Self-Sabotaging Relationships: When Fear of the Unknown Leads to Destruction

“She is going to end things, I just know it!”


Have you ever told yourself this statement when dating or starting a new relationship? As a therapist I have heard teenagers, young adults, and grown, successful clients all say some variation of this statement. The outcomes of each relationship may vary, but something that stays consistent is the anxious-driven thoughts and behaviors that tend to pave way for conflict and frustrations. One way to label this action is “self-sabotage” or participating in a “self-fulfilling prophecy”-both terms are counselor speak which say “I am afraid of losing someone and my fear is causing me to behave in a way that is not allowing the relationship to grow”. Typically what I see happen is the person becomes so anxiety ridden about losing the relationship that they contribute to the demise or at least in creating a foundation of codependency.

Why do I do this?

What is the cause for this and how can you manage it before it costs you your relationship? Let’s identify some common factors.

Causes:

  1. Attachment issues-it could be possible that you grew up in a home that was unstable or inconsistent for getting your physical, emotional, and mental needs met (also known as neglect and/or abuse). Maybe you believe that love has to be earned and is not freely given, this can contribute to the thinking that you may not be “worthy” of love.

  2. Loss of important relationships or divorce-when we lose significant relationships or experience deep hurt related to partnership it can make us fearful about going through that pain again.

  3. Loneliness-we all need and desire connection, men are no different; however, prolonged feelings of being alone can create desperation for connection. Once you get into a relationship with someone you may attempt to do anything and everything to keep them, even if it is inadvertently pushing them away.

How Can I manage my Self-Sabotaging Behavior?

  1. Reassurance-communicate with your partner that you would like to feel desired and cared for. This requires you to know how you demonstrate love and also how you receive love. You can take the online version of the 5 Love Languages if you need support in better understanding this.

  2. Work through your stuff-let’s be honest, reassurance from your partner is necessary, but there is not enough reassurance in the world that will comfort you if you’re not working through your past hurt, attachment issues, and loneliness. I like to tell clients “there is a line at which your partner can provide support and on the other side is your own work that has to be done apart from that”.

  3. Connection-although we deeply desire connection, it is not something that comes natural to everyone. We have to learn how to connect with others; understand the give and take of friendships and relationships. Loneliness can be fixed by participating in social connection that is not purely romantic. This meets a need while also allowing us to be intentional with recognizing and developing healthy relationships.


Anxiety-driven behavior can contribute to a range of issues in our quest for love, connection, and partnership, but it doesn’t have to continue and it doesn’t have to become a pattern. At Mind Works Counseling Services we specialize in relationship therapy and have counselors who can help you navigate your self-sabotaging behavior.


Learn more about the Relationship Therapy we offer.


Contact us to make an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.

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