Updated: Jan 23, 2019
My husband used to know all too well the 'art of eggshell dancing'. Unfortunately, he used to tip toe around when I got upset or angry, trying to do anything he could to stop me from being upset, or avoid upsetting me further.
I'm not proud of those old days, but they did lead us to where we are now, which is complete magic.
Does eggshell dancing exist in your relationship? Do both of you dance at different times? Or is it mainly one of you doing most of the dancing?
What about this scenario?
Do you ever had the experience of being with your partner (or someone else) and he or she seems to be perpetually ‘on the edge of upset, anger or anxiety’? While you play the of trying to keep him/her calm or stop him or her from getting triggered into a downward spiral?
I used to play the role of ‘skillful comedian and jokester’ as a key way to lighten our family energy, or help rebound everyone from a huge blow up when I was younger. So it makes sense that this dynamic would show up in my marriage.
Ohhh.. the art of eggshell dancing.
Everyone is acquainted eggshell dancing, yet some people are prone to experiencing this, somewhat, tricky and uncomfortable phenomena on a very regular basis in their relationship.
My jokester role could have been an ok role to play, except it was purely co-depend. And so was, Chris's efforts to 'calm my inner beast'!
Eggshell dancing is always an effort to manage or change others’ emotions, mood or actions. I believed for FAR too many years, that I was indeed responsible for others’ emotional wellbeing and that others were responsible for mine.
Secondly, the jokes I would tell were made up of self- betrayal. I would poke terrible fun of my intelligence and my body shape, weight, etc. I fully traded myself, betrayed myself for a quick laugh or lightening of mood or energy. A common defense mechanism with in volatile families.
Chris then, took on a similar self-betraying role. Instead of setting boundaries, speaking his mind, or the like, he danced...
Eggshell dancing includes far-reaching and destructive emotional habits.
I grew up in a…, how should I put this? A family system with a wild excellence for enabling and co-dependence – the foundations eggshell dancing! It wasn’t all bad of course, and there was lots of love and care too. But we did learn a few stress-inducing coping skills and defense mechanisms, including the art of eggshell dancing.
The Art Of Eggshell Dancing
Let’s look at several possible characteristics of the art of eggshell dancing one at a time. You may be the recipient or the offender or both in any of the following examples.
Enabling and co-dependence
Looking to be offended. In this way, one partner just seems to always be on the look out for reasons to perceive being offended, wronged, or generally victimized in some way.
Overly emotional outbursts are a common denominator among eggshell situations.
A lack of mustering the courage speaking one's mind honestly to others.
Experiencing behaviors like silent treatments, door slamming, avoiding eye contact and the like.
A lack of handling and effectively solving difficult situations, and instead pretending to ignore them or forget things.
Score-keeping. Being able to recall past 'crimes' weeks, months or even years later and continuing to feel negatively about past situations.
A lack of holding others accountable in healthy and loving ways. Not giving appropriate consequences when needed.
A lack of setting or holding strong boundaries.
Not saying no, but instead committing to things you will resent later.
Not actually communicating your desires or needs.
How are those landing?
Eggshells are extremely prickly, painful and cut emotionally as we create and walk on them!
Eggshell dancing is not good or healthy for either partner. Eggshell dancing promotes, but never solves problems. It creates additional upset, suffering, lies, hidden agendas, mistruths, secrecy, hidden feelings, and resentment!
Wow, not that awesome, huh?
Unfortunately, along the way, we often learn amazingly fruitless skills that we then take on as natural defense or coping mechanisms before know it or know better.
In reality eggshell dancing is born of fear, distrust, enabling and co-dependence.
Thankfully there are always paths to healing, elegant solutions and new ways of being in a relationship and expressing care toward your sweetheart!
Solutions abound! You can practice just one of the following new solution habits per year and your relationship will change dramatically for the better! Here are a few changes you can make to begin eliminating the art of eggshell dancing!
1) Stop judging your partner as bad or wrong,.
Begin viewing your partner and his or her ideas, ways of doing things, thoughts and actions as EQUAL - always. There is no better or worse, there is only different. As you remove this pattern, eggshell dancing will dwindle. The inevitable guilt and shame that is always present when judging will also begin to fade.
Just stop, it’s that simple!
Choose equality, love and care instead.
2) Speak your heart, EVEN when it feels impossible!
You must grow and strengthen the courage to speak truth in the midst of eggshell dancing. Speaking is paramount to interrupting this destructive habit. Only when a cycle is interrupted, can more joy, fulfillment, peace and love be created.
Practice, practice, practice! Your voice and words are valuable and you deserve to be heard, even when the climate is heated! As you speak your mind, do your best to speak in loving ways.
3) Set and enforce strong boundaries.
We must hold others accountable with boundaries, otherwise, how will they know how WE expect THEM to treat us, interact with us or speak to us? They don’t. This is our job and our job only. It’s never ok to ‘assume’ that others would do things how we would want things done, or speak to us as we would desire, or treat others as we would appreciate. We can either teach others, or we can accept with a full heart anything and everything THEY choose!
4) Ask for what you want and need.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Stop expecting others to ‘just know’ or to ‘read you mind’. Grab the courage and ASK. Otherwise eggshell dancing takes over. You will find something to be upset about, then use negative emotions as weapons of control (or be controlled by the emotions of your partner).
Others are not responsible for you or your emotional well-being.
You are 100% responsible for you!
Believe you are deserving enough to ask for what you want and need!
5) Hold each other accountable.
Holding yourself and your partner accountable is extraordinarily LOVING. When you withhold accountability, you withhold love as well.
It takes a lot of courage to be happy and to remove Eggshells from a relationship. But, the rewards are 100 fold!
Learning to be happy is simplistic in many ways, yet the practice of courageous action can seem emotionally difficult. Practice is the key. Start small and build. Persevere.
The pay off is beyond measure-- growing and deepening calm, peace, emotional safety, deep trust, and beautiful connection are on the other side of the fence. All you need is the persevere and courage to climb to the other side.