jump to navigation

Why Do Men “Stonewall”? June 10, 2009

Posted by occhristiancounseling in classes, Dr. Debi Smith, stonewalling.
Tags: , ,

Dr. Debi Smith

As a couples therapist, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to observe how hard women work at their relationships.

When something’s wrong, it’s often the woman who notices it and wants to talk about it – to figure out what’s wrong and fix the problem.

Here’s an example of a frequent complaint from our Relationship Survey:

“We have problems agreeing on the way in which we will deal with problems. I want to deal with them when they come up, and he wants to think about it on his own for a long time and hope the problem goes away before we talk about it.”

Chances are, this woman won’t be able to wait for him to bring up the problem again. She’ll be miserable waiting on him to say something. At best, she’ll feel like it’s just not that important to him. At worst, she’ll feel like SHE’S just not that important to him. As the hours and days tick by, she’ll start to feel more and more anxious about their relationship.

What is stonewalling?

Stonewalling is withdrawing or refusing to respond to your partner. For men, it may be a response to their own confusion or due to them feeling overwhelmed. Early in life, men learn that they have to come up with the answers to problems on their own, so this behavior makes sense. (More about this later in the course.)

For women, being stonewalled by a partner creates excessive anxiety—and anger.

Now, for the surprising side of stonewalling: It’s actually much more damaging to the relationship if the woman is the stonewaller!!

QUESTION: Do you shut him out when he hurts your feelings or does something you don’t approve of?

The female version of stonewalling can be subtle (refusing to talk to him for a few minutes) or dramatic (pouting, stomping out of the room, slamming doors, not speaking for days, etc.).

EXERCISE: Observe your own behavior today. Notice how often you stonewall in response to something he says or does. Remember, your stonewalling may be more subtle, so you’ll have to be a diligent detective.

Click here to share your thoughts if you wish. Or register for the FREE eCourse: Why Won’t He Talk to Me?


1. Abby - September 6, 2010

The man I’ve been seeing does this when I want to talk about how we feel. I’m very open with how I feel about him but everytime I ask him how he feels about me or I tell him what I need to hear, he ignores me. This can go on for days and then, after I hound him for a response, he is mean and says I always nag and pick. He can’t tell me what I nag and pick about, he just ignores me some more. It does hurt and I do feel like he doesn’t care when he does that.

2. occhristiancounseling - May 12, 2011

View Dr. Smith’s response @ http://occhristiancouples.com/?p=550

3. occhristiancounseling - December 11, 2012

Since the day I posted it, this article has consistently been my most popular. If you’re struggling with understanding why your man does this … and/or what you can do about it … you’ll want to read my newest book. Dance With Me: A Hopeful Romantic Interprets Ephesians 5 (available at http://bit.ly/dance_book

4. Phil - February 1, 2013

Yours is the very first place I’ve visitied that acknowledges the excessive damage caused by a female stonewaller. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you/

I’m aware of my male ego. I can intellectualize this issue I’m faced with. I spend an inordinate amount of time qualifying the whys, hows, the possible misinterpretations, before saying one word about how I’m feeling

But it doesn’t matter. At some point she will disengage. Here are her most popular ways.

1) I can’t take this anymore
2) can we talk about this later
3) shouldn’t you be working, instead of dealing with this….this one really hurts
4) or she’ll change the subject, and ignore what I’m saying
5) or she’ll pretend to listen, but meanwhile she’s only in her own world
6) she’ll play the victim ‘you’re always complaining about me’…..my response is usually…it’s not a complaint, it’s a concern, and if we managed to complete one of these conversations in a respectful and courteous way, we wouldn’t be ‘here’ again
7) if I make one mistake (as she see’s it) during attempt at communicating….for example, raising my voice slightly…….she’s done

I eventually end up losing my temper, and saying something I feel I should apologize (and always do so). She has a difficult time with apologies and acknowledging truth.

It’s funny; I completely understand what she’s doing. I was guilty of this in a previous relationship. However, this does nothing to heal the pain I feel.

Here’s the kicker…other than this, she’s the sweetest, funniest, nicest person I’ve ever been with. But my real need for what I term as ‘real intimacy’, would seem to transcend this.

Any thoughts would be deeply appreciated.


Phil - February 1, 2013

I almost forgot. What’s your reasons for saying, ‘It’s actually much more damaging to the relationship if the woman is the stonewaller’

occhristiancounseling - February 6, 2013

According to research, men are more emotionally and relationally sensitive. And they are less likely to have the skills needed to repair the damage. That is, it’s often very difficult for a man to express his vulnerability and to elicit the empathy and support he needs from his partner.

occhristiancounseling - February 6, 2013

Most people stonewall as a defense against overwhelming anxiety. Think of it as her best attempt to calm everything … and everyone … in the midst of what feels like an impossible situation.

5. occhristiancounseling - April 10, 2013

Learn more about the Psychology of Men and Intimate Communication on Saturday, April 13, 2013, at 10:30 am PDT. Free Conference Call with Dr. Debi – get the details now @ http://www.drdebismith.com/events.html

6. occhristiancounseling - April 23, 2013

Join me Wednesday, May 22, 2013, for a free webinar on this topic! Get the details @ http://drdebismith.com/events.html

7. occhristiancounseling - July 19, 2013
8. Emasculated : OC Christian Couples - July 19, 2013

[…] struggling with their relationships. For example, I received this question from a site visitor to Understanding Men (another of my […]

9. Cal - February 15, 2014

I’m a man, and my wife has been aggressively stonewalling me for 10 years, so I was looking up info on stonewalling and found this article. Sweeping generalizations often show an imbalance in the personality of the speaker, such as: “When something’s wrong, it’s the woman who notices it and wants to talk about it.” Not only is this discriminatory, but it is completely inaccurate. If you want to state an opinion to make it sound like fact without making broad and inaccurate statements, just preface it with: “Usually, in my experience…”. And then you can be as gender biased as you want without having to think about it or be challenged. Good luck.

occhristiancounseling - February 16, 2014

Hi, Cal. Thanks for catching that!
I always want to know how my readers are receiving what I’m writing, and I appreciate you taking time to comment. According to research, most of the time it is the woman who wants to talk, and the man who stonewalls. I should have inserted the word “often.” Then the sentence would read, “When something’s wrong, it’s OFTEN the woman who notices it and wants to talk about it.”
Fact is, women do stonewall, too! And when that happens, it’s devastating for men. I had a conversation with Phil about that some time ago. Read it here. And thanks again for taking time to comment!
Warmly, Dr. Debi

10. Feeling Unimportant : OC Christian Couples - November 22, 2014

[…] the last several years running, the most popular post on our Psychology of Men website has been “Why Do Men Stonewall?” Stonewalling is withdrawing or refusing to respond to […]

11. leslie moore - May 30, 2015

Does stonewalling mean they are having an affair. I try to talk to him my husband of 30 years and he starts saying ugly things about me. HE locks his computer and iPhone. He locks everything his cars and company truck. I have no choice but to walk away. He has turned my grown daughters against me because, I try to have relationship with him. I call him. He’s always mean. I know he cheats because of something he gave me medically. but he always turns every situation on me, saying i’m cheating. I never have. He will not give me a dime and he buys groceries. He has unexplained long periods of time that he is missing and will not anwer his phone.

occhristiancounseling - May 30, 2015

Hi, Leslie. Thanks for writing. The behavior you described goes well beyond what I refer to as stonewalling, and I can hear your pain and frustration in your words. You would likely find it beneficial to talk with a trusted counselor who can help you explore possible explanations and find solutions. In the meantime, you are in our prayers. Warmly, Dr. Debi

12. Why Women Worry - Dr. Debi Smith - April 19, 2016

[…] the last several years running, the most popular post on our Psychology of Men blog has been “Why Do Men Stonewall?” Stonewalling is withdrawing or refusing to respond to your partner. For you, it may be a response […]

13. A Woman's Fears | Dr. Debi Smith - December 16, 2019

[…] the last several years running, the most popular post on my Psychology of Men blog has been “Why Do Men Stonewall?” Stonewalling is withdrawing or refusing to respond to your partner. For him, it may be a response […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: