5 Ways To Stop Sabotaging Relationships

By Stephanie Kirby|Updated June 21, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Laura Angers, NCC, LPC

Relationships are hard; there's no way around it. When you take two people with different personalities, different backgrounds, and different opinions, there are sure to be problems from time to time. However, there's a difference between the normal problems that a relationship goes through and what happens when you are in the habit of sabotaging relationships. The good news is, you can learn how to stop sabotaging your relationships to move forward healthily.

What Does It Mean To Sabotage A Relationship?

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The best way to start understanding what it means to sabotage a relationship is to understand what the word sabotage means. According to Google, sabotage means to "deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct."

So, if you are sabotaging a relationship, you are doing things that are purposely going to ruin and end that relationship. You may wonder why someone would deliberately ruin a relationship, but the tricky part is many people don't consciously realize that that's what they're doing.

Instead, there are lots of little actions that they do that could be sabotaging it. They may even end up completely surprised and caught off guard when their relationship finally does end. Or, to avoid the pain that they feel like they know is coming, they have already prepared themselves for the worst.

Common Issues That Sabotage Relationships

Many different things can ruin a relationship, but here are some of the common ways that people sabotage their relationships.

  • Constantly comparing their significant other to other people
  • Not allowing the other person to have any space
  • Not adapting your life at all for the other person
  • Moving too fast
  • Not trusting the other person even though they've given you no reason to be suspicious.
  • Pretending to be different than you are
  • Focusing on the negatives of your partner in a relationship
  • Not listening and shutting down during conversations
  • Not being open

How To Stop Sabotaging Relationships

Now that you know what some examples of sabotaging behavior look like it, it's time to learn how to stop doing it. Here are some tips that can help you.

1. Identify Why You Are Behaving That Way

This is one of the hardest things to do when you're ready to make a change, but it's also the one crucial thing that you need to do. You have to learn where your sabotaging behaviors are coming from. This isn't going to be the same for every person.

This will require you to go deep and likely look at past experiences that you have had. It could be that you were abandoned as a child, so you secretly expect every person to abandon you as well. This causes you to push people away before they have a chance to hurt you. Or, it could be that you have low self-esteem and your need for approval from your partner drives you to actions that cause them to back away. You appear overly needy to them.

But, these are just two simple examples of what could be causing your behavior.

If you don't know why you're sabotaging relationships, you can talk with a therapist to help you work through figuring out where this behavior is coming from. An experienced therapist will know the right questions to ask to help you get to the bottom of the issue. Then, they're going to be able to give you exercises to do that are going to help you to be able to recognize and change your behaviors so that you can move forward with having healthy relationships.

If you are currently in a struggling relationship because of your sabotaging efforts, couples counseling could be a great way for you both to get the help you need in the current situation. If you are not comfortable with doing in-person therapy sessions, you can use online therapy as an alternative to getting the help you need. It can make it more affordable and more convenient, especially to fit it into both of your schedules.

Therapy is helpful at significantly improving marital satisfaction in 65% of couples.

2. Learn To Control Your Thoughts

Sabotaging behaviors often come from fear. You are afraid that the other person will hurt you or leave you or any number of other things. You may be afraid that you're going to do something that ruins the relationship in the future, and so you cause yourself to ruin it in the present.

Learning how to recognize the thoughts that you have subconsciously can help you learn how to spot the triggers that are causing you to behave the way you are. Once you learn what thoughts are causing you the most problems, you can learn to choose mantras, quotes, or new thoughts to replace the old ones with. This will help you to change your thinking, which will then lead to you changing your behavior.

Learning how to control your thoughts is not always an easy thing. But, when you learn how to do this, you're able to rise above your feelings and emotions and make well-thought-out decisions. This can go a long way in helping to improve your relationship and stop your sabotaging behaviors.

3. Talk To Your Significant Other

This might seem like a simple thing to you, or it might seem like a really big deal. Either way, if you know that you're struggling with doing things that are sabotaging your relationship and you don't want your relationship to end, you need to talk with your partner about it.

Ensure this is a conversation that you have when you are calm and not in the heat of emotion. You want to communicate to them what you see that you're doing and where you think it's coming from. If you're able to express your fear about your relationship to your significant other and then discuss it with them, that might be all you need to move past it. And, it can be helpful for your partner to know where your behavior is coming from. Then, as you improve the behavior in the future, they will know what you're going through and work through it with you.

It can also be helpful to see if they have noticed any behavior that they think is you trying to sabotage the relationship. Their perspective might help you to see things that you would have missed otherwise. And, when they know that you are trusting them with being so open about your struggle, it could show them that you are serious about wanting to make your relationship work.

4. Work On Improving Your Self-Esteem And Self-Worth

If you have low self-esteem, you could be sabotaging your relationship because you don't think that you deserve someone as good as what you have. This is not true. But, as long as you continue to believe that, you're going to operate in that belief.

You've probably heard it said that to love others, you need to know how to love yourself. This is where that comes into play. If you don't think that you have value and worth as a person, you're not going to expect someone else to think that you do either. So, even if they think very highly of you, you're not going to accept that from them.

Low self-esteem can affect you in every area of your life. If this is what you're struggling with, make an appointment to talk with a counselor to start addressing how to build your self-esteem and self-worth. This will not only improve your relationship but every area of your life.

5. Make Sure You're With The Right Person

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No, there's not just one person out there for everyone, but there are some people who will be a better fit for you than others. Look at the past relationships that you've had and see if you can spot similarities in the people that you date. It could be that you are sabotaging your relationships because, deep down, you know that they aren't the right person for you.

It could be that you're in the habit of choosing the wrong people. If you think this could be part of the problem, then take some time to think through what you want in a partner. What type of personality and character do you want them to have? Then, once you have this list, use it as you move forward looking for new partners. If the person doesn't fit what you're looking for, then don't waste your time or theirs.

Relationships aren't easy, but they don't need to be as hard as when you unconsciously work against them. Learn to identify what's causing you to sabotage your relationships, and then you can make the necessary changes to have healthier relationships.

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