How To Save Relationships From Self-Sabotage

Written by Harini Natarajan

Self-sabotage — a harmful behavior that jeopardizes your success — is one of the most challenging things to deal with. It’s like your nemesis that knows you inside out and can plan their attack accordingly. Psychologists describe this tendency as a subconscious process that allows certain people to self-destruct their lives. Self-sabotage is often a result of self-loathing, self-doubt, or self-hatred. It is different from self-harm in the sense that self-harm is when someone consciously hurts themselves to make themselves feel better (usually by inflicting pain).

While it may not seem as destructive as self-harm on the surface, self-sabotage can cause more harm in a latent manner. Relationships, jobs, health, and almost everything else, can be impacted by it. Read on to understand how such habits develop and affect your relationships and what you can do to control them.

Where Does This Behavior Arise From?

Where Does This Behavior Arise From?


Self-sabotage can happen for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you were raised in a complex environment, and it is part of how you live life. You do not just wake up one morning and decide to sabotage your relationship. Such behavior can be traced back to specific life events or people.

Over time, self-defeating habits can become so deeply ingrained that they are almost automatic, which is why it may be hard for you to see them.

Here are some triggers for self-sabotaging tendencies:

  • Things That Happened In Your Past

Self-sabotaging behavior is often caused by an unresolved trauma, such as childhood abuse or the death of someone close, over which the person has had no control. It may even be related to an addiction problem that needs more serious treatment than self-help methods. Patterns established in early relationships may be seen over time in other relationships. Your present circumstance differs from the past, but it may be tough to break out of similar negative habits.

  • Fear Of Failure

The reason self-sabotage is so universal, and we all do it to some extent. As infants, we rely on our parents for everything — food, comfort, nurturing, and love. As we grow older, most of us assume that self-worth comes from outside ourselves. Thoughts like, “I’m not good enough” or “My best isn’t good enough” undermine even the most confident person’s productivity and sense of self-worth. Avoiding failure can lead you to avoid attempting in the first place. So, your subconscious mind feeds you with reasons and methods for sabotaging yourself.

  • An Attempt In Self-Preservation 

Self-sabotage is a coping mechanism that people use to protect themselves from feeling vulnerable or going through a painful experience again. They may also do it while trying to make themselves feel better about their decisions or life choices, trying to escape from reality and responsibility, or fulfilling self-destructive tendencies. Self-sabotaging habits can also be caused by a desire to control events. You may feel safe, strong, and ready to face whatever comes your way when you are in command.

Whatever may be the reason you resort to self-sabotaging, it is clear that nothing good can come of it. So, read on to understand how this behavior can manifest in a relationship and avoid harming your relationship subconsciously or unconsciously.

14 Signs You Are Self-Sabotaging Your Relationship

14 Signs You Are Self-Sabotaging Your Relationship


  1. You Concentrate On The Negative First: Constant complaining may lead to a separation. It’s just as easy to concentrate on the positive as it is to constantly focus on what’s wrong.
  2. You Must Always Be Right: Compromise is essential in any relationship. However, if you have a need to be right all the time, you will most likely be lonely as well. No one wants to be in a relationship where their opinions are always met with resistance.
  3. You Show A Lack Of Trust In Your Partner: Anyone who feels continuously second-guessed or that their partner assumes the worst, no matter what they do, will not want to stay around for long. Your partner shouldn’t have to constantly earn your trust unless they have broken any promises previously.
  4. You Often Talk About Past Relationships: If you constantly discuss or complain about the person who came before your present partner, you will likely leave a negative impression. It’s time to move on; you are with someone new now.
  5. You Have Outgrown Your Capacity To Be Charming: Romance does not have to end the moment a relationship becomes official. Maintaining a relationship is all about keeping up the romance and making your partner feel loved.
  6. You Are Pretending To Be Someone You Are Not: It may appear like a wonderful idea to participate in your partner’s interests and pastimes until you eventually confess that you despise those activities. There’s a limited amount of time a relationship founded on inauthenticity can last.
  7. You Undervalue Your Partner: It’s easy to overlook your significant other just because you are in a relationship. If you constantly criticize your partner’s opinions and feelings and take them for granted, you are on the fastest road to becoming single.
  8. You Feel Unworthy Of Love: If you have self-esteem issues, it’s time to get the help you need. Your problems are not your partner’s responsibility.
  9. You Don’t Spend Enough Time Together: If this is the case, your relationship is dying a slow death. You need to make more of an effort to see your partner and spend time with them.
  10. You Have Difficulty Expressing Your Needs: You may desire more alone time but you find yourself withholding that need because of fear or insecurity. Your partner would not want to hurt your feelings. It’s better to communicate openly.
  11. Walking Away Is Easy For You: People expect everything to go perfectly all the time. So, when you feel disappointed, it’s best to communicate with your partner rather than cut ties arbitrarily.
  12. You Feel Uncomfortable When Things Go Too Well: When a person has had prior bad experiences, this is frequently the case. As a result, you may believe that you don’t deserve it or something is wrong when things are going well.
  13. You Make Excuses Not To Be Intimate: Intimacy is important in a healthy relationship. When you start avoiding conversations that matter and make excuses not to have sex, you might be sabotaging your relationship.
  14. You Don’t Respect Boundaries: When there is a clear line between you and your partner, you harm yourself by crossing it. If you keep putting yourself in the position to violate this boundary, it shows that you don’t value your partner’s feelings.

It is, thus, important to have mutual respect and open communication in any relationship. If you think you might be engaging in self-sabotaging behavior, go to the next section to understand how you can keep it in check.

Things You Can Do To Control This Tendency

Things You Can Do To Control This Tendency


  1. Always speak from the highest self-esteem. Don’t put yourself down or say negative things about yourself around your partner.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Realize your self-worth because you don’t need the approval of others to feel good about yourself.
  3. Start to think about the qualities you want in your partner. It will guide you to make better decisions when meeting people. You can start filter out those who don’t fit the qualities.
  4. Start meditating. Self-awareness helps you work through your feelings and avoid acting on impulse. Meditation will help clear your mind of negative self-talk that pumps into your subconsciousness.
  5. Don’t be greedy or self-centered with your relationship. Don’t rush things or try to corner your partner into moving too fast. Selfless acts are usually what keep the peace when things get tough. It will help keep your self-esteem in check and will prevent you from hurting your partner.
  6. Control your anger before it controls you. Avoid any form of violence. Anger is self-destructive and, when left unchecked, can put a severe strain on the relationship. It’s not about suppressing your feelings but channeling them in the right direction.
  7. Be happy for your partner when they are successful, even if it means you are not benefiting from their success. Learn how to be self-satisfied with yourself instead of trying to live vicariously through your partner.
  8. Don’t wait for your partner to solve your problems. Self-reliance helps develop self-sufficiency and self-esteem. In addition, a strong personality makes better decisions when involved with people and will make them more likely to want to commit to you long-term.
  9. Be self-assured when you are in social situations. Self-sabotage often happens out of embarrassment or self-doubt. Make sure your confidence is always high so no one can bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself.
  10. Discover all the bad habits you have and work towards quitting them. A self-destructive person is unlikely to be in a self-sustaining relationship. Your bad self-esteem will be projected onto your partner, creating constant tension and harm.

The road of self-growth ultimately leads to healthy relationships. However, if you feel that certain things are overwhelming or out of your control, there’s no harm in approaching a professional. Read on to find out when’s the right time to consult a therapist.

When Should You Seek Professional Help?

When Should You Seek Professional Help?


When self-sabotage reaches a point where it’s too detrimental to a person’s mental health and daily functioning, it should be considered a form of self-harm. It is then that consulting a professional therapist can prove quite helpful.

However, self-sabotage can also manifest subtly and not affect one’s life in drastic ways. In this case, self-sabotage has more to do with self-esteem and not self-harm. Books can be an excellent place to begin self-improvement in such scenarios.

Self-help books are usually written by experienced psychologists and mental health professionals. They can be very helpful in recognizing one’s issues and self-defeating behavior.

Another way to make progress is to work with a self-help group. It will allow one to see that they are not alone in their self-sabotaging behavior and learn other coping mechanisms.

Working with a self-help group or a therapist are both healthy options for self-improvement that won’t cost you much, compared to the damage self-sabotage may cause.

Final Thoughts

We all have a saboteur lurking somewhere inside us. It’s merely a natural function of our mind attempting to safeguard us from harm as efficiently as possible. However, if you want to have more control over your life, especially your love life, you must bid farewell to it. Renounce the saboteur and embrace the new you in relationships. Awaken and brave yourself.

We hope this article helps you recognize self-sabotaging behavior and overcome it for a better chance at meaningful and long-lasting relationships.

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As Chief Editor, Harini sets the tone and editorial direction for StyleCraze to deliver engaging, interesting, and authentic content revolving around women's health, wellness, and beauty. She has over 14 years of experience in content writing and editing for online media. She specializes in the areas of Beauty, Lifestyle, and Health & Wellness and is proficient in Medical Sciences (Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Biochemistry). Her background in Biomedical Engineering helps her decode and interpret the finer nuances of scientific research for her team. Harini is a certified bibliophile and a closet poet. She also loves dancing and traveling to offbeat destinations.