If you’ve ever been in a relationship that felt emotionally all-consuming from the start, you may have been dating someone with self-sabotaging behaviours, or indeed these may have come from yourself. One minute you’re all in, the next you are behaving in ways that is sure to end the relationship imminently. Romantic relationships are meant to be happy, fulfilling and reciprocated most of the time, however, they can also leave you feeling vulnerable to being left on your own or rejected, fuelling some of our deepest insecurities.

To feel in control of our emotions again, we may begin to practise self-sabotaging behaviours, based on subconscious feelings of low self-worth. This may be something that you do not even recognise about yourself. Often this is triggered from childhood trauma or experiences of unstable familial relationships. Perhaps your parents were divorced when you were young and it was acrimonious, or you’ve been through a difficult breakup where the other person was rarely emotionally available, leaving you to develop a fractured sense of self or feeling unworthy of being loved.

If you frequently look for a way out of a perfectly good relationship, that has the potential to grow into something harmonious and long lasting, then you may be self-sabotaging your chances of finding lasting and fulfilling love.

This can look like, holding grudges, criticising the other person, showing contempt, avoidance, or serial dating, where no one ever matches up. However, in a relationship it can also be portrayed as stonewalling, jealousy, gaslighting, and infidelity and promiscuous behaviour. These behaviours may arise to create issues in the relationship on purpose so that the individual who’s self-sabotaging can avoid their fear of their partner hurting them.

However, extreme self-sabotaging behaviours may also be traits of the individual’s inherent personality, so be wary of promises of change, if steps are not taken or forgiveness is not sought. Equally, if its’ you that is the self-saboteur, you luckily still have choice of whether to allow this hurt and pain to continue, or to take control and begin to build your self-worth back up and repair old wounds.

How can you overcome self-sabotaging behaviours?

Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘if its hysterical then its historical’. This refers to an overreaction or having a strong emotional response to someone or something, which is a strong indicator of something emotional that is unresolved from the past. If you find yourself in triggering situations, which you overreact to, that deep down you know is out of proportion, take time to pause before responding.

One unique way to interrupt this is to think about my ‘SELF’ model, based on Cognitive Behavioural theory, which I sometimes use with clients.

S – Self compassion

The opposite to self-sabotage is self-care, and no I do not mean have a bubble bath twice a week, or ensure you’ve had your daily green smoothie to avoid relationship meltdown (as much as these two things are very good for us). The level of selfcare needed is a total transformation where you begin to think differently about yourself first, and then other people. Practicing self-compassion and addressing your inner critic is the crucial first step here, learning positive self-talk over negative self-talk, ideally alongside therapy or coaching.

E – Emotional tolerance

Building emotional tolerance is also key. Identifying your triggers – How much is the past replaying, and how much is happening in you’re here and now that’s true? Consider alternative responses. e.g., “When I feel triggered by X, Y or Z, I will do A or B but not C”- Knowing your triggers (X, Y or Z) and having an appropriate positive response in your toolbox ready (A or B), helps you interrupt the negative thought, which turns into the negative behaviour (C), helping you build emotional tolerance and strength.

L – Learn your thinking biases

Exploring your past behaviours can be so hard. For example – If your go to self-sabotage is constantly messaging your partner for reassurance, when they are out with their friends, or being in a mood with them when they come home, when they’ve done nothing wrong. It can be hard to unpick. Think about the root cause, did your parents struggle with infidelity causing trust issues, which may be influencing these thinking biases “They are out with their friends so they must be cheating” – “I need to make them come home so they won’t cheat” can lead to “I’ll just cheat too to even the score, or I’ll leave the relationship, so they can’t hurt me anymore”. Thinking biases such as these, have attempted to protect you since childhood. Understanding their root cause and the emotional needs that they’ve been trying to fill, is part of the pathway to healing.

F – Forgive

Learning to forgive and let go of past childhood or previous relationship trauma. You deserve to be happy, and you are worthy of love. This can be a lengthy process so give yourself time to properly unravel the past hurts and then begin to heal, before considering dating again.

Perhaps your previous goals have lost their meaning. Take time to learn and know your values, and how these may be reflected in a partner, and when you are ready, get in touch as we would love to help you find them