Are you sabotaging your relationships?

ABC News. (2018, February 17th). Relationship sabotage is a rarely studied phenomenon, but now researchers look for answers.

Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-17/why-do-we-sabotage-romantic-relationships/9425844?pfmredir=sm

ABC Far North By Anna Hartley
Updated 17 Feb 2018, 7:39am

Are you someone that pulls the plug on a relationship when things start to get serious no matter how 'perfect' your potential partner might seem?

You're not alone.

Self-sabotage in romantic relationships is a common problem and now researchers are investigating the psychology behind why some of us do it.

An abrupt and traumatic break-up at age 19 was the catalyst for Kahlee Cummings' decade-long cycle of relationship sabotage.
The far north Queensland mum is now engaged to her 'dream man', but said she still fought the urge to sabotage the relationship almost daily.

"It's something I'm working on," she admitted.

"In the past I was telling myself I wasn't letting anyone into my daughter's life to protect her, which I was, but realised I was mostly [ending relationships] for self-preservation."

The beauty therapist said she would look for any excuse to get out of a relationship as soon as things started to get serious.

"Instead of focusing on the positive I was searching for negatives so I could end the relationship, [it was] usually between the two-and-three-month mark," she said.

"I wanted to be the one to end things before I could be hurt again.

"There were men that were incredible that came into my life that would've made amazing partners, husbands and fathers but I wasn't prepared to give them the opportunity."

PHOTO: Far north Queensland woman Kahlee Cummings is a self-confessed serial relationship saboteur. (ABC Far North: Anna Hartley)

Relationship sabotage a 'rarely studied phenomenon'

Raquel Peel, PhD lead researcher at James Cook University, said little study had been done in the field of psychology on people who could successfully start relationships, but not maintain them.

"Self-sabotage is a strategy people use to protect or enhance themselves and it's not uncommon," she said.

"Short-term, self-sabotage can provide the illusion of control over the environment and bolster a person's sense of self but long-term it undermines those same things."

Ms Peel said while the study was ongoing, so far it looked as though our past plays a key role in how we handle adult romantic relationships.

She said those with secure attachment styles found it easy to trust in romantic relationships as adults, while those with insecure attachment styles expected relationships to fail no matter how suitable their partner might be — and might not realise what they are doing.

"It's not something we think about, it's something that just happens. You have that negative belief of relationships ingrained in you and you don't even realise it. It's like a self-fulfilling cycle," Ms Peel said.

realise what they are doing.

"It's not something we think about, it's something that just happens. You have that negative belief of relationships ingrained in you and you don't even realise it. It's like a self-fulfilling cycle," Ms Peel said.

"If you had a bad relationship with your parents it doesn't always mean you will have a bad relationship with your partner [but] we believe self-saboteurs hold insecure views of romantic relationships. It's not a death sentence."

How to stop the cycle

Ms Cummings said she realised her pattern of continual relationship sabotage at age 19, but couldn't stop.

"I don't think I have overcome it myself," she said.

"I'm lucky to have such a supportive partner and I explained to him what I do and why I do it and he's able to constantly convince me that he's not going anywhere and it's okay."

The mother offered advice to other men and women facing similar situations.

"Everyone has different reasons for being the way they are but you need to be self-aware, you need to think about if you are doing this," Ms Cummings said.

Ms Peel said her research so far supported the idea that self-awareness was vital to stopping the pattern of relationship sabotage.

"You need to be aware of the behaviours you bring into a relationship," she said.

"I am starting to narrow down a lot of common behaviours, a lack of trust and criticism, they are small behaviours that can go a long way to [sabotaging] a long-lasting relationship."

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