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If you are a female that shuts down [in conflict], what would be practical advice or a step to take to head towards healing?
Great question. I assume you are talking about what my father and researchers refer to as “stonewalling.” The University of Washington has stated that 85% of husbands in marriage stonewall during conflict as opposed to wives, who often times confront to connect.
Based on my own observation and from personal experience, stonewalling on the part of wives and girlfriends in committed relationships is usually a reaction fueled by a painful experience in the past. Someone has caused them to no longer feel safe in what the University of Washington calls the “ocean of emotion”—meaning, most women are comfortable with a degree of emotional upset and negativity.
When women feel safe with the loved one they are in conflict with, it is natural for most to want to verbally connect and process face-to-face so that the conflict can find resolve. However, deep wounds or a learned behavior from watching family patterns can cause many women—myself included—to shut down in conflict if the pain from those wounds is triggered.
My guess is that when you say you want to move towards healing, you know the act of stonewalling or shutting down is not effective communication—for men or women. My prayer for you and for myself is that we can take active steps to avoid projecting old wounds onto future men who do deserve our trust.
There’s a difference between an unsafe man and an immature man.
An immature man may get defensive as he tries to make his case that you “shouldn’t feel that way” about a particular disagreement. In an effort to help you see his point of view, he probably dismisses your feelings as valid. In an effort to reclaim what he may feel is a lack of respect from you, he ends up appearing unloving and disapproving. He probably has a good heart but a very unwise approach. This is what my father refers to as the “Crazy Cycle“—it is annoying, but not uncommon for many men and women in intimate relationships.
A good-natured disagreement where people step on each other’s toes is part of the relationship “dance” we all must do. But there is a difference between dancing and repeated patterns where you feel paralyzed by fear.
For that, I would suggest you find a Christian counselor and discuss these two questions with them:
1. Do I feel unsafe in conflict (and thus stonewall/shutdown during conflict with my boyfriend/husband) because of something he has done in the past?
2. Do I feel unsafe in conflict (and thus stonewall/shutdown during conflict with my boyfriend/husband) because of something someone else has done to me in the past?
Be honest with yourself, God, and the people around you.
Once you know what the trigger is, you can then take the steps you need to take to prevent that trigger from being pulled.
When I read of healings in Scripture, I don’t know why Jesus chose to physically heal some and not others—but he always honored the faith and belief of those who were humble enough to admit that they needed him. You aren’t broken because you stonewall instead of wanting to connect in conflict. What you are is someone who is self-aware enough to know that you stonewall from a place of woundedness.
Your honesty and desire catches God’s attention.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have amazing accounts of people who believed God for healing, even sometimes in their honest disbelief. (Mark 9) Start in the most honest place you can as you begin this process.
It may be a process but it doesn’t have to be paralyzing.
You are remembered by God and loved by God.
From my heart,
When you are in conflict with people you care deeply about, how do you operate and why do you think you operate this way?
Love and Respect (Now) is a division of Love and Respect. Please be considerate.