I’m Tired Of Sabotaging My Relationships! 8 Ways Relationship Self-Sabotage Is Keeping You Single

“Hi Orna and Matthew,

I’m so sick of sabotaging my relationships! Recently, I completely blew it with a guy who was a great match for me, but my fears got in the way of me being open and vulnerable with him. I get scared and clam up. I’m afraid my relationship self-sabotage strategies are still blocking me from a loving partnership.

I know that I’m the one who keeps sabotaging my relationships because of my fear of being hurt again. I feel discouraged that I blew it again despite all the healing work I’ve done.

Please help! I would love your insight/help in changing this pattern for good!



Hi Sheri,

Congratulations, you’ve already taken the hardest first step of taking responsibility for your pattern of relationship self-sabotage. Now you’re in the driver’s seat to make some real changes in your love life.

One of the most frustrating aspects of relationship self-sabotage is feeling like the behavior is out of your control. Clearly there’s a part of you that keeps wrecking your hopes and destroying your chances at love. Whether you keep choosing the wrong partner, or you end up pushing away a good match, your strategy of sabotaging your relationships will keep you spinning your wheels and feeling like you have no choice.

Self-sabotage is a misleading term because you’re not making a choice to push someone away or to close off your heart. Instead, you’re responding with a well-worn behavior that is triggered in your subconscious mind. Self-sabotage is a strategy that you learned to keep yourself safe. When you first adopted this strategy it probably served you at the time, but now it’s like corrupted software that is keeping you so “safe” that it’s blocking you from the thing you want — love!

Let’s see if we can bring some insight to your question, “Why do I keep sabotaging my relationships?!”

Stop Judging Yourself For Sabotaging Your Relationships

Instead of judging yourself or beating yourself up about what keeps happening, focus on feeling compassion for the part of you that keeps getting in your way. It’s not trying to sabotage your relationships; it wants you to feel loved and safe, and it’s using the only strategy it knows to do that.

You see, all your behavior has positive intent – even the behaviors that cause you pain and frustration. It may seem like your relationship self-sabotage is working against you, but it’s trying to get you something you need; it just has the wrong strategy for achieving the desired result.  While your relationship strategies leave you feeling heartbroken, your pattern of sabotaging your relationships is attempting to fill your need to feel loved, safe, or accepted.

Relationship Self-Sabotage Is Created In Your Early Childhood

The pattern of sabotaging your relationships developed when you were a child trying to get your needs met in your family of origin. The gap between the way you desired to be loved and the way your parents were capable of loving you created a wound about your inherent lovability.

As a young child who didn’t understand why your parents’ love was conditional, you developed certain beliefs and strategies for feeling loved and safe. These decisions you made as a child are driving your negative consequences in your adult relationships.

Having compassion for your younger self and her need to feel loved and safe will give you the right mindset to approach your own healing. The first step is to discover your specific relationship self-sabotage strategies.

8 Ways Relationship Self-Sabotage Is Keeping You Single

  1. Being Overly Critical

Judgment is the biggest block to love. When you have a high expectation of self, it can lead to self-criticism and judgment, especially when you fail to meet your unrealistic expectations. Your strategy of being overly critical of yourself can show up as being overly critical of your partner as well.

People often project their inner criticisms and insecurities onto those closest to them, like friends, family, or a life partner. If you’re constantly criticizing yourself and your imperfections, you’ll see and criticize the imperfections of the world (and especially your partner who can become the scapegoat for your shortcomings).

No one consciously chooses to be critical, or to constantly critique their significant other – and this is where self-sabotage comes in. Your inability to meet your high expectations of self can leave you feeling disappointed in your partner’s ability to live up to your unrealistic expectations.

First you must come to terms with your own humanity and learn to accept your flaws. There’s no such thing as a perfect person. When you can accept your own faults and love yourself despite them, that’s a huge step toward being able to love another imperfect person. This acceptance will help you stop sabotaging your relationships.

  1. Unresolved Negative Emotions

Whether from a breakup, a toxic relationship, or childhood trauma, unresolved negative emotions can trigger relationship self-sabotage. You can think of these as hidden landmines that can blow up when you least expect it. They’ll leave you feeling unsafe and unsure of yourself in all your intimate relationships.

Viewing present-day events through the lens of past hurts will cause you to misjudge and misunderstand your potential partner’s behavior. You’ll view their actions through the lens of someone else who hurt you in the past. It’s unfair to them and it’s a major cause of relationship self-sabotage.

If you’re still blaming your past circumstances for your current struggles, you’re stuck in a victim mindset that’s blocking you from love. With this mindset, it’s difficult to trust anyone or evaluate who’s trustworthy and who isn’t.

To break this pattern, you’ll want to spend some time healing your broken heart by practicing forgiveness and compassion for others and for yourself. Find the hidden gold in your struggles and discover the gratitude in your challenges. This is the way to release your hurt and anger and avoid repeating past mistakes. 

  1. Inner Conflicts

An Inner conflict occurs because you have two opposing needs or desires. For example, part of you values your independence while another part desires a committed relationship. These opposing desires are sabotaging your relationships because you’re sending mixed messages to potential mates.

Inner conflicts can also leave you feeling ambivalent about your desire for love. You may never have time to date constantly finding other things more important, and never make finding a life partner a priority. Feeling stuck inside with the false belief you have to give up something you value to share your life with a partner will ultimately drain your motivation. You’ll sabotage your relationships because you’re unconsciously hoping it doesn’t work out so you don’t have to compromise (in reality a false belief).

Discover your inner conflicts so that you can bring all the parts of you into harmony and release the false beliefs that have been keeping you stuck. Until you do, you’ll continue to sabotage your relationships and lasting love will be elusive.

  1. Making Assumptions

Many people sabotage their relationships before they even begin by looking for their soulmate in a profile. They reject anyone who doesn’t meet their very specific criteria and they see any unwanted behavior as an immediate red flag.

You could be in the habit of making assumptions and filling in the blanks and end up holding potential partners to an unachievable standard. If your unreasonable expectations aren’t met you convince yourself the relationship isn’t working, giving you a reason to end it. Making assumptions is a strategy for keeping your heart safe, but it ultimately keeps your heart locked in a tower unavailable to any seekers.

You can also make assumptions when you feel attracted to someone and ignore obvious signs that this person isn’t good for you. You end up putting on rose-colored glasses and creating a fantasy future with a stranger you barely know.

Instead of assuming the worst, or the best, of your potential mates, approach dating with a curious and open mind, stay in the present and avoid futurizing, and look for reasons to say yes. People will tell you who they are if you pay attention.

  1. Avoiding Conflict

Most people are conflict-avoidant. They avoid bringing up the little things and find themselves feeling distant and disconnected from their partner. This doesn’t mean you should go looking for problems, however avoiding conflict has you hiding your true self and twisting into a pretzel trying to please a stranger on a date.

You may have learned in your family of origin that it’s not safe to speak up and ask for what you want, so you’ve learned to sacrifice your needs in order to keep the peace. This desire for peace and avoidance of conflict will create a rift between you and your potential partner. All the unspoken hurts, needs, and desires foster anger and resentment and drive a wedge between you.

Conflict can be a doorway to a deeper connection by taking the risk to have the uncomfortable conversations. Speak your authentic feelings even when it feels risky and you’ll create the opportunity for emotional intimacy.

Love requires risk and if you’re not willing to share your authentic self you’ll eventually fall into self-sabotage and doom the relationship.

  1. Not Speaking Your Needs And Wants

Don’t be mistaken that your soulmate will intuit your thoughts, needs, and emotions. The “right person” won’t come with psychic powers. To get what you want you have to ask for it. You’re sabotaging your relationships if you clam up and don’t share your needs and desires. Plus you’ll end up feeling angry and resentful that your needs aren’t being met.

You can’t expect your partner to reciprocate because that’s an unrealistic expectation. If you’re giving and expect your partner to return the favor without explicitly making a request, then you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed. This “Give-To-Get” strategy is a subtle form of manipulation no matter how well-intentioned you may be.

Being able to speak your needs and make requests is a life skill that will serve you in every part of your life. Practice asking for what you want, even when it feels uncomfortable. By making requests, you’re telling yourself that you’re worth getting the love you want. Additionally, you’ll finally break the habit of sabotaging your relationships.

  1. Fear Of Abandonment

A belief that you aren’t wanted or aren’t worthy of love comes from a deeper fear of abandonment, that you’ll lose what you most desire. These false beliefs can lead to sabotaging your relationships.

The fear of abandonment often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your subconscious is on high alert for any behavior that hints that the other person doesn’t love you, or is going to leave you. So you interpret all of their behavior through the lens of fear.

What you focus on G-R-O-W-S! You’ll end up creating the outcome you don’t want.

If you feel unworthy of love, it may be incomprehensible that someone will stand by you — no matter what. So you question their motives, or you doubt their loyalty, or even worse you test them to see if they’ll really put up with all of your bad behavior.

Learning to trust yourself is the first step in overcoming your fear of abandonment. You must first stop abandoning yourself and your needs, then you can learn to trust someone else with your heart because you’ll know deep inside that you’ll always be there for yourself. Ultimately the love you seek is inside of you and you can never lose that.

  1. Resistance To Dating And Meeting New People

Common excuses why people are unwilling to date:

  • All the good ones are taken.
  • Online dating and dating apps are a nightmare.
  • Dating is hard where I live.

The biggest excuse why people don’t have the relationship they want is that they don’t have time to date. If you spend ZERO time invested in getting the love you want, then having love is not a priority.

It won’t magically happen when you least expect it, and you won’t find love when you stop looking for it. These beliefs ultimately come from the fear that your heart will be broken.

Perhaps you fear that the person you’ve chosen will reject you. Or you fear that this time will be just like the last time. Or you fear that you won’t get the love that you long for with a person that really gets you.

Whatever the reason you’re not making finding love a priority, know that those reasons don’t serve you. They do nothing but stand in the way of you reaching your goal. You must work to overcome your resistance. To keep you safe, your subconscious mind is committed to keeping things the same. You must overcome this inertia and break out of your old patterns to get the love you want.

Feeling resistance means you’re stretching and growing in your life. Treat resistance as a growth meter instead of allowing it to hold you back, use it to push forward into unchartered territory.

Letting resistance win just keeps you stuck in your old pattern and allowing your strategy of relationship self-sabotage to be in control.

You can stop sabotaging your relationships by feeling compassion for the little child within you who was attempting to feel loved and safe. Your childhood strategies don’t have to control your love life now that you’re a grown adult.

Nurture self-love and self-compassion and ultimately step through the doorway of fear to a new way of being in your intimate relationships.

If you’re tired of sabotaging your relationships and are ready to take a new approach to lasting love, join us for a Soulmate Strategy Session. We’ll help you create a personalized plan for breaking your negative patterns in love and finding your soulmate.

About the authors

Love Coaches Orna and Matthew Walters

Orna and Matthew Walters are soulmate coaches and prolific writers about love. Finding love, keeping love, healing from heartbreak, bringing in your beloved and more. They have been published on MSN, Yahoo!, YourTango, Redbook, and have been featured guest experts on BRAVO’s THE MILLIONAIRE MATCHMAKER with Patti Stanger, and as guests with Esther Perel speaking about love and intimacy.

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