This is what it means to walk on eggshells in a relationship: you have to carefully watch what you say and do because your partner takes everything very seriously. For example, a reader recently said she feels like she’s walking on eggshells in with her boyfriend. She has to check his mood before she says anything. Is your boyfriend or husband overly sensitive, irritable or easily angered? Then you know what it’s like to walk eggshells in your relationship.
“I love my boyfriend of 3 years but he is basically a jerk whenever I try to talk to him about relationship issues,” says Fran on 7 Ways to Know Your Relationship is Worth Fighting For. “I have to make him promise not to show anger if I have something important to say. I walk on eggshells, I talk gently and sweetly, but he is so unapproachable that we never settle things. Of course the same arguments keep coming up because nothing is ever solved. It got to the point where I clearly stated what I needed from him in an emotionless letter. He said he ripped it up. He laughs at couples therapy. He laughs at me when I tell him what I need. It’s so hurtful.”
She adds that she loves him and she wants to keep trying to save their relationship, but it’s hard. “My boyfriend takes me for granted and doesn’t treat me with love,” she says.
If she decides to keep walking on eggshells and trying to save her relationship, then she will have to accept her boyfriend for who she is. This means not expecting or forcing him to change. It may even mean not talking about relationship issues or saying anything that triggers his anger.
If she decides to break up with her boyfriend, she has to face the pain of losing someone she loves and being alone. No matter how unhealthy a relationship is or uncaring a man seems to be, it’s hard to walk away. It hurts. And it’s especially painful and confusing when so many conflicting emotions are involved. For example, Fran said she feels a mixture of hatred for her boyfriend and terrible guilt for wanting to abandon him.
4 Ways to Stop Walking on Eggshells With Someone You Love
There is only one way to change your relationship, and that is to change yourself. If you want to see changes in how you and your boyfriend communicate, then you have to change how you respond to him. You can’t change who he is or how he responds to you, but you can change how you approach him.
1. Separate your emotions from reality
Can you see where Fran’s emotions are overtaking her reason – and reality? She thinks that breaking up with her boyfriend is “abandoning” him. This is faulty thinking, it’s her emotions overriding reality. Her boyfriend is not a child or a frail old man who can’t take care of himself. Her boyfriend is a guy who does not want to talk about relationship issues.
Her boyfriend’s emotional health issues rise to the surface when she wants to talk to him – that’s why she has to walk on eggshells in her relationship. He may be acting like a two year old having a temper tantrum when she wants to have a grown up conversation, but he is not a child. Fran, however, is allowing him to act like a child. She is treating him like a child by saying that she is abandoning her boyfriend if she breaks up him.
A breakup is not an abandonment. You can’t abandon a healthy, strong adult. If you’re staying in an unhealthy relationship because of guilt, read How to Stop Feeling Guilty After the Breakup. This is the time to start dealing with those feelings.
2. Look at your boyfriend’s behavior with fresh eyes
In your relationship, how have you allowed emotions to override reality? If you feel confused, try writing what you know is true. Do what Fran did: write about how you’re walking on eggshells in your relationship. How does it feel? Why is it necessary to protect your boyfriend’s emotions and feelings? What effect does this have on your relationship, health, life?
One of my boyfriends would call me horrible names under his breath when I made mistakes. He would whisper horrible things about me so quietly that I could barely hear it. The first few times I thought I was imagining things. Then when I realized he really was insulting me under his breath, I asked what he said. He would shrug and say “nothing.” It kept happening, and I thought I was the problem. I thought I was stupid, that I should try harder and be better. I constantly walked on eggshells in that relationship. I was tense when my boyfriend was in a bad mood, when we were stuck in traffic, when we were late for church, when he felt guilty about something that happened at work.
I didn’t know that my boyfriend was actually being verbally and emotionally abusive to me. I thought he was super sensitive and compassionate, that he just needed a little TLC (tender loving care) all the time. I didn’t know that he was actually a jerk.
A healthy relationship with your boyfriend does not involve walking on eggshells! If you need help, read 5 Stages of Leaving an Abusive Relationship.
3. Accept your boyfriend for who he is
How long have you been walking on eggshells in your relationship, and what does your boyfriend say about you? Compare what he says and what he does. Are his words and actions the same? For example, maybe he says he loves you but he explodes in anger, calls you names, or even cheats on you. Your boyfriend is telling you the truth with his actions. Believe him when he shows you who he really is. His behavior, choices, relationships and life are telling you the truth about who he is.
You can’t change your boyfriend. You can’t heal his wounds or fix his problems. If your boyfriend is going to change, he has to make the decision himself. You can’t change him, but you can change the choices you make in your life.
3 ways to respond to an irritable boyfriend:
- Keep tiptoeing around and protecting your boyfriend’s moods and feelings. Avoid telling the truth and being yourself.
- Stop walking on eggshells with your boyfriend and face the consequences. Will he explode or fold? How many times will you and he go through the cycle?
- Take a break from your relationship. Give your boyfriend space. Give yourself time to think, feel and heal.
If you’re leaning toward the third option, read 5 Ways to Get Healthy When You’re on a Relationship Break.
I wish I could say that I chose to break up with the boyfriend who called me names under his breath, but I didn’t. We sort of drifted apart, mutually deciding that the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. I wish I had stood up for myself, though. I guess I just got used to walking on eggshells in that relationship for so long that I didn’t know how to do it differently.
Are you confused about what to do in your relationship, how to act with your boyfriend, where to go? Are allowing yourself to stay in a relationship where you can’t be yourself? If you’re not growing and learning with your boyfriend, you won’t find peace or happiness.
4. Ask yourself when and how you walked on eggshells in past relationships
Start exploring your own emotional and spiritual health. Go to counseling, read books, deepen your relationship with God. Call someone you trust, someone who can give you guidance and support. Learn why you’re staying in this relationship, what is holding you back from growing into the woman God created you to be.
Read Walking on Eggshells: Discovering Strength and Courage Amid Chaos by Lyssa Chapman and Lisa Wysocky. You’ll learn about Lyssa’s journey from mental and physical abuse, flight from protective services, and teen pregnancy. Despite it all, and against incredible odds, Lyssa found her faith. She also found her way out of the spiral of bad decisions and even worse luck to build a healthy relationship with her mother and father and forge a rewarding, positive life with God.
Writing about what you’re experiencing can help you see your boyfriend, yourself and your relationship more clearly. You can write in the comments section below if you like, but I encourage you to write in your own private journal.
You may also want to read 5 Ways to Know if You’re Settling in a Relationship.