It’s very common for one partner to be unhappier in the relationship than the other but it’s another matter if your partner is unwilling to talk about it…or do anything about it. This usually reflects a pattern called “stonewalling,” which is refusing to talk about issues, the “silent treatment” and avoiding conflict. Studies show that 85% of stonewaller’s are men and if the female stonewalls it’s highly predictive of divorce. Not good!
What to do? First, understand that stonewalling has developed over time and there’s a reason for it. It’s often the result of other patterns – criticism, contempt and defensiveness. In other words, it’s likely that the unwilling partner, often the male, has felt criticized in the past and stonewalling can be a dysfunctional attempt to maintain the status quo and avoid conflict. Take a leadership role in your marriage. Say to your partner, “I love you. I’m committed to this marriage and I want to make things better. I realize I’m a big part of this problem and I want to understand what I’ve been doing that’s made you unwilling to talk to me.” Ask them to consider coming in for a consultation for exploration purposes only with no commitment to necessarily go any further. Say something like, “just check it out and if you don’t think it’s worthwhile, we don’t have to go back.” If your partner still refuses to budge, then come by yourself.
Remember, one person can change a relationship. Don’t be passive and don’t just accept the status quo. Be a better partner yourself. Open your heart and ask yourself, how does my partner experience me in this marriage? What is my partner concerned about? At my worst, what am I like to live with?
If you’d like to strategize about ways to engage your partner, I suggest you book a consultation. Just the fact that you’re coming to see a counsellor on your own sends a powerful message and this action in itself often be a catalyst for change in your relationship.