Are You Walking on Eggshells in Your Relationship?

When you must tread lightly because of a fragile ego, tiptoe around someone’s short temper, or be careful what you say or how you say it… that’s walking on eggshells.

Do you recognize that you are walking on eggshells? It’s a difficult and uncomfortable way to be in relationship with someone!

Are you always looking over your shoulder expecting blame? Always trying to please someone else who simply won’t be pleased? Constantly trying to live up to the expectations of others? Do you never feel “good enough”?

Difficult, toxic people—I call them Hijackals®—want you to be bending around their egos, wants, power and control needs…giving, giving, always giving. And they want you to expect nothing from them, either. You’re just there to meet their needs for power, status, and control.

Hijackals tend to be charismatic. You may have been drawn to their clarity, strength, and confidence. That may have been attractive to you when you first met them. That’s not unusual. It can be compelling.

The big question is WHY were you attracted and what was your response, especially as time went on?

Were you thinking:

“Wow! This amazing person chose me!”
“Maybe, I’ll develop that clarity and strength by being around them.”
“At last, someone loves me.”
“I can be happy if I can just have this person?”

Sounding familiar?

Then, YES! You want to—you need to—stop getting your exercise by walking on eggshells!!!

Why? Because it never works for you. It only works for the Hijackal! Why might you not want to stop?
Because you tend to be co-dependent.

How do I know if I’m co-dependent?

You’re excessively emotionally reliant on your partner, AND you plan your life around pleasing them. You are lost in the equation!

You deserve to have honesty, respect, safety, trust, and reliability in your life. None of these are available when you are with a toxic person, a Hijackal. They have toxic behaviors like:

  • creating drama in most relationships, and especially at home
  • feeling powerful as they enjoy the drama they created
  • needing to manipulate people and circumstances to get the sense of power that feeds them
  • needing to be always in control of people, situations, expectations
  • wanting to be the center of attention–and it doesn’t matter if it is positive or negative attention
  • using other people to meet their needs
  • enjoying criticizing others, pointing out their faults, and tearing them down
  • being jealous of anything that seems like another person’s success or moment
  • complaining, whining, and moaning that life is not going their way—constantly in victim mode
  • often using alcohol or drugs to mask their fear of not being perfect and in control
  • thinking they are perfect and therefore needing no help

Wow! That’s a lot! Does it sound like someone in your life? It could be your parent, partner, ex, sibling, or co-worker. Past or present, that person’s behavior can be taking a toll on your life and relationships.

Women and men who consult with me about these difficulties can often easily list what they don’t like. And then, they cry:

“But, I love them!”
“I love them so much. I cannot imagine life without them!”

Have you said those things? If you recognize your co-dependent behaviors, you are likely to recognize those thoughts.

“It’s like I’m addicted.”

You likely are. Maybe you didn’t think of it that way until this minute.

Why are you addicted? That’s simple, but not so easy:

You value and seek love from them more than you care about yourself. That is co-dependence! You may not want it to be true, but sadly, it is.


  • Begin by recognizing that the anxiety and stress you feel is caused by someone else’s demands being a top priority in your thoughts.

Hijackals like to blame you for everything. If they are unhappy, it’s because you did or didn’t do something. If they get fired, It’s because you’re too demanding by wanting the children to be fed.

Yes, it’s that absurd, yet until you see the pattern, you’ll be in the cycle with them, trying to please them.

  • Realizing that you are choosing to allow this dynamic to continue within yourself and, therefore, within the relationship.

OK, this is the hard part. Don’t spend one moment beating yourself up for not seeing it earlier. Promise yourself that you will learn to say “No” to the behaviors.

Start saying “No” by setting boundaries. That doesn’t mean you have to become demanding or aggressive. Just begin by saying:

“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. Make sure your consequences are ones you will be comfortable and confident enforcing, or they are of no consequence!

  • Recovering and building your self-esteem and self-confidence.

You deserve to be treated with respect and to experience honesty, safety, trust, and reliability in your relationship with another adult. It’s essential to believe that, right down to your toes. If you don’t yet believe that, get help.

Self-confidence grows when you believe you deserve to take up space and draw breath every day. Then, when you believe that what you think, feel, need, and want is important and you have the right to express it.

  • Resolving to never be “Hijackal Bait” again.

Hijackals look for people-pleasers, and potential doormats. When you get help to deeply know that you deserve to be treated with equality, you’re on your way!

You do your work. Your self-esteem is polished up and your self-confidence is boosted. Now, you’re better able to sense the energy of someone who wants to use you, to have you turn yourself into a pretzel to please them. And next time, you’ll walk away, if not run!

Walking on eggshells is a poor way to get your exercise! Give it up.

By Rhoberta Shaler, PhD

Host of the Save Your Sanity podcast, Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, helps clients worldwide to recognize, release, and recover from toxic relationships and emotional abuse. She specializes in helping the partners, exes, and adult children of the difficult, toxic people she calls Hijackals® to stop the crazy-making and save their sanity. Learn more about her work:

Roberta is a regular contributor to the #1 Online Magazine For Codependency, Codependency Recovery.

4 Responses

  1. Barbara Benoit says:

    Thank yoú

  2. Monica gallani says:

    I have come to realize I am a big time co dependent.. I can never stand up to people, I always accept other peoples expectations, try to fulfill their needs and now I feel I no longer know what mine are…

  3. Beverly says:

    Thanks for this great resource!

  4. Esther Noel says:

    Awesome! I needed this. It is time to change my “exercise !”

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