The dictionary definition of stonewalling is “to behave in an obstructive manner, as by withholding information etc.”
This definition seems to imply that a stonewaller is intentionally trying to obstruct or prevent progress by withholding information etc. Often his or her actions and words (or usually lack of actions or words) are seen as not caring or being involved in the relationship. “Why won’t you say something?” is a common complaint about a stonewaller.
Interestingly enough, however, when questioned a little further, what I have found is that stonewallers almost always withhold information or withdraw not because they don’t care but, in fact, because they do care. What has happened is that they have come to the conclusion that virtually anything they say is probably going to make things worse. Therefore, they have chosen to protect the relationship from getting worse by not saying anything.
An alternative for stonewalling, then, is to simply verbalize those thoughts and feelings. “I know it bothers you when I don’t talk but it seems like whenever I say something it makes things worse. I do care about you and our relationship and I don’t want it to get worse.” That would be a first and very important step for a stonewaller, especially the acknowledgement of caring, which most likely, the other spouse has not seen.
Hopefully, with that sincere explanation, the other spouse will be a little more patient and understanding so that when the stonewaller does muster up the courage to say something else, it will be better received and he or she won’t feel the need to withdraw further.
The most important thing in relationships is not whether spouses say the right words or don’t say the wrong words. Rather, it’s an understanding and a feeling or belief that each truly cares about the other and the relationship.