3 steps to avoid sabotaging your relationship

There are countless reasons couples call it quits, but sometimes self-sabotage comes into play. Here’s how to stop yourself from derailing a good thing.

Each year in Australia, about 49,500 couples get divorced – that’s more than 900 couples a week.

Many more unmarried couples also call time on their relationship.

The reasons couples split are diverse, but Deakin University Science of Adult Relationships Laboratory director Gery Karantzas says sometimes self-sabotage can be part of the equation.

“People can intentionally try to ruin a relationship but, typically, it’s more that people do a good job of messing things up,” Gery says.

“They aren’t aware of what they are doing, they don’t handle conflict, fights are never resolved and there’s a mismatch between what they say and their feelings.”

So, what three steps can you take to avoid relationship sabotage?

1. Face your fears

Life coach and The Insecurity Project creator Jaemin Frazer says sabotage is always due to insecurity.

“Insecurity can make you needy and desperate because you feel you have little value or worth,” Jaemin says.

“So, you accept whatever you’ve got in a relationship and train the other person to treat you poorly because of what you allow and accept.”

The solution is to name and face your fears.

“Be precise about what you are afraid of,” Jaemin says.

“You might be afraid that people won’t love you for who you are, so you pretend and do what your partner wants you to do to be loved.”

Remember you deserve to be loved, be clear about what you desire and negotiate – rather than compromise – in your relationship.

2. See your partner’s point of view

Looking at an issue from your partner’s perspective is a powerful antidote to defusing relationship difficulties.

Typically, when people are angry and upset and only looking from their point of view, it is communicated as criticism of the partner.

For example, “you are the problem, you are to blame”, Gery says.

The solution is to talk about an issue from your perspective, but properly listen to your partner’s point of view too.

“That’s different to your partner saying something and you talking over them or listening but coming back with anger and your own point of view again,” Gery says.

“Then the partner feels unheard, invalidated and misunderstood and that creates emotional distance.”

3. Take ownership of your behaviour

Be mindful of what you can do to make a situation better.

“We can do one of two things in a relationship – we can try and change the partner’s behaviour, or we can focus on what we can control ourselves,” Gery says.

If you try to change your partner, they might become resistant.

But focusing on things within your control can go a long way to improving your relationship.

“The outcomes of any situation are determined by the actions of both people who both need to do things to improve a situation,” Gery says.

“Your partner needs to take responsibility but what are you responsible for and what can you do to improve the relationship?”

Written by Sarah Marinos.