What are eggshell relationships?

So, as you know, I run a fitness group on an adult website. One of the hardest jobs as a moderator is to close threads that are marked as spam ads. People get so up in your face about this and I receive daily messages from people arguing about it. In fact, I’ve spent the last thirty minutes in private messages arguing with some dude in the US about why starving himself for ten days is an unhealthy practice. I told him I wasn’t interested in arguing and yet here he is, still babbling about it. I’m close to hitting that block button.

Most of the long-term members of the group have become friends. Those who contribute often. We bitch and moan to each other about some of the ridiculousness we see in the group. Like wild conspiracy theories about government trying to make us stupid and fat – to ridiculous trolls who just want to be “punished” by the entire group as in public humiliation, for not meeting their fitness goals for the week.

Special attention

But every now and then we get someone new to the group who requires a lot of “special” attention. And I don’t post this to make fun of them or to be mean spirited. But there are just some people you have to walk on eggshells around because of how fragile they are. They’ll take anything you say, overthink it, and make it about them. Then they respond with passive aggression and somehow blame it on you.

Like this morning, I saw a comment from a new user that said, “I find you to be wonderful in private message, but on the forum you to be short and passive aggressive.” And then she goes on to chide me in a way that was very — passive aggressive. And then she gaslit me, by leaving the group, telling me why she was leaving the group and that I could “do better” as a mod.

I reached out to her once more via private message to tell her that she was taking things way too personally and my comments were not a direct attack. That sometimes I’m on my phone and things come out blunt. I also explained that I didn’t want links or private messages that I didn’t ask for as this is treated as spam. I told her she was welcome to stay in the group, or to leave. It was her choice – but asked her to keep her interpersonal drama off the board. I also reminded her that she could use her own personal profile on the site or start a blog of her own to write about her anxieties. And, I repeated once again – that I felt she might benefit from speaking to a medical professional about her anxiety like I did with therapy.

I once again told her – that from my point of view, I could see she was struggling and was taking things way too personally. This is a conversation we’ve had before. And it was then – as I hit the send button that I realized – I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I didn’t even need to send that message.

What was going on was that this person had created an eggshell relationship in which I had to tiptoe around her and respond to her in a certain way that just wasn’t my style.

Eggshell Relationships

What are eggshell relationships? That’s a great question. According to Psychology Today, an eggshell relationship is when you live or are in close contact with someone who has an unstable personality. This speaks to me loudly and clearly, as I used to be one of these people when it came to anxiety and overthinking.

Have you ever used the term, “I have to walk on eggshells?” Have you had someone say this about you? Or have you found yourself saying this about someone else in your life? If so, you are not alone. The term eggshell is used to describe an emotionally fragile person. It’s a term I think that a lot of us, have identified with when life becomes difficult or we are faced with trying times.

There are different kinds of eggshell relationships but I’ll stick to two for today’s blog post.

Toxic eggshells

This happens when a person lashes out at you for no reason at all. It doesn’t seem to matter what you do, or how you respond to them – but something you say may trigger their anger and it sets them off into an emotional tyrant. You might find yourself being careful of your choice of words, or avoiding touchy subjects all together because you don’t want to offend the person.

These people are often described as being angry, bitter, chaotic, and clingy. Some may even display delusional or erratic behaviours. There is no rhyme or reason for their tantrums. And it might not even take that much to send them off the deep end.

Fragile eggshells

This is a term I just coined having dealt with a new member of our fitness group today and this might offend some people – and that’s okay. I’ve been a fragile eggshell in my life and it’s something I never want to be again. I was once told that being my friend was difficult because of how overly emotional I was. I still remember this conversation like it was yesterday, even though it was over ten years ago on msn messenger. Yeah, I’m old.

“Your highs are really high. And your lows are really low. And you’re not a bad person. But sometimes you’re just difficult to be around.”

It would be another five years before I discovered the reason for those emotional outbursts were not my fault – they were blamed on a hormonal imbalance. And once I learned to recognize that, and learned to cope with it, friendships became a little easier to maintain. I also learned to retreat when I was in a “low mood” and kept to myself. It’s also what led me to writing. I found it therapeutic. My anxiety which was worsened by work stress, would later lead me to therapy. And well, here I am today.

When it comes to the fragile type, you really have to be careful with your words. It doesn’t take much to send these people spiraling out of control. I often respond to comments on my phone and I’m a terrible texter. My comments are often blunt and to the point. And brief. People know this by now about me. When I’m on the computer, I’ll take the time to provide more information or try to be more compassionate. But texting? No, that’s too hard on the fingers.

And honestly, as an empath, I find these people to be really draining.

This person offered to send me a link private message about how drinking cold water on a hot day could be harmful to the body. Me being me, dismissed this absurd thought with, “I don’t need a link sent to me. Millions of people drink cold water on a hot day without worry. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s common sense. Be careful who you take advice from.” I even went further in another comment and clarified,

“taking an ice bath however on a really hot day, might not be the best idea. Lukewarm or cool baths or showers are recommended. At least, that’s what I do. But I’ve never had an issue with drinking cold drinks.”

Again, common sense, right?

Yes, that’s what the argument was about. Whether or not to to drink cold water on a hot day. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand drinking lukewarm water. It’s ice and cold water all the way. I’ve never had an issue with this. It’s the equivalent of grabbing a cold beer, a slurpee or even iced coffee. There’s nothing wrong with it.

This person decided to leave the group over that comment. That one comment. It wasn’t even rude or out of line. It was direct to the point. And then I was met with passive aggressive comments, with her telling me that I was being passive aggressive.

Like, some days, you can’t win.

I went back through our message history to see where I had gone wrong. I went back through my recent comments and again, I can’t see where I went wrong. In many instances I was very polite with, “please amend your post” or “please include more information” or “please keep journal entries to your profile or start a blog like I do.”

I realized after this last message exchange this morning what was wrong. This person was extremely sensitive and a fragile personality. And I get that, I do. I’m not heartless. But as a moderator, I’m not there to coddle group members either. I’m not there to befriend all 11,000 members. I’m there to share information, moderate comments and keep the group update when things change. That’s it. Pure and simple.

As a moderator in any social media forum, or hell, even as a content creator – you’re damned if you do. And damned if you don’t. Your post or comment will offend somewhere just because they are reading it.

I do try and be polite and civil when responding. But as an empathic person, I have learned to really set my boundaries with some people. And now, I really understand where my friend “Snowy” came from all those years ago. She was right. All along, she had been right about those highs and those lows. They are really difficult to be around sometimes. Especially, when you struggle with highs and lows yourself.

When it comes to overly sensitive people, there’s not much you can do to make things better for them. Unfortunately, this is a painful struggle that they will have to learn to deal with on their own. Often, it stems down from past trauma or abuse in their lives. I know that’s the case for me and it took a long time for me to recognize that in myself. I also learned to recognize that being passive aggressive or blaming my anger on others, was also abusive.

God, psychology is confusing. Isn’t it?

When it comes to these people in your life, you have to put your foot down. You have to draw the line somewhere. You can be there for them, and be supportive. But if they are not willing to see for themselves that this behaviour can be exhausting, then there is nothing you can do for them. They will flee from one relationship or friendship to the next. I know – because I went through that myself.

And it’s something I never want to go through again. The highs and the lows of anxiety and mental health issues – are physically draining and hard on the soul.

Have you ever had to walk around eggshells around someone in your life? Let me know in the comments, and I might turn this into a podcast episode!

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