down so that you can get back to the discussion in a more productive way.

4. Call time in. This is crucial. If you want your spouse to respect your need to take a break, you MUST take the initiative to start the discussion again within 24 hours at the very maximum, but quicker if you can manage it. If you skip this step, and hope the issue goes away, and you think your spouse seems to have forgotten about it, reread part one of this post!!

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