Relationships begin and end for countless reasons. The vast majority of romantic relationships end in a breakup or divorce, and that’s no failure—it’s just the way love goes. But sometimes, there are little (or big) sabotaging habits that we’ve had from the start. Or perhaps these self-sabotaging behaviors have built up over time through heartache, traumatic experiences, and damaging relationships. There’s no shame in that. We’re all human, and many of us have destructive patterns that we’d be better off without.
The happy truth is that it is possible to work on these behaviors and change them for the better. The first step in that process is identifying them and knowing when we’re veering off track from “healthy” relationship habits. Read on for some of the most common relationship-sabotaging behaviors.
1. Trying to Be Perfect
Perfectionism can be an insidious mental pattern for us as individuals—but it can also be equally destructive for our relationships. Many of us feel a need to come across as perfect to our partners or to actually be some (unachievable) version of perfect. This is a fruitless pursuit that only causes us to keep our guards up in love. But real love requires realness, transparency, and vulnerability—three things that don’t combine well with perfectionism.
If you’re inclined to keep up a perfect image in a relationship, now might be a good time to reflect on how it’s impacting your intimacy with your partner and your ability to develop a deep connection. This could be an excellent opportunity to work on some of those perfectionist habits and allow yourself to be a little more human.
2. Dwelling on the Past
The best relationships know how to move forward from past transgressions, mistakes, and hurts. That doesn’t mean that you need to instantly bounce back from rocky times in the relationship, but it does mean that true forgiveness needs to be possible. If you find yourself bringing up the past over and over in fights, it can mean one of a few things:
- You and your partner still need to talk out the issue (maybe even go to therapy to work your way through it).
- You need to work on wholeheartedly forgiving your partner and move on.
- Or, it’s something that you just can’t get past and is ultimately a dealbreaker for the relationship.
It’s important and healthy to take these necessary steps to solve past hurts—but dwelling on the past without doing anything about it is just relationship sabotage.
3. Hard-and-Fast Rules
Boundaries and expectations are a healthy part of any relationship. But creating confining, strict, everlasting rules for a relationship can be a quick route to romance sabotage. This can sometimes be rooted in similar tendencies as perfectionism—except with strict rules, the expectation is often for the relationship itself to be perfect. Just like trying to be a perfect human, trying to have a perfect relationship is unrealistic, ultimately destructive, and doesn’t allow for either of you to be fully human.
Communicate regularly about boundaries, expectations, and needs—but don’t lock your relationship into too many rules.
4. Lack of Communication
Speaking of communication, a lack of communication is one of the most common ways that people sabotage their relationships. A typical version of this is expecting a partner to read our minds and always know what we need and want, without us asking for it. But as most of us have learned, that is a treacherous road to wander down and almost always leads to disappointment. Communicating will help prevent constant relationship sabotage:
- Communicate openly with your partner about the things that you want, need, and expect from them.
- Let them know when you’re frustrated or hurt.
- Express your love and affection for them.
- Tell them when you being short with them is about you having a bad day and not a reflection on them.
Don’t forget, communication is a two-way street. You’ve also got to listen to your partner. Try understanding their intentions and practice being empathetic towards their feelings, needs, and wants.
Unless your partner has actually done something to betray your trust or dismantle their fidelity, jealousy is a you problem and is another common way that we sabotage our relationships. Constantly questioning your partner’s faithfulness or being paranoid about their interactions with others is never a healthy direction for a relationship to go in. Jealousy often stems from one’s own feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Relationships require trust (see below). Take this opportunity to take stock of any jealous tendencies that could be causing damage to your connection.
6. Automatic Lack of Trust
Along the same lines of jealousy, an automatic lack of trust is a destabilizing force in a relationship. Traditionally labeled trust issues, this pattern is all-too-common and, if left unchecked, is an inevitable relationship destroyer.
Trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships. If you don’t innately trust your partner, it’s time to ask yourself whether that’s due to their own actions or due to your own past hurts and traumas. Has experience led you to believe that no romantic partner is deserving of your trust?
Building trust is one of the first steps to creating a truly happy, healthy, long-lasting relationship.
7. Taking Everything Personally
One of the frequent mistakes we make in all kinds of relationships is to take others’ behaviors and words too personally. This habit is also an all-too-easy way to sabotage our relationships.
Many of us know the feeling of taking things too personally when our partner chooses a night with friends over a date night, falls asleep during “sexy time,” or forgets to compliment us on the dinner we made. If these things are happening regularly, that might be cause for concern. But most of the time, those incidences have nothing to do with us and are no reflection on the love our partner has for us.
Do your best to assume the best—and not take things too personally—and you’ll be that much further from relationship sabotage.
8. Being Only About Your Needs
Expressing and fulfilling your needs in a relationship is essential. Plus, pure selflessness in a relationship is typically not healthy. However, what’s equally as unhealthy is focusing only on your own needs without taking your partner into account.
Relationships are a give and take. It’s all about compromise. Being inconsiderate and only focusing on #1 will inevitably lead to relationship sabotage.
9. Constant Self-Doubt
Having self-worth and self-love is an essential component of any relationship. If you find yourself constantly feeling unworthy or believing that you aren’t deserving of your partner, that’s red flag that there’s some internal work to do. This constant questioning of oneself and/or one’s partner can corrode the very relationship we feel so undeserving of.
As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love someone else?”