Have you ever heard something that was so ridiculous, you felt like your eyes might actually roll out of your head?
Ever shut down a conversation simply by saying, “I'm done with this” or something similar, and then stare at the other person in stony silence? Or did you simply walk away as if the other person was unimportant?
Worst of all, have you ever been on the receiving end of either?
Welcome to the world of eye-rolling and stonewalling, the death knell of a marriage.
Understanding how things went wrong in your marriage can help you prevent it from happening in the future. The postmortem I did years in the years after my divorce helped me understand that while we were ultimately incompatible and would have divorced eventually, my own behaviors made a bad situation worse.
In the end, what makes or breaks a marriage is how you communicate with each other and the amount of respect you show the other.
Rolling Your Eyes: A Form of Disrespect
I say this as an avid, long-time, often unaware eye-roller – each time you do it, you're telling the person on the receiving end that you have little regard for what they're saying. There are times when a story is being relayed to you, another person's thought is quoted, or you see something coming from a third party that is simply so ridiculous, so insane, and so wacky that all you can do is roll your eyes in response. We've all been there at some point. That's not what I'm talking about here.
However, when you do it in the middle of a conversation with your spouse, you're killing communication between the two of you. You're also showing a distinct lack of respect for the other person's point of view. It's an easy way out when you disagree. Eye rolling communicates, in one quick rotation of your eyeballs, that you don't care one iota for the other person's point of view. In fact, it was probably the dumbest thing you've ever heard.
What you should do is stop, calmly state your disagreement with your spouse's opinion, and discuss the matter like adults. That's what you should do, but instead you've shown your disgust on the subject and your lack of respect for your spouse. Who would want to communicate with you after that? No one. You've just belittled your partner and shut down any ability to discuss things rationally.
Stonewalling Kills the Trust:
If eye-rolling is a way of belittling your partner, stonewalling erodes their trust in you. When you shut down just as things heat up in the conversation and refuse to communicate further, you are stonewalling. It's a stony silence that surrounds both you and your partner. There's no good way to communicate through it. Your spouse has been shut out, and once they learn you won't talk to them anymore, they give up and walk away.
What your partner may not realize is that stonewalling is a form of self-protection for you. Your emotions can't get out of control if you stop the conversation. You can't say things you don't mean if you refuse to speak. As a "stonewaller," I get it. It's safer to stop talking altogether. At least that's what we tell ourselves.
Think about things from the other side. Several questions may go through their mind. What are you hiding? Why are you angry? Why won't you share your feelings and say what's on your mind? How can this ever be resolved if you won't talk? All those questions erode what trust they have in you. Without trust, no relationship can survive.
Open, Honest Communication is Required:
The hardest thing you may ever do is be completely and fully honest with your spouse. To communicate properly means you have to lay your soul bare for them, share your most honest feelings and yes, disagree from time to time. It means you'll have to admit when you're wrong, scared, and angry. It's a tough thing for most people to do.
Fear of rejection, fear of fighting, fear of your own emotions – all of these things and more lend itself to unhealthy forms of communication. It's easier to roll your eyes or stop speaking than to speak up and say something that might surprise and anger your spouse. It's much harder to open your mouth and say what you really think, all while giving the other person the opportunity to disagree or reject you.
But if you want to have healthy relationships – in or out of marriage – it all begins with communicating the right way. It may be the most difficult thing you ever do, but open and honest communication is the best option for everyone. You show your own respect and trust for your partner when you talk with them. You learn if you're truly compatible or not. You deal with problems in healthy ways instead of hurt feelings and angry silence.
Rolling your eyes or giving your partner the cold shoulder in a stubborn refusal to speak offer the easy way out of a conflict. If you want to kill your marriage, keep going down that road. If you want to build something with the person you love – now or in the future, you'll need to learn how to communicate with each other.