Sabotage is a tricky bastard.
Everything can be going great. You’re with a partner that loves, admires, and best of all, respects you. It could possibly be the healthiest relationship you’ve ever been in.
Then it creeps in: the thoughts and behaviors that always come. They slowly trickle down and seep into the littlest cracks. It’s the doubt, the mean words, the jealousy, worry, sadness, and distress. You might not even realize it’s happening. But it always comes, and the relationship eventually ends.
What’s worse, the source is often you.
There are two kinds of humans: a good human and a good human in pain. Most of us fall into the latter.
You pick up pain throughout your life. It’s the way your parents showed you love or didn’t. The hurt you felt the first time someone broke your heart. The betrayal of a lover cheating on you.
When it comes to relationships, what happened to you in the past shapes how you show up for relationships in the present. Those wounds affect your ability to receive and give love. They shape your thoughts on a healthy relationship; they affect your self-worth.
That’s why sabotaging behaviors exist in relationships. We do them because it’s all we know; they’re what we think will keep us safe.
But if you’re in a healthy relationship, these behaviors are obsolete. They might even be causing you to miss out on the love you really deserve.
There are a few behaviors that, if you become aware of them, can help you stop sabotaging your relationships.
1. Stop letting expectations get in your way.
I’m no saint here. I learned the hard way that my expectations were causing me unnecessary anxiety.
In my romantic relationships, I would have serious conversations and went full-force into them thinking that the person would react a certain way. When they didn’t, I’d be let down and resent my partner.
And then I learned that expectations are premeditated resentments.
You can’t control or predict another human being. People have free will, and a lot of times, they surprise us. That doesn’t mean they’re a bad person or the relationship isn’t meant to be, it just means they’re human.
Let go of the notion that you can predict how your partner will act in situations. Accept that no one is perfect and focus on the present.
2. Stop caring so much about what other people think.
Your relationship is your own unique haven. It’s yours to spend your mornings with, go to the movies with, and share your biggest dreams with. So why care how it looks to other people?
If you love someone, you love them. I don’t care if they’re bald and short even though you always imagined yourself with a jock type. I don’t care if you fell for the local barista instead of a man on Wall Street.
If someone treats you right and loves you dearly, don’t let other people’s opinions cause you to second guess things.
3. Start setting boundaries.
Setting boundaries is part of any healthy relationship.
They’re crucial to painting your sense of individuality within the relationship. And if you create boundaries from the get-go, you’re setting yourself and your partner up for a relationship that isn’t just fun but supports both of your individual lives.
A healthy relationship between two human beings is one that respects each other’s individual needs for self-preservation. Maybe that looks like setting time aside each week to see your friends or continuing to invest time in your hobbies.
Setting boundaries with your partner will help you feel more like an equal in the relationship. Without them, you could feel like you’re getting walked all over and begin resenting your partner.
4. Stop letting fears cloud your judgment.
There are common fears people hold that keep them from finding love.
Fear of abandonment.
Fear of being alone.
Fear of getting hurt.
Fear of losing yourself in the relationship.
Fear of rejection.
And while those fears might’ve kept you safe at one time, they’re no longer serving you.
Luckily, once uncovered, these kinds of fears can be processed and worked through. You deserve healthy relationships, to date and love without fear.
5. Stop focusing so much on the future.
Your relationship is what’s happening now, not what you hope will happen in the future.
I’ll be the one to break it to you: Your endpoint is uncertain. There are a lot of factors that can happen that mean the end of a relationship. All you know for sure is what’s happening right now at this very moment.
But that’s okay because the present is where the love lies. It’s the butterflies in your stomach and the sound of their laughter.
Don’t keep worrying about what might happen. Focus on what is happening.
6. Start communicating better with your partner.
Communication skills in a relationship are essential.
Two people romantically interacting with one another involves a lot of communication. You need to speak up about how you feel and let your partner know about your worries or concerns.
Bottling up your emotions will create resentment and pent up feelings. Eventually, they’ll come out, most likely in a way detrimental to your relationship.
7. Stop being so negative, even jokingly.
Negative emotions aren’t always bad. If you’re going through a shitty break-up, health concern, or the loss of a loved one, it’s important to feel those emotions. In this case, negativity can be useful.
But negativity has its time and place, and that’s not in a healthy relationship.
Negativity affects both your psyche and your parents.
That includes jokingly, too. Saying, “You’re the worst boyfriend ever!” even if you don’t mean it, will start wearing on your partner.
8. Stop moving too quickly.
I used to date way too quickly. I’d jump to the future and imagine my partner and I walking down the aisle a mere month into our relationship.
It caused me a lot of distress in several ways:
I ignored red flags.
I didn’t set boundaries.
I wouldn’t let the other person’s feelings develop at their own pace.
Rushing the relationship isn’t doing you or your partner any good. Besides, the beginning of the relationship is exciting. Why rush that?
9. Start seeing a therapist.
Therapy is useful for literally everyone. But even the smallest concern is a reason to start seeing a therapist.
But if you feel like your sabotaging behaviors are getting out of control, then you should definitely seek professional help.
A therapist can help you make sense of why you act the way you do. They can help you uncover those past traumas affecting you today. Most importantly, they can talk to you about healthy ways to act within your relationship.
10. Start being more selfish.
The number one way to show up as the best partner you can is by taking care of yourself.
Think of your happiness as a cup — one with your initials monogrammed on the side. You’re the only one able to use it, and you’re the only one able to fill it up.
That’s right. Your happiness is your responsibility, not your partners. It’s an inside job that only you are fit for.
So be more selfish in the relationship. Take some alone time to do the things you love. Work on limiting beliefs you think are affecting your self-esteem.
Love yourself and watch your security in the relationship flourish.