Why men self-sabotage 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 the reality of a lot of breakups.

Why men self-sabotage relationships

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.

So you start to ask yourself: “‘What happened?”.

And in an attempt to answer this question, you examine each interaction you have had, every word you spoke and every argument that occurred. 

But after a while, your only answer is: “I don’t know.”. 

Because the truth is, sometimes men self-sabotage a relationship and there is nothing you can do about it. 

Related Post: How women self-sabotage relationships

self-sabotaging behavior in relationships

What is self-sabotage

Simply explained, self-sabotage in a relationship is when your partner’s conscious or unconscious 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

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. 

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. 

As he feels becoming too close to you and falling in love, he unconsciously starts to look for a way to avoid facing these fears.

Sabotaging a relationship subconsciously

Most of the times a man is not even aware that he is self-sabotaging the relationship with his 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. 

How men self-sabotage relationships

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 sabotaging your relationship.

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

And it does that in 10 different ways. 

10 ways men self-sabotage relationships

1. Trust issues/ paranoia

The number one way men self-sabotage 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. 

sabotaging a relationship subconsciously

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. 

3. Ignoring the other person

A very toxic way in which men self-sabotage 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. 

what causes self-sabotaging behavior

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. His fear of intimacy will trigger him to refrain from sharing emotional intimacy with you.

Therefore, whenever he 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. 

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 breadcrumbing 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. 

self-sabotaging relationships

9. Quitting before it gets too real

Ohh this one always makes me mad. The most sneaky or f&$#ed up way that men self-sabotage 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. 

How to deal with a man that self-sabotages relationships

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 a man that self-sabotages a relationship might not mean harm and is acting out of fear, it’s not smart to become emotionally invested in a situation he is creating for himself. 

how to stop self-sabotaging relationships

All you can do is to evaluate the relationship at its current stage and see what you have to do to make things easier for yourself. Meaning, decide if you have to end things now or prefer to point out the patterns you noticed to your man. 

However, remember you might not be able to influence the ongoing cycle he is trapped in. 

Why men self-sabotage relationships

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