6 min read


Kim Yancey

Am I Sabotaging My Relationship?

Self-sabotage occurs when we intentionally harm our health and well-being by undermining personal ideals and aspirations or when we harm ourselves physically, intellectually, or emotionally. It originates from "bad thoughts" and is "insidious, profound, and universal".
Am I Sabotaging My Relationship?
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When relationships end, people often do much self-reflection. That reflection can look like, "what could we have done better?", "what did I learn from this experience?", "well, I will never ignore those red flags again."

And then, there are the other thoughts. The self-doubting, self-deprecating thoughts show up before the relationship starts, during, and after the relationship ends. The thoughts that say, "she was too good for me, I'm glad she's gone," "he would have found someone prettier and smarter eventually, it's good he left before I got too attached," or my personal favorite, "it wouldn't have lasted long anyway, I am better off alone."

Not thinking about it all this time, you pushed this person away because you did not believe you deserved the love, they gave you. Self-sabotage

What is self-sabotage, you ask?

It is called self-confidence for a reason; it is how you esthetically feel about yourself. However, sometimes the way we feel about ourselves comes from messages from outside sources, whether it be media, friends, strangers, or family. These sources can be a traumatic framework for intrusive thoughts and loss of self-love.

Self-sabotage occurs when we intentionally harm our health and well-being by undermining personal ideals and aspirations or when we harm ourselves physically, intellectually, or emotionally. It originates from "bad thoughts" and is "insidious, profound, and universal".

I always work with my clients to look within to check to see what it is that is causing the intrusive thoughts, these thoughts that are baseless and cause them to sabotage the love that is being presented to them. Inner thoughts that speak so loudly to their heart and minds say, "I am not good enough, I am not smart enough, but she's going to find somebody with more money. The more money he will find a prettier girl. "The facts are that when someone loves somebody; it is a choice that they make not only to love that person but to be faithful, to respect that, then they choose to be with that person. Chronic self-sabotage saps our motivation and drive, leaving us depressed, worried, and low self-esteem.

 It simply refers to consistently acting in a way that is inconsistent with your own ideals or aspirations. The secret to permanently ending self-sabotage is to recognize the need it satisfies and then create substitute habits that do the same thing in a healthier and more beneficial way.

Why Do I Self-Sabotage in Relationships?

The precise causes of this conduct might differ from person to person and from relationship to relationship. Your past may also influence your behavior in a relationship.

As a result of working with my clients, I've concluded that the most frequent cause of relationship sabotage is a person's fear of intimacy; by avoiding their spouse, they are likely also avoiding the intimacy and feelings between them.

Everyone craves intimacy, yet depending on their past experiences, intimacy may make some individuals feel bad. Typically, trauma from childhood and complex or violent parental relationships lead to a fear of intimacy (physical, sexual, emotional). Early life trauma, particularly trauma in connection with a loved one, might cause someone to believe their loved ones would injure them someday.

The questions begin to cloud your judgement. "Will they treat me terribly as the last one did?" "I'll never find love," "Even if they do love me, I'm certain they will soon end up hurting me." Adults who lack self-control as children may overcompensate now that they have the freedom to quit or end a relationship, even one that is going well. Traumatic childhood experiences and poor or violent parental relationships are the leading causes of fear of intimacy (physical, sexual, or emotional). 

People who dread intimacy think that those they love will always hurt them because their early trusting ties with parents or other caregivers were shattered by abuse. They could not escape these relationships as children, but as adults, they have the authority to do so—even if the relationships aren't harmful.

Fears that lead to Self-Sabotage in Relationships

The frequently converging anxieties of abandonment and engulfment are examples of other types of terror. When you dread abandonment, you worry that the people you care about will leave you at the worst possible time. Some parts of your brain start to get muddled up due to your assumptions and thoughts. Will it all end eventually? Do they still love me if I am weak?

The term "fear of engulfment" describes the worry that you may disappear or lose the ability to manage the connection. They instantly fight back when someone wants anything from them out of fear of losing themselves. They don't even stop to think about whether they want to follow the other person's instructions.

They don't pause to consider what they want or what is in their best interests. They only fight back. They struggle because of their desire to be free from authority and defense against their fear of losing whom they outweigh all other considerations. Being nice to themselves or others is less essential to them than not being controlled. The irony of the scenario is that their resistance is controlling them. They just instinctively resist since they aren't making a conscious decision about what they want and don't want. Even while they choose to resist, they aren't even aware of it.

Relationship self-sabotage entails acting in ways that inevitably ruin relationships, intentionally or unintentionally. This can entail excluding the other person or making excuses to end the relationship. Such actions frequently result from problems with trust, unpleasant prior events, and weak interpersonal abilities.

You cheerfully go on a casual date after meeting someone new. There is fantastic chemistry, and having sex is enjoyable. You begin to spend more time together and ponder starting a relationship. Then, though, you abruptly stop texting back to them. You change the plans. You avoid discussing moving forward with things. Your partner exhibits disapproval in your actions or maybe hostility. The partner ends the relationship soon after.

Do you experience something similar to this? If so, you may be sabotaging your relationships.

Relationships: Self-Sabotage Red Flags

There are many indicators that you might tend to ruin even the finest of relationships. These are a few of the most typical:


Gaslighting is emotional abuse when the victim's reality or experiences are denied. For instance, if your spouse says: "You answer by saying something like, "You're not truly angry that you canceled our date. You're trying to make me look bad by blaming me for canceling, but it was your fault."

Gaslighting is a red flag that indicates you don't think your partner's emotions are genuine or authentic (even though they are).

Trying to Find an Exit

You avoid meeting parents, moving in together, and other actions that would lead to a more significant commitment. You're constantly thinking, "If it doesn't work out, how can I get out of this relationship quickly?"

You prefer to avoid commitment since it makes it harder for you to exit a relationship without suffering financial or emotional repercussions. You can begin to withdraw or grow distant from the connection. In some circumstances, you might begin to avoid the other person.


You always worry that your spouse may be having an extramarital affair. You demand to be in regular contact with them and manage every element of their lives. You worry, text frequently, feel envious when they spend time with someone else without you and demand evidence of their loyalty. They leave you because they think you are too controlling.

Dating one after another

Your friends frequently question you about why you break up with potential companions or complain that you never seem to find someone to settle down with.

You end relationships on the most minor disagreements, only to start dating someone else immediately and resume the pattern. You don't want to be perceived as a "player," but you cannot commit to anyone.


Even though you know perfection is impossible, you continuously search for it in a relationship. You find something wrong with everything they do from how they dress to the food they prepare. Your lover finally gives up attempting to please you and ends their relationship because you are impossible to please.


Even when the relationship isn't ideal, you spend a lot of effort trying to persuade yourself that it is. You ignore the subject or remark, "I don't think we're having a problem; it's going to go away," when your partner brings up a concern. Your partner eventually leaves out of resentment at your failure to solve difficulties as a team.


When you harbor resentment toward your partner, your anger never truly subsides. Being irrational requires much energy. You will always go back to those grudges, no matter what else your partner does.

 It's a technique for defending yourself by pushing the other person away. No one can approach you while you're angry.

Low Confidence

You often make fun of yourself, saying things like, "I'm not as smart as you." "Why are you with me when I'm just an idiot?" "You only stand by me because you feel sorry for me," etc. This indicates low self-esteem because few individuals like hearing that they love someone unworthy of their affection. They might give up and split up if you keep putting yourself down despite their frequent assurances that you are a decent person.

These are only a few instances of how individuals who dread closeness may ruin their relationships. Remember that many are abusive: Gaslighting, paranoia, and other controlling behaviors can hurt the other person. People who exhibit these behaviors frequently experience early trauma and cannot operate differently.

Why is Relationship Self-Sabotage a Problem?

Even when you spot self-destructive behaviors in your relationships, you might not initially feel motivated to stop doing them. As a therapist, I have seen these behaviors end relationships, and that's precisely the issue. You won't escape the intimacy you dread in the near term, but doing so could lead to problems returning to haunt you later.

Why is it essential that you desire to break up with people even when things are going well?

The following are a few probable long-term effects:

You can start to want a stable and long-term relationship as time goes on. Finding and keeping any form of commitment is challenging when one engages in self-defeating activities. A lack of personal relationships can make people feel lonely. You can discover that you want relationships you feel unable to establish or maintain.

Developing a deep relationship with potential partners can be more difficult if you frequently end relationships before achieving actual intimacy. Even when you get closer to someone, you can discover that you're always keeping back pieces of yourself out of concern that you'll become overly connected and end up being hurt.

How to Stop Relationship Self-Sabotage?

Take a good, hard look at yourself and your behavior patterns to stop self-sabotage. You are destined to continue this behavior unless you are ready to be completely honest with yourself and address how your fear of intimacy may have caused you to abuse or hurt others.

Many people start their journey to overcoming self-defeating behaviors with therapy. An expert can assist you in identifying your behaviors, tracing the source of your problems, and developing new, more healthy behavioral patterns.

Discover Your Triggers

Self-sabotage and fear of intimacy can be dormant until a trigger awakens them. It could be through words, deeds, or even locations. Knowing what makes you fearful will enable you to either avoid those situations or take steps to make your worries less powerful.

Improve Your Attachment Style

Adverse childhood experiences can result in attachment patterns that are nervous or disordered. Adults attempting to build stable relationships and families may experience difficulties due to these insecure attachment types.

The good news is that you can work with a therapist to overcome your worries and eliminate erroneous relationship assumptions to establish a more secure approach.

Take Responsibility

You must be able to accept your responsibility for hurting your relationships if you want to stop self-sabotaging relationships.

No relationship is flawless, but if you constantly expect the worst from yourself and your spouse, you will always feel let down. You must be willing to be vulnerable and acknowledge your difficulties with abandonment and rejection to address these issues.

Communicate your thoughts! It is the key. 

The unwillingness to communicate your thoughts and issues is one characteristic of self-sabotage and intimacy-related dread. Talking about these topics keeps you from feeling them, which is something you want to avoid at all costs.

Expressing your feelings, anxieties, and wants can help you recognize the issues and improve how others perceive you.

Let the past Go

One of the most significant issues with self-sabotage is that we act in the present as though the circumstance is the same as one from the past. Childhood or previous adult relationships may be the cause. 

Instead of reacting hastily based on what occurred to you in the past, learning to say, "That was then, this is now," might help you make judgments based on the present.


When you consider the underlying causes, self-sabotage in relationships is reasonable, so it's critical to be fair to yourself. Keep in mind that seeking assistance is okay. The first step to overcoming self-destructive habits is to seek out counseling or simply a sympathetic ear.

Collaboration with your partner is essential. It's challenging to be open and allow the other person to see this aspect of you, but doing so can help you break your self-destructive habits.

The long and short of it all is that if someone wants to love you, let them. Allow the space, opportunity, and grace for this person or persons to love you with their whole heart. Never let the projections of others reflect how you feel about yourself.

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About the author

Kim Yancey is an Associate Therapist at MyWellbeing. She has 20 years experience working with individuals who have struggled with stress related anxiety and depression due to romantic, relationship, and family conflicts. She provides a holistic approach to safely process stress and anxiety without judgment, helping you utilize your strengths to achieve your short and long-term goals. Click here to view her profile or book a free consultation with her!

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