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Is your stonewaller a sociopath, or someone else? Stonewalling, Part II

I wrote in my last article about stonewalling, that nefarious process (and pattern) of shutting down a partner’s communication either aggressively, or passive aggressively, the effect of which is to leave the “stonewalled” partner feeling voiceless, alone, dismissed, negated as a person.

Many sociopathic personalities stonewall, but many stonewallers aren’t sociopaths, so how do you tell the difference? What are some signs that your partner’s stonewalling is an aspect of his “sociopathy” versus, say, his high “conflict-avoidant” personality?

Clearly some individuals are terrible at dealing with communication in general and conflict in particular. Their stonewalling may be mainly avoidant. Their wish to “deny” that trouble is afoot, their deep discomfort with emotional sensitivity and vulnerability, their high levels of defensiveness, their sense of incompetence and even hopelessness to contribute to the resolution of differences and meet confrontation effectively, may cause them to retreat, shut down, or “stonewall,” less from an attitude of indifference, disinterest and dismissiveness than from anxiety and fear.

Some individuals “freeze” in the face of perceived conflict and take “flight” literally in closing the communication hatches. Their intent may be less to hurt you than to protect themselves, and even you, fearing as they do that danger could ensue from an engagement of your concerns.

This is still stonewalling, and its effect is still perfidious, make no mistake. But its origins may come from a less malign place.

While stonewalling, then, can arise from less malign motives, sometimes, too often, it expresses serious pathological aggression, passive-aggression, hostility, contempt and callousness.

Clearly when “stonewalling” is accompanied by cold indifference—any form of cold indifference—to the stonewalled party’s wounded response to being “shut down,” this is a sign of serious insensitivity.

To state it differently: when the stonewaller, as a pattern, shows contempt towards the stonewalled party’s disturbed reaction to his stonewalling, this alerts us that we are dealing with a deficiently sensitive individual who almost certainly can be located high up on the narcissistic continuum, if not in the range of the “sociopath.”

This isn’t to say that the non-sociopathic stonewaller will react with sensitivity to your experience of his stonewalling. That’s a bit oxymoronic—if he were particularly sensitive to his stonewalling, by definition he wouldn’t be a stonewaller. But his reaction will typically express discomfort with the impact his stonewalling has on you.

He won’t, for instance, like the more sociopathic stonewaller, characteristically lash out at you with blatant hostility and nasty, hurtful, degrading accusations in response to your complaints of his stonewalling. He won’t typically blame you.

More likely he’ll shirk away, convey a perhaps somewhat sincere sense of helplessness to offer up anything more than the inadequate silence he’s offering up, as if to say, “What can I say? I have nothing to say. I’m not trying to hurt you. I just don’t want to, or can’t, deal with this. Leave me alone. Give me a break. I’m sorry you’re so exasperated and hurt. That’s the way it is.”

You will feel shut down, but you will feel shut down by someone who can’t deal, who himself seems, and perhaps is, in a sense, paralysed and helpless to deal responsibly, thoughtfully, engagingly.

In contrast, you will have a different feeling with the more sociopathic stonewaller. When he shuts down your communication, you will feel yourself—I can’t stress this enough—the object of his contempt.

You will feel palpably, viscerally, his indifference to the impact his stonewalling has on you; his indifference will feel as traumatizing as the stonewalling itself, leaving you, in effect, doubly traumatized by the interaction.

There is a sense of shock—that is, his emotional indifference, his callousness, his devaluation of your emotional experience will feel “shocking.”

As I suggested, you are likely to feel his scorn, his scoffing; are at high risk to endure his insulting, degrading comments, along the lines you are making trouble, talk too much, always looking for problems, don’t know when to “shut up,” always have to “over-analyse” everything; that you are mental, miserable; but the key thing that will accompany these, and similarly patronizing remarks, will be, as I keep emphasizing, the “contempt” for your experience that will be dripping shamelessly from his mouth.

These are some of the red flags to heed that you aren’t dealing merely with an incompetent communicator who stonewalls, which is bad enough, but with a seriously, hostilely disturbed communicator from whom you need protection, and most likely, escape.

(This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Steve Becker, LCSW. My use of male gender pronouns is for convenience’s sake only, not to suggest that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.)


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59 Comments on "Is your stonewaller a sociopath, or someone else? Stonewalling, Part II"

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These 2 posts on stonewalling are so clearly the life I lived.
I would try so hard to become a better communicator, figure out what would seem to be the best time to try and talk about something that concerned me. etc. I finally ended up telling spath….

I just don’t have the right words at the right time. He would either pick apart my style, my vocabulary, my tone, my time of day, anything to make me feel bad and shut me up. He would even say, “you don’t communicate.” I thought no.. actually I over communicate. I say things 26 times to try to be heard and understood, when all along spath heard everything I ever said. He just tuned me out with the best of spaths. I think when he first started obviously cheating on me and I noticed a callous detachment in our marriage/relationship, I once said, “Well, you can’t force someone to love you.” He flippantly walked away, but it obviously stuck in his head, because 15 years later he brought it up.. that I had said that…. and I thought OOOOOOOOOOOOO he heard me and knew exactly how bad it made me feel. What’s sick though is that it probably empowered him.

When he finally agreed to go to counselor, I said, “I feel like he refuses to address issues that concern me. He has an uncanny ability to pretend x/y/z didn’t happen when I call him out on something I didn’t think was ok or feel right about. Early on in the marriage I called it sweeping things under the rug. It got worse and worse. The counselor said, If you sweep things under the rugs you keep tripping over the bumps and pretty soon you hit your head on the ceiling.
Not only did it leave me feeling voiceless, alone, dismissed, negated but outright OPPRESSED, DIMINISHED, eventually scared, depressed and hopeless…..
and I am an educated woman with resources and a fairly well known member of the community. Now I think of a woman who has the same circumstances of a monster in her life, no education, no money, lousy or no job, children to be responsible for and it could make me weep. They must be absolutely petrified!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I used to think spath was introvert, that we had an “avoidant” style marriage… yes I studied all that stuff. the 5 Love Languages, I went to marriage enrichment, marriage encounter, communication classes and really serioulsy I am NO MATCH for a spath, NOR do I want to be. I only gave it that much of a go because of the 3 kids involved.

When speaking of their high levels of defensiveness – I had been on a phone consultation with a supposedly high level psychologist and he said, ” Well, you’ve got your work cut out – He sounds VERY well defended. He had a response for everything flowered with interruption, overtalking, anger, rage, and if all that didn’t work, then silence.

Lots of power in the silent treatment.

And to think I thought I could help him. To think I gave that a**hole the time of day.

I have so much more starch in my spine now. However, must men are pretty leary of women with a spine, women who will challenge them. At least what I sometimes see.

Honestkindgiver, you mentioned your exspath’s reactions to your taking a stand and that you saw him as being “introverted?” Did you ever experience passive/aggressive behaviors?

Starch in your spine! GOOD for you!!! I think I have to agree that men find strong women to be intimidating – NOT women who run over qne manipulate someone, but women who are self-confident and self-assured. Independent. Female spaths don’t respond well to strong women, either. They find many ways to get around that strength and are, IMHO, more devious than male spaths.

I am feeling the pain at e moment. Been great friends with a man for the last 2 years. I suppose we started off as FWB and I had no hopes for anything more than that and he certainly didn’t. But we did spend time together, went away on holiday , had meals, days out etc. I always felt our relationship was great. The sex diminished, it was never the main thing, nice when it happened but not the glue that held us together. We had meaningful conversations, supported each other, looked out for each other etc.
Last August, we were sitting in the pub having a drink and a really good laugh, as we always did. Then, all of a sudden he turned to me and said “I am bored with our friendship”
It was as blunt and as sudden as that! I was shocked, hurt etc and he was angry at me for being so, saying “what’s the problem?”
He shut down on me!!
However, I pursued him and a resolution, telling him that I didn’t want a relationship, didn’t mean to make any demands on him. Eventually, over the next couple of months, we got back on friendly terms. We had meals, time together although not as often but I was fine with this and, as far as I knew, so was he.
Three days before Christmas, we met for a meal, I gave him a silly present, which he said he loved and he kisse me on the cheek saying “I appreciate your friendship”
After Christmas, I sent a text saying hi and asking if he wanted to go out. He replied “sorry not tonight”…… Pretty normal! No problem. A couple of days later I bumped into him in town and he spoke but it was clear he was being “off”
I asked if he was ok and he said “yeah, I am fine but I am not getting out and about so I am feeling a bit fed up”
I said ” well, let’s get out for a drink” and he said “yeah, yeah, I will do my best”
I did feel he was off but didn’t take it personally.
Then, last week I bumped into him again ( we live in a small community) and I think I was my usual self, friendly etc. But he absolutely flew at me saying he didn’t want to be friends, didn’t want to go out, didn’t want to hear about my f…g life, didn’t want to be my confident. He was really shouting at me and he walked off. So did I.
I have texted him a few times saying ” I didn’t know what I have done to upsets you” and that he had never communicated his feelings to me so how was I ever supposed to know how he felt?
He has completely stonewalled me. I would rather him tell me to sod off than the silence,
I always knew he was a complex man. He is a heavy cannabis user ( every day, he tops up constantly) but, as I have been upset, I have searched the net and ended up here!
I can see lots of evidence that he is a sociopath. He was extremely supportive, demonstrative, engaging a the start of the relationship, witty, outgoing, pushing boundaries and thrill seeking! Phew is not the type of man I would ever go for in terms of a relationship. But his friendship meant everything to me.
Now I am seeing a cruel, heartless, emotionless man.
In August when I told him I was hurt, he said ” good, how was I supposed to get rid of you if I didn’t hurt you”
Why did I go back I ask myself???????
But, on the other hand, why did he ever let me. He was well able to say no to any/ every invitation for a drink etc. He has said no in the past and I have never pushed him!!!
I have not slept the last few nights. I am waking up at 1am very night and it is all going over and over in my head. Rehearsing what I will say when I next bump into him, wondering how he will react, hating him, hating myself for being so stupid.
I think I know we will never be friends again. What hurts is that I am now wondering if we ever were friends!

elsa – Welcome to Lovefraud. If the guy shows the traits of a sociopath, then unfortunately, the entire involvement was about him using you. He wanted something from you, if only a distraction, or entertainment. It is very painful to realize that nothing about the involvement was true, but many Lovefraud readers have come to that conclusion. Please feel free to post – it may help to vent.

I have just seen him this morning, for the first time in over a week. He said “hello” and , like a fool, I said ” are you speaking then?” He said “I just did” the. Said “I am just trying distance myself for a while but you keep texting me”
I said ” yeah, and you refuse to hear me”
He wouldn’t stay and chat, rushed off!
His whole demeanour towards me has changed and I feel like I can’t bear it!
Common sense tells me I should block HIM…… Why doesn’t he block me if he doesn’t want me to contact him? it’s easy enough to do!
I feel sick when I think of all we supposedly shared. He woudl never admit it meant nothing but his behaviour is saying that!
All the times he built me up, telling me I should have confidence etc and he has knocked me down so hard I can’t get back up!
It’s the suddenness of it that has hit me so bad. And the fact that he was too weak ( or ?) to communicate that to me. He just decided to drop me, no clues, no closure, just off overnight! All I want is to talk to him. I don’t want back with him, not even to meet him. He is a prize bastard, selfish, arrogant etc etc. And now I am another of his victims!

I really feel so sad! I am sure many people who post on here can relate to that. I feel sick at the thought of all we shared, realising that he used and abused my good nature.
I know that I will see him on numerous occasions. My friend invited me to the pub tonight but I daren’t go incase he is there! That is where he has put me. Feeling trapped , isolated and scared.
What the hell can I do??

Hi Elsa, what you are feeling sadly is normal when leaving a abuser. The best advise I can give you is to keep educating yourself on his disorder. When you feel sad come to Lovefraud and read, read, read, when you feel mad same thing. It will open your mind up from his manipulation/brain washing. Ask your friends to do the same, education your family/friends will help you when you need support from them. I would suggest additionally you find a knowledgeable counselor who understands sociopathic/narcissistic abuse to help guide you. You can call your local abuse center for free counseling and also they can give you an outside counselor recommendation.

I am sorry that you were abused. So many victims at the hands of these evil people. You have found your way to a wonderful site full of advise, support & comfort. Come here and vent when your emotions are to much for you to handle alone.

Take care.

hi Elsa, post a comment on the thread “Getting back on track after the ruin of a sociopath “ or “No Remorse”…you will find them posted on the main page left side under Donna Anderson’s pictures, then advertisements, then you will see “resent post”. Click on those post. That’s were most of the victims are currently posting their discussions. Please know you are not alone hon!!

Thank you. I have. Posted a comment.
I want to be free and to be able to sleep!! I have been waking every night at 1am and I am so annoyed with myself !!

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