March 25, 2023

If you’ve noticed that you’re doing more harm than good in your love life — like not putting effort into partnerships or getting unreasonably angry with your partner —  you might be self-sabotaging. 
Self-sabotaging is usually a defense mechanism. The goal of self-sabotage isn’t necessarily to end the relationship, rather you might act this way because you feel like you don’t deserve your partner or a happy relationship. Subconsciously, you may be trying to drive your partner away emotionally, so you’re not devastated if they abandon you
This is why self-sabotaging behaviors are most common if you have low-self esteem, haven’t worked through past hurts, or have abandonment issues, says Kristin M. Davin, a psychologist and relationship therapist in private practice
If you’re self-sabotaging, it isn’t necessarily a sign that your relationship should end. More often it’s about your own struggles (such as unresolved trauma or a negative sense of self) that need to be addressed and worked through, Davin says.  
Since self-sabotaging is usually subconscious, it can be hard to spot — so here are seven warning signs.
Even if your partner treats you well and you’re fond of them, you may get nitpicky, Davin says.  
In fact, a 2021 review found that “partner attack” such as criticism is one of the most common behaviors that self-sabotagers engage in. 
“Sure, we all have some things we could be doing better, but a person will critique their partner as a way to damage the relationship and drive a wedge between the two of you,” Davin says. 
Davin says some ways this might present are:
Davin says this is common if you have unresolved past hurts like if your ex partner cheated on you and you don’t trust your current partner to be loyal.
David D. Bowers, a psychologist who specializes in relationships at Thriveworks Polaris, says that this unfair mistrust could manifest in various ways including:
Never arguing isn’t necessarily a sign of a healthy relationship.
“If you find yourself routinely choosing not to express your thoughts and feelings in order to maintain the peace, it’s very possible that in hindsight you will see this as having accidentally sabotaged the relationship,” Bowers says. 
Bowers says that avoiding potential conflict prevents you from having important conversations. 
For example, it could hurt your relationship if you:
Davin says when you don’t share what’s bothering you, you’re not giving your partner a chance to discuss and resolve any conflict, which can ultimately lead to the downfall of the relationship.
On the flip side of avoiding conflict and keeping feelings to yourself, you may find yourself getting unnecessarily angry or frustrated at your partner for minor things, which is also a sign of self-sabotage.
Bowers says some examples of this are:
Subconsciously, this could be because you have a fear of rejection and abandonment, and by getting angry and causing the problems yourself, you feel like you’re “beating them to the punch,” Bowers says.
It’s normal to have expectations of your partner in a healthy relationship. However, those who self-sabotage often have unrealistic and lofty expectations for their partner, Davin says. 
Davin says some examples of this are:
When you focus on how your partner isn’t giving you the “perfect” relationship, you may end the relationship prematurely or drive them away. 
When you have low self-esteem and you feel unworthy of a healthy and happy relationship, you may have the thought, “Everyone eventually leaves me, so why not get ahead and do things that will make the person leave?” Davin says.

People who self-sabotage relationships may not feel worthy of a happy relationship, Bowers says. 
“In a nutshell, any of us might have received messages growing up that set us up to feel we’re somehow flawed, different, or just not up to having the kind of happiness others appear to have and merit,” Bowers says.
You may have thoughts such as:
A 2016 review found that people with low self-esteem in a romantic relationship may believe their partner views them as poorly as they view themselves, ultimately leading them to act out in ways that make their partner unhappy.
If you’re putting all your energy into anything other than the relationship, you might be sabotaging the partnership. 
Davin says some examples of this are:
Davin says if you purposely find other things to do, this creates a rift in the relationship where your partner doesn’t feel important. 
If you find yourself self-sabotaging your relationship, it’s important to take a step back and recognize this. Acknowledging the destructive behavior is the first step. 
Then, you can move on, get introspective, and begin to understand why you’re self-sabotaging in the first place and whether the relationship is the right fit for you. 
“The one constant throughout all of your relationships is you. Sometimes some serious self-reflection can lead to insight about your unique ways of self-sabotaging relationships,” Bowers says.
If you need help working through past trauma and current relationship issues, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a mental health professional


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