Self sabotaging relationships

There is undoubtedly nothing worse than when a relationship ends and you do not understand why. 

You feel completely blindsided and it seems like everything was fine just a week ago. But now your (ex-) boyfriend seems cold, distant, and unbothered. 

Unfortunately, that’s true for a lot of breakups.

A man ends a relationship without prior warning or a sign that he was not happy anymore. And even though you might have sensed a subtle shift in his behavior, you never would have thought that this is it.

The truth is, sometimes men self-sabotage relationships and there is nothing you can do about it. That’s why in this post, I’m sharing how a man sabotages a relationship and if he is doing it subconsciously or not. 

However, before I share some common signs he is sabotaging the relationship, let’s discuss why self-sabotage happens.

Self-Sabotaging Relationships? WHY and HOW Men and Women Do It!

self-sabotaging relationships

What is self-sabotaging relationships?  

Simply explained, self-sabotage in a relationship is when your partner’s conscious or subconscious actions get in the way of maintaining a healthy relationship. 

There are different ways people self-sabotage relationships, but causing arguments/ being controlling or being distant are very common behaviors. 

What causes self-sabotaging behavior in relationships?

As with most unhealthy behaviors, the root of self-sabotage is fear. 

In particular three different types of fears. The fear of abandonment/ rejection, fear of engulfment, or the fear of intimacy. 

Each one of these fears can stem from traumas or experiences people have during their childhood that shape the way they behave in their adult lives. 

So if you are asking yourself “Why do men sabotage relationships?”, then one of these fears is most likely the answer. 

Fear of abandonment/ rejection: The overwhelming fear that you will be rejected by your loved one. The tendency to display behavior and thought patterns that affect the relationship negatively and ultimately lead to the dreaded abandonment. 

Fear of intimacy: The fear that a relationship is becoming too close or intimate. It’s characterized by the inability to share your true self with your partner and become vulnerable. 

Fear of engulfment: The fear that your partner over-immerses himself/ herself in the relationship. He/she depends on you to meet all her needs. You become his/her everything. 

And unfortunately, these fears come up the strongest in a relationship he feels good about, because now the stakes are higher. 

what causes self-sabotaging behavior

Sabotaging a relationship subconsciously

Most of the time men are not even aware that they are self-sabotaging relationships with their actions.

In his mind, he feels connected to you and loves you, but in his subconscious mind, he might be nervous about the pressure of commitment. If that’s the case, his mind will look for ways to get him out of that situation and trigger him to pull back the moment things get too close. 

Or he might be afraid of the pain a potential breakup could cause, so he starts looking for flaws that would justify the breakup. 

All these behaviors could be ways he is sabotaging the relationship subconsciously before it even has a chance to grow. 

And unless you are dealing with a narcissist or are in a toxic relationship it is very unlikely that he is intentionally self-sabotaging the relationship.

Because at the core, self-sabotaging behavior is an unconscious attempt to protect yourself. It’s your mind trying to keep you safe from the perceived fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy, or fear of engulfment. That’s why men sabotage relationships. 

But now let’s look at how a man sabotages a relationship.

How a man sabotages a relationship

1. Trust issues/ paranoia 

The number one way men are self-sabotaging relationships is paranoia and relationship anxiety. Their trust issues are fed by the fear of losing you and so they behave paranoid. This may include jealousy, excessive control, and being possessive. 

The problem is that when a man is paranoid about you leaving his behavior will make you feel trapped and helpless. That can easily get to a point where it becomes so uncomfortable that it drives you away. 

2. Causing arguments

The second most common way that men self-sabotage relationships is by picking unnecessary arguments. He will start to blow seemingly small disagreements out of proportion repeatedly causing conflicts.

If he is doing that, he is trying to provoke a reaction in you that will justify a breakup. 

How men self-sabotage relationships

3. Ignoring the other person

A very toxic way in which men are self-sabotaging relationships is by ignoring or stonewalling their partner. If he never pays attention to your needs or ignores your requests, it could be that he is trying to keep his distance from you. 

Rather than investing into the relationship, he is afraid of being too needed and losing his autonomy. So, he will unconsciously withdraw to gain space. 

4. Being emotionally unavailable 

Being emotionally unavailable is probably one of the most common ways a man self-sabotages a relationship in the beginning/ dating phase.

It is one of the ways I experienced it in the past. A man I dated in the past had a fear of intimacy. He sabotaged our relationship by avoiding emotional intimacy with me because it triggered him.

Therefore, whenever a man feels like he is becoming too vulnerable, he tries to keep you at arm’s length in order to make a possible breakup hurt less. Through that behavior he ends up causing you to feel unloved or unwanted and unconsciously manifesting a breakup.

5. Cheating

Cheating is a very painful way to self-sabotage a relationship. A man that cheats on a woman he loves and cherishes is undermining her trust and throwing a grenade into the relationship.  

Unfortunately, it is still very common. Men who cheat on their women because of self-sabotage often do it, in order to serve their ego. Rather than approaching the issue headfirst, they choose to be sneaky and avoid the confrontation.

6. Looking for a flaw

There is a saying that ‘if you look for a flaw, you will find a flaw’. A common way that men will self-sabotage a relationship is by focusing on the one thing that is ‘wrong’ with you. 

He will zoom in on that flaw in order to convince himself that you are not right for him. This could be something as harmless as your voice. Anything that will give him a reason to opt-out of the relationship. 

7. Being inconsistent/ flaky

Another common self-sabotaging behavior at the beginning of the dating phase can be inconsistency. If he repeatedly cancels plans, is unavailable or ghosts you, it shows that he is not ready for a relationship. 

He may be afraid of commitment and therefore might be bread-crumbing you.

8. Not committing 

When a man is not 100% ready to commit, he will often play games to distract from the real issue. 

He may refuse to make the relationship official, even though you have been seeing each other for weeks. Or he may purposely put work and other commitments ahead of you and the relationship. 

By neglecting to prioritize the growth of the relationship, he is dooming it to fail. 

9. Quitting before it gets too real

Ohh this one always makes me mad. The most sneaky or f&$#ed up way that men are self-sabotaging relationships is by quitting before it ever has a chance to evolve. 

A lot of men will be afraid of putting in the work it takes to make a relationship last and therefore they will quit at the first sign of challenges.

10. High expectations 

Even though this self-sabotaging behavior is often used by women, some men use it too. They will create an unrealistic expectation (often physical) of their girlfriend, which sets her up to fail. Once you are not able to meet his high expectation it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that confirms their speculation. 

While men and women both struggle with the same fears: The fear of rejection/abandonment, the fear of engulfment, and the fear of intimacy. Each gender, however, has a unique way of dealing with them.

Men are more likely to self-sabotage a relationship with outward actions, such as cheating, inconsistency, or emotional unavailability, whereas women often silently self-sabotage relationships by denying themselves of their happiness or acting upon limiting beliefs

That’s why now I want to shed a light on how a woman sabotages a relationship.

How a man sabotages a relationship

Signs she is sabotaging the relationship

1. Settling

Number one is the one I used to be most prone to. And that is that women tend to settle for a relationship that does not truly serve them. 

Meaning that, rather than waiting for someone that meets your standards and shares your values, you settle for a man that simply shows interest or is available. 

It’s a sign of scarcity thinking that implies that you don’t believe that you can do better and decide that you need to be happy with what you can get.

Speaking from experience these relationships usually end with at least one broken heart and the assumption that something is wrong with you. When in all reality you just haven’t met the right one yet. 

2. Being inauthentic

One of my favorite dating mantras is: “Be yourself from the start because you want to find the person that loves the real you”.

A lot of times women will trade in authenticity to maintain a connection. We become who we think our partner wants us to be and thus betray ourselves. 

However, putting on a mask is not sustainable. The real you is bound to show up and when that happens, you might realize that the two of you are not compatible after all. 

If you betray yourself to appeal to someone else you are essentially sabotaging the relationship, by setting yourself and him up for disappointment. 

3. Avoiding conflict

This point might come as a surprise to some of you. Because as children we are taught that avoiding conflict is a good thing and means that we are being “nice”. 

However, there is such a thing as being too nice. And that is if you are pleasing your partner to the point that you compromise yourself. 

If you repeatedly bow down to his needs and wants but fail to speak up for your own, you don’t just avoid conflict but rob the relationship of its potential for growth. 

If you consistently avoid conflict, over time, it will impact your connection in many ways. The unresolved differences will fester, even more, leading to less intimacy due to resentment and anger. 

Eventually, your relationship will become stagnant and uncomfortable and prompt your partner to break up.  

4. Things are going too well

Less common, but just as destructive is the idea that things are going too well. 

You believe that your relationship and your man is “too good to be true”. Rather than appreciating the relationship and your boyfriend you doubt and second-guess every action. 

You start to believe that it’s just a matter of time before things hit the fan and the relationship ends.

Unfortunately, this belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because you start looking for flaws or signs that the relationship is doomed. And slowly your paranoia will start to push him away.

5. Setting your expectations too high

Even though everybody knows that perfection is impossible, some women tend to set their expectations of a romantic partner very high.

The problem with setting high expectations is that your partner will start to feel like it is impossible to please you and make him believe he is not good enough. He will eventually give up trying and end the relationship. 

Meanwhile, you will blame your partner for the relationship failure, even though it was you that failed to set realistic expectations.

6. Controlling your partner

The need for control stems from the fear that your partner might leave you for something/ someone better. In an attempt to constantly monitor their feelings towards you, you demand control over every aspect of their lives. 

You want to know what they are doing, what they are thinking, and how they are doing at all times. This intense control is a violation of their privacy and will make them feel constricted. 

The underlying message that you don’t trust them and are anxious about your value to them will cause stress in your partner and end up costing you the relationship. 

7. Being insecure 

Probably the most common way women are self-sabotaging their relationship is by being insecure about their value and acting needy. The constant need for reassurance from your partner shows that you have low self-esteem. 

Women who portray that behavior struggle with the assumption that they are not good, beautiful, or interesting enough for their boyfriend. They feel unworthy of their partner’s love and therefore question his intentions.

The problem is, that if he constantly has to reassure you, but you keep tearing yourself down, he will eventually give up and break up with you. 

8. Choosing unavailable partners

Another interesting way women sabotage their relationships is by choosing partners that are wrong for them. The best example is the bad boy or the emotionally unavailable man.

By going after someone that exhibits all the qualities you do not desire in a future mate, you are setting yourself up for failure. This is often done subconsciously by women that think they are ready for a relationship but are not. 

You enter a relationship with someone unavailable because you fear commitment yourself. 

9. Comparing your man to others

One of the main reasons why relationships fail is because we compare our boyfriend and our relationship with others, especially lovers and relationships we have had in the past. 

While thinking of your ex and the experiences you shared from time to time is normal, it becomes a problem when you get stuck comparing the closeness and feelings you had with your ex to your new partner.

Your partner and your ex are two completely different people and therefore comparing them won’t ever work. 

Rather than questioning if your current relationship measures up to your past relationship, you need to be open to a new connection and new experiences unique to your new relationship.

10. Trust issues 

And last but certainly not least, women often subconsciously self-sabotage a relationship when they have not dealt with their past hurt. 

It may be that you have been heartbroken too many times and now your trust issues affect the new relationship. 

Instead of truly trusting your boyfriend, you constantly wait for him to disappoint you. You are resistant to his kindness, love, or care because you don’t want to get too vulnerable and have to face the same hurt as in the past. 

Unfortunately, trust is one of the main components of a healthy relationship. By withholding your trust from him, you are making it impossible to build intimacy and grow together as a couple. This will eventually lead to a break-up. 

signs of self-sabotaging behavior in relationships

How do I stop self-sabotaging my relationship?

The problem with self-sabotage is that it stems from a deep-rooted fear that we are oftentimes unaware of. Most of the self-defeating practices are subconscious and therefore hard to change. However, it is not impossible. Here are three steps that can help you break the cycle:

Examine your actions and attitude

Start by analyzing how you act when you are in a relationship. Are most of your actions and behaviors a reaction to deep-rooted fears. Are you worried that you can’t satisfy your partner or do you get anxious when things get too serious? 

Ask yourself the tough questions and try to identify patterns in your current or past relationships that led to a break-up. Once you understand the reason behind your behavior you will be able to reframe your limiting beliefs and outsmart your negative voice. 

Only pursue relationships that have the potential to work 

The easiest way to avoid a breakup is to partner up with someone compatible. Rather than jumping at the next best opportunity to be a girlfriend, have the tough talk with your love interest and find out what his intentions are. 

If the two of you have different agendas, then you should not even waste your time pursuing a relationship with him, because it is headed nowhere. 

Increase your self-esteem 

At the core of romantic self-saboteurs is the belief that you have to protect yourself, therefore you unconsciously “pull the plug” before the other person can.

A woman who knows her self-worth and loves herself is very aware of the value she brings to the relationship and does not even assume that her partner will break up. She is confident that the relationship will thrive because she believes in her ability to build a loving connection. 

Therefore, the best way to stop sabotaging your relationship is believing that you are worthy of the love your boyfriend has to offer and investing in the relationship without hesitation. 

how to stop self-sabotaging relationships

What to do when someone is sabotaging the relationship 

Even though I presented the above behaviors in a very scientific and relatable way, I want to reiterate that by no means is self-sabotage a behavior you should excuse in a relationship. 

Even though men who are self-sabotaging relationships might not mean harm and are acting out of fear, it’s not smart to become emotionally invested in a situation he is creating for himself. 

When you are dating someone who self sabotages you have to evaluate the relationship at its current stage and decide for yourself if the challenges are worth it. 

Meaning, decide if you have to end things now or prefer to point out the patterns you noticed to your man. 

If he is willing to work on it, great. But if he is not, then it might be time to let go. 

Because you will not be able to break an ongoing cycle he is trapped in. 

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