Getting Stonewalled

So I have a particular emotional pattern that is doggedly causing me repeated misery. Me and my partner go through cycles in our relationship where she will become upset with me for some unknown reason and start to withhold intimacy and become curt or distant. Almost as if she’s emotionally pulled out of the relationship for the time being. In relationship lingo, this is called stonewalling behaviour.

The pattern goes like this: she stonewalls me → I go into a panic and eventually ask her whether something is wrong or whether she’s upset → she denies → either I keep pursuing the matter and she tells me or she feels like she’s ready to share and tells me.

Now obviously, this pursuing behaviour is just an expression of the fearful feelings, and keeps me locked in this pattern. I wish to get to a place of being unaffected by her feelings towards me. Something like @rick’s post here:

I know that love is the culprit, but I am starting to open up to this extremely uncomfortable feeling of being stonewalled. It is a very strong feeling of rejection. I’m mixing this with investigation. Anyway, I’ve had minor successes feeling good while this is happening, but prolonged exposure makes me crack and fall back into this pattern. But I really wish to stop repeating the tried and failed. I want to feel good no matter what.

To that end, I was wondering if any of you have any success stories with dealing with this kind of thing?

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Rick’s advice is the best imo - - “A significant chunk of my sense of well-being and emotional security was tied into the status of the relationship’s integrity, which was itself tied into the status of my spouse’s emotional temperament and her fluctuating perceptions of me and the relationship”

Basically you can’t allow yourself to feel good if your partner is upset, specifically with you. Or you can’t allow yourself to feel good if they are withholding affection. Do you think you fear what your life might be like if you two broke up? Would it get harder? More expensive? Or do the fears surround more emotional things, like a need for fulfillment from one’s partner. Both? This is a very sticky subject & I’ve had it both ways at the same time.

You could probably work through a lot of objections to feeling good the next time this situation arises. Just come up with sensible reasons for feeling good, and sensible reasons for feeling bad. Come up with why feeling good in the situation would be silly. Come up with why feeling bad would be silly. See how it all tallies up. But I found this ‘technique’ where if I make a ‘good’ argument for following where the instincts are taking me, it starts to sound silly and becomes less appealing. And then the sensible route becomes more appealing (to ‘me’ at the core of my being). And you just do this cognitively each time you feel bad until it’s no longer an issue.

Otherwise, I do believe that a couple can work through this if they both recognize this situation as a common pitfall and ineffective tactic that couples engage in. It’s par for the course as both parties are engaged in a psychic battle anyway. She is merely attempting to get what she wants from her partner, and withholding affection is a means to an end. As instinctual beings, we all seek power over one another. So she can withhold love and affection from you to gain a psychic advantage - - she gains psychic power over you where you feel like you have to seek her out for a resolution so that things can go back to normal. (This is garden-variety psychic power, where one’s emotions can be manipulated in order to control/influence them.)

This tactic is so common and it gets to fly under the radar because it’s ‘non-violent’ and everyone is engaged in it to the point that they don’t even realize what they’re doing. But it’s just more vibe violence aimed at self-centric ends. And it’s difficult to ‘call-out’ because it’s easy to ‘call-it-out’ in a way that is psychically aggressive.

If both parties can recognize that they do this to each other from time-to-time, and both agree that it’s not helpful, and both agree that trying something different in those moments is worth it, then it comes down to a matter of engaging new tactics while being instinctually driven in the other direction. It won’t ‘feel good’ in the traditional sense. Either way, it requires both parties at some point to see what’s happening and how their behavior contradicts their desired goals of the relationship, and try something different, in a sincere way, in an attempt to change and cease repeating the same patterns, so that the relationship can be better over-all for both parties and not just one person. Both parties have to be more focused on ‘policing’ themselves rather than each other, which again, is not what happens in typical relationships.

The more you can weather the storm of the psychic battle the more you can patiently interact without getting sucked back into the real-world. Leila recently quoted Richard:

Incidentally, the reason why the nursery-doggerel ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me’ was largely ineffectual in childhood is because truisms such as that do not take into account the affective vibes and psychic currents—transmitted instantaneously via the psychic web connecting all feeling-beings regardless of spatial extension—which are part-and-parcel of the very act of giving offence and/or being offensive and the vital element in the entire giving offence and/or taking offence phenomenon which bedevils life in the ‘real world’.

As I have oft-times said, it is the psychic web where the real power-play takes place. Howsoever, once the practice of not taking offence becomes habituated even the most virulent affective and/or psychic power-play—being thereby recognised for what it is—can thus be weathered with relative ease.

She may not be name-calling, but she is 100% engaged in a psychic power battle and using withdrawal as a tactic. You’re involved in the battle too. Par for the course, and it helps to remember that both you and her have been doing stuff like this for decades now. You could likely learn a lot about the psychic web and psychic power plays from this situation.

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It helps to remember that this is a process and that you won’t be perfectly graceful the first time, or the first few times. This stonewalling is partly a tactic because it so reliably ‘gets results’ in terms of gaining an edge. It’s also easy to deny, which means that it doesn’t break the various taboos on ‘acting out.’ So your feeling upset/insecure is par for the course, indeed the most likely outcome as a feeling being that cares about your partner and cares about the relationship.

The next part might be what you are doing, which is seeking to understand the situation at large. See what she is doing, see what she might be accomplishing, and understand why she might want to accomplish that. Once there is understanding, it is no longer a personal issue as in “why is she doing this to me,” it is more of a “this is something that she does.” And she has her reasons; whether they are good reasons or bad reasons, they are there. They are the makeup of how she operates.

In my experience, once I have that clear vision of what they are doing, my emotional reactions have tailed off. I think this is because with understanding the basis of her tactics, I can see that they originate in suffering and the desire to control… my fear and suffering are replaced with care for her and a strong desire to do whatever I can to make things easier for her.

Ultimately my own reactions are a power play as well; in my ‘acting out’ and ‘upset,’ I am attempting to get a reaction out of her. Perhaps there is a guilt play as well, “how could you do this to me, you are withholding your affection!” But my power-play only adds another layer to the situation, and does nothing to help her resolve whatever initial reason for the stonewalling. Extensive self-investigation has taught me that it is a very tender process; thus, any degree to which I cause a ruckus is certainly not helping her get any closer to purity or understanding either. I have to be tender, thoughtful, caring. That means allowing my emotions to settle, via investigations on my own, before engaging.

We all have particular tactics we use to emotionally manipulate others, it just so happens that hers is stonewalling - at least in these particular situations. You have the opportunity to learn more about how that plays out, and perhaps dig under the surface to gain insight into subtleties of emotional dynamics both in her, in yourself, and within couples. When I have learned more about those things, I’ve increasingly seen that they’re quite universal… these patterns play out similarly in many relationships. These insights thus assist in making other interactions make more sense, and thus similarly remove the suffering from them.

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This used to happen earlier on in my relationship, but no longer.

One of the early keys was in seeing that I actually truly, sincerely, genuinely, and factually had no way to know what my partner was upset about. A few rounds of me being absolutely sure I knew what it was, and building up a strongly-felt conviction, and then once conversation actually happened seeing that I was completely wrong, was enough to fully disabuse me of the notion.

That meant that there was no way for me to know what is wrong unless she told me, and that it was futile for me to try to guess. This even extended to whether she was actually upset with me in the first place. Sometimes she was upset about something else in her life. What I realized is that it was actually very self-centered of me to demand she tell me what it is, as it came from a place of me feeling she was upset with me, and me wanting to resolve it because of how it affected me – in other words, not out of consideration for her at all.

This allowed me to get to a point where I was comfortable letting her tell or not tell me at her own pace what the issues were. I don’t remember details, but I believe there were conversations with her also about whether I should notice something was wrong and say something, or something along those lines. But the insights above allowed me to establish that the only sensible way to handle this is for the person who is upset to voice what they are upset about to the other. Neither of us could mind-read. So I essentially established I would take no responsibility or blame if she was upset and didn’t tell me why. I also came to see that the most propitious way these things would be handled is when she was ready to talk about it. In other words, me bothering her to talk about it because of how it affected me, was neither happy nor harmless nor considerate of her nor the actual best way to handle the issue.

It would still bother me at times, of course – I don’t want her to be upset, both due to how it affects me but also out of consideration for her well-being. But, it was diminished, and what worked the best was experience, experience of either of us being upset, eventually telling the other, having a conversation about it (as harmlessly and happily as possible), seeing that it was ok for us to be upset and ok to talk about it, and seeing that that actually resolved the issue. Eventually we learned and built the good habits to actually talk about these things.

I would add that although it worked out well, it was not entirely up to me. If the other person does not also have a harmonious, peaceful, and thoroughly enjoyable relationship as their goal (and they don’t need to be an actualist per se to have this goal), then they wouldn’t take these sensible steps, or wouldn’t accept that they have to speak up, etc. If that were to happen you would basically have two sensible choices: accept and be ok with it such that you can be happy despite your partner being and remaining upset without saying anything, or end the relationship. And you would also have a third choice that isn’t sensible: continue being in the relationship and letting it bother you without resolving it in either of the two choices.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,
Claudiu

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Thanks all for your thoughtful responses. It is clear that me chasing after her to get her to tell me why she’s upset is only due to me being unable to handle the feeling of being stonewalled. So the path forward for me is to become more comfortable with this feeling in such that I can weather the storm and respond more sensibly, out of a place of genuine consideration rather than selfish panic. When this stonewalling happens next, I will be focused on neither expressing/suppressing these feelings, calming myself down, and focusing on feeling good and enjoying and appreciating.

Ah it’s happening again. A good chance to put these new ideas into practice. Previously, I would either try extra hard to be “loving” or withdraw myself. Both are attempts to get her to stop her current behaviour. It is my retaliation in the psychic power play.

This time, I’m aiming to feel good and interacting from that feeling good. I aim to let her take her time. However, I’m still dealing with feelings of unfairness, indignation, and just plain sorrow. I am feeling/being these feelings and trying to redirect them into feeling good. In the past though, the sheer length of time has been my undoing. We will keep trying though, the forum members have given me the confidence to pursue this new course.

What helped me more than anything in these situations was when I saw that the root of it was my own dependence and neediness. That I needed another to be and act a certain way or that I needed another at all.

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