You’ve probably heard about the concept of self-sabotage when it comes to things like landing a job or achieving your goals. You know, when you let yourself get in the way of your own success?
Well, you might be surprised that self-sabotage can actually apply to your romantic relationships, too. You can inadvertently destroy or diminish your own relationship, preventing you and your partner from being happy and moving forward together.
So, what actually does it mean if you’re self-sabotaging your relationship? It means you’re engaging in negative behavior, consciously or unconsciously, that is geared toward ending the relationship. In other words, you’re doing things that are making it impossible for you and your partner to enjoy a healthy relationship. For instance, your actions may be stalling your relationship or, worse, souring it. Some of these behaviors you might do on purpose, while others you might not even realize you’re doing.
You’re probably wondering what causes this kind of self-sabotage, and there are actually a lot of reasons you might be finding yourself in self-sabotaging relationships. One reason might be due to past relationship trauma. For example, you might have learned these behaviors from a toxic ex, or perhaps you’re engaging in them out of fear of hurt or abandonment. In other cases, you might be suffering from low self-esteem and feel as though you’re unworthy of experiencing a loving relationship in the first place so you’re keeping yourself from enjoying the one you’re currently in.
There are many things that could contribute to this behavior, so it’s important to begin recognizing the signs, so you can begin addressing them.
If you think you might be the culprit of a self-sabotaging relationship, check out our eight signs of self-sabotage below to see if any of these sound familiar:
1. Acting Like the Victim
If you have a woo-is-me attitude and refuse to take responsibility for your actions, then you might be actively sabotaging your relationship. This can be especially detrimental if you’re doing destructive things like lying to your partner or stepping out on the relationship and then turning the blame on them, denying that it’s a problem, and acting like you’re the victim.
Part of being in a healthy relationship means accepting when you’ve done wrong and trying to prevent yourself from doing it again. However, if you’re unwilling to own up to your wrongdoings and prefer to act like you’re always innocent, then you might be sabotaging your relationship. Sadly, it’s likely only a matter of time before your partner gets fed up with your victim act unless you change your ways.
Are you always looking for ways to manipulate your partner’s feelings or make them question their own reasoning? If so, then you’re engaging in something called gaslighting, which means you’re purposefully using psychological methods to create doubt in your partner’s mind.
For instance, you might deny that something occurred when you know for a fact that it did or unjustly shift the blame on them for something they didn’t do. Gaslighting isn’t just harmful to your relationship; it can also be extremely damaging to your partner’s sense of sanity. In fact, gaslighting is considered a form of emotional abuse, so it’s crucial that you recognize if you’re behaving in this manner.
3. Looking for Ways out of the Relationship
Another sign of self-sabotage in a relationship is if you’re always looking for an exit. For example, maybe you’re always suggesting you should break up as soon as you run into any slight inconvenience in your relationship. Or maybe you find yourself shying away from important commitments like spending the holidays together or meeting each other’s parents.
If you seem to have one foot in and one foot out of your relationship at all times, you might be self-sabotaging it without even realizing it and wind up single again before you know it.
If remaining loyal to your partner is seemingly impossible for you, then you very well could be self-sabotaging your relationship. No matter if it’s emotional or physical cheating, it’s one sure way to run your relationship into the ground.
Your infidelity may suggest that you’re trying to avoid getting hurt by being the one who does the hurting. Or, it could mean you’re looking for ways to get your partner to break up with you, therefore making yourself the “bad” person in the relationship. Whatever the reason behind you being unfaithful, it’s toxic behavior that isn’t fair to you, your partner, or the third party involved.
5. Unwilling to Commit
If you’re unwilling to take the natural next steps in your relationship, such as becoming exclusive, using the terms boyfriend or girlfriend, moving in together, or even meeting your respective families, then some self-sabotage could be at play.
When you push back on these normal progressions in your relationship, you’re stalling and preventing you and your partner from moving forward. And the more you dig your feet in, the more problems it may cause. After all, your partner deserves to be with someone who is willing to commit to a future together.
6. Refusing to See the Good in Yourself
Do you refuse to take a compliment from your partner? Or are you always talking down about yourself and cracking jokes at your own expense? If you’re unwilling to see the good in yourself, both inside and out, these insecurities can start interfering with your relationship.
All of these negative thoughts about yourself could make you start questioning why your partner is even with you in the first place, which could lead to some major self-sabotaging. Your partner loves you for you, but if you can’t see those reasons why, then you might be making it unpleasant to be around you. And if you’re not careful, your partner may even start believing the things you say about yourself if you’re constantly harping on them and repeating them.
7. Criticizing Your Partner
Another sign of self-sabotage in your relationship is if you’re finding yourself constantly critiquing and criticizing your partner. For instance, maybe you’re always pointing out their flaws, telling them they’re doing something wrong, or blaming them for downfalls in your relationship. Or, you might find yourself quick to give negative feedback, make fun of their appearance, or complain about something they did or said.
If your partner can do no right in your eyes, how are you going to carry on a relationship together? You’re always going to find something wrong with them, and they’re always going to feel crushed under the weight of your criticism, which is no way to continue in a relationship. Whether you realize the negativity you’re bringing to your relationship or not, it could be sabotaging whatever is left of it.
8. Avoiding Communication
Strong communication is the foundation of every relationship. It helps you explore your feelings, talk through tough topics, clear the air, and resolve any issues.
Now, if you don’t allow yourself to sit down with your partner and discuss things in your relationship, then you could very well be sabotaging the success of your relationship. If you find yourself avoiding conversations about the future of your relationship or refusing to discuss what’s on your mind with your partner, you’re creating unnecessary roadblocks that are preventing your relationship from evolving.
If you recognize some of these signs of self-sabotage and notice that they align with your behavior in your relationship, not all hope is lost. To start, we recommend reflecting on why you might be participating in these actions. Try different avenues like journaling, identifying possible triggers, and having honest conversations with your partner, but if those methods don’t help, you may want to consider working with a professional therapist who specializes in relationship trauma and overcoming these tendencies.