When the sociopath stonewalls you




by Steve Becker, LCSWLovefraud.com

silent treatmentstonewallingstonewallsilent treatmentsilent treatmentsilent treatment

Stonewalling is when someone shuts you down from communicating. He just “bails” on your efforts at communication, refuses to take you seriously; refuses to engage a discussion of your concerns. He may ignore or dismiss you, express fatigue with you (and your concerns); he may listen without offering a thoughtful, respectful response, and then credit himself for having listened.

In any case, his unthoughtful, lazy, dismissive, or flat-out non-response to your feelings and concerns captures the essence of stonewalling and will reflect his pure contempt for which he’ll take no responsibility.

Rather, he may depict you as a boring windbag who doesn’t know when to “stop talking,” or who’s always making or looking for “trouble,” without recognizing or owning how his insistent refusal to listen, his determination NOT to listen, actually provokes, passive-aggressively, your very instinct to “talk” and “pursue him” until he gives a meaningful response. If you do persist, he may complain to others that he is being “harassed” for no reason, pointing out that he is doing “nothing” to you.

He may flat-out tell you he’s bored by, and uninterested in the concerns you raise, regardless of how strongly you feel about them, and regardless of how strong your need to discuss them is. It may be that the more urgency you feel to broach your concerns, the more he’ll contemptuously stonewall you.

His rebuff will feel cruel and leave you feeling especially helpless. It will also very likely be dripping with some form of passive-aggressive, if not aggressive, contempt.

Now this is stonewalling, and stonewalling is a nasty, hurtful thing to do to someone; it leaves the stonewalled party feeling as negated as a person can feel.

You don’t have to be a sociopath to stonewall. Plenty of non-sociopaths stonewall. But many sociopaths are stonewallers, and
the act of stonewalling itself contains the cold, callous attitude of the sociopath.

The stonewaller’s absence of empathy for the stonewalled party, perhaps even the relish the stonewaller takes in messing with the stonewalled party’s head, in watching her twist and squirm and perhaps make humiliating efforts and bids to be heard—there can be something actually sadistic about this.

Stonewalling will tend to elicit some common feelings in the stonewalled party—among them shame, anger, rage, infuriation, humiliation, desperation (to be heard), helplessness, and a sense of being driven crazy.

Stonewalling, then, is a form of “gaslighting” insofar as it can leave the stonewalled party feeling as if she’s speaking a foreign language inaccessible to the stonewaller even though she knows perfectly well the stonewaller speaks the language, literally, but either refuses to speak it or “acts” like he doesn’t.

This can have a “crazy-making” effect, as if he’s accusing her (as he may very well do) of speaking incomprehensibly.

Stonewallers, whether sociopaths or not, are seriously disturbed communicators. Their indifference to the stonewalled party’s experience, as noted, can be chilling. Their stonewalling often reflects character pathology, in which case they won’t change—they will always be stonewallers.

Stonewallers are destructive people and it’s best to avoid them for your sanity’s and dignity’s sake. I make this strong suggestion where the stonewaller refuses to assume total and genuine responsibility for his stonewalling, which is too often the case.

You need to stop banging your head against the “wall” (the pun is apt) trying to reach the stonewaller, because he is not reachable. Futility is what you are left feeling again and again, until you feel depressed and hopeless. The futility is not in your head. It is real, and will always be the experience with the stonewaller, who disowns responsibility for the suffering his stonewalling causes you.

Identify the stonewalling people in your life; if they can’t, or won’t, take charge of their stonewalling, get them out of your life as best, completely and fast as you can.

By Steve Becker, LCSW. Use of the male gender pronoun was strictly for convenience and not to imply that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.




85 thoughts on “When the sociopath stonewalls you

  1. Thank you for this article and shedding light on this type of abuse. Yes, yes, yes police and law enforcement need to be educated on this type of abuse.


    • We all need to be educated about psychopathy and recognize how profoundly our lives and the world are affected. Good cannot prevail until public knowledge and awareness have been raised.


  2. Fabulous article and completely true. My mother does this to me all the time and so does my ex husband. Both are passive aggressive and emotionaly and mentaly abusive and do not take responsibility for there hurtful ways. I have had to remove both of these people from my life to protect my 10 year old daughter. My mother even charges me for taking her only grand child to her flat for the week end. She has had her grand daughter 7 times in 10 years. Its all about her her her her. She has even spat in my face and punched me from the age of 2. Im 45 nearly and have been abused my entire life.


  3. I hurt insayshably from the core of my soul that is left. I need help from the symtoms of paranona of this hidisis abuse.


    • Hi

      I read your post and thought I should ask if you have recovered? I find myself in this situation and it has been one of the most difficult things in my life I have dealt with. Hope things worked out for you.


      • It’s so hard to believe that a person can be so cruel. I’m just getting out of a 5 year relationship. I to suffered quite the emotional abuse. I don’t understand how I allowed myself to tolerate the abuse and still love him. Im so broken now. How long have you been out the relationship if you don’t mind me asking?


  4. Society teaches that men cannot be victims, but what if a man is the target of the narcissistic abuse? Almost all these articles are written from the woman’s perspective. More often than not the man is the victim in the dynamic.


  5. And yet once again a hammer brought down upon he for speaking out “of line” as if He was beneath others. With an honest ply for understanding a brand new and confusing world where he at once felt a mindset of positivity combined with a goal to help oneself and others to Reconnect to something Lost along the way to so many.
    Stoned, ridiculed and attacked at the core of his character for a lack of knowledge into something by which he had voiced He needed clarity to show the correct way leaves one to ask , is it the student that we blame alone or would the teacher he had sought for help be the one failing a student?


  6. As someone who stonewalls when overwhelmed and has been labelled a sociopath in the past by several partners, I can tell you that I had no idea what I wanted or needed, and no idea how to ask for it, and I was stuck between needing the person and wanting to get away from them.

    The best relationship I ever had was when my partner just said “When you’re ready to talk, let me know. In the meantime, I’m going to live my life”.

    If you’ve entered into a relationship with a stonewaller then there are probably elements of codependency there too. The best thing you can do is live your life and see if that makes a change. If it doesn’t, then you will have taken the first step to freedom in any case.

    I also think it’s worth noting that there are at least categories of behaviour I have noted in myself:
    1. Aggressive stonewalling (I’ve only used this at work to get what I want)
    2. Defensive stonewalling (A defensive unconscious thing I do when overwhelmed = I’m fine on the surface but boiling inside)
    3. Depressive stupor (I literally cannot even think or do any anymore)


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