I’m fairly certain that we all have people in our lives with whom conversations pose challenges. Otherwise, why would the expression “walking on eggshells” even exist?  Who literally walks on eggshells?

Wikipedia’s definition is “to be overly careful in dealing with a person or situation because they get angry or offended very easily; to try very hard not to upset someone or something.”

Obviously, I hear this term frequently in divorce mediation.  Dreading their partner’s mood and watching every word or move they make is often the driving force towards divorce.  In order to be a better Mediator, I had several intense conversations with colleagues who are therapists.  What a revelation!  

I learned some valuable lessons about understanding that we all have to take some ownership in breaking the cycle.  If you find yourself walking on eggshells in your significant relationships, psychologists suggest that you take some concrete steps to get back to your authentic self.  What does that mean?  If you are feeling resentment because you don’t like how you’re being treated but you don’t feel like you have a voice, get one.  Easier said than done, of course. 

Therapists use an acronym when telling their patients to “get out of the FOG” which stands for fear, obligation, and guilt.  

Getting out of the FOG means breaking a pattern that doesn’t work, by acknowledging that you have to break that pattern within yourself first.  Is their mood or behavior your problem or theirs?  Are you able to accept them for who they are, and not who you want them to be?  Maybe they may have un untreated or poorly managed mood or anxiety disorder.  Again, is that your problem or theirs?  Do you tell yourself that when things are good, they’re really good, but when things are bad, they’re really bad, and so you tolerate the really bad for the really good?  How’s that working for you?

If fear is the force propelling you to walk on eggshells, take some quiet time to figure out the source of your fear.  

If obligation is what makes you walk on eggshells, ask yourself why you feel obligated.  No doubt, you’re putting that on yourself first and foremost.

If you think you’ll feel guilty if you challenge the eggshell walk, ask yourself exactly whether you’ll be made to feel guilty.  And then tell yourself that no one can make you feel anything.  It’s entirely your choice.

When discussing this concept with my divorce mediation clients, they often confide that they can’t walk on eggshells for much longer.  In my opinion, we’ll never run out of eggshells until we choose to escape the pattern.  One of my clients recently told me that it is important to feel safe when expressing yourself.  She said that “partners should be the joy in your life, and not the cloud of rain soaking you.”

This topic is too challenging to cover in a three-minute read.  Before I revisit it, please share your thoughts.