Ask the Solicitor: My partner is stonewalling me – is there anything I can do about it?

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Today we continue our series of legal advice articles called Ask the Solicitor, in partnership with Altrincham law firm Hill and Company. You can read the previous articles here.

This week it’s family solicitor Dan Knox.

Q

Dear Dan

I have been married for six years and myself and my husband have experienced the normal ups and downs. However, for the last 12 months my partner has refused to communicate with me or co-operate over the slightest issues. He will not even agree to what we eat in the evening let alone agree with me relating to important ‘life decisions’. He also dismisses me when I try to raise my concerns about his behaviour suggesting I am “making a big deal out of nothing”, belittling what I say or pretending “everything is fine”, when clearly it is not.

Do you have any advice?
Thanks Amanda

A

Hello Amanda and thank you for getting in touch.

It is very difficult to offer you a complete response without meeting with you to explore your position in more detail, and I am not a professional counsellor, but as a family law solicitor we do engage with clients who come to us with issues similar to the ones you describe. Unfortunately, it sounds very much like you are the victim of stonewalling.

Stonewalling in a relationship is when one person refuses to communicate or co-operate with their partner.

Being stonewalled can be incredibly frustrating, you want to know what is wrong but your husband simply won’t give you a straight answer. Your husband’s behaviour is unacceptable and the way you describe it, can be considered a form of emotional abuse.

Legally you have a number of options to protect you from abuse, including applying to the court for an order called an injunction. I would be happy to discuss injunctions with you in person at our offices or remotely online.

Untimely there are many reasons why people ‘stonewall’ their partners. For some, it is a way to punish a partner, for others it is as a result of not being capable of expressing what they are feeling, or it may be a bad habit.

However, this behaviour becomes more sinister when it is used with intent, it may be that your husband has adopted this strategy as a way to emotionally control you. We regularly see examples of one person in a relationship not addressing any issues in an attempt to dominate their partner.

There is a danger that being frequently dismissed or ignored, will potentially lead you to devalue yourself which in turn can lead to feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.

I would encourage you to remain as strong as you can, engage with friends and family and open up to them. When in your position it is easy to become confused, dependent and unable to engage, which makes it very difficult to make big decisions, not just about a relationship but also about other important life decisions which we all need to make.

If you feel that this is a position you are in, we would advise in the first instance that you contact your GP to engage in appropriate support. Then we could explore the suitability of the court protecting you via injunctive relief.

You have recognised there is an issue in your relationship, it may therefore be useful to take some time to look at how both you and your husband interact together.

Understanding what motivates both of your behaviours can sometimes help to identify what changes can be made to help.

Stonewalling is harmful. If you both want a healthy, happy relationship your husband needs to take some responsibility and it may be that you both need to empathise with each other a little more, which I know may be easier said than done.

It is important that your partner takes responsibility for their stonewalling behaviour. Much will depend upon his intent, he may not wish to control or manipulate you, it may be that his behaviour is learned and a way for him to cope with his own issues.

Working with a professional counsellor may help make a real difference to your self-esteem, confidence and communication skills, but in our experience it is also very likely that for your relationship to work in the long term your husband is also going to need to engage with the appropriate support services to tackle the root cause of his behaviour.

My overriding advice would be that the most important thing is that you make your emotional and physical safety a priority. If your partner is unwilling to change or you consider that you are suffering from emotional abuse, which like any other form of abuse can escalate quickly, seek help from the police, a GP, a friend or even a neighbour.

Do not suffer in silence, help is out there. Speak to a family solicitor and explore the options available to you to protect yourself and your family.

Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss your position in more detail by contacting me for a consultation at our offices in Altrincham on 0161 928 3201.

Good luck for the future
Dan

If you need advice about your separation, or any other legal issue, you can contact Dan or one of our other trusted legal advisors here at Hill and Company by telephone on 0161 928 3201.

Family solicitor Dan Knox, from Hill and Company Solicitors
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