Criticism and stonewalling can destroy your marriage.

Why Criticism and Stonewalling Are Damaging to Your Marriage

Almost 1 million people in the US got divorced in 2021. This may have been the result of stonewalling and criticism, which can take a severe hold on any relationship.

Stonewalling and criticism might make you feel lonely, depressed, and deeply concerned about your marriage. However, there are ways to actively combat these issues with the right tools and therapist.

Find out how stonewalling and criticism damage your marriage and what you can do about these issues below.

How Stonewalling Damages Your Marriage

Stonewalling your partner, or being stonewalled yourself, is dangerous for any close relationship but especially marriage. Because marriage depends upon openness and a certain level of friendship, you need to be able to talk to them. Stonewalling prevents honest and direct conversation, which results in the following issues.

Breaks Down Communication

Stonewalling breaks down all communication in marriage because one or both parties won’t talk to each other. You might be familiar with the idea of ‘silent treatment’ as a form of punishment. Stonewalling takes this a step further because communication is completely shut down.

Active listening even takes a hit when stonewalling happens. Your partner may refuse to hear anything you have to say by leaving the room when you attempt to start a conversation.

Leads to a Build Up of Anger

When you don’t have a platform to voice how you’re feeling, you’ll start to resent the person who took that platform from you. You’ll become angry, frustrated, and prone to bursts of anger that seem to come from nowhere.

Don’t blame yourself when this happens. It’s a result of experiencing stonewalling.

Dissolves Trust

If you can’t talk to your partner, who can you talk to? When you feel like you’ve lost your most personal confidant, it’s very hard to maintain trust. Stonewalling can make you feel like your feelings are invalid, which makes you distrust your partner and yourself.

Trust requires you to have a space that makes you feel safe and heard. By blocking communication channels completely, stonewalling cuts off this space. This may leave you feeling alone, guilty, and not confident in your marriage.

How Does Criticism Damage Your Marriage?

Arguing in marriage is normal, but receiving constant criticism is not. Always remember that there is a difference between criticism and critique.

Critique comes from a place of love, and happens when your partner suggests a way for you to grow. Criticism is often cruel and feels like an attack on your nature or personality.

Hurts You or Your Partner

No one likes having their flaws pointed out, especially if it is something they are already insecure about. When your spouse does this constantly, it feels extremely hurtful and can cause you to question who you are as a person.

Remember that not all criticism will be overtly insulting. Sometimes it comes in the form of a sly or passive-aggressive comment. This is particularly hurtful when you reflect on it later on and realize the intention behind it.

Promotes Secret Keeping

If you believe that confiding in your spouse will result in negative feedback, you are not likely to tell them very much at all. Receiving constant criticism or criticizing your spouse will make you more inclined to keep things from your partner, or them from you. This is how you protect yourself from the negative things they say.

Breaks Down Love

While it’s possible to love someone who hurts you, it’s never a healthy kind of love. Receiving criticism from your spouse causes healthy love and mutual respect to abruptly end. In its place often stands toxic relationships, anger, and fear.

How To Stop Both In Your Relationship

Don’t worry if you’re experiencing these problems in your relationship, because there are solutions. Stonewalling and criticisms don’t have to mean that your marriage has come to an end. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to acknowledge the flaws in your marriage and to work hard to improve them.

Try Marriage Counseling

Many couples see therapy as a very serious step to take in their marriage. However, couples therapy is good for even the most healthy partners. It opens up communication channels through an active third party.

Your therapist is trained to guide your conversation, promote honesty, and never judge. The right therapist should help you both feel empowered to discuss your feelings in a safe space.

Try the Gottman Method

The Gottman Method is a type of couples therapy that looks at your marriage in intimate detail. It is based on a theory called the Sound Relationship House. This theory denotes nine important elements of a healthy marriage.

The Gottman Method works because it increases intimacy and disarms harmful verbal communication. Your Gottman Method practitioner will always be there to guide you through each step of the process.

Take a Break if You’re Fighting

Stonewalling in particular often happens mid-argument when you or your partner dissociate from the conflict. If you feel yourself becoming buried in shouting and cruel words during a fight, ask your partner to pause.

It may seem like this is not possible when things are very heated. However, all you need to do is take a literal step back and calmly voice what you need. Explain to your partner that you’ll be more able to handle the fight if you can briefly clear your head.

If your partner is reluctant to stop the argument, tell them this is what you need to avoid stonewalling them. Being open and honest about how you’re feeling will help the situation.

Actively Listen

So much anger and frustration in a marriage is the result of not being listened to. When you or your partner feels they have been heard, you’ll automatically feel more appreciated.

Active listening is not always easy, especially in an argument where you are waiting to speak. Try and hear what your partner is saying, just as they should for you. By doing so, you’ll feel more empathy and the hostility between you and your spouse could dissolve more easily.

You Shouldn’t Feel Unhappy in Your Marriage

Stonewalling and criticism can lead to the breakdown of your marriage. However, with the right help, they don’t have to. Through therapy, using the Gottman Method, and active communication, you can restore your marriage and build a stronger relationship.

Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing:

What Causes Resentment In A Marriage (Plus How You Can Heal Resentment In Yours)

How To Discuss Relationship Problems Without Fighting

How To Communicate With A Man That Won’t Communicate

How Often Do Couples Fight And Should You Be Concerned?

ADHD & Relationships

How To Let Go Of Resentment So You Stop Focusing On Old Hurts & Past Pain

Stuck In A One-Sided Relationship? Here’s How To Talk About It So Resentment Doesn’t Take Over


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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