Walking on eggshells – dealing with emotional hardship within a relationship
Intimate relationships with the ones we love are all about compromise. In a partnership, it is normal and appropriate for people to check with their significant others before making decisions that are going to affect the couple. For instance, one might say, “Honey, is it OK with you if I go out with the girls on Wednesday after work?” or, “Do you mind if I come home late a few evenings next week? I just need to finish up an important project at work.” Ideally, questions like this are not really about asking for permission; they are a courtesy to our partner, and a reminder to us both that we are in this relationship together. Before making plans, it is important to check in and ensure that your decision is not going to have a negative impact on them, and to be sure that you haven’t already committed to doing something together. Sometimes plans need to be reworked so that the life of the couple or the family runs smoothly. That is just a normal part of living with someone.
However, if one party to a relationship feels that they actually have to ask their partner for permission before they do anything, or that any decision they take is liable to lead to a blazing row or to feel bad, there is a big problem in the relationship. People often use the term “walking on eggshells” to describe the feeling of having to tiptoe around their partner, trying to ask things the “right” way, and feeling a sense of panic on a regular basis, in case they flare up and get angry in response to a simple question. Quite simply, this is not what a healthy relationship looks like. In the worst cases, what should be simple courtesies or invitations to dialogue can even escalate to intimate partner violence.
If you are in a relationship in which you do not feel listened to or respected, or indeed if you know that you too often react with anger to what should be part of the normal dialogue of any close relationship, it is time to do something about it. Assuming that physical or emotional abuse are not part of the relationship (in which case drastic action needs to be urgently taken), couples counselling will help you both to look at the ways in which you communicate, and unhelpful behavioural patterns that you have adopted with respect to one another. A good therapist will be able to show you how these patterns have been disrupting your life, and give you take-home exercises that you can use to establish more useful ways of communicating and compromising with one another.
Who can I speak to further about the issues in this article?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic.