If you asked your previous partners, would their complaints about you be pretty much the same? Did anyone in your childhood justify hurtful behaviors that happened to you or others? Do you ever keep acting a certain way, even though it doesn’t work?
If these apply to you, you could be a relationship saboteur.
Self-sabotage in relationships consists of behaviors that unconsciously ruin the relationship, despite your conscious intentions. People who sabotage their relationships are sabotaging themselves, because they are genuinely heartsick over it. Theses folks may really not understand what they have done, or how to stop.
According to Randi Gunther, author of the book Relationship Saboteurs: Overcoming the Ten Behaviors that Undermine Love, there are some common characteristics of sabotaging behaviors. These behaviors are: tolerable at the beginning of a relationship; not meant to create damage that they do; expanding their negative influence on a relationship over time; subtly hidden and expressed as a different problem in the relationship; and resistant to being challenged (the sabotaging partner will feel offended when confronted).
Self-sabotaging behaviors can be formed anytime in life, but the most powerful ones start in the first 7 years of life–before we are even fully aware. Children can’t filter things out. They see both positive and negative as an expected part of family life.
Dysfunctional patterns are inherited, and familiarity is a powerful magnet. We are drawn to re-create what we were taught, even if those experiences were unfulfilling.
Randi Gunther does a great job of breaking down these behaviors into 10 categories. Do any of these sound like you?
Self-Sabotage: 10 common sabotaging behaviors:
1) Insecurity: Will you love me forever? This shows up by focusing more on whether the relationship will last than on enjoying it in the moment. You may obsess on small changes that you worry signal a decrease in interest, or constantly need reassurance.
2) Needing to control: I run the show. This can come from an underlying fear of being controlled. You may only feel comfortable when making the rules, and are resentful if you partner argues with your decisions.
3) Fear of intimacy: I need you, but not that close. Do you fear that closeness equals a loss of independence? If so, you may feel sincere in your desire to connect but then be surprised when you feel trapped later.
4) Needing to win: I dare you to challenge me. This type of attitude results in you needing the last word, and risking intimacy just to make a point.
5) Pessimism: If I don’t expect anything than I won’t be disappointed. Do you undermine your partner’s commitment to you because you don’t think it will last? Your partners may complain that nothing they say or do can convince you that they care.
6) Needing to be center stage: Pay attention to me. You may feel neglected when your partner doesn’t put you first, get bored when the focus is not on you, or verbally monopolize conversations.
7) Addictions: I’ve got to have that. Do your relationships fall apart because of your addictive behavior? Are you unable to stop even though you risk losing your partner?
8) Martyrdom: Maybe it’ll be my turn someday. Martyrs encourage people to take advantage of their generosity, and then suffer in silence over imbalances. They adapt to their partners every need, hoping that someday they will get their reward. People involved with martyrs may feel like they have debts they can never pay off.
9) Defensiveness: It’s not my fault. Defensiveness prevents being able to listen or change. Chronic defenders are unable to consider the source and situation before they react. They always respond with justification or deflection. If this is you, your partner may feel they are banging their head against the wall.
10) Trust breakers: I never really agreed to that. Do you keep your partner in the dark about information that would cost them options if they knew. If so, you are preventing informed agreements from being made. You may also be consistently doing things that betray trust.
Self-Sabotage: What can you do about it?
It is hard to admit it to ourselves if we have sabotaged ourselves by ruining our relationships. But there is a way to truly heal and break the pattern forever.
Here are 5 steps you can take to overcome self sabotage in relationships:
1) Observe your behavior without judgment. First just notice it and have compassion for yourself. You may be able to find the roots of your behavior, or you may not. But just noticing is the first, most important step.
2) Identify the triggers. What happens just before you behave in sabotaging ways? How are you feeling? What are you afraid of? Do you know what your agenda is? Also, seriously think about when you are most susceptible to being triggered.
3) Create a new vision with alternative behavior. If your behaviors magically disappeared, what would it look like? How would you behave, and what would your relationships look like? Then ask “what behaviors would support this vision?”
4) Overcome your limiting beliefs. Sometimes we have a hard time engaging in the behaviors we desire, because they contradict our subconsciously held beliefs. Create new beliefs and internalize these (for help on this, see my free video on how to change limiting beliefs to help with this at the top right hand side of this page).
5) Finding support. This could be a therapist, a coach or a friend who will be straight with you, encourage you, and hold you accountable. Staying focused is key because this is a long-term process
If you want to explore extra help with limiting beliefs, you can schedule a free relationship audit with me here.
Good luck and keep me posted!