Hooray, you finally met someone great! They share similar interests to you, they make you laugh, they’re polite, and dating them is generally a good time. Somehow, you find yourself ending the relationship suddenly, feeling confused, upset, and frustrated. Or, you begin acting coldly towards your partner― ignoring their texts, refusing to commit or open up. Soon enough, they end the relationship, and you still feel just as confused and hurt.
If this sounds familiar, and if it’s happened more than once, there is a good chance that you could be self-sabotaging relationships that were otherwise healthy.
Six Signs that You are Self-Sabotaging Relationships
A general, persistent feeling of being confused about your own feelings, or unable to trust your own instincts is one of the biggest signs that you are sabotaging relationships subconsciously. Most often, you shield yourself from noticing your self-destructive behavior, so the signs can be difficult to recognize.
If any of the following scenarios sound familiar, you very well may be self-sabotaging your relationships and your love life:
- Seeking Flaws in Your Partner
Everyone has flaws. However, individuals who tend to sabotage relationships subconsciously seek out as many flaws as they can in a partner without actually realizing that they are doing it. It often goes like this: you really like someone, and then suddenly decide that they’re too good to be true, or that they can’t possibly want to be with you. Then, you begin to create flaws that may not actually be present, or hyper-fixate on certain perceived flaws until you no longer want to be with that partner.
- Being Overly-Critical
Expecting perfection in a partner is a commonly undetected way of sabotaging a relationship. This is similar to seeking flaws in your partner that don’t exist. When you find yourself constantly criticizing your partner―whether in your mind or explicitly to their face―you are self-sabotaging your relationship. Often, an individual will do this until they no longer feel admiration for their partner, or until their partner leaves them.
No one wants to be called a gaslighter, but a gaslighter is exactly the kind of person who would deny their own negative behavior. Gaslighting is when you invalidate or deny your partner’s feelings, making them feel wrong for feeling the way that they feel. It can be toxic and even abusive behavior, wherein you are manipulating your partner into feeling wrong for expressing their emotions.
Any form of promiscuity, wherein you deliberately cheat on your partner in a way that would emotionally damage them is a form of sabotage. Whether it be texting someone behind your partner’s back, or actively having an intimate affair with someone else, this behavior is unhealthy and often stems from a subconscious need for your partner to find out about the cheating.
- Feelings of Jealousy
Extreme jealousy or paranoia is a form of self-sabotaging relationships. When you are convinced that your partner is cheating though you have no evidence, and cause fights because of this paranoia, you are actively sabotaging the relationship. Jealousy can also look like extreme clinginess or smothering. These behaviors stem from deep insecurity and fear of abandonment.
- Refusing to Commit
Fear of commitment is a very common sign of self-sabotage. You are afraid of committing too much, for fear of pain when things will inevitably go wrong. You’ll make any excuse to avoid meeting their parents, defining your relationship, moving in together, or anything that feels like it’s limiting your freedom. This is a form of not allowing yourself to fall in love, but it is disguised as protecting yourself from pain.
Why Are You Self-Sabotaging Relationships?
Intentionally ruining or sabotaging relationships can be a sign of deep-rooted insecurity or fear. It’s also a common trauma response in individuals who are suffering from the effects of unresolved trauma. Either way, most people wind up self-sabotaging their relationships subconsciously, without explicitly intending to do so. In other words, your subconscious is controlling your actions and you don’t even know it.
This can be a very confusing, frustrating, and painful process to go through, and it often becomes a toxic, damaging cycle that only gets worse. It’s too common for us to feel ashamed of our actions, confused about why we have done them, and hopeless for a healthy future. There is no need to feel ashamed or hopeless about your love life. Nobody is perfect, and if you’re here, and you are reading this, you are taking the first step toward bettering yourself and your relationships. You should be proud of that!
3 Common Causes for Unconsciously Sabotaging Relationships:
- Trauma Response
Everyone’s history is different. Unfortunately, most people have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives, and depending on the severity, it can carry over into their behaviors without them even knowing. If, as a child, you were betrayed by adults in any way, you may have learned to naturally distrust people. In your love life, this can come out as self-sabotaging relationships by persistently accusing your partner of cheating, being overly clingy, or pushing them away for no real reason.
Commonly, those who have grown up in dysfunctional or abusive homes tend to seek out chaos subconsciously. In relationships, this turns into starting fights to fulfill your need for chaos, or your body’s need to enter fight-or-flight mode. These behaviors tend to become prolonged because they are so deeply rooted that you may not realize you are sabotaging your relationship subconsciously.
- Fear of Intimacy
Similar to trauma responses, you may have learned to expect to get hurt. This could have come from your parents’ divorce, or the way that past lovers have treated you. Fear of getting hurt by someone else can turn into fierce protection of yourself that comes out in relationships as toxic behavior. Fear of abandonment is also a common cause of sabotaging relationships. Sabotaging a relationship allows you to feel like you are in control, and diminishes the painful fear of your partner choosing to leave you.
- You’re Unsure of What You Want
Sometimes, you just aren’t ready for love. When you try to force relationships that you aren’t ready for, your conflicting emotions can come out as anger, cruelty, coldness, or fear. Similarly, you may have too much going on in your life for a relationship, and rather than accepting this, you force relationships and then sabotage them. If you just started a new job, recently moved somewhere new, or have a ton of drama in your personal life, it’s best to work through these things before taking on a new relationship.
3 Ways to Stop Sabotaging Your Relationships
The dating game can be exhausting and discouraging. However, no matter how many failed relationships you’ve gone through, there is always hope. Think of it all as a learning experience: in each new relationship, you learn more about yourself, what you want and how you can improve upon the relationship you have with yourself and with others.
Like any behavior, the act of self-sabotaging can be improved upon with effort, time, and patience. To begin, you must want to change, and that comes from loving yourself enough to know that you deserve a healthy, stable relationship.
To begin the process of learning to stop self-sabotaging relationships, try this:
- Recognize the signs.
Be completely honest with yourself, and stop shaming yourself for your past. It won’t help to be hard on yourself. Think about your failed relationships from both your perspective and your partners. Try to identify patterns that align with self-sabotage.
- Track your behaviors.
Once you’ve done this, it helps to write down your typical patterns of behavior. Figure out what triggered your negative actions, and try to get to the root of the causes. It’s a good idea to get an unbiased perspective when doing this, so consider talking with a dating expert, therapist, or close friend for help.
- Be intentional with your relationships and actions.
Come up with a plan for moving forward and forming a healthy love life. Understand that it is possible for you to maintain a healthy relationship, and that doing so means having lots of patience with yourself. Remember, your love life starts with you!