Relationships can be beautiful, the more vulnerable you allow yourself to someone the more you fear rejection, hurt and disappointment. Too often we allow past experiences in affecting our present-day situations, sure it is human to learn from mistakes made and as we proceed we self-preserve in preparation for the future. You end up sabotaging your relationship because of fear of what may have happened in the past.
Psychotherapist Mercedes Coffman, MFT, refers to the concept of emotional memory for understanding why this occurs. “Although we may not have recall of certain early experiences in life,” Coffman says, “our emotional memory is often what triggers a deepened sense of hurt in romantic relationships, which may seem like an overreaction to others, and sometimes even to ourselves. This can make us self-sabotage our relationship that could have had the potential to grow into something wonderful.”
We can allow ourselves to be flooded with the pain of the past and risk engaging in self-sabotaging behaviour, or we can choose to see relationships as an opportunity to work on ourselves by repairing old wounds.
Here are a few things that could contribute to self-sabotaging what could otherwise be a good relationship, in fact, a great one:
When we experience difficulty, it is helpful to understand the things that affect us. “People come out of their family of origin with a blueprint of how they attach to others,” says relationship therapist Rhonda Milrad, LCSW. “This attachment style is played out in every one of their relationships. For people who experienced trauma, abandonment, enmeshing, etc., they most often develop insecure attachments as adults where they have trouble trusting relationships.”
She explains that the closer someone is to another person, the greater the likelihood that their attachment style can become challenged, and that the strains will bring out their worst qualities, such as jealousy, anger, and enmeshing, often leading to self-sabotaging behaviour.
“The way our parents responded to us as infants and children has a deeply profound impact on how we develop and grow, you sabotaging your relationship by allowing those past feelings into your present-day situation, particularly in how we see ourselves and view others,” says clinical psychologist Lisa Herman. “A parent’s attention to them in infancy and childhood might have been warm and attentive one moment but cold or aloof at other times. Not knowing what you might get as an infant primes one to possibly feel this way in future relationships.” This can lead to the need for an excessive amount of reassurance, which can exhaust a partner. Milrad acknowledges that this isn’t permanent: Many people can re-work how they attach to adulthood and thrive in romantic relationships, the important thing is to know, then you can correct.
Identify your triggers.
Marriage and family therapist Shadeen Francis suggests making a journal about the experiences in your relationship that trigger behaviour you experience as self-sabotaging. Ask yourself: What was happening? What did you feel at the time? What were you afraid of? How likely is it that the outcome you feared would happen?
Asking yourself the tough questions about your past will give you a blueprint and then you can make the necessary changes. It sometimes just requires an open conversation with parents, siblings or friends who you have a long-standing relationship with as a child.
Insecurity in relationships is inevitable, “because everybody has issues to work on,” says psychotherapists Marina Lenderman, LCSW. “It’s critical to know what yours are. Awareness comes with behaviour. If you frequently pick fights or start blaming your partner, awareness has been lost. Both people have a role in the conflict, so it’s important to be aware of how much of it is your part.”
After a fight are you quick to point a finger, if it was not for your partner there would not be an issue, if you are that type of person then it is time to be introspective. Irrespective of who started the argument and how much you think that other person contributed to the argument, your first reaction to conflict is to do your introspection.
Do not allow your past to be your reality.
There is a saying, “If it’s hysterical, it’s historical,” meaning our strong emotional reactions can be our best clues to unfinished business from our past. The next time you experience a reaction that you suspect may be out of proportion from what you identify as the triggering event, take a moment to pause before responding. Lenderman suggests asking yourself, “How much is my past replaying, and how much is the present day?” We may not always know the answer, but simply by considering the possibility, we move closer to healthy patterns of behaviour. Denying your relationship can take many forms.
Communication is key.
Are your conversations a recurring decimal, are you anxious every time you think to talk through a difficult position in your relationship, are you hearing the same words, feeling the same feelings, reminded of the past, then maybe all you need to do is tweak a few things and you should be on your way, sabotaging your relationship can happen without you noticing, however, it is always important that you can explain to your partner your feelings without making your partner feel they have to take responsibility for those feelings.
Darren Pierre, author of The Invitation to Love, agrees. He suggests inviting your partner to be patient with you. “All of us have limitations in relationships,” he says, “and a well-defined commitment made upfront offers an understanding that we are dedicated to each other beyond the adversities that are bound to occur.”
Finally, as most of us already know, without self-love there cannot be true love for another — at least not the kind that leads to healthy, loving relationships. Cultivating self-compassion is essential for those who struggle with low self-esteem, especially when this manifests in relationships. Do you know how you want to be treated in a loving relationship? Then you know what you can offer to another, just be consistent with it and remember to give your partner the benefit of a doubt.
Sabotaging your relationship
When you can love yourself in a healthy way you are then able to love another, the mistake we make is that with our broken lives we expect someone to come in and soothe our hearts. In the beginning, it can be great but when we settle down and our insecurities surface, we then retreat to the corner of the ring, our memories are triggered by the past and the person we allow closest to us is not getting it, ugh! It has been 3 years and they still cannot reach you, but how can they when you are in the corner stooped and not ready for the challenge of love and life? It is time for you to leave the past behind and not sabotage another love experience.
Inspired by Cecile Barclay