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Even when we find the “perfect” partnership, many of us then engage in sabotaging behavior that ruins the relationship altogether. This behavior can range from emotional outbursts to all-out infidelity, and it can come from a range of strange roots — including the patterns we picked up in childhood, and the irrational attachment we have to our sense of independence and accountability.
In order to stop sabotaging our relationships, we have to get to the root of the issues we face. This requires coming to a deeper understanding of our attachment styles, but also the toxic behaviors that are undermining our connections with our partners. Rather than blowing things up, or pushing away the people we love, we have to come to terms with the toxic patterns that are preventing the fulfillment of promising partnerships.
Working to ruin a perfectly good thing. Without even realizing it, we can find ourselves in a pattern of continuous romantic sabotage. We latch on, then lash out push them away when it’s time to get close. Sometimes this comes from a fear of letting down our walls or being vulnerable. At other times, however, this comes from an unwillingness to give up what we see as our rightful and deserved independence. Whatever the reason, until you overcome this tendency you’ll always push your partners away. We destroy our romantic relationships and partnerships both consciously and subconsciously. We push our partners away with bad behavior, and we can even go so far as to cheat or commit acts that are absolutely unconscionable in the realm of a loving relationship.
Poor past examples, former relationships, and even the way we cling to our “single-hood” can all go into feeding our need to detonate our relationships. When we fear being open or fear showing those deepest parts of ourselves, we act out and do everything we can to prevent our deeper truths from being known. Is your partnership crumbling? Do you have a great thing but see it crumbling before your eyes? Your need to sabotage all the good things in your own life might be to blame.
Why we sabotage solid relationships. There are a number of reasons we sabotage our relationships. While they range from our childhood experiences to the way we view ourselves — they are all overcome with the same thing: compassion, understanding, and honesty.
Poor past examples The examples set for us in childhood are important and inform our adult relationships. If you grew up in a dysfunctional home in which love was brutal or conditioned, it can be hard for you to open up or build equitable, functional partnerships of your own. Addressing childhood trauma is a necessary step in addressing your need to sabotage.
Low sense of self-worth Struggling with a low sense of self-worth or self-esteem? Because you think you have nothing to offer a partner, you might find that you scare them off or run them away before they have a chance to see what you deem to be this “worthlessness”. Low self-esteem is toxic, and will undermine every opportunity you get in this life (be it romantic or otherwise).
Fear of opening-up Fear of opening up is often one of the main fires that fuel our compulsive need to push our partners away. This fear of vulnerability is usually tied to our insecurity or low sense of self-worth. We don’t just fear opening up because we don’t want people to see our shadows. We fear opening up because — deep down in our cores — we don’t believe we have anything of value or worth to offer.
Attachment styles (We seem to be revisiting this topic often) What is your attachment style? There are 4 basic types of attachment: Anxious preoccupied, fearful-avoidant, dismissive-avoidant, and secure. Those with a dismissive-avoidant or fearful-avoidant attachment type might notice they struggle with ideas of independence and meaningful connection. Knowing your attachment style enables you to see your partnerships in an entirely new light.
Passion for independence It’s not always fear or trauma that keeps us from connecting meaningfully in a relationship. Sometimes, our constant need to run for the hills comes from a sheer passion for our independence. Some of us love being free, and those same people can see committed relationships as a burden or a hindrance when it comes to living their lives. This isn’t good or bad. It’s just a preference. The morality of it comes down to how you choose to deal with it.
Subconscious realizations Sometimes, we subconsciously subvert or sabotage our relationships because we realize (on a deep level) that the person we’ve chosen isn’t for us. Likewise, you might realize that they are abusive or manipulative; maybe they don’t have what it takes to build the type of future that you are working toward. Even when we don’t realize that we’ve chosen someone who is misaligned with our values, our subconscious often does. So, it encourages us to engage in fearful and sabotaging behavior in order to force us out of a place we never should have been.
Signs you’re sabotaging your relationship right now. Are you sabotaging your partnership? Are you pushing them away? These are the signs to look for and the critical questions to ask yourself.
Focusing on the negative The partner who is only looking out for negativity is the partner who is looking for an exit. This is the type of partner or spouse who doesn’t support you. Instead, they undermine, criticize, and correct their other halves every opportunity they get. It’s far easier to see the bad than the good when you’re looking for a reason to destroy something.
Avoiding communication Have you started avoiding communication with your partner? When serious topics come up, do you sidestep them or excuse yourself before the two of you can come to terms? As a couple, we have to speak with one another in order to stay open and committed. When you shut down, communication is often the first thing to go. Followed shortly by the partnership as a whole.
Personal conflicts abound If you take everything personally, it leads to constant conflict within your relationship. No matter what your partner says, you might be focused on how it reflects on your personally — whether it’s pointed at yourself or not. Taking each statement as an insult, you internalize all their points and turn it around to create a massive conflict that pushes you further away from one another.
Failing to trust Do you go out of your way to make it clear to your partner that you don’t trust them? Did you start your relationship on lies or deceit? Our partnerships can. overcome a lot, but that requires effort. If you do little to explore the real root of your trust issues and allow constant jealousy to erode the affection you feel for one another, you could be allowing sabotage to replace your due efforts.
Disproportionate responses What happens when things go wrong in your partnership? How do you react when the person that you love makes a mistake? Over-the-top emotional responses can often be a common sign of someone who is looking to make a mountain out of a molehill. Disproportionate responses push our partners away and alienate them through both fear and resentment. Looking for love outside One of the most common ways we destroy a loving relationship is by looking for love outside the commitment of that. You might engage in a full-on physical affair, or you just might find your eye wandering to different shores. However it happens, it’s important to make sure that this isn’t a sign of a deeper issue, or even a desire to sabotage a perfectly good relationship that isn’t being appreciated.
Making endless comparisons Do you constantly compare your relationships to that of other people? Do you run your partner down by telling them how great the person was who came before? This is a means of creating a divide and making them think that you are somehow superior or worth doing more for. It’s a juvenile tactic and one that has no place in a relationship with any longevity.
No more romance Romance is an important component of a functioning intimate relationship, but it can often become weaponized in a way that creates insurmountable divides. Have you and your partner stopped being romantic with one another? Do you go out of your way to deprive them of your affection when they challenge you or call you out? You might be trying to push them away in order to avoid some harder truths.
Zero effort or energy Workable relationships require that everyone involved carries their fair share of the physical and emotional weight. If you don’t pull your weight in the relationship — whether that comes down to doing the dishes or matching affections — you’re going to push your partner away…and you might know that. When you do realize this (and engage in the behavior anyway) you’re engaging in sabotage of the highest degree.
The best way to end the sabotage once and for all. You don’t have to play the romantic sabotage game forever. You can move past your insecurities by rebuilding your self-worth, figuring out your attachment issues, opening up, and learning how to think before you react. Some partners aren’t worth fighting for, but some are. Once you know the difference, take action to end your tendency to self-sabotage.
1. Rebuild your self-worth In order to hold on to partnerships that are worth going the distance for, you have to understand that you deserve that love and companionship. Your self-worth determines the course of your life. What you think about yourself is reflected in the career choices you make and the life and relationships that you build. By rebuilding your self-worth, you can come to embrace the fact that you are perfectly deserving of the love you’ve always dreamed of. Stop looking for the bad in your life and yourself. Figure out how to fall in love with who you are from the inside out. Look at who you are and consider the fullness of everything you want to be. What are your strengths and what are the challenges they have helped you to overcome? What physical aspects of yourself do you find most beautiful or attractive? You can’t build a relationship in which someone else loves, respects you, and stands by you until you learn how to do those things for yourself. If you want to stop detonating partnerships, and if you want to learn how to truly love — start by learning how to love yourself. All those cravings for connection and validation? Find them within and you will be able to identify them in the world at large. You don’t have to stay stuck in these patterns of passion and detonation.
2. Identify your attachment issues Our attachments are important and form a critical piece of who we are. Attachments are the emotional bonds that we form we those closest to us, be they friend, family or even pets and co-workers. It’s the means by which we get the affection and closeness that we need in order to reaffirm our place in the world around us, and it’s also the means by which we establish the bonds that give our life meaning. There are 4 core attachment styles that dictate the way we connect and bond with those we care about. From an anxious obsession to a secure and deep-running bond — understanding our attachment styles is the key to overcoming the challenges they present. But that takes getting honest about how we connect with those we care most about.
Dig into your past and look for those breaking points which first informed your beliefs about love and relationships. Consider your parents’ relationship. Consider the relationships you observed in childhood and adolescence. By studying this, and the behaviors we exhibit now, we can come to understand our attachment styles and how we might be using them to sabotage our relationships or avoid love, vulnerability, and happiness altogether.
3. Open up to your partner If you think that you might be blowing up something great with a person who is equally is great, you need to open up to them and share what’s going on. Our partners — especially the good ones — can be a transformative mirror by which we are able to reflect and reshape our perspective of self. They can help you see the beauty in yourself that you never knew existed and encourage you to move in the direction of those things which encourage your growth. Sit down and have an honest conversation with your partner. If you’re standing in the wake of emotional outbursts and destruction, stand up for the role you’ve played, and take responsibility for the damage you’ve caused. Then, open up to your partner and let them know about your internal explorations and any revelations that might explain (not excuse) the way you’ve behaved. You should also spend this time verbally reinforcing your relationship and your commitment to one another. Communicate what you feel for one another and communicate also the gratitude you share for one another. List the things you love about your partner and let them do the same. Then, spend some time listing out all the things you’re going to accomplish together. The more often we spend this time celebrating one another, the easier it becomes to look past the negativity and the panic.
4. Opt for fun when it gets tough All relationships — no matter how perceivably “perfect” they might become with moments of adversity that test us and our partners. In these moments, it can be easier to throw in the towel and walk away (therefore fulfilling your need to sabotage it), but we have to learn to stand strong and fight for the people who matter. One way to do that is to opt for creating fun memories when things get tough. If you’re someone who tends to sabotage due to the amount of effort, that’s required to keep a relationship alive, look for moments of fun to re-root yourself beside your partner. Don’t allow things to become all doom and gloom. Have a movie night and build the childhood pillow fort of your dreams in the living room. Pop some popcorn on the stove. Go camping. Take the dog on a walk somewhere new. There’s no right or wrong way to go about creating these fun moments of connectivity, and they don’t have to break the bank (or require you to break social distancing guidelines). Before you walk away, try to reconnect in a moment of fun and then consider how you feel.
5. Always think before you act Partnerships are an emotional affair, and when our emotions are running high, we can commit to actions and behaviors that we later regret. That’s why it’s crucial that we learn how to step back and consider our thoughts and emotions before we leap into action where our partnerships are concerned. When you start to panic or feel like it’s time to cut and run, you have to question your emotions and give yourself enough time to process them. Whenever those feelings of avoidance start to creep in, or you find yourself thinking that you aren’t good enough to be in love, step back, and get some personal space. Question those feelings. Are they coming from the present moment? Or are they rooted in some experience in the past?
Always think before you act or react to your partner. Really think. If there’s fear, anger, or any other negativity lurking along the edges — address it, and consider the full scope of what your response could and should be. If you go in blaming and screaming, what results will that have? If you cut ties and end the relationship altogether, will you have bigger regrets waiting on the other side? This is a part of thinking before you respond, and it’s a foundational part of building stronger, more mature relationships.
Putting it all together… When we are ruled by our fear or our insecurities, it can lead us to sabotage our life and even our romantic relationships. We cut down on communication and engage in emotional outbursts, all in an attempt to push another person away who we see as more deserving than ourselves. In order to overcome this, we have to employ some brutal personal honesty and compassionate understanding. Rebuild your self-worth and identify your attachment issues. These hangups prevent us from being full and compelling partners. Once you’ve identified your issues (and whether your relationship is truly worth fighting for) open up to your partner and share your feelings and your perspective. Allow their love for you to cast a new light on who you are and what you want. Celebrate one another when times get tough and invest in creating fun memories rather than running when your relationships ask you to put forth more effort. Above all, however, learn how to think before you act. Too often we abandon ship at the first sign of danger rather than figuring out. Don’t lash out or react until you know where you’re coming from. Hold these precepts to heart and you’ll build better and stronger relationships.