A former student of mine had a wonderful relationship with a good guy and it ended a few months ago. When I ran into her at a coffee shop, between sips of her latte, she told me the story…
Fighting back tears, she told me she had broken up with him because “it wasn’t going anywhere” and “she felt she could do better.”
I asked a few follow-up questions, and by the end of the conversation I got the truth: she had started realizing that he treated her well and, although she wasn’t getting engaged like all of her friends, the relationship was definitely going somewhere. She had let her insecurities and the social pressure of others get the best of her.
This type of self-sabotage isn’t all that unusual. In many relationships, couples break up because one partner (and sometimes both) actively works to undermine the relationship. This can slowly, but actively destroy a relationship.
My former student is still single and pining for her ex, the one she broke up with. He, on the other hand, has moved on and found what appears to be a quality relationship. Self-sabotage claims another victim.
Why do people self-sabotage in relationships? While it can be very complicated, here are a few basic reasons.
1) Pleasing Others
When I was in university, my resident assistant was dating a guy who was at least 15 years older. They loved each other and got along very well. However, they were constantly under a lot of pressure from meddling family and friends to break up.
As the outside stress increased, they started fighting more and more. Eventually, she ended it.
Everyone wants to please family and friends, at least to a degree. This is especially true if you are close to them. If they don’t approve of your relationships, then it takes a strong will to stand up to them.
But, even if you have the will to fight them, their disapproval can weigh heavily on you, maybe even in subconscious ways you can’t articulate. This can, at times, lead to self-sabotage of relationships as you say you want to be with your partner, but subconsciously destroy the relationship to please a family member or friend.
This is one of the saddest forms of self-sabotage because countless relationships have been destroyed by the opinions of family and friends who, for whatever reason, prefer controlling and manipulating to wishing others success and happiness.
Keep something in mind if you find yourself sabotaging your relationship because of pressure from family and friends: why are they pressuring you?
In the vast majority of cases, family and friends don’t really care about your happiness; they are actually jealous of it because their own lives are so unhappy and unfulfilled.
2) You’re Waiting For Superman
On a local newsgroup, there is a woman with the username “Waiting For Superman.” She constantly seeks attention from guys. Yet, every time one engages her, she doesn’t respond.
They get upset, but, what they don’t realize is that her username tells it all: she’s waiting for perfection and they aren’t perfect. If she doesn’t stop being so picky, she’ll be single forever.
However, it’s not only single people who wait for Superman (or, let’s say Wonder Woman for guys). Many people in relationships are also “waiting for Superman” while still remaining with their partners.
They don’t like being alone and love their partner. But, they subconsciously want someone better. And, this can lead to the sabotaging of relationships.
It’s really easy, especially in long-term relationships, to focus on your partner’s faults and miss out on the good points. The grass becomes greener and, if you think you can do better, you subconsciously start to seek out that person you think you deserve.
While I am very much against settling and being in bad relationships (see my last point), if you think you deserve a Disney Prince or Princess, then you’ll never be happy in any real relationship with a real human being.
So, you might start flirting with an ex, give extra attention to the girl at the cash register who smiles at you, fantasize about the guy at the gym and so on. They are not your current partner, so they could potentially be “the one” that you feel is perfect for you.
As you do this, you sabotage your current relationship with your current partner, who might be most of what you want, but not the perfect image you have in your head.
3) You Think You Don’t Deserve A Good Partner
As a counselor, I’ve worked with drug addicts, and I notice that a lot of them have a genuinely hard time being in functional relationships. They are so used to having unreliable partners who degrade them that they can hardly accept it when a stable person offers them love. So, they push away good men and women.
You don’t have to be addicted to drugs to behave in this way. Some people have such low self-esteem that they don’t think they deserve a good relationship.
So, when a good person comes their way, they subtly and subconsciously sabotage the relationship (if they get into it to begin with).
This can manifest itself in a few ways. Maybe, when you start to get close to a good person, you pull away in fear of commitment. You might reconnect with a bad boy or crazy ex when the positive relationship starts to grow. Perhaps, you push your partner away at key moments, making yourself emotionally unavailable.
It’s possible to get addicted to negative emotions. And, with that comes an addiction to the bad people who bring those emotions.
So, you might have a wonderful, attractive person right in front of you, but you sabotage the relationship to get back to your normal level of negativity, drama, and unhappiness.
This self-sabotage can be very tragic since those individuals are usually dating someone who loves them very much and wants the best for them. So, not only do they slowly bring down a good relationship, but they hurt caring people who love them too.
4) The Relationship Is Bad
Settling in relationships is all too common these days. I could tell you countless stories of unhappy couples who stay together for no good reason to prove my point, but I’m sure you know many examples in your own life.
Sometimes people self-sabotage because they know deep down the relationship is a bad one and they should move on. But, for whatever reason, they lack the courage to do that. So, they subconsciously try to get the other person to break up with them.
You know in your gut if your relationship is terrible and it’s time to move on. Rather than dragging out the inevitable, you’ll need to get the courage to actually end it. Sabotaging the relationship from the inside in the hopes it collapses is the cowardly way.
Now you can see a few reasons people self-sabotage in a relationship.
If these or other reasons apply to you, then you should evaluate the facts and make a decision. If you still want to be with the person, then you’ll have to stop destroying your relationship. If you want to break up, then you’ll just need to do it. Self-sabotaging only draws out the inevitable end of the relationship.
If you’ve ever found yourself laying up at night, chewing your lip and feeling incredible anxiety in your chest because you don’t know if a man truly *loves* you (or is just using you or waiting for something “better” to come along)…