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Do you and your partner never fight but never connect intimately either? Do you feel like you give and give but don’t get much in return? Do you constantly worry about upsetting your partner? If you feel like it is extremely important to keep the peace at home, it is possible you and/or your spouse are walking on eggshells.

The problem with being too careful

Sometimes we are too careful with other’s hearts. We put our partner first but don’t actively engage with them. We mold ourselves to the values we perceive they have but don’t really know their values.

We do this to avoid conflict. We do this because we are afraid. What if their values or needs don’t align with ours? What if they don’t care about our most important topics? Isn’t it better to maintain harmony or maintain blissful ignorance?

No, because intimacy is lost when we don’t inquire to know their real selves or share our own values. We keep things safe and surface, but not sensual, truthful or vulnerable. We think we’re being considerate but we’re really limiting our relationship’s growth.

Walking on eggshells makes us dread time with our partners. No one likes to feel inhibited or afraid. We may avoid toxic dialogue but we also avoid relaxation and real closeness.

No fighting does not equal harmony

I have years of experience with the eggshell walk. My ex-husband and I probably both thought we were being civil and mature by not yelling or fighting.

When values are not mutual

I subconsciously followed his lead when it came to family values. His extended family seemed so successful with their professional careers and lack of divorces. I assumed his values were more socially correct and respectable than mine, so I lived by them too. I also encouraged our kids to adopt them.

Withdrawal is worse than walking on eggshells? 

Toward the end of the marriage, I felt more and more sad. I had suppressed my family and personal values. All of that careful walking— guarding other’s ideals and feelings —made me feel lonely. But instead of talking it over with my husband, I withdrew. I talked about it with others, but I pulled back from him.

I once again avoided showing my feelings, because the reigning values in our home emphasized finances and success over feelings and failure.

I also knew my feelings would hurt his feelings.

Needless to say, all of this tip-toeing only caused my husband and me to grow more and more distant and unhappy.

From careful to careless

I eventually hit my tip-toeing tipping point. I became more vocal with my discontent. I stomped on those eggshells and surprised the heck out of my husband. He had assumed I was 100% on board with the lifestyle and values we embodied, and why wouldn’t he believe that? I had kept the peace and nodded my head for years.

Now, instead of being too careful with others’ hearts I was too careless. I let the pendulum swing very far the other way and crushed any chance we had to correct our avoidant behavior and subsequent suffering.

Get in there and care

According to Dr. John Demartini, the key is to aim for caring, instead of careful or careless. Dr. Demartini is the author of forty books on personal and behavioral development. Caring relationships involve two people who actively engage with themselves and with each other. Caring couples know and honor each other’s highest values, while still maintaining their own values.

As I describe in my book, The Quiet Rise of Introverts, we mature as humans by developing independence and ultimately, interdependence. Interdependence means valuing and relying on our own integrity and wholeness, while honoring and depending on the same in another person.

Interest and intimacy evolve from caring, sharing and honoring each other’s values and feelings. Too much focus on the other person and we are walking on eggshells, missing out on full connection.

Are values honored fairly in your home? Does one person often give in to keep the peace? Do you feel like you are walking on egg shells with one of your key relationships?