Men and women react differently when they argue or fight. For many men in heterosexual marriages, they tend to “stonewall” their spouses to stop issues from further escalating.
Kerry Lusignan wrote for The Huffington Post that stonewalling is an act when people deliberately keep quiet and withdraw from conflict. When people stonewall, they refuse to participate or engage in any conversation, and they essentially become unresponsive.
“For many men in modern heterosexual marriages, the tendency to become quiet and withdraw during conflict is born out of a well-intended desire to focus on the positive, a propensity towards not wanting to escalate things further or increase the discord with their spouse. For others, it’s an involuntary reaction to stress, a logical form of damage control that nature has hardwired into you,” she said.
But Lusignan said husbands should never stonewall their wives, because doing so would only worsen the conflict. Even though society has taught that it’s not “masculine” for men not to talk about their feelings, Lusignan said keeping things to one’s self is an inherently lonely stance.
“These very tendencies that can make you predisposed to closing yourself off from your partner are deeply rooted in our society, where boys and men are not encouraged or socialized to talk about their emotions or to display vulnerability. In fact, there is ample evidence to support that these emotions are beaten right out of you from a very young age,” she said.
So what should husbands do? Even during fights, Lusignan said they should look their wives in the eyes. “If it’s consensual, you may even initiate holding her hand. The physical act of turning towards one another can greatly reduce the amount of fear and aggression between both of you,” she said.
If husbands are stonewalling, Lusignan said the simple act of hand-holding would feel very reassuring to the wife. And even though it sounds counter-intuitive, she suggested that husbands hug their wives in order to soothe their anger.
When initiating an apology, Lusignan said they should use humour and not sarcasm. “Start the conversation over while putting your hand on your partner’s shoulder and lowering your voice,” she said.