The fragile dance of walking on eggshells

Nova Davis
4 min readDec 7, 2020
One of the best terms I’ve heard is “emotional pollution”

‘Walking on eggshells’ has come up several times over the past couple of months from friends book recommendations to discussions with my partner.

In this eggshell environment you can’t truly be yourself. There is no sense of calm or ease without medication or alcohol. You can’t just BE. Instead, you tiptoe around like you’re walking through a minefield. One wrong move and it will all explode into chaos.

You can’t speak freely. Instead, you feel like you need to think twice before you speak and certain topics and actions are strictly off limits. You don’t ever know how they’ll react to things, so you hold back and remain silent, because that’s really your best option.

You can’t relax. You can’t be yourself. Instead, you’re always on alert, always ready to react, always on guard for another confrontation, another explosion, another round in the toxic relationship ring. There is never a feeling of ease and pleasure. Things feel tense and unsteady. Physically, you’re always holding your breath, waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.

One of the best terms I’ve heard is “emotional pollution”. This is being so careful not to offend or do something wrong in their eyes that you constantly have to scan yourself, ensuring that you don’t say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, or behave in a way that will trigger an emotional reaction from the other person. As with other forms of covert abuse, you may not even be aware that this is happening, all you know is that you feel stressed, anxious, sad, or fearful and over time, you lose a sense of self and purpose.

Here are some signs that you may be suffering emotional pollution from an eggshell environment.

Constant Worry

If you’re constantly worried or living in fear that your actions will create an upsetting reaction, you’re walking on eggshells. You begin to project manage your own life which becomes exhausting. That feeling of walking on eggshells puts you in full fight-or-flight mode. The stress and anxiety fries your nerves and hurts both you and your relationship.

Biting Your Tongue

Do you refrain from speaking your mind or sharing your thoughts with your partner? Holding back may offer your partner what they want (or don’t want) to hear but it will never give you the opportunity to authentically connect to yourself and your partner.

You might even be afraid of saying what you think because you know it will make them yell or blame you for everything that goes wrong in your relationship. This mentality simply does not lead to personal happiness. You cannot have a happy relationship without having internal happiness.

Eagerness to Please

Are you always the one bending for the relationship? Do you participate in ‘drop everything and run’ behaviour? Everything in a relationship should be given and taken mutually, striving towards balance. If your whole world evolves entirely around your partner and their wants and desires, you’ll slowly lose touch with your own needs and your inner self. This can be a very long process that can be damaging long-term.

You Can’t be Yourself

Do you have to hide parts of yourself in order for your partner to be happy? Walking on eggshells over an extended period of time can cause you to lose your authenticity and sense of self.

What does it mean?

These are all signs that you are in a toxic relationship. This kind of mentality leads you down a dark path in life because you spend your time and energy trying to figure out how to “keep” and obtain the love of someone else. They might even emotionally abuse you but it’s becomes so normalized in your mind; rather than viewing them for who they are, you idealize him/her and the vision of who they could be.

Think about your overall spiritual and mental well being and what a detrimental impact this kind of mentality and way of living has on it. You can’t evolve and reach your own potential when you are living for another person and allowing them to set your value.

Toxic relationships can have devastating consequences. The price gets higher the longer you remain in the situation, that’s one very important thing to consider. Be honest with yourself. If this article hit a little too close to home, if you felt like you were looking in a mirror, like maybe you were even the inspiration behind this article somehow, then you are in a toxic relationship.

So, how can you help yourself and as a result have a healthier relationship?

Recognize the anxiety and stress you feel is caused by someone else’s demands.

You may be the brunt bearer of the blame game. If they are unhappy, it’s because you did or didn’t do something.

It’s that absurd, yet, until you see the pattern, you’ll be in the cycle with them.

Set boundaries

Start saying no and explain why that doesn’t work for you or sit well with you. You’ll have to be consistent with this as sometimes having boundaries and other times letting them slide won’t get the message across. It may be new to you, and you’ll have to practice with everyone in your life to really get comfortable with it.

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.

Try Counselling

If none of these work you and your partner may need to try counselling to give you the tools to confidently set boundaries and for your partner to help create a healthier and safer environment where you can grow and thrive; this includes one in which you will make mistakes.

After all, no relationship or person is perfect.

Until next time,




Nova Davis

Registered Professional Counsellor, Executive Assistant 14 years, Coaching Certification