How Not to Sabotage a Relationship When It’s Going Well

Published on: 18 Sep 2018
An illustration of a person throwing something into the trash bin

I’ll never forget the beginning of the end with my first serious boyfriend.

We were madly in love, and I had no doubt that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him…and then one day I told him he should dump me and leave me now, before he inevitably would at some point in the future. He told me I was being silly and brushed it off. But then every night we spent together, I ended up crying, telling him again and again, “Just leave me now! I know you’re going to at some point.”

Eventually, it (and other things) got to him. He broke up with me, leaving me alone wondering if I’d done it all to myself and I was the reason for my own heartbreak.

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How Self-Sabotage and Past Dysfunction Ruin Relationships

Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s good at blowing up a relationships when it’s going well. It’s actually a pretty common form of self-sabotage, and there are plenty of reasons why we do it, both in and out of relationships. In my case, it was my crippling fear of abandonment.

“Some people may fear when things are going well. They may fear being hurt, the other person leaving them, or the possibility of a serious or committed future with their partner,” Talkspace therapist Christine Tolman, LCPC, states. “People may also sabotage out of boredom. Long term, happy relationships might not have as many emotional highs and lows as the beginning of a relationship, and some people may seek out excitement in the form of sabotage.”

Additionally, the environment you grew up in can play a part in whether you’re more likely to blow up your relationship. Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-C, explains, “Growing up in a dysfunctional family can create resentment and fear, and it also prevents us from seeing a healthy relationship on a daily basis. The lack of example is what some people mention as being a major issue.”

On top of lack of example from your family, negative experiences in past romantic relationships can stir up fear. Catchings adds, “The emotional baggage that some of us carry can prevent us from enjoying a good relationship. Until we are ready to let go and enjoy, it might affect us in many ways.”

How to Avoid Sabotaging Your Relationship

So, how do you keep your relationship moving in the right direction instead of tearing it apart? Here are 4 therapist approved tips.

1. Work on your communication skills

First things first, communication is a crucial aspect of any relationship, whether you’ve just started dating somebody or you’ve been together for years.

“Communication is key when the relationship is going well and we do not want to blow it up. Listen to understand, not to respond, and do not let anxious feelings take over,” Catchings recommends.

Always try to understand where your partner is coming from, and hopefully they’ll do the same for you. If you’re feeling a certain kind of way, vocalize it! Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader.

2. Identify your triggers

It may seem like your self-sabotaging behavior is coming out of the blue, but if you take a moment to be introspective, you’ll probably be able to figure out your motive.

“Try to determine what triggers your sabotaging behaviors. Is it fear? Boredom? Address those underlying emotions with a good therapist,” Christine Tolman advises. “Learn your triggers, and determine how you can meet your emotional needs without sabotaging your relationships.”

By understanding your triggers, you can learn how to better cope with them, and not let your feelings consume you, causing you to act out in ways that can end your relationship.

3. Let go of fear

Remember not every relationship is the same. Just because you and your ex’s relationship went up in flames, it doesn’t mean that your current one will too (but trust me, I know how real that fear is!). It’s all too easy to get caught up in a circle of anxious thoughts and endless “what-ifs.” Try to stay in the moment and focus on the rational facts about your relationship instead of getting caught up in paranoia.

“If you truly want to stay in the relationship, let go of the fear caused by past experiences,” Catchings says. “This time, your partner might be everything you dreamed of.”

4. Listen to your heart

While many who sabotage their own relationships do not want their relationship to end, many also do so because deep down, they don’t want to be in the relationship. Some people go through their partnerships on cruise control. On paper, everything may be going well, but your heart may tell you that the relationship isn’t right for you.

“Subconsciously, we think the relationship is not good enough,” Catchings explains. “Even if it is going well, we have that feeling that tells us that the relationship is not right for us. Listening to our sixth sense can save us from heartbreak.”

It’s your life and you can choose who you do or do not want to be with. In this case, try to communicate openly to end the relationship in a civil way instead of by sabotage.

Relationships Aren’t Easy, but This Advice Can Help

It takes a lot of effort to follow this advice, but it’ll be worth it when you realize how strong and self aware you can be. Plus, when it comes to relationships, things are rarely easy.

By following these steps, you’ll become a better communicator, more in touch with yourself, and less likely to blow up a relationship when it’s going well.

If you’re doing your best to heed this advice, but feel there’s still something missing in your relationship, consider reaching out to a couples counselor or individual therapist. Speaking with someone about your challenges can help you open up important lines of communication with your partner.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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