Stonewalling And Gaslighting: Understanding Their Impact on Relationships

Relationships are a complex mix of emotions, intimacy, and communication. The way we communicate with our partners can greatly influence the success or failure of our relationship. Some of the most common issues that can arise in relationships are stonewalling and gaslighting. These two behaviours can be incredibly damaging to a relationship and can lead to long-lasting emotional scars. In this article, we will explore what stonewalling and gaslighting are, why they occur, and how they can be dealt with.

What is Stonewalling?

Stonewalling is a communication tactic where one partner completely shuts down and withdraws from a conversation. This can manifest as silence, avoiding eye contact, shifting attention to something else, or leaving the room. Stonewalling can be a passive-aggressive way of expressing frustration, anger, or hurt.

Stonewalling can escalate conflict as the silent partner does not engage in the process of finding solutions to problems. It makes the other person feel powerless, unwanted, and ignored. Stonewalling can affect the emotional security of the relationship as it can make one partner feel disconnected and distressed.

The Reasons for Stonewalling

Stonewalling is often a protective mechanism that is triggered when a person feels overwhelmed, under threat, or unable to cope with their emotions. It can happen when someone is feeling anxious, depressed, or is experiencing a flashback of a traumatic event.

Stonewalling can also happen when someone perceives that the conversation is unproductive, critical, or unsuccessful. In some cases, stonewalling can occur when someone is experiencing disengagement or detachment from their partner.

How to Deal with Stonewalling?

It is important to understand that stonewalling is not a healthy or effective way of dealing with conflict in relationships. If someone is stonewalling, it is essential to address it and open a conversation about why it is happening.

Some ways to deal with stonewalling include:

  • Acknowledge the behaviour- it is important to name the behaviour in a non-blaming way and express how it makes you feel.
  • Offer Support- let your partner know that you are there for them and that you are willing to provide support if they need it.
  • Suggest Break- Take a break from the conversation if it is getting too intense or emotional. Allow both partners time to calm down before continuing the conversation.
  • Seeking Professional Help – If stonewalling is a chronic problem, it might be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist who can help the couple communicate more effectively.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a psychological tactic used to manipulate and control a person. It involves making someone question their sanity, memory and perception of reality. Gaslighting is done through a series of subtle, psychological manipulations by one person towards another.

Gaslighting can be a form of emotional abuse as it can leave the victim feeling confused, disoriented, and unsure of themselves. It is often used in relationships to control the other person and make them more dependent on the perpetrator.

The Reasons for Gaslighting

The reasons behind gaslighting can be complex and vary from person to person. However, some common reasons for gaslighting may include a desire for control, fear of losing the relationship, or general feelings of inadequacy.

How to Deal with Gaslighting?

It can be challenging to deal with gaslighting as it can make you feel like you are going crazy. The first step in dealing with gaslighting is to recognize that it is happening.

Some ways to deal with gaslighting include:

  • Seek support – Talk to a trusted friend or therapist about the experience and get validation that the behaviour is not acceptable.
  • Document in Detail – Document the gaslighting behaviour to avoid second-guessing yourself in the future.
  • Set boundaries – If someone is consistently gaslighting you, it might be necessary to set boundaries or even end the relationship if necessary.
  • Seek professional help – A therapist can help you develop strategies to cope with gaslighting effectively.

In Conclusion

Stonewalling and gaslighting are two common behaviours that can have a significant impact on relationships. Both behaviours can cause emotional harm to the victim and can lead to the breakdown of trust and intimacy in a relationship. To deal with stonewalling and gaslighting, it is essential to recognize when they are happening, address them in a non-blaming way, seek support from trusted friends or professionals and set boundaries. When both partners are willing to work on these issues, a relationship can become stronger and healthier.


What is Stonewalling and Gaslighting?

Stonewalling is a term used to describe a communication style where one person shuts down or disengages from a conversation during a conflict, refusing to participate or engage. Gaslighting is another form of emotional abuse that involves the manipulative behaviour of denying or distorting a person’s reality or experiences. It aims to make the victim doubt their perceptions and memory.

How do Stonewalling and Gaslighting affect relationships?

Both Stonewalling and Gaslighting can erode the trust and intimacy in a relationship, leading to communication breakdown and emotional distance. Stonewalling can make the other person feel rejected and unheard, leading to resentment and feelings of insecurity. Gaslighting, on the other hand, can cause the victim to question their sanity, leading to self-doubt and anxiety.

How can one deal with Stonewalling and Gaslighting in a relationship?

The first step to dealing with Stonewalling and Gaslighting is to recognize the behaviour and its impact on the relationship. It is essential to set boundaries and communicate assertively while respecting each other’s feelings and emotions. If the behaviour continues, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor to navigate the dynamics of the relationship.


1. Stern, R. A., & Weigmann, K. (2019). Gaslighting: Psychological abuse feeding on uncertainty. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 2770.
2. Strauss, V. Y., Esposito, F., Mandelbaum, S. A., Radford, M. H. B., & Derbyshire, G. (2019). The emotional abuse of stonewalling: A dyadic approach. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 34(21-22), 4492-4518.
3. Barnow, S., & Gerke, L. (2021). Personality and gaslighting: a scoping review with practical implications for clinicians. Current Psychology, 1-7.