Whether you’re at a roadblock with your long-term partner or finding yourself out of luck at new romantic endeavours, it’s easy to blame the situation or the other people involved. However, the problem may very well be within your own actions, past experiences and coping mechanisms.
In their 2019 study The Romantic Self-Saboteur: How Do People Sabotage Love? Dr. Raquel Peel et al observed that “There is a distinct lack of knowledge to explain why some people, having successfully initiated a relationship, embark upon a path to certain dissolution of that engagement.” Through their study of 608 participants, it was concluded that though the area requires further research, factors like difficulty to trust and defensiveness played a big role.
These factors may crop up from a variety of underlying sources. If you have been suffering from the fear of commitment, low self-esteem, unresolved past trauma etc, you may end up projecting that negativity on your partner or spouse. “People with self-esteem difficulties will self-sabotage because they experience fret. Again, they do it to protect themselves,” says Dr. Peel in her 2018 TED Talk Why do we sabotage love?.
It is important to, therefore, check in with yourself from time to time and try to combat the issues head-on without letting them fester until it is too late.
Warning Signs To Watch Out For
- Lack of trust: You may have some sour past experiences that left you unable to fully trust another person. These wounds stop you from being vulnerable to your partner or opening up to them. The fear of them abandoning you can also make you avoid a committed relationship altogether.
“Results suggest that insecurely attached individuals experience lower relationship satisfaction, in part because they hold less efficacious beliefs about their ability to engage in caregiving and careseeking behaviours”, revealed a 2019 study published by Cambridge University Press, titled Attachment, Efficacy Beliefs and Relationship Satisfaction in Dating, Emerging Adult Women.
- Non-confrontation: You tend to avoid difficult conversations. You shut yourself down or stay distracted and in denial of your partner’s contempt towards you. This lack of clarity and communication can have disastrous effects.
Dr. John Gottman of The Gottman Institute identifies this behaviour as ‘stonewalling’, one of his Four Horsemen of negative behaviour.
- Possessiveness: Your partner is a sovereign individual with their own life, their own personality and their own past. When you tend to be jealous or controlling, you are not only invading their privacy but also objectifying them.
- Distance: In a long-term relationship, you may end up taking your partner for granted. You become less and less attentive towards them. Commitment issues can also manifest through disinterest towards meeting their family and friends or taking any major steps forward in the relationship.
- No accountability: Do you find yourself immediately becoming defensive and calling names in case of a conflict? While self-respect is indispensable, taking no responsibility for yourself is no solution either.
- Self-deprecation: In their 2019 presentation What do psychologists have to say about self-sabotage in romantic relationships?, Dr. Raquel Peel et al suggest that so far, self-sabotage has primarily been defined as a physical barrier. However, in romantic relationships, it’s more likely to arise from intrapersonal struggles.
If you don’t respect yourself or present a positive image of yourself, your partner will find it difficult to connect with you. Self-deprecation can look like: constantly criticising yourself, insinuating that your partner must hate you, being insecure about their feelings towards you etc.
- Gaslighting: Your partner may be going through things you don’t know of. Being unaware of their needs but putting all your baggage on them, can be manipulative.
Can You Fix Your Relationship?
- Meet them halfway: For a successful and stable relationship, effort and respect needs to be mutual. Try to do your bit. Reassure your partner of your love and support. Little acts of affection (both physical and emotional) can go a long way.
- Be a good listener:To resolve any conflict, both of you need to be able to have a say in the discussion. That is what will elevate it from just an argument. Listen to your partner’s grievances, try to process them instead of outright refuting them. Articulate your own emotions and try to reach unanimity.
“We need to figure out how to collaborate with our partners and how even to be vulnerable together. Are you and your partner in the same team? Do you talk to your partner about your relationship goals? Do you see you and your partner together long-term?”, Dr. Peel concludes in her TED Talk.
- Be kind to yourself: Acknowledging your flaws and working on yourself is not an overnight trick. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the little milestones. The idea is to keep making the effort and getting out of that self-sabotage cycle.
- Get help: Being supported is not a weakness, it’s better to seek out a professional’s advice when things get too rough. If either of you feel the relationship is becoming too toxic or abusive, therapy is a valid and respectable choice.
Ultimately, it’s important to accept that sometimes, some relationships are not compatible. If that’s the case, respect your partner’s decisions and learn to let go.