New studies are showing that there is a great deal more stress and anger in our lives. Much of it is spilling into the home, creating a tense atmosphere of walking on eggshells.
Most people want their relationships to go well; they want to prevent criticism, cold shoulders, angry outbursts, or the silent treatment - all common effects of emotional pollution. They go through psychological contortions, second-guessing themselves, editing what they say, worrying if they're doing things well enough, trying hard not to set him or her off. When you do this over a period of time, you lose a sense of who you are. You either internalize blame for your partner's resentment, anger, even abusive tendencies, or you take them on and become resentful, angry, or abusive yourself. In either case, you don't like the person you've become.
It's not breaking the eggs that does the lasting harm - people are resilient when it comes to healthy conflict. Continually walking on the eggshells to avoid ugly conflict causes increasing stress. Emotional hurt has a way of lingering in the times between resentful or angry flare-ups. The empty, dull ache of unhappiness is most accurately measured in the accumulative effect of these small moments of disconnection, isolation, and dread.
There are many ways to walk on eggshells. Living with angry outbursts, name calling, and controlling, demeaning, and belittling behaviors are the obvious ways. More insidious are coping with disgusted looks, stonewalling, cold shoulders, emotional withdrawal, and couch-potato numbness, all of which imply that the family is not worth attention. The effects on children are devastating.
The way to clean up emotional pollution in the home is ultimately the same way to clean it up in the community. Self-compassion - awareness of the harm that emotional pollution does to you with a strong motivation to improve - creates compassionate assertiveness, which will force change in your relationship, one way or another. Compassionate assertiveness is sympathy with the hurt of your partner in profound understanding that he or she cannot heal without becoming more compassionate. It is definitely not compassionate to facilitate someone remaining self-obsessed. Only when people escape the prison of their self-obsessed moods can they see the effects of their behavior on others and become the kind of persons they deeply want to be.