Why do we sabotage our relationships?

It’s so common to self-sabotage in a relationships. My first TEDx “Stop Sabotaging Yourself” is about this topic and while it’s so common, it’s often so subtle we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

So why do we do this? Here are 6 reasons:

1.We often do this because there’s something we may not be willing to feel or face and by sabotaging the relationship, we don’t have to look at what we’re unwilling or not ready to see.

2.We can sabotage in a relationship because old beliefs come up that we’re not worthy, not lovable, not deserving of a healthy and happy relationship. We’ll do just about anything to prove ourselves right. So, if we’re subconsciously thinking “I don’t deserve a healthy relationship” we’ll sabotage it.

3.We can sabotage a relationship out of guilt. If we hurt someone in the past and haven’t processed and worked through it, sabotaging a relationship is a way of punishing ourselves for our past. I see this in people who’ve betrayed someone they love. They may have moved on from the relationship, but the betrayer hasn’t done the work to heal themselves. When they work through what led to their actions, how to process that, how to heal it, how to make sure they’d never choose those behaviors again, they can make sense out of it. From there, they can do all they can to fix it.

That doesn’t mean the person they hurt is willing to listen. The person they hurt may not even be alive. It’s still important to pay it forward in whatever way you can-maybe it’s to prevent others from choosing that same path, maybe it’s a way to heal your shame and guilt. It’s also important to move towards self forgiveness because holding onto the pain isn’t doing anything for you or anyone else.

4.We can sabotage a relationship because on some level, we know it’s not a fit but don’t know how to address that. Or, we feel too scared to speak up about it. So instead, we may do things to slowly chip away at the relationship. This way, when the break up happens, we can chalk it up to it just not working out and possibly place the blame on the other person instead of taking responsibility for the breakup.

5-We can sabotage a relationship because we’re trying to get someone to “prove their love.” If deep down, we don’t believe we’re lovable or worthy of love, we may go to lengths to get someone to prove it in order to convince ourselves that yes, we are in fact, lovable.

I remember having a client years ago who wanted to lose weight. Now, diving deep into human behavior for over 30 years I know that often, excess weight has very little to do with food. In her case, her weight was serving as a way to test her husband’s love. She was convinced that he didn’t love her so her excess weight was her way of subconsciously believing “Ok, let’s see if you love me with all this weight on” Sort of a passive/aggressive way of “talking back”. She was testing him as if the only measure of their love was judged by her appearance. We do these types of things all the time.

6.We can sabotage a relationship so we have something else to blame/criticize and judge instead of ourselves. This is so subtle but a big one. For example, if you break up with someone, you can blame your pain and hurt on the relationship so you don’t have to look at and deal with the deep pain and hurt of unprocessed trauma for example.

There are so many reasons why we sabotage in a relationship and while it’s mostly for protection, there are lots of reasons why we do it.

If you’re self sabotaging, especially after shattered trust and betrayal-whether you’re the betrayed or the betrayer, we can help. Go to ThePBT Institute.com and let’s get you healed, happy, confident and moving through all of it.

Dr. Debi
Founder and CEO, The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute


269: Thriving Post Divorce w/ Dr. Elizabeth Cohen