“I know I have spent a lot of time walking on eggshells. I recognise the signs. I can almost hear them crunching under my feet. I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want to change things but I’m not sure where to start”, says a woman I will call Jenny (this isn’t her real name, I have disguised identities in this story) .
Jenny is in her thirties and she came because of a problem in her long-standing relationship with Dave.
Breaking the silence
“I needed somewhere to talk”, Jenny said. “I’ve wanted to speak with Dave (her partner) about this, but I don’t feel up to it. I thought it might help if I went and spoke to someone I didn’t know. I have a couple of friends I could speak to. But then I’d worry that it might get back to Dave. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want gossip. I don’t want people to start asking me about everything.”
Jenny explained that Dave had started to become stressed and it was making the atmosphere at home very strained. She could see that the problem related to work, there was a threat of redundancies at his office. But when she tried to speak with him about it, he would quickly become defensive.
Jenny said; “From the way he reacts you would think I was going to sack him. As though I wanted out of the relationship. Which I don’t. Well I didn’t use to. Now I’m not so sure. I thought I would have to find someone to speak to. Just to say what was on my mind and leave it there. I felt that I was walking on eggshells when I was with him. I don’t want to feel like that. I grew up in a home like that”.
Jenny explained that she had often felt like she was walking on eggshells around her parents when she was growing up.
When old problems and feelings return
“My mother became very difficult to live with after my youngest sister was born. I was never quite sure of the facts, but my sister was born premature. It was a very stressful situation. I remember that I was excited about my baby brother or sister coming along, and then the next moment my mother had been rushed to hospital and she was there for several weeks. When she came home, she was different. My sister spent months in intensive care and my mother was very anxious about it. I could understand that, but it made things difficult around her. My sister came home and was ok. But my mother was never the same again”.
“I didn’t think I wanted children, though now I’m not so sure. Sometimes I would like to speak with Dave about this, about all kinds of things, but over the last few months he has been so reactive I don’t feel I can. I feel I am walking on eggshells. He is under a lot of pressure, I understand that. But I don’t like having to be so careful around him”.
Jenny had become anxious, her sleep had become erratic, she felt constantly agitated. She started to think there might be something wrong with her. Then she recognised the feeling from her childhood.
“I could almost feel the eggshells crunching under my feet.”
Most of our problems relate to things we are going through, they have a context
- If your partner becomes reactive, has sudden outbursts, if you feel the smallest thing can set them off, these can all be signs that your partner suffers from an unstable mood problem.
- But equally, it can be part of something that relates to a particular current problem.
Mostly our problems have contexts that can be understood
But if it becomes too difficult to know how to talk about the problem, or if you feel anxious about how your partner is going to react, then it is a good idea to find someone you can discuss it with.
Giving yourself the chance to talk in psychotherapy, in a confidential and professional setting, can let you say the things that you haven’t felt able to. It can help you clear your mind and help you find a new perspective on your situation.
In the longer term, feeling that you are walking on eggshells can be draining. If it isn’t how you want to live, then it’s probably time to try to do something about it. A confidential conversation might be the start of that.
“My mother was never the same. She became very difficult. The atmosphere at home became unhappy. My parents’ marriage became strained. I never wanted that for me, or for Dave”.
Jenny came to see me for a couple of months. The more she spoke, the more she recovered her confidence, and as that happened she found a way to speak with Dave.
If you feel like you are walking on eggshells. If you are aware that there are things bothering you and you want to discuss them, please contact me. I have twenty years experience of working with people some of whom have been trying to find a way to stop walking on eggshells.
All calls are confidential.