Are you sabotaging your relationships?

For some people, love is a series of catastrophes. But could self-sabotage play a role?

If you believe you’re unlucky in love, and your relationships falter over and over, it might be time to look at your approach to romance.

Many people successfully start a romantic relationship, only to destroy it.

What is self-sabotage?

“Self-sabotage is a strategy people use to protect or enhance themselves,” says Raquel Peel, a James Cook University psychology researcher who is studying why some people self-sabotage their chances of love.

“We believe self-saboteurs hold insecure views of romantic relationships. Although they may appear to be doing all they can to maintain the relationship, failure is the expected outcome,” she says.

“In this situation, a person can guarantee a win if the relationship survives despite everything – but also if the relationship fails because in that case their insecure views are validated.

“Sometimes relationships wouldn’t work out anyway, but sometimes people have good partners and good relationships and destroy them without realising.”

People get into a cycle of looking for trouble and finding it.

Why the sabotage?

Peel says attachment – the way people learn how to love and create bonds – can influence sabotaging behaviour.

If we have difficult relationships with parents and siblings, we grow up feeling that people can’t be trusted and that eventually they will leave or hurt us.

“Or if you have a relationship and your partner cheats on you, you learn that’s what love is,” says Peel.

“You carry that into the next relationship and think ‘I will get cheated on’ and you project that on to the next relationship. People get into a cycle of looking for trouble and finding it.”

Self-sabotaging behaviours include:

  • Being overly critical of a partner.
  • Always looking for what a partner doesn’t do right, instead of appreciating what they do.
  • Spending excessive time with friends or at work instead of with a partner.
  • Avoiding intimacy.

How to stop ruining your relationships

  • Self-awareness is the first step: Do you have insecure views and distorted ideas of what a relationship should be? Are your expectations of a romantic partner realistic?
  • Low self-esteem can lead to relationship self-sabotage: If you don’t feel good about yourself, consider seeing a counsellor who can help you build your confidence and self-worth.
  • Recognise that to create a secure bond of love requires you to be vulnerable: “You can’t protect yourself if you want to engage in an intimate, healthy relationship,” says Peel.

Read more about how to train your brain to be happy and how to bring the intimacy back in your relationship.

*Raquel Peel is looking for participants for a study on relationship styles – find out more.

Written by Sarah Marinos.