Are you always planning an exit strategy for your relationships? Do you create distance when things are going well? Do you avoid anything that could lead to something more serious, like meeting the parents? You could be self-sabotaging your relationships. Self-sabotaging behaviour can seriously affect every aspect of your life. If you find yourself only getting so far when it comes to dating, it’s time to figure out how to stop self-sabotaging relationships.
What Is Self-Sabotage Behaviour?
Self-sabotage behaviour is a pattern of thoughts and behaviours you engage in, with or without knowing it, that creates obstacles to achieving your goals. It’s created by your psyche to keep you safe from potential danger or harm. You’re often not aware of self-sabotaging behaviours and you don’t do them on purpose, but when self-sabotaging behaviour becomes persistent, it can lead to challenges in every area of your life, including your relationships.
In relationships, it involves engaging in behaviours, either consciously or unconsciously, that lead to the end of a relationship. These behaviours often stem from trust issues, past negative experiences, and poor relationship skills. There are a number of signs you may be self-sabotaging your relationships, including:
- Gaslighting- you make your partner feel crazy or dismiss their concerns as invalid when problems arise.
- Mismatch- always choosing partners who are unavailable or incompatible with you and your goals.
- Jealousy and Lack of Trust- searching for proof of betrayal, even when there’s no indication their partner has done anything wrong.
- Avoidance- looking for an exit or avoid anything that leads to a bigger commitment, such as meeting the parents or moving in together.
- Criticism- nitpicking your partner’s behavious, picking fights, and searching for fault in everything they do.
- Promiscuity and cheating- deliberately engaging in hurtful behaviours, and often justifying it by claiming they’e hurting their partner before they get hurt.
- Serial dating- continuously dating casually and bailing when things start to get more serious.
7 Reasons You Self-Sabotage Your Relationships
- Fear of abandonment: Fear of abandonment or intimacy is one of the top causes of self-sabotaging relationships. You may believe you can’t trust anyone or that anyone you love will leave you. This often stems from being left when you were a child, typically by a parent or someone else close to you.
- Low self-esteem: A lack of belief in ourselves often goes hand-in-hand with self-sabotaging behaviours. Individuals with low self-esteem may believe they don’t deserve love or a healthy relationship. This can lead to them engaging in self-destructive behaviours that sabotage their relationship, such as talking down about themselves or constantly pushing their partners away.
- Childhood trauma: Previous experiences of betrayal, abandonment, or abuse can create emotional wounds that influence current relationships. Past pain can cause a person to act defensively or expect the worst from their partner.
- Personal issues: Personal issues, such as unresolved conflicts with family or friends, can spill over into relationships and create tension or conflict.
- Fear of commitment: Commitment-phobia is a real issue for some people. They might have a fear of long-term commitment or fear losing their independence, leading them to sabotage relationships before they become too serious.
- Trust issues: Trust issues, whether related to past relationships or personal insecurities, can lead to behaviours that undermine trust and erode the foundation of the relationship.
- External stressors: Sometimes, external stressors like work pressure, financial problems, or family issues can impact a person’s behaviour in a relationship. These stressors can lead to emotional instability and negatively affect the relationship.
How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Relationships
1. Hold Yourself Accountable
Self awareness is key to stopping self-sabotaging behaviour. The first step is recognizing the role you’ve played in sabotaging past relationships. If you can recognize destructive patterns of behaviour, you can take steps to change these behaviours in the future. From there you can build skills to help you form healthy relationships moving forwards.
2. Figure Out Your Attachment Style
Knowing your attachment style (secure, avoidant, anxious, or disorganized) will help you understand why you act certain ways in your relationship and can help you reframe the action from sabotaging to a healthier pattern. By becoming more self-aware of your patterns, you can intentionally work to create new patterns by being open about your feelings around intimacy, developing communication skills, and working to let go of relationship fears. There are a number of free online tests that can tell you your attachment style.
3. Identify Triggers
If you have a pattern of continuously self-sabotaging your relationships, try to figure out what triggers your behaviour. This could include things like fear or boredom. Once you learn your triggers, you can determine how to meet your emotional needs without sabotaging your relationships. You can learn to cope with them and not let your feelings consume you, causing you to act in ways that can end your relationship.
4. Be Open with Your Partner
If you realize that you’re doing things to sabotage your relationship and you don’t want your relationship to end, talk to your partner about it. Make sure you go into the conversation calmly so you can clearly communicate what you’re doing and where it’s coming from. This can be helpful for your partner to understand, and from here the two of you can work together to make things better moving forward.
5. Seek Professional Help
Self-sabotage isn’t easy to overcome on your own. It can be deeply damaging and since it often stems from past traumas or deep-seated fears, it can be very helpful to work with a professional. A therapist can help you identify problematic behaviours and heal past trauma. They’ll help you develop coping skills and work to end the self-sabotaging relationship cycle.
6. Work On Your Self Esteem
Low self esteem is one of the most common reasons people indulge in self-sabotaging behaviours. You need to know how to love and be happy with yourself first before you can feel good in a relationship. A therapist can help you start addressing how to build your self-esteem and self-worth. This may include things such as writing/reciting affirmations, enforcing boundaries, prioritizing physical activity, finding hobbies and activities you love, and spending time with people who make you feel good about yourself.
If you notice you’ve been self-sabotaging your relationships, we hope these tips help you work on yourself and create healthy relationships from here on out!
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