Why You're Self Sabotaging Your Relationship (2023)

Have you been unhappy in your relationship lately? If yes, have you tried to find the reason behind this? Sometimes, it is ourselves that keeps us away from being in a happy relationship. This is known as self sabotaging behaviour.

Multiple studies have been conducted around this behavioural pattern and psychologists say that this is a destructive behaviour that often leads to unhealthy relationships.

Table of Contents
  1. Why do people self-sabotage in relationships?
  2. Signs of self-sabotage in relationships
  3. How to tackle self-sabotage in relationships?
  4. Conclusion
  5. FAQs

Sabotage relationships are all about a person, consciously or unconsciously, ruining their relationship due to their negative behaviour, even if your partner is constantly showing love, go on date.

Why You're Self Sabotaging Your Relationship (1)

Why do people self-sabotage in relationships?

  • Lack of self-esteem: Feeling of inferiority and a negative thought process about oneself.
  • Fear: Deep fear of getting hurt, having one’s heartbroken, being abandoned, and fear of commitment.
  • Childhood trauma: Having abusive parents or an agonizing emotional/sexual abuse experience.
  • High unrealistic expectations: Having perfectionist tendencies with an anxious attachment style.
  • Difficulty to trust: Betrayal or being lied to by a previous partner.
  • Insufficient relationship skills: Inexperience, immaturity, or ignorance.

Signs of self-sabotage in relationships

Why You're Self Sabotaging Your Relationship (2)


People in a sabotaging relationship often tend to avoid problematic situations. Such people are often seen trying to convince themselves that they are living a happy relationship, despite knowing the fact that they are certainly not. When their partner tries to talk to them about an issue, they would just avoid the conversation by saying things like “everything is fine between us, we don’t need this conversation.”

When this sabotaging behaviour becomes a part of their daily life, their partner most likely becomes resentful and wants to move out of the relationship. When they constantly see you getting indulged in unhealthy behaviour and your unwillingness to do something about it, they start to lose interest in the current relationship, for coping with this you need to set up healthy boundaries.

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Until and unless it is constructive, criticism can ruin relationships more than you can imagine. You and your partner must certainly be each other’s most honest critique but that does not mean you will always keep on criticizing your partner for every little thing they do. Excessive criticism towards one’s partner can be a sign of self-sabotage in a committed relationship.

Sometimes, the habit of continuous criticism can take the shape of gaslighting before you realize it. Even though your partner is loyal and in love with you, you don’t seem to believe that their feelings for you are real.

When criticism converts into gaslighting, it leads to a lot of trust issues between you two. It might even give rise to an abusive relationship. If you keep critiquing your partner all the time, they will tend to drift away from you for the most obvious reasons.


Jealousy is one of the worst enemies of a romantic relationship. A self-sabotaging relationship makes an individual worry that their partner might be seeing someone else behind their back. They tend to develop unnecessary trust issues due to their faulty beliefs about relationships. Such people will also demand to stay in constant touch with their partner, throughout the day, to know and control every aspect of their partner’s life.

When your partner goes to meet an old friend or gives their time to somebody else, you’re threatened by the thought of them cheating on you. You keep texting or calling them constantly. You invariably keep asking them for proof that they are being faithful to you.

Such a lack of trust in your partner creates multiple relationship issues and most certainly forces them into breaking up with you. Insecurity in a relationship not only makes you suspect your partner but also projects your fears, anxieties, and thoughts about your relationship.


It is only human to hold a grudge once in a while, merely until it becomes a habit. If you’re constantly annoyed with every little thing your partner does and you’re not able to hold back your anger, take it as a warning sign of self-sabotage.

Even though you do not necessarily have to like everything that your partner does, you can always be considerate enough to let go of the small things and not make a huge deal out of them. Holding grudges n a relationship often leads to remaining angry at your partner for days at a stretch, communications gaps, and hurting them in the process.

Staying mad at your partner for a long time does consume a lot of your energy. You’ll just notice your partner’s mistakes (even if they aren’t making any) if you’re holding a grudge against them. Not being able to let go of the grudges is indicative of self sabotaging in a relationship.

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Low self-esteem

A self sabotaging individual will always talk about themselves in a self-deprecating manner. More often than not, they will compare themselves to their partner. They can be seen saying things like “you’re so much better than me”, “I don’t think I deserve you” or “you can date somebody better, why are you still in a relationship with me?” to their partner.

Most people do not like being told that they are dating somebody just because they pity them. If you constantly keep repeating these things in front of your partner, even though this is not practically the case, they will start finding ways to separate themselves from you as soon as they can.

Nobody would want to date someone worthless. However, your partner seeing your worth will make no difference if you can’t see and acknowledge it on your own. This destructive behaviour often creates issues in relationships and can also lead to trust difficulty between partners. Thinking low of yourself is a major sign of poor mental health.

Giving up on sex

Couples in intimate relationships might come across phases wherein they don’t feel like having sex. It is completely normal to go through a phase like this because, once this phase is over, the charm of the relationship bounces back. But, the problem arises when one of the partners completely gives up on sex.

This might happen as a result of their inability to communicate their unfulfilled desires in the intimate relationship. Not everybody is comfortable in talking about sex and intimacy with their partners.

They might start having thoughts like, “what if my partner is more into somebody else, or what if they think something is wrong with me/my body?” Thoughts like these develop a constant fear of abandonment in a self sabotaging individual and instead of discussing these issues with their partner, they decide to completely give up on sex instead.

How to tackle self-sabotage in relationships?

Be patient with yourself

If you’ve been self sabotaging in a relationship for a long time, have patience with yourself when you come to acknowledge the fact. Don’t go too hard on yourself. Trust your partner and rely on them for supporting you throughout this journey of reversing this behavioural pattern. Most importantly, be proud of yourself for identifying this negative behaviour and choosing to break the pattern.

Understand your attachment styles and that of your partner

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Focus on identifying the attachment styles that you both have. This will help you understand each other better and also learn about each other’s definition of intimacy. One of the attachment styles in a romantic relationship happens to be the secure style. Try to achieve a secure style of attachment by letting go of false beliefs and facing your fears.

Seek therapy

There is nothing wrong with considering a therapist/counsellor while dealing with a self sabotaging the relationship. If you and your partner are unable to come up with a solution on how to do away with this behaviour, talk to a relationship expert. They will not only listen to you but will also ensure to provide you with a nonjudgmental, supportive, and empathetic environment.

Communicate with your partner

Communication is literally the key to every relationship. If you won’t talk to your partner about what is bothering you, it can lead to a communication gap between the two of you and they might never come to know about the self sabotaging feelings you’re going through. Open up to them about the issues you’re facing and also listen to theirs. You can also consider taking a temporary break if you think that might help.

Identify what triggers you and work upon the same

Feelings of self sabotage and the fear of intimacy can remain pretty dormant in a relationship for the longest of time. It is only until they are triggered that they show up in a person. Words, actions, memories, places – anything can be a trigger. It is essential that you identify those triggers and then act accordingly.

Take responsibility for your actions

If you are the self sabotaging partner in the relationship, don’t run away from accepting the fact. Don’t keep blaming your partner for the same if it is you who is at fault and needs to check their behaviour. Understand that no relationship is perfect but the two of you can always work as a team by taking responsibility for everything you do. This will not only help you trust each other more but you will also be happier in the relationship.

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The reasons behind people self sabotaging in a relationship can be many. However, it is essential that you treat your own self and your partner with the utmost kindness. Seek personal or professional help if you feel it is necessary but don’t continue to be the self-destructing person that you currently are in the relationship.


What is relationship sabotage?

Relationship sabotage is a situation wherein you start to feel negative about yourself, criticize your partner often, hold grudges, and have low self-esteem.

Why it’s a problem?

It is a problem because it will often leave you feeling lonely. You will observe a lack of intimate relationships in your life and parallelly face difficulty in tolerating closeness.

What causes self-sabotaging behaviours?

Negative experiences in the past, excessive emotional baggage, inadequate relationship skills, and the fear of abandonment often lead to self-sabotaging behaviours.

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What causes self-sabotaging behavior in relationships? ›

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 I stop self-sabotaging my relationship? ›

How to Avoid Sabotaging Your Relationship
  1. Understand your attachment style.
  2. Identify your triggers.
  3. Be mindful of your behavior.
  4. Decipher the past from the present.
  5. Learn to communicate.
  6. Practice self-care and self-compassion.
Jul 22, 2017

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.

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.

Why am I subconsciously sabotaging my relationship? ›

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 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.

How do you break the cycle of self-sabotage? ›

Get support

“Working with a therapist or coach can be a really helpful way to break through entrenched and ineffective behavior patterns and overcome patterns of self-sabotage.” Hokemeyer agrees and says it's critically important for people seeking help for self-sabotaging behavior to collaborate with others.

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? ›

Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in daily life and interferes with long-standing goals. The most common self-sabotaging behaviors include procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting.

Why am I pushing my partner away? ›

Fear of intimacy

Pushing people away is one way of avoiding intimacy. In fact, this avoidance can act as a defense mechanism for people afraid of getting hurt in relationships. This could be because a past relationship ended badly, perhaps with rejection or even bereavement.

What are examples of self-sabotage in relationships? ›

Showing a lack of trust, not feeling worthy of love, avoiding intimacy, undervaluing your partner and always focusing on the negatives are a few signs that you are self-sabotaging your relationship.

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.

Is overthinking a form of self-sabotage? ›

What Is Overthinking? You reflect on a past action that resulted in negative consequences. Then, you start to worry about all the things that could possibly go wrong in the future. This behaviour is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals.

What is stonewalling in a relationship? ›

Stonewalling, one of the Four Horsemen, is Dr. John Gottman's term for one or both partners shutting down when feeling overwhelmed during conflict. Rather than confronting the issue, someone who is stonewalling will be unresponsive, making evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, or acting busy.

At what point does loving someone become self-sabotage? ›

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.

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.

What does self-sabotage in relationships look like? ›

In relationships, self-sabotage is when you're actively trying to ruin your own relationship or make it fall apart, whether consciously or subconsciously.


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