Men are more likely to stonewall than women, whereas the likelihood of ghosting does not seem to be related to gender.
Both stonewalling and ghosting can be caused by one’s inability or unwillingness to communicate and open up, and both could be a form of abuse.
However, ghosting is definitely more extreme; it is often permanent which means the other person is not given the chance to fix or rebuild the relationship.
Ghosting in a nutshell
To “ghost” someone means to deliberately end all contact — in person as well as online — without any explicit official warning.
For example, if you are in a relationship with someone and decide to ghost them, you may…
- Stop seeing them without explaining/communicating
- Block their number so you no longer hear from them
- Keep them as a contact but deliberately ignore their calls
Ghosting is usually permanent — rather than simply taking a break and thinking things over, the “ghoster” will typically end all contact for good.
As for the warning signs, there may be plenty, but the act of ghosting itself is usually cold and abrupt.
It’s important not to generalize and/or judge those who ghost as sometimes it’s the only way out of abusive relationships.
That being said, where ghosting can be avoided and the issue can be addressed through communication, then as a general rule it shouldn’t be done.
Ghosting can leave the other person with feelings of emptiness and confusion, or even emotional scars.
Origin of the term “ghosting”
The term first appeared about twenty years ago to describe what you’ve just read — the act of ending all contact with a person or group of people.
Originally, the word “ghosting” would almost always refer to dating and romantic relationships only.
However, as the term became increasingly popular, it was then used in other contexts, including friendships or even professional connections.
Stonewalling in a nutshell
To “stonewall” someone means to refuse to engage in any type of meaningful communication with them.
For example, if you are in a relationship with someone and decide to stonewall them, you may…
- Avoid eye contact or give them the “silent treatment”
- Walk away when they attempt to communicate with you
- Give brief, vague answers in a passive-aggressive way
Although stonewalling is often done as a form of punishment, the reasons behind it and the root issues behind it depend on many different factors.
Sometimes people use stonewalling as a way to protect themselves in toxic or even abusive relationships.
Sometimes it’s not done deliberately but is purely the result of an inability to communicate one’s feelings, or the belief that doing so would be inappropriate.
Or, people may stonewall when they believe a relationship won’t work and will inevitably come to an end; stonewalling would just speed up the process.
Origin of the term “stonewalling”
According to the Vocabulary website, the term originally appeared as a nickname for General Thomas Jackson, about 200 years ago.
However, psychologist John Gottman was the first to use the word in the context of romantic relationships.
He argued that stonewalling is the last and potentially most damaging of the “Four Horsemen” (communication patterns that signal the end of a relationship).
Stonewalling vs ghosting: differences
- Ghosting is the more extreme approach as it implies the end of all types of communication, whereas stonewalling simply means refusing to communicate in deep, meaningful ways
- Stonewalling is more socially acceptable although both ghosting and stonewalling can be harsh and unnecessary, again depending on the situation
- Ghosting is easier for the person who ghosts as they wouldn’t have to deal with confrontation or any type of negative reaction that may happen after stonewalling or the “silent treatment”
- Ghosting is usually permanent whereas the act of stonewalling may simply signal that the relationship needs work, either from one of the partners or both
- Stonewalling is usually done by men as they are consistently more likely to stonewall than women; the tendency to ghost on the other hand does not seem to be influenced by gender
Think twice before stonewalling or ghosting
Both ghosting and stonewalling can leave the other person feeling confused or even shocked, and may negatively affect their mood and self-esteem.
As explained in this post, ghosting or stonewalling as a punishment can only be immature — punishing is never the answer no matter what the other person has done.
Generally speaking, avoiding communication is the main reason behind ghosting and/or stonewalling.
The person who ghosts or stonewalls may either be afraid to communicate or experience hopelessness — believe things are destined to end regardless.
What to do if your partner stonewalls you
- Avoid being judgmental as this can only make your partner (or whoever does the stonewalling) even more afraid to open up and share their feelings
- Use empathy as a way to try and understand why the other person stonewalls you in the first place — is it fear, hopelessness, or perhaps a way to react to pain or disappointment?
- Schedule a time to talk; make it clear that you want to communicate and deal with the issue directly before things may get worse
- Try therapy, ideally couple therapy (you and the other person) because it’s overall the safest and most effective way to be more aware of the root issue — and actually address it