Making yourself small isn’t helping anyone.
By Rhoberta Shaler, PhD — Last updated on Aug 05, 2023
Photo: Andrey Shevchuk/Getty Images
Are you always looking over your shoulder, and never feel good enough with your partner? Do you recognize that you are walking on eggshells? If so, that’s a big first step!
Difficult, toxic people want you to tip-toe around their egos, wants, power and control needs…giving, giving, giving. Oh, and they want you to expect nothing from them at the same time. You’re just there to meet their needs.
Sounding familiar? Then, yes! You want to — you need to — stop! It never works for you. It only works for the manipulative person in this toxic relationship!
You deserve to have honesty, respect, safety, trust, and reliability in your life. None of that comes from being with a toxic person. Toxic people are those with toxic behaviors. They:
Create drama in most relationships.Like to be surrounded by drama, especially if they created it.Need to manipulate people and circumstances to get what feeds them.Need to be in control at all times — of people, situations, expectations.Want to be the center of attention— and it doesn’t matter if it is positive or negative attention.Use other people to meet their needs.Love to criticize others, find fault, and tear them down.Are jealous of anything that seems like another person’s success.Complain, whine, and moan that life is not going their way — constantly in victim mode.Often use alcohol or drugs to mask their fear of not being perfect and in control.Think they are perfect and therefore need no help.
Wow! Now, does that sound like someone in your life? It could be your parent, partner, ex, teenager, or co-worker. Past or present, that person’s behavior can be taking a toll on your life and relationships.
“But, I love them!” I hear that so often in my practice. “I love them so much, and I cannot imagine life without them. It’s like I’m addicted.” You likely are addicted to their drama, and maybe you didn’t recognize that until this minute.
Yay! Good start to stopping walking on those fragile egos — I mean, eggshells — and stepping onto solid ground.
Why are you addicted? That’s simple, but not so easy: You value their love for you over your own love of you.
Boom! It’s true. You may not want it to be true, but, it is.
Here are 4 ways you can stop walking on eggshells in a relationship
1. Recognize the anxiety and stress you feel is caused by someone else’s demands.
Toxic people like to blame you for everything. If they are unhappy, it’s because you did or didn’t do something. If they are fired, It’s because you’re too demanding wanting, for example, the children to be fed.
It’s that absurd; yet, until you see the pattern, you’ll be in the cycle with them.
2. Realize that you are allowing their behavior to continue.
OK, this is the hard part. Don’t beat yourself up. See that you are not saying “no” to the behaviors…yet. Then, start saying “no” by setting boundaries. You don’t have to be demanding or aggressive, especially at first.
Just say, “No, that doesn’t work for me. What would is ____________.”
If the person will not respect your stated boundary, then, you’ll have to add a consequence.
“No, that doesn’t work for me. What would is ___________. However, I’ve mentioned this a few times and nothing has changed. The next time this happens, I will end the conversation and walk out of the room.”
That’s how you begin to set boundaries. It may be new to you, and you’ll have to practice with everyone in your life to really get comfortable with it.
3. Recover your self-esteem and self-confidence.
To be self-confident, you have to believe you deserve to take up space and draw breath. First step.
Then, believe that what you think, feel, need, and want is important to be able to express in any relationship, and to be respected, as well.
4. Determine to never walk on eggshells with them again.
Now that you’ve got your self-esteem restored and your self-confidence regained, you will be better able to sense the energy of someone who wants to use you and to have you turn yourself into a pretzel to please them. You’ll have a better idea of when to run!
Walking on eggshells is a poor way to get your exercise! It’s harmful to you in every way. Get help. Give it up.
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Rhoberta Shaler, The Relationship Help Doctor has provided urgent and ongoing care for relationships in crisis for more than 30 years. She specializes in helping the partners, exes, and adult children of the difficult, toxic people stop the crazy-making and save their sanity.