Receive LOVE in your mailbox

Try our weekly newsletter with amazing tips to bring and retain love in your life

Are YOU Your Relationship’s Worst Enemy?

Is self-sabotage ruining your relationship?

Most of us have had failed relationships in life but not many of us sit down in the rubble, picking up the pieces that crushed things far too important to remain in the debris, sifting through the mess, to take away the lessons. Most of us, instead, look at the mausoleum of the past from afar, thinking of how the relationship wouldn’t have died if their partner was more ‘available,’ or if they’d have compromised a bit more or even if they could have ‘changed’ their partner for the better.

couple in love

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

What many among these self-deluded or worse, ignorant populace don’t recognize is that the death of their relationship may have been caused by the pathogens they were themselves injecting into the dynamic of the relationship! Not many among us have the awareness to realize that we, as humans, have an inability to sit down with fall outs and analyze our role in it. Very often, we fail to own our own ‘part’ in making things end and take responsibility for it, forgive it and kiss it, so we can let go and embrace a newer, revitalized beginning, devoid of the earlier toxicity.

Suggested read: Women are guilty of making these mistakes in relationships…

Because we are unable to let go of our own toxic behavior, we are sucked into an endless spiral of failed relationships that we can make heads nor tails of. We repeat the same self-destructive patterns over and over, wishing each time for a different output. Hah, logic gone for a toss – clearly! But you know what’s even worse – we often end up being in this vicious cycle and end relationships that could possibly blossom into healthy and happy ones!

If this sounds familiar and you find yourselves at the end of a string of failed relationships, unable to put a finger on what went wrong, blaming the other party, disillusioned with love or fearing if love lasts at all, you might have self-sabotage at play.

What is self-sabotage in relationships?

Self-sabotage in relationships might start off with innocuous attempts at not being comfortable with a particular habit of the partner but quickly aggravates into something more serious – the saboteur blows hot and cold, picks fights over trivial, insignificant matters, gets extremely irritable over seemingly non-existent issues, and displays an incomprehensible level of resentment and repulsion, at all times!

woman contemplating

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

But wait until you stick up the white flag and dart toward the exit. Saboteurs do not exhibit self-sabotaging behavior in relationships for naught. The self-sabotage is rooted in something deeper than the superficial nitpicking and being ‘mean’ for naught! Self-sabotage is not conscious and hence, saboteurs are themselves surprised that they are acting out of sorts. Psychologist and couples’ therapist Julie Houniet says that self-sabotage isn’t a manifestation of personality traits or a blatant display of ‘meanness.’ She maintains that most saboteurs do not know why they act rude and childish and attributes this auto-sabotage mode to deep-seated underlying psychological causes such as fear of intimacy, abandonment or even guilt that one’s parents’ relationship wasn’t a happy one! She also maintains that it isn’t just the ‘out-of-sorts’ people who indulge in self-sabotage in relationships. Mature, warm, generous, ‘got-it-together’ professionals who are emotionally intelligent may also be victims to this toxicogen.

couple arguing

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

The pattern of self-sabotage may be understood clearly in relationships where there is reason to fear intimacy (maybe owing to manipulation or clear signs of double-timing) or abandonment (negative behavior, threats, abuse, and roving behavior) in conjunction with one’s emotional makeup, in relation to the past. But as for the mature individuals, who, in all possibility, have the necessary paraphernalia to piece it together and push their way out – people who are in ‘good’ relationships that could grow into something even better and more beautiful – how does one explain self-sabotage in relation to them? Houniet answers,

“In a positive way, ‘good’ relationships are more demanding of you because they’re more exposing. It can actually be easier to be in a relationship with someone controlling, for example, because they don’t really see ‘you.’ So while it may be unsatisfactory, it’s safe because you’re not fully there, you’re less exposed. But when you’re with someone who is actually letting you be you, not playing games, it’s more confronting — the fear is that you have to be seen. So in order to decrease that intimacy you might try and provoke an argument.”

Ahh, the mysteries of the human mind – what would it not do to keep up the self-deluding safety of its illusory haven! If only that would suffice a lifetime and keep one happy!

couple in bed

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Houniet’s explanation elaborates upon the pattern of repeating the very same destructive behaviors and expecting magically different outcomes. It explains why emotional turbulence, manipulative behavior, sledging, provoking fights, blowing hot and cold, and other similar negative behaviors are pushed in to force the outcome that saboteurs fear! Clinical psychologist Michelle Skeen explains the same,

“I’ve been working with couples for 12 years and abandonment issues arise again and again,” Skeen explained to MailOnline. “They can surface anywhere from the earliest stages of dating right through to marriage and often go unresolved. But if we pay attention we start to recognize patterns and themes. We’re all born with the fear of abandonment; if we don’t get looked after, we die. It’s just the degree to which we have it. The problem isn’t that you’re experiencing the painful emotions or negative thoughts, it’s that you are reacting with unhelpful behaviors. There is so much uncertainty and ambiguity in dating,” says Skeen. “Safety means predicting, and if we have a fear of being left or rejected, we would rather force an outcome.”

Houniet agrees and pops a solution to breaking the pattern of self-sabotage. She explains that love is an investment and therefore, comes with its own risk. Acknowledging it and accepting is the best place to start. Skeen’s solutions to self-sabotaging in relationships flows in a similar vein too. Skeen says that it may take a good fall – the end of a relationship to avail that chance for an increased awareness of self. People often panic about perfectly good relationships and end it before the other person can end it. In driving their partner up the wall with their self-sabotaging behavior, they seek the validation of an outcome (abandonment) that they believe to be true and test the partner’s breaking point. These games are pulled until the partner isn’t driven up, and beyond – and when the ultimate allergic reaction causes the outcome to manifest, saboteurs feel their fears validated, and hence, learn no lesson but either succumb to wallowing in self-pity or repeat the failed-romance gravy train!

Suggested read: What do men want from women?

So what must one do to prevent self-sabotage? How can one break this pattern? How does one not only rule out the preemptive strike and any other move that ends a potentially good relationship but also ensure that the behavior does not seep into the relationship in the future?

Here’s the expert advice on how to stop self-sabotaging:

1. Acknowledge it

woman thinking

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

If you are compatible with a person and seem to get along well, identify the potential of something ‘more,’ then you might as well sit and recognize the unflinching urge to wreck it, be distrustful or simply detach.

2. Assess it

woman thinking

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Holding a mirror up to oneself is one of the hardest things to do. Especially so when you need to look into it and identify all the destructive behaviors you might be indulging in, to wreck the thing you want so much! But it is important that you delve deep and reach to the roots.

3. Be brutally honest

woman outdoors

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Is it a childhood experience, a traumatic breakup, a deep-seated fear of abandonment, an adaptation strategy you picked during a rough phase? Pore over the answers you found in step two and critically investigate when you started reacting in this way and why. Retrace your steps to the time, identify the triggers, and analyze the correspondence between the past and the present. You’d be better placed to judge if your reactions are merely self-deluding, a needless shield or an amplified, disproportionate reaction/defense mechanism you have no need of.

Suggested read: 9 most common reasons why relationships fail

4. But be easy on yourself

woman smiling

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

You may or may not have stumbled upon the reality of the rudimentary nature of the root of your self-sabotaging reactions. If they are rudimentary, your path, hence onward, is going to be a little easy. If not, you may have to work harder and tread more carefully. Either way, it’s doable – so do not blame yourself for anything and steer clear of pulling the chain.

5. Channel your emotions toward the positives

woman smiling15

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

When you are committing yourself to break an addictive habit of self-sabotaging behavior, you might do well to take a little step back and give yourself more time and space to find out more about what’s going on. You do not have to over-explain things to yourself or anybody else. Just remember you are committed to something you owe yourself first and then, to anybody else. Set goals, small milestones, seek inspiration, and achieve them. It will bolster your confidence and remind you of your strengths.

6. Don’t let fears rule you

woman thinking

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Once you feel strong and competent, you can vanquish those fears that have been ruling you for too long. Of course, failing sucks and we are all a little bit afraid of failure. But it is a part of life and avoiding it isn’t a solution. The fear of facing it isn’t a valid reason to quit trying! So, purge yourself of those demons and remember that every failure shall make that soil more fertile for what’s next!

7. Build on and believe in your capacity to give and receive love

couple in love

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Once you shift your focus from outcome to effort, your definition of self-worth would shift too. Learn to be kind and compassionate toward your own feelings. When you can embrace your painful feelings with kindness toward yourself, rather than with judgment, you will not be so afraid of being hurt. You will also remember that you are capable of a fulfilling, everlasting love and deserve the same. Never levy discounts on what you deem yourself worthy of.

8. Take charge

woman thinking

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Once you assume responsibility for your life, you’d feel accountable for your actions. So, you yourself would discard the toxic behavior and seek out positive, alternative behavior that will keep the relationship on healthy ground. You are the ONLY one who can make this change.

9. Practice the learning

woman smiling

Image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Only ‘thinking’ of the reasons, plan of action, and their feasibility isn’t going to help. You must implement the work of all the aforementioned steps and see if the results are tangible and of consequence. If you aren’t satisfied and need more, you can assess further and improvise upon your course of action.

10. Be flexible

couple holding hands

Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Rigidity might be your biggest enemy here. In the whole process, you may need to shift your plan, change or adapt several times. Be open to that!

Suggested read: 15 simple tips on how to make a relationship work

Remember that even when you feel light about the end of a potentially good relationship, you are plainly experiencing your body’s physiological response to being relieved from being immensely vulnerable. This massive defense mechanism, no matter how comfortable, leads you unto a false sense of safety and security. You might want to break free of its security net and open yourself to the ‘risk’ that investing in love, by default, entails. Only with true vulnerability comes wholesome bliss. And what’s more, even though it would be incredibly challenging and painful, your own self-awareness, conscious attempts to break free of your toxic pattern, coupled with the ‘investment’ from a mature and patient partner can actually make you experience an intimacy that you’d been longing for all along! And this time, you wouldn’t run away! There will be someone to hold you and make you feel safe. The only thing you need to do is TRY!

Featured image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License

Article Name
10 Ways To Avoid Self-sabotage In Relationships
YOU may be responsible for ruining your own relationship, albeit unknowingly. Self-sabotage in relationships is a REAL thing and here's how to deal with it.
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."