The best thing about a new relationship is that it’s a clean slate. (Shout-out to Sex and the City for hitting the nail on the head with that interpretation.) A brand-new relationship is full of promise and potential. You may have screwed up the last one, but you’re not going to repeat the same mistakes this time — or are you?
Unfortunately, the self-love that is required for a successful relationship is often replaced by a destructive antiself, formed by a deep-seated, critical inner voice that causes you to sabotage potential relationships. The antiself casts doubt on your worthiness of love and fosters self-criticism, which manifests as self-sabotaging actions. A real “clean slate” happens when you’ve bettered your relationship with yourself and have stopped listening to that critical inner voice, thus entering the new relationship in a healthier and more secure state of mind. Those who have yet to conquer their self-loathing habits won’t think they deserve love, and they’ll assume their partner will leave them, so they’ll push their partner away to beat them to the punch. In essence, this protects your ego, allowing you to reject them before you’re rejected.
Until you truly love yourself, you’ll subconsciously want to sabotage any chance at love that comes your way out of fear that if you don’t, you’ll become vulnerable to an inevitable failure. Mike Bundrant, licensed professional counselor, cofounder at the iNLP Center, and author of Your Achilles Heel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage, explains that this type of psychological attachment to rejection or failure has been identified as one of the biggest reasons for self-sabotage. “Self-sabotage involves consciously or unconsciously acting against your own best interest, and long-term patterns of self-sabotage are caused by negative psychological attachments.” There are several different ways we do this and ruin promising relationships. Here are eight ways you could be sabotaging your new relationship.
1. Making Assumptions Instead of Communicating
Millennials seem to be terrible at directly communicating their feelings, wants, needs, and concerns. Being direct is a communication skill that can progress a new relationship in a very beneficial way. It’s unfortunate that we often act in this passive and nonchalant manner that fails to promote or facilitate our actual desires. Your partner can’t read your mind, so don’t ascribe ill intent to their actions or assume that they’re acting a certain way to slight you. It’s a form of self-sabotage to assume the worst instead of openly communicating, and it’s also sabotage if you expect them to presume your needs without offering a little guidance.
2. Being Needy and Clingy
You’re aware that suffocating your partner with your neediness could push them away, but you do it anyway. Your boyfriend or girlfriend will naturally want to escape the relationship if he or she feels too much pressure from it. Being overly dependent on them and relying on them too much (instead of being happy independent from the relationship) will cause them to feel trapped.
Matthew Hussey, a renowned dating expert, founder of Get the Guy, and author of the New York Times bestseller Get the Guy: Learn Secrets of the Male Mind to Find the Man You Want and the Love You Deserve, explains that neediness stems from an inner fear of failed relationships. “Fear is one of the biggest reasons we self-sabotage in relationships,” he says. “Fear that we’re not enough, fear that we’ll find someone better, and a fear of being abandoned if someone’s feelings change. When we give into fear, we become needy, we overanalyze everything, and we end up suffocating our partner with our controlling and clingy behavior.”
If you find that you’re overly clingy or needy in relationships, the best thing to do is try letting your partner take the lead for a change. Hussey explains, “The key is to always focus on being as great as you can possibly be and to accept that you cannot control the relationship or its progress. If someone leaves you, it’s simply because they’re not right for you.” Being needy is you attempting to control the relationship and steer it in the direction you’re hoping it will go in. By accepting that you cannot control these things, you’ll become less needy and more laid-back.
3. Being Overly Guarded With One Foot Out the Door, Instead of Letting Yourself Fall in Love
As cliche as it is to say “love like you’ve never been hurt,” it is crucial to let your guard down if you want a new relationship to stand a chance. Let yourself fall in love. Maybe the last time you
fell in love, you got hurt. There’s obviously a chance that you’ll get hurt again, but keeping your guard up will only keep you from incredible experiences. By letting go of your fears, being brave, and going all in, you’re much closer to finding something real than you would be if you insisted on self-sabotaging by keeping one foot out the door. Jumping in with both feet requires bravery, but your relationship will benefit from that bravery.
Relationship therapist and professor Shadeen Francis explains that an unwillingness to be vulnerable is a sure way to sabotage a new relationship. “A new relationship requires openness and transparent communication to have a shot at succeeding,” she says. “Many people have learned to approach dating by being guarded, coy, or disengaged to protect themselves from getting hurt. The avoidance of vulnerability in new relationships can look like trying not to be too eager, pretending nothing bothers you in the relationship, or not telling your partner how much you care for them. True intimacy and a genuine connection requires vulnerability and for you to let your guard down.”
4. Putting Up a Front Instead of Being Yourself
Being yourself is crucial for any healthy and long-lasting relationship because if someone falls for your contrived act, they haven’t fallen for you. Many people sabotage relationships by pretending to be something they’re not, lying about their job, covering up significant character flaws, or pretending to have the same interests as their partner. Relationship expert April Masini says that any dishonesty in a relationship is major self-sabotage. “If you’re putting up a front and pretending to be someone you’re not, you’re being dishonest,” she says. “The truth always comes out, and when it does, your partner may feel they’ve been duped because you’ve tried to manipulate their perception of you. Plus, you’ll be overly anxious in a relationship built on lies where you can’t be yourself while waiting for the bomb to drop.”
5. Believing You’re Not Good Enough, or Doubting the Relationship
If you enter into a new relationship knowing that you struggle with low self-esteem, you’ll need to have blind faith when it comes to believing that someone is super into you. Self-sabotage happens when you believe you’re not good enough, no matter how much your new beau tries to show you that you are. Licensed therapist Katie Krimer explains that carrying negative beliefs about yourself into the relationship can cause the relationship’s demise. “Engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy can sabotage a new relationship. A self-fulfilling prophecy is the cycle where our negative beliefs about ourselves impact our actions toward others, which consequently damages their view of us, therefore confirming our original negative beliefs we had about ourselves. For example, you might believe that you’re unlovable — a belief that was perhaps picked up from a previous failed relationship — and you might therefore assume that your partner’s love for you won’t last, causing you to act in a way that sabotages the relationship.”
In other words, believing that you’re not good enough or being overly self-critical causes you to assume things are going downhill in the relationship, so you’ll push them away to beat them to the punch and protect your ego. If you generally have a negative attitude about dating and about yourself, you’ll consistently have doubts about the relationship which will sabotage it. The key is to better yourself and invalidate negative attitudes about dating before you enter a relationship.
6. Having Ridiculously High Expectations
It’s smart to be picky and to have high standards, but there is such a thing as taking it too far and having expectations of your partner that are way too high. If you find that you’re nit-picking and finding trivial things wrong with everyone you date, you’re probably subconsciously sabotaging your relationships by having expectations nobody could ever meet. In order to write my dating tell-all book Aren’t You Glad You Read This?, I had to dig deep to figure out that the reason my expectations were so unrealistic was because I wanted to use my high standards as an excuse to guarantee that no relationship would work for me, so that when it didn’t work out, I could blame my “high standards” instead of attributing the failed relationship to a flaw within myself. This is a classic defense mechanism, but it’s also a form of sabotage since nobody could live up to the ideals I’d manufactured.
7. Projecting Your Own Insecurities on to Your Partner
You’re projecting your own insecurities anytime you ascribe ill intent to your partner’s innocent mistakes, or when you assume that they believe the same critical thoughts that you have about yourself. For example, if a past partner hurt you, and your current partner says or does something that reminds you of that past hurt, you might project your insecurities onto them by overreacting to whatever they did that triggered you.
Dr. Michele Leno, licensed psychologist and founder of DML Psychological Services, points out that insecurities are often the root of self-sabotage, which is why a “clean slate” in the form of a brand-new relationship won’t necessarily break your self-sabotaging patterns. “Women tend to carry over resentments or fears from previous relationships into new relationships,” she says. “Although the intent is to start fresh, it’s common to use a past, troublesome relationship as a frame of reference. Insecurities are generally at the root of a woman’s self sabotage, but if she becomes aware of her sabotaging ways, there’s hope.”
8. Cheating or Keeping in Touch With an Ex
Cheating or keeping in touch with an ex are both extremely common ways people sabotage relationships. Kali Rogers, life coach and author of Conquering Your Quarter Life Crisis: How to Get Your Sh*t Together in Your 20s, explains that cheating often occurs due to a fear of being vulnerable. When you’re all in, loyal, and faithful, you’re extremely open and vulnerable. “With self-sabotage such as cheating, women can identify that this is why the relationship ended and protect their ego while keeping their pride,” says Rogers. “Yes, they cheated — but at least they weren’t rejected. Rejection would validate the notion that they’re not worthy of love — and that’s why they’d rather sabotage the relationship altogether than risk being vulnerable to rejection.” Perhaps this ties in with another common way we sabotage relationships, which is allowing ourselves to get distracted by other options instead of focusing on the one we’re with. It requires a brave vulnerability to see where things go with one person, but bravery gets you everywhere when it comes to relationships.