Sabotaging Relationships: Why You Do It, Signs You Do It, How To Stop (2023)

Sabotaging Relationships: Why You Do It, Signs You Do It, How To Stop (1)

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Do you tend to start making bad decisions on purpose at a certain point in a relationship?

Maybe you start pushing your partner away the second you feel like you’re getting close.

Whatever it is, most of us have sabotaged a relationship at some point.

It’s not the healthiest decision, and whether it’s what you intended or not, it can disrupt the relationship and cause some serious issues.

Let’s run through why you sabotage relationships, the signs to look out for, and how to move forward from this behavior – as well as how to keep your partner in the loop, of course!

Why do you sabotage your relationships?

There’s no single reason why people sabotage relationships, but here are some possible explanations that are worth exploring if you don’t know why you do it.

1. You have low self-esteem.

If you don’t really like yourself, let alone love yourself, you might question how and why anyone else could ever love you.

You may think you’re not good enough for them, and convince yourself that they are not with you for the right reasons. You may tell yourself that they’re just using you until someone better comes along, for example.

And so, because you convince yourself that the relationship is doomed, you decide to accelerate the eventual breakup by displaying some of the signs below.

2. You’ve been rejected in the past.

If you’ve experienced heartbreak in the past, you’re probably terrified of being rejected again.

This is a form of abandonment issue and it sends you into defence mode from the get-go. You might start putting up walls or pushing people away before they can hurt you.

(Video) why you're toxic: how to stop self sabotaging relationships

When things start to get serious, you might panic and worry that it will all end and you’ll be heartbroken again. You push them away so that, if things do end, it was because you decided they should, and not because another person rejected you again.

Your past rejection may not have been a romantic relationship, either. Maybe one or both of your parents treated you poorly, failed to show you the love a child needs, or was absent for all or part of your childhood. This can have a huge impact on how you approach relationships in your adult life.

3. You fear intimacy.

You might not have been in a serious relationship before, or you might have had a tricky childhood or some intimacy issues with past partners for whatever reason.

If you’re not sure how to cope with affection and love, you might find yourself rejecting it.

That could mean you push your partner away, pick fights for no reason, or just totally shut them out and essentially stop them from showing you attention or affection because you don’t know how to trust or process it.

4. You fear commitment.

For whatever reason, the idea of committing to someone for a long time – possible for life – terrifies you.

You feel claustrophobic when a relationship reaches a certain point, perhaps when you move in together. You feel as though you have lost yourself in the relationship, with your independence and identity taken from you.

And so, you fight back and push away from your partner to get some space. Ultimately, you sabotage things because genuine, loving commitment is just a step too far for you.

5. You’ve grown up with drama as the norm.

Not all childhoods are full of love and stability. If yours was, instead, full of conflict and drama, you might have had to engage in that drama to get the attention you wanted.

After all, if positive attention isn’t forthcoming, negative attention will sometimes have to do.

Now, in your relationships as an adult, you might still go looking for negative attention from your partner because that’s all you know.

And so you lash out, start fights, and cause drama because that’s what you think life and relationships are like. But this, ultimately, risks damaging those relationships beyond repair.

6. It could be your gut trying to warn you.

Never underestimate the power of your gut instincts! Sometimes, we know that things aren’t quite right in our relationship, but we forge ahead anyway.

That could be because we love the person despite knowing that the relationship isn’t healthy, or it could be because we’re scared to be alone or don’t want to end things for some reason.

We sometimes act out and sabotage things because our subconscious minds are so fiercely trying to find a way out!

If we’re not ready or willing to consciously end things, our subconscious will make us act in a way that will probably end the relationship for us.

(Video) Why and how you sabotage love (+how to stop)

10 signs you’re sabotaging your relationships.

Now that we’ve established the core reasons why you might sabotage a relationship, let’s explore the signs that you definitely are.

1. You pick silly fights.

You might be so frustrated or anxious that you end up fighting over nothing! This can quickly become a regular habit and is your (unfair) way of letting your stress out on your partner.

2. You shut them out.

You might ignore them, take longer to get back to them, or avoid physical intimacy with them. Whatever it is, if you put walls up to keep them out, you’re sabotaging your relationship with them.

3. You try to make them jealous.

If you’re chatting to an ex or flirting with someone when you know it’ll make your partner uncomfortable, there’s a strong chance you’re doing it to subconsciously damage your relationship with them.

4. You cheat on them.

What easier way to end a relationship than by cheating on your partner? Whether you’re scared of them cheating on you first or you’re not ready to commit, sleeping with someone else is a sure-fire way to ruin things!

5. You belittle them.

Some people sabotage their relationship by making their partner feel bad about themselves. This is an unhealthy, toxic power play and is very unfair on the other person. You might insult them, make jokes about them, or suggest that they’re not good enough for you.

6. You find reasons/excuses to leave.

If you want to sabotage your relationship, you might make up reasons why it’s not working, lying to yourself (and others) to make it ‘easier’ to up and leave – even if none of it is true!

7. You end things regularly.

Maybe you’re constantly on and off with your partner – you like to keep them guessing, remind them who’s boss, and make them question your relationship all the time. Again, this is toxic behavior!

8. You refuse to commit.

If you cancel dates, refuse to meet their family, and regularly avoid any kind of commitment, you’re harming your relationship, either knowingly or not.

9. You gaslight them.

Again, this is very toxic! Gaslighting is essentially trying to make someone question what they feel. They might tell you you’ve hurt their feelings, and you’ll dismiss it and tell them they’re wrong and it’s all their fault.

10. You’re always dating.

If you’ve never been in a long term relationship before and tend to serially date, it could be because you’ve got a habit of sabotaging every emotional connection you make!

How to stop sabotaging your relationships.

As with all self-growth and change, the first step is to realize what you’re doing.

If you’ve made it this far through the article, there’s a strong chance you’ve acknowledged that you sabotage your relationships.

Now, let’s look at the three major steps you can take to move forwards.

1. Unpack your feelings.

Consider why you do these things. Explore whether this is a one-off or a habit. Think about how it makes other people feel too.

Self-awareness is key to changing any kind of behavior, so it’s important to understand where this tendency comes from.

(Video) How To STOP Self Sabotaging Your Love Life

We’ve listed some common causes for sabotaging relationships above, but think about what yours could be.

Chat to a close friend whom you trust and ask for their opinion. They might remember something that you don’t – like the person who rejected you when you were younger, or being bullied for how you looked, or even a messy argument your parents had one time!

Seemingly small things like this can stick in our minds and create ‘narratives’ or cycles of thought that we then internalize as ‘truths.’

We start to believe these things and live our lives accordingly:

“My current partner will reject me because I always get rejected.”

“Nobody finds me attractive so I should hurt them before they tell me I’m ugly.”

“If my parents can’t have a happy, healthy relationship, I can never have one!”

You see how easily those little triggers can become values we live by?

2. Speak to your partner.

This probably sounds terrifying, especially if you’ve identified some unfair behaviors you’ve displayed around/to them.

If you’ve realized that you push them away or insult them, it’s normal to feel very guilty! The most important thing is that you’ve realized this and are eager to make a change.

Talk to your partner, and acknowledge that certain aspects of your behavior have been unacceptable. It’s important to not make excuses for this – if you’ve hurt them, they need to know you’re sorry and won’t do it again.

You can have a separate conversation about why you’ve acted like this, which we’ll go into more detail on below. For now, let them know you’re aware of your actions, that you’re not excusing your behavior, and that you’re genuinely sorry.

3. Seek professional help.

We recommend speaking to a specialist in this area if you can. We know that therapy isn’t available to everyone, but it’s well worth it.

There are ways to speak to someone online and over the phone if you can’t make it in person.

It can be helpful to have someone who can see your situation objectively and help you through your feelings and fears. And sometimes you need someone to call your behavior out in a way that people who love you might not want to or don’t feel capable of doing!

How to talk to your partner.

Okay, this is the biggie! It’s not a great conversation to have, but that’s half the reason it’s such an important one.

(Video) How to tell you are self-sabotaging your love life | Sabotaging a relationship subconsciously

Once you’ve acknowledged and apologized for how you’ve acted, you can start to find a way forwards with them – if you’ve decided that the relationship is actually something you want!

You may have realized, of course, that you’re sabotaging it because you subconsciously want to get out of it. In which case, it’s best to end things now.

If you’re going to stay, you need to communicate honestly with your partner about where these behaviors come from.

If it’s because you’re scared of rejection, you can take steps together to make sure you both feel comfortable and secure in the relationship.

You can both commit to opening up more, forging a more trusting relationship, and continually checking in with each other to ensure you’re both happy and comfortable with how things are.

This conversation also offers a great opportunity to discuss your actions. It’s worth letting them know that, while you’re still working toward understanding and adapting your behaviors, you may do some things that come across badly.

It’s important for them to know this for a number of reasons…

Firstly, so that they can make a decision about whether or not they want to stay in the relationship and potentially have to put up with some unfair treatment.

Secondly, so that they understand what’s happening and can work with you to help you stop.

And thirdly, so that they know this isn’t about them, it’s not personal, and it’s not indicative of your relationship with them.

This allows them to make an informed decision and is an honest way of sharing how you feel about your relationship.

They may decide they’re not prepared to sacrifice certain things while they wait for you to work through it all.

They might not want to risk you cheating on them again, for example, or they may feel they are worth more and want someone who is ready to accept them as they are.

This is fair and it is up to them, and them alone, to make that choice. You cannot try to force them to stay or manipulate their feelings.

If they choose to stay, they may now be aware that you might do things you don’t mean, but it doesn’t mean the hard work is over! You still need to find a way to work toward a healthier, happier relationship – with them, and with yourself.

Still not sure how to stop sabotaging your relationships? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

(Video) Why do we sabotage Love? | Raquel Peel | TEDxJCUCairns

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  • How To Fight Fair In A Relationship: 10 Rules For Couples To Follow


How do I stop myself from sabotaging relationships? ›

How to Avoid Sabotaging Your Relationship
  1. Work on your communication skills. First things first, communication is a crucial aspect of any relationship, whether you've just started dating somebody or you've been together for years. ...
  2. Identify your triggers. ...
  3. Let go of fear. ...
  4. Listen to your heart.
Sep 18, 2018

Why can't I stop sabotaging my relationship? ›

Key points. People self-sabotage love for various reasons, like fear, poor self-esteem, trust issues, high expectations, and inadequate relationship skills. To avoid getting hurt in relationships, people engage in a number of strategies, such as withdrawal, defensiveness, and attacking their partners.

Why do I sabotage every relationship I'm in? ›

Conversations with psychologists confirmed that the main reason why people sabotage their relationships (knowingly or unknowingly) is fear – fear of getting hurt, fear of intimacy, and fear of rejection. Another important finding was related to self-esteem.

How do you stop self destructive behavior in a relationship? ›

The easiest way to avoid destructive behaviours in your relationship is to become self aware and recognize why you might engage in them yourself. According to Dr. Randi Gunther, to break out of self-destructive patterns, “you must be willing to look at them without defensiveness or negative self-judgment.”

How can I break my self-sabotage cycle? ›

5 ways to stop self-sabotaging
  1. Develop self-awareness.
  2. Write it out.
  3. Create a plan — and do it.
  4. Practice mindfulness.
  5. Communicate.
Apr 12, 2022

Why do I keep trying to ruin my relationship? ›

One big reason is low self-esteem and self-worth, according to clinical psychologist Maggie Dancel, Psy. D. If you're worried your partner may like you enough, you might subconsciously act out or push them away so you don't have to feel the sting of rejection.

Did I self-sabotage my relationship? ›

If you've noticed that you're doing more harm than good in your love life — like not putting effort into partnerships or getting unreasonably angry with your partner — you might be self-sabotaging. If you're self-sabotaging, it isn't necessarily a sign that your relationship should end.

Will I ever stop self sabotaging? ›

Ultimately, it's a very common human behavior—but like humans, it has variations. Whatever form your self-sabotage takes, it is possible to overcome the behaviors that are preventing you from achieving your life goals.

What are the root causes of self-sabotage? ›

It often stems from low self-esteem, negative self-talk, and related negative emotions, which are continually reinforced by the resulting failure. You can beat self-sabotage by monitoring your behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs about yourself, and challenging them when they stand between you and your goals.

What are the three types of sabotages? ›

These were:
  • destruction: where action involved the destruction and mutilation of the work environment;
  • inaction: where as a result of deliberate inaction predictable destruction occurred; and.
  • wastage: where deliberate action led to the wastage of, for example, raw materials.

Does anxiety cause self-sabotage? ›

Why Anxiety Causes You to Self-Sabotage. When you struggle with chronic anxiety, so many decisions are driven by fear rather than rational thinking. As I've become increasingly familiar with my anxiety triggers and actions that follow, I've also become increasingly familiar with my behaviors that self-sabotage.

How do I stop being angry when destructive? ›

Three skills for managing anger

To manage anger in a healthier way—and to prevent it from turning destructive—involves self-reflection, using skills from three broad areas of understanding and practice: mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, self-compassion, and self-awareness.

How do you stop toxicity in a relationship? ›

These steps can help you turn things around.
  1. Don't dwell on the past. Sure, part of repairing the relationship will likely involve addressing past events. ...
  2. View your partner with compassion. ...
  3. Start therapy. ...
  4. Find support. ...
  5. Practice healthy communication. ...
  6. Be accountable. ...
  7. Heal individually. ...
  8. Hold space for the other's change.

How do you control your ego and anger in a relationship? ›

Ways to control anger issues in relationships
  1. 01/7Ways to control anger issues in relationships. ...
  2. 02/7Leave the fight. ...
  3. 03/7Don't complain to others. ...
  4. 04/7Understand the source of anger. ...
  5. 05/7Negative thinking patterns. ...
  6. 06/7Past incidents. ...
  7. 07/7Calm down.
Jun 23, 2021

What kind of person self sabotages? ›

People with a negative self-image and low self-esteem are especially vulnerable to self-sabotaging. They behave in ways that confirm negative beliefs about themselves. So, if they are close to succeeding, they become uncomfortable. They've been told all their lives that they'll fail.

What personality disorder is self-sabotaging? ›

Borderline personality disorder causes a broad range of reactions that can be considered self-destructive or self-sabotaging. It influences thoughts, emotions, behavior, and communication, adding a degree of volatility and unpredictability to daily living that can be unsettling for BPD sufferers and their loved ones.

What is the most common symptom of self-sabotage? ›

7 Common Self-Sabotaging Behaviors
  • Procrastination. Procrastination, or putting something off and making excuses, is a common self-sabotaging behavior. ...
  • Courting Temptation. ...
  • Reprioritization. ...
  • Self-Medication. ...
  • Perfectionism. ...
  • Defensiveness.
Oct 7, 2022

What is 1 thing that destroys a relationship? ›

Relationship Destroyer #1: Keeping Your Attention on What's Wrong. Many people habitually keep their attention on everything negative that their partner does. By focusing on what's wrong, we create thinking habits that generate a sense of unrest and dissatisfaction within ourselves and the relationship.

What are the 4 things that destroy relationships? ›

Gottman and Silver have identified the four destroyers to a good relationship. They call them the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. So dangerous to a healthy, loving relationship are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

What is the number one thing that ruins relationships? ›

Stop listening. Nobody likes to not be heard. So there's no better way to kill a relationship than to stop listening to what your partner has to say. It shows a lack of respect for the person, and of course your significant other will pick up on the fact that you're no longer listening.

Why am I self sabotaging a healthy relationship? ›

Experts say that self-sabotaging in relationships develops due to a person's traumatic past experiences or fear of failure. Constantly concentrating on negative experiences, lack of trust in your partner, and difficulty expressing your emotions can frustrate your partner and create problems in the relationship.

Is self-sabotage a mental disorder? ›

Self-sabotage is something most people experience at one point or another — particularly if mental illness makes you feel unworthy or undeserving of good things. But for many folks with borderline personality disorder (BPD), self-sabotage can often be at the forefront of their lives.

Is self-sabotage bipolar? ›

If you're living with self-loathing, you're not alone. It's a common symptom of bipolar disorder, particularly during a depressive episode. While self-loathing may impact your everyday life, it's possible to manage this symptom with psychotherapy, journaling exercises, and self-care strategies.

Is self sabotaging a symptom of depression? ›

These self-sabotaging behaviours can become the norm for people who struggle with Mental Health, but they can be more extreme and more damaging. Self-sabotaging has been a part of my life with depression for as long as I can remember.

How to deal with someone who sabotages you? ›

What to do when your coworker is sabotaging you
  1. Start with damage control. ...
  2. Keep evidence. ...
  3. Avoid trying to “change” them. ...
  4. Focus on what you do want, not what you don't. ...
  5. Think about who you CAN count on. ...
  6. Assume positive intent. ...
  7. Don't let a bad coworker stop you from pursuing your career aspirations.
Jun 28, 2022

How do you address sabotage? ›

Develop a strategy that will help you handle the sabotage at work and prevent it from harming your reputation.
  1. Take a Proactive Approach. Identify the factors that usually precipitate an attack. ...
  2. Engage in Dialogue. ...
  3. Talk to Others. ...
  4. Protect Yourself at Work.

What are examples of acts of sabotage? ›

Damaging or accessing computer data which is off-limits to an individual can be considered sabotage. Also, incidents of sabotage that occur outside the ACT can still form part of the charge against a person. Property damage to an individual or to a public facility are both acts of sabotage.

Is self-sabotage a symptom of ADHD? ›

When people with ADHD are activated, they are often plagued by self-sabotaging, negative internal talk that prevents them from believing they can do things. It can be conscious or unconscious and can keep folks from setting, working towards, and reaching goals. It holds them back from doing what they want to do.

How do I release my anger mentally? ›

When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as "Take it easy." You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.

How do you release anger from your body? ›

10 Healthy Ways to Release Rage
  1. Throw or break something (safely). via GIPHY. ...
  2. Scream – in private. via GIPHY. ...
  3. Sing it out. via GIPHY. ...
  4. Dance it out. via GIPHY. ...
  5. Do a tough workout. via GIPHY. ...
  6. Journal. via GIPHY. ...
  7. Draw or paint. via GIPHY. ...
  8. Change your surroundings. via GIPHY.

What mental illness causes destructive behavior? ›

Self-destructive behavior is often associated with mental illnesses such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia.

How do I know if I'm the toxic one? ›

You tend to manipulate things

Manipulation ranges from gaslighting and lying to hiding information from your partner. If you're doing any of these things, you're clearly manipulating your partner and are the toxic one in the relationship. Ultimately, it will only erode your partner's love and respect for you.

How do you detach yourself from someone? ›

Here are some things you can try.
  1. Identify the reason. Ask yourself why you're now deciding to detach from the relationship. ...
  2. Release your emotions. ...
  3. Don't react, respond. ...
  4. Start small. ...
  5. Keep a journal. ...
  6. Meditate. ...
  7. Be patient with yourself. ...
  8. Look forward.

Why do I get irritated and angry so easily? ›

Many factors can cause or contribute to irritability, including life stress, a lack of sleep, low blood sugar levels, and hormonal changes. Extreme irritability, or feeling irritable for an extended period, can sometimes indicate an underlying condition, such as an infection or diabetes.

How do you get rid of anger and resentment in a relationship? ›

How to Let Go of Resentment in Marriage
  1. Let Yourself Feel. It's important to acknowledge what you feel and not avoid negative emotions. ...
  2. Talk to Someone. ...
  3. Understand Where the Resentment Came From. ...
  4. Remind Yourself That Mistakes Happen. ...
  5. Work Toward Forgiveness. ...
  6. Have Some Empathy. ...
  7. Apologize Sincerely. ...
  8. Make a Prevention Plan.
Mar 23, 2022

How do you shut down someone's ego? ›

How do you hurt someone's ego?
  1. Tell him he is wrong. It can be very easy to feel like you are scared of a man's ego. ...
  2. Be consistent. ...
  3. Take a break. ...
  4. See other people. ...
  5. Play hard to get. ...
  6. Say how he is hurting others. ...
  7. Remind him of his mistakes. ...
  8. Don't compliment his wins.

What causes self-sabotaging behavior? ›

Self-sabotage is rooted in counterproductive mindsets including negativity, disorganization, indecisiveness, and negative self-talk. Perfectionism and imposter syndrome are also forms of self-sabotage. An insidious and ubiquitous form of self-sabotage is mindless distractions that prohibit goal attainment.

What disorder is self-sabotaging? ›

Borderline personality disorder causes a broad range of reactions that can be considered self-destructive or self-sabotaging. It influences thoughts, emotions, behavior, and communication, adding a degree of volatility and unpredictability to daily living that can be unsettling for BPD sufferers and their loved ones.

How do I stop self-sabotage and overthinking? ›

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging: 8 Tips
  1. Boost Your Self-Awareness. ...
  2. Look Before You Leap. ...
  3. Set Meaningful Goals & Pair Them With an Action Plan. ...
  4. Make Small Changes. ...
  5. Befriend Yourself. ...
  6. Know & Embrace Your Strengths. ...
  7. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  8. Work With a Mental Health Therapist.
May 31, 2021

What does self-sabotaging a relationship look like? ›

If you've noticed that you're doing more harm than good in your love life — like not putting effort into partnerships or getting unreasonably angry with your partner — you might be self-sabotaging. If you're self-sabotaging, it isn't necessarily a sign that your relationship should end.

What are the roots of self-sabotage? ›

There are many reasons for self-sabotage, but three of the most important ones involve your thinking patterns, fears you may have in intimate relationships, and the tendency to avoid things that are difficult or uncomfortable.


1. Self Sabotage: Why you do it & How to Overcome it
3. 7 Signs Of Self Sabotage
4. 8 Ways to Ruin a Relationship
5. Is Your Anxiety Sabotaging Your Relationship? (Matthew Hussey)
(Matthew Hussey)
6. Why Do Men Sabotage Relationships With GOOD Women?
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