Why Do We Sabotage Love? Reasons to Self-Sabotage Romantic Relationships.

By Raquel Peel

The saying goes 'love is grand', so it seems strange that many of us set out to sabotage it.

Some people, having successfully initiated a relationship, embark upon what appears to be a path to certain destruction.

Some people seem to pull the plug on relationships too quickly… when things get serious or difficult… No matter how 'perfect' their potential partner might be!!!

Reasons to Self-Sabotage Romatic Relationships

Is this you? Or someone you know?

I suspect there are a lot of people out there who are (or have been) a romantic self-saboteur and that is why I have conducted several studies on the topic.

In one study I asked HOW and WHY 696 people in relationships sabotaged their relationships.

There are five main reasons why people sabotage relationships (I will tell you the 'how' in the next article):

  1. Fear
  2. Difficulty with Self-Esteem and Negative Self-Concept
  3. Broken Trust
  4. High Expectations
  5. Lack of Relationship Skills

Fears can be presented as any or those:

  • Fear of Being Hurt
  • Fear of Rejection
  • Fear of Abandonment
  • Fear of Commitment

Or, more broadly, they can be a result of numerous factors that come with being in a relationship.

Here are some examples of what people have said regarding fear:

I am always afraid it is not going to work out or I am going to get hurt, but I know that me trying to maintain a distance like that is one of the reasons my relationships always fail.

(female, age 25, pansexual)

I am scared of commitment. I feel like if I give myself to someone they will just get tired of me and toss me to the side when they are done with me.

(male participant, age 20, heterosexual)

Low self-esteem and negative attributions about the self and others can affect interpersonal relationships.

Individuals with self-esteem difficulties or negative self-concept resort to self-sabotage practices because they experience threat. Here are some examples:

I avoid people who like me, I think there is something wrong with them.

(female, age 34, heterosexual)

I am not good enough for my partner and one day he will realize that and leave. I tend to think I am lesser than my partner and do not deserve him.

(female, age 23, heterosexual)

Again, they sabotage to protect themselves!

Broken trust is often a result of past experiences of betrayal. This includes being unable to trust romantic partners and feeling overly jealous. Here is an example:

I no longer trust my romantic partners 100%. I will always be thinking about what I would do if they left or cheated, so I never get fully invested.

(female, age 29, heterosexual)

High expectations of romantic relationships may be a product of unrealistic standards derived from perfectionistic traits and they can be a barrier to forming and maintaining relationships. Here is an example:

I am held back by high expectations and the fantasy of what successful relationships look like. I have been fed a romanticized and perfect picture of relationship[s] that diverges greatly from the reality of what dating is like.

(female, age 26, androphilic)

Lack of relationship skills refers to individuals’ inability to understand or have insight into couple dynamics. For example, not being open to finding solutions and not admitting fault for relationship issues or breakdown.

For some, lack of relationship skills can get in the way of relationships. Here is an example:

I am so young. I have no idea what I am doing...

(female, age 17, heterosexual)

There are countless examples just like these…

Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy

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