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Stonewalling and Silent Splits: What to Do If Your Spouse Won’t Talk to You About Divorce

Communication problems are at the root of many divorces. Ironically, a lack of communication can also make ending your marriage more difficult. As the attention on so-called “silent divorces” increases, many people are realizing exactly how hard it can be to get divorced when their spouses won’t talk to them. 

A silent split is difficult, but it’s not impossible. You can keep your divorce moving forward even if your spouse refuses to communicate. Here’s what you need to know about silent divorces, signs you might face one, and how to keep things on track despite a lack of communication. 

What Is a Silent Divorce?

A silent divorce is more than just a quiet separation. These splits occur when couples grow apart over months and years until they are more like roommates than romantic partners. 

But the loss of connection is just one element of a silent split. Over time, the pair stops talking to each other about anything important; they may even stop talking entirely. This often develops into stonewalling, in which one partner actively avoids talking to or answering the other person. It may include deflecting serious conversations, giving the other person the silent treatment, or ignoring them entirely. 

These situations are more common than many people realize. They are particularly frequent in gray divorces, in which older couples with decades of marriage choose to split up. They are also linked to the so-called “walkaway wife syndrome,” in which a woman ends the marriage supposedly out of the blue. 

In gray divorces and “walkaway” situations, the root of the issue is the same. One spouse has become avoidant and shut down, making it impossible for the other person to talk about or salvage their relationship. The non-avoidant spouse’s only options are continuing the unhappy marriage or ending things with no apparent warning. 

4 Signs You’re Approaching a Silent Divorce

Every relationship has ups and downs, but some problems are more serious than others. If you notice the following issues in your marriage, you may be heading toward a silent split:

  1. Refusal to communicate: Communication is the bedrock of a strong relationship. If your spouse refuses to discuss anything important or makes it difficult to address problems, your marriage could be in trouble. 
  2. A lack of emotional intimacy: Similarly, marriages rely on emotional intimacy, the ability to talk about your feelings and needs. This kind of emotional support is one of the first things to go in many fading marriages. If your spouse no longer listens to your needs or refuses to discuss their own emotions, they may be stonewalling you. 
  3. A lack of gratitude: It’s easy to take a long-lasting marriage for granted, but that can spell trouble. Once the honeymoon is over, gratitude plays a crucial role in keeping a relationship alive. When your partner is no longer grateful for your marriage, they may stop investing in it, causing distance and making communication harder.
  4. A sense of contempt: In many cases, a lack of communication or emotional support is closely tied to a sense of contempt toward a partner. As your connection fades, you may begin to think that your spouse “won’t get” your problems or will belittle you for them, so talking about them isn’t worthwhile. If you think your spouse feels contempt for you, or vice versa, there’s a serious problem. 

While none of these signs guarantee that your marriage will end, they are signs that your spouse is checking out of the relationship. 

The Problems With Silent Splits

While no divorce is easy, silent splits have two big issues that can cause the process to drag on. The first is the inherent difficulty of negotiating with someone who doesn’t want to communicate with you. Most divorces involve settling some or all matters out of court, which requires your spouse to engage in the process. Negotiation may be impossible if they continue to stonewall you or refuse to communicate.

The second issue is the struggle of keeping things on track when your spouse won’t engage. It’s harder to schedule mediation meetings, hearings, and other critical steps of the process if your partner doesn’t talk to you. As a result, their avoidance can significantly extend the time it takes to get your divorce finalized.

What to Do If Your Spouse Stonewalls You

Stonewalling and a refusal to communicate are frustrating. However, if you want your split to move forward, you must take the high road and remain professional. You can talk to your divorce lawyer about whether the following tactics could help you get things back on track:

  • Request a settlement conference. If your spouse never shows up for collaborative law meetings or mediation sessions, you can request a judicial conference at the courthouse to discuss your settlement instead. This meeting occurs before a judge, which may incentivize your spouse to show up to avoid making a bad impression.
  • File a motion for sanctions. If your partner keeps canceling depositions or missing deadlines, you may be able to file a motion in court to have the judge sanction them. Sanctions include fines and other penalties and may increase if your partner continues delaying the process.
  • Submit an offer of judgment. If your spouse keeps dragging their feet, you can submit an offer of judgment contract for your settlement. If they do not respond, the judge may move forward with your divorce and rule in your favor due to their lack of engagement.

You cannot force your spouse to communicate with you. However, you can keep your divorce moving despite their stonewalling and silence with the help of an experienced attorney. At Regele Law, LLC, we are dedicated to helping our clients with their family law needs, regardless of what those may be. We will support you through your divorce even if your spouse does not engage. Learn more about how we can assist you by scheduling your consultation today.