Why do I keep self-sabotaging my relationships?

Turns out, a lot of us are our own worst enemies when it comes to coupling up. But, as luck would have it, our resident agony aunt Beth Ashley is here to sort the mess out.

I’ve got a problem…

Go on.

I keep self-sabotaging my relationships. What’s that about?

You’re not alone, my friend.


Really. Firstly, let’s talk through some of the symptoms:

Have you ever had that inkling to go through your partner’s phone to see if they’re cheating because things were going a little too well? And then, as you’re doing it, you start imagining how your argument will go once you’ve found whatever you’re looking for and viciously confronted them? Then it turns out that they’ve done nothing wrong, but you’ve kind of ruined things by starting shit for no reason?

Yes, yes, yes!

Good! Well, not good – you know what I mean.

There are different types of self-sabotage covering different kinds of life experiences from procrastination and perfectionism to self-criticism, resisting change and poor self-care, but it wreaks havoc on our love lives, too, and it’s usually when they’re at their very best lovey-dovey stage.

So it’s all my fault?

Relax, that’s not what we’re saying. But it probably has something to do with your past.

We self-sabotage for many reasons, and it boils down to a lack of self-worth or, sometimes, feeling undeserving of kindness and love. Some of us feel like we have to ruin relationships because we hold an idea that the relationship will become ruined anyway – which is not always necessarily justified.

Maybe I don’t love myself as much as I should…

Well done. The first step is admitting it.

To help in overcoming this, I spoke to Gigi Engle, a certified sex educator who speacialises in gender, sexuality and relationship diversity.

Thing is, most humans are taught that they have to fend for themselves and push their emotions away – especially in Britain. The more stoic and unfeeling you are, the better,” Engle tells me. The issue with this is, when you push your emotions away they don’t actually go away. They come back and bite you in the form of self-sabotaging behaviours because there are wounds there that have not been addressed and dealt with.”

That makes sense.

So it should!

But is there a cure?

You’re in luck. I’ve been reassured by Engle that attachment wounds can be healed through therapy and self-reflection – wahey!

She says: Breaking the cycles and stopping self-sabotaging behaviours take actually understanding that there is a problem and being willing to face it, process it, and ultimately work yourself enough to feel secure enough where protest behaviours (self-sabotaging behaviours) stop being the primary way in which we cope with stressors in relationships.”

That sounds doable. But I can’t really afford therapy right now.

Therapy is expensive and waiting lists for the free version can be super long. Get your name on the list, though – especially if you can think of more than one relationship where you’ve acted this way.

In the meantime, there are some free solutions you can try right now. All it takes is a little self reflection.

I’m all ears.

Firstly, examine where the root cause of your self-tripping acts might stem from, and look for patterns in your life:

Have you been prone to dating shitty people who’ve taught you to expect the worst? Has anything happened in your past that affected you, right before you were about to achieve your personal goals or desires?

Working this out is a good place to start. Calling your monsters out as you see them always makes them a little less intimidating.

Sounds good. I think I’m ready…

Good stuff.

The next time things are going dandy with a partner and you start envisioning arguing with them, picking at them unnecessarily, distancing yourself from them or cheating on them with their dad, and they genuinely don’t deserve any of this, have a word with yourself. No, really. Ask yourself:

Will this issue I’m focusing on, the one I’m ready to destroy it all over, really matter in a week’s, month’s, year’s time?

If the answer is yes then sure, speak. If the answer is no, it’s probably not worth being a dick about. This little tip can help you realise when you’re being over-emotional and Godzilla‑y in the heat of the moment, and when it’s time to actually mouth off a bit.

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