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Marriage and Family


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08/01/2010 - Thomas J. Jackson, born in 1824, is one of the more well known confederacy soldiers from the civil war. He was known for his moral character, devoutness to his faith and incredible leadership skills. He is more popularly known today by a nickname he received at the battle of Bull Run. Confederate General Barnard E. Bee and his troops were retreating in an increasing disorder. Meeting Bee's troops, Jackson and his troops advanced with a battery to a ridge and held this position, allowing Bee's troops to rally. Bee then stated this famous line, "Look at Jackson standing there like a stone wall." Thus the nickname "Stonewall Jackson" was born.

Disagreements at home with your spouse may often look like a full blown war. When this happens, you may both feel "war torn". This is where you feel as if you have been devastated emotionally, mentally and possibly even physically. Following Jackson's lead in these scenarios and "stonewalling" will not lead to any resolution. Also, the "stonewaller" will not be looked up to admirably.

Dr. John Gottman wrote about the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" to a marriage in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. So far, we have looked at the first three horsemen which were criticism, contempt and defensiveness. The fourth horseman, if you haven't yet guessed, is stonewalling.

"…where discussions begin with a harsh startup, where criticism and contempt lead to defensiveness, which leads to more contempt and more defensiveness, eventually one partner tunes out (33)."

When a disagreement persists, and repeated attempts at resolving the conflict have failed and increased the fighting, eventually one person will attempt to completely disengage. This may seem like a good idea because this could end the fight. In reality, not only is the person disengaging from the fight, but a stonewaller is also disengaging from the marriage.

Gottman goes on to explain that stonewallers, which are typically the men, will cut off all interaction. They will give no signs of involvement such as eye contact, nods or any other form of recognition. During the fight, they will just bury themselves in their newspaper, television program or some other form of distraction. Many times, they may even just leave the room. The message that is given to the spouse is "I couldn't care less about you or what you are saying."

Remember that stonewalling in a relationship is usually present because the previous attempts at a resolution have been met with the other three horsemen. Resolving a conflict at this stage will require some drastic changes in the approach. If the war continues to rage in your home, do not be afraid to bring in reinforcements. A third party such as a counselor or pastor can be very effective in breaking the patterns caused by these four horsemen.

* Gottman, J.M. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Three Rivers Press.

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