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Published on May 30, 2019

How to Stop Yourself from Sabotaging Relationships

How to Stop Yourself from Sabotaging Relationships

Love can be challenging at times, especially when you really care about keeping your relationship healthy. The ability to maintain a relationship in the long term isn’t a skill that most people naturally have. You want to make your relationship work yet the reality is that you sometimes sabotage your relationships without even knowing it.

Luckily, there are practical ways to stop yourself from sabotaging relationships effectively and I’d like to share some of these helpful methods with you today.

1. Communicate Your Standards and Values Early in the Relationship

You need to know what’s important to you and communicate it early in the relationship. A couple may have been together for five years and now they have major problems. However, closer examination shows that the root of their problems didn’t rock up recently. In fact, the seed of their most common issue of contention was planted very early in the relationship.

This happened because the couple didn’t communicate their values and standards at the beginning of their relationship. Initially, they were so crazy about each other; and being truly, madly and deeply in love, they chose to ignore communicating one of the most important parts of a healthy relationship: their values and standards.

For example, you’re in a new relationship. Knowing you value quality time together; you expect your partner to have a date night with you at least once a week. However, you soon discover your partner is a workaholic who wants to work seven days a week and is unwilling to invest more time in you. Because you are wildly attracted to them, you ignore this warning flag and continue to emotionally invest in being in a relationship with them.

The potential problem is that the attraction isn’t sustainable because the dynamics in this relationship and your values aren’t compatible. In the long term, you become resentful as your partner never seems to have time for you.

Then you wonder why you are sabotaging your relationship because you are frequently triggered into angry reactions due to your needs not being met. You know the truth is that you didn’t communicate your values and set your standards early in the relationship, and this has led to ongoing conflict within you.

It’s up to you to communicate important values in the early stages of your relationship. A relationship will naturally follow the course and direction you choose for it. If you want to stop yourself from sabotaging relationships, you need to clearly communicate your wants and needs. If you expect your partner to miraculously know your needs without clearly communicating them, chances are you will constantly be disappointed when they are not met.

When you are communicating your standards to your partner, remember to be kind, polite and sincere. It’s always easier for someone to accept your viewpoint when they can see you are being mindful of respecting their feelings.

In the second place, avoid playing games. Note that honesty is the best policy in all communication with your partner. He or she will appreciate your honesty in this regard because that shows your integrity and strength of character.

If you really want to be in a relationship with a person with conflicting values, clear communication becomes even more paramount.

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For instance, you would like your partner to spend more time with you every weekend, but your partner wants to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can say this to him or her, “Honey, I understand that your work is very important to you and I really admire your work ethic. Honestly, it will be better for our relationship if we can spend more time together every weekend, because I miss you when you are working all day Saturday and Sunday. Which day do you think we could schedule some time to spend together?”

In this example, there is no “but”. When you say something then inject the word “but”, it detracts from what you previously said. For example, if you were to say, “… I really admire your work ethic, but…”, this “but” eliminates the previous statement of appreciation as the word strongly points out something completely different from what you’ve just said.

While it is ideal to be in a relationship where you don’t have conflicting values; clear, kind and honest communication goes a long way to preventing you from sabotaging your relationship.

2. Respect Each Other’s Boundaries

Like values, boundaries need to be clearly defined and articulated. Some years ago, I had a client who told me that her husband always brought his friends to their house for drinks every Friday night, and his drunk and loud friends wouldn’t leave until 2:30am. That happened every single week.

She was frustrated and upset. Further examination revealed that this client and her husband had different boundaries around their social life. She preferred more one-on-one time with her partner; however, an essential requirement for her husband was to spend time drinking with his friends.

In her opinion, her husband would have been well-advised to take his friends somewhere else for drinks most weeks and maybe bring his friends to their house only twice a year. In contrast, her husband thought it was perfectly okay to bring his friends to their house every week.

Neither of them was wrong. They just had different boundaries. Unresolved boundary issues need to be resolved, otherwise they can eventually lead to separation and divorce.

The solution to this couple’s problem was to find a happy medium. For example, she could allow her husband to bring his friends to their house every 6 weeks, and her husband could go to his friends’ places on most Friday nights.

In the end, my recommendation was that her husband and his friends took turns to host Friday night drinks each week. That worked out well for them, because it was an effective way to respect each other’s boundaries, thereby stopping each of them from sabotaging the relationship.

It’s important to note here that each partner needs to spend time fulfilling their own needs. Depending too much on your partner for your happiness will eventually sabotage your relationship. This is because it puts pressure on your partner to be responsible for your happiness.

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Happiness is the result of your thoughts, words and actions so make sure you regularly indulge in pursuits which enhance your sense of self and develop you as a person.

3. Focus on the Qualities Your Partner Possesses That You Love

It’s too easy to indulge in negative thinking and to allow little annoyances to become the main point of focus in your relationship. This can become the start of the end and sabotage your relationship unless you take immediate steps to correct your focus.

In terms of your partner, it’s miraculous to witness how the more you focus on the qualities they have that you love, the more these qualities come forward and the less you even notice the things that bug you about them. This is because there’s a part of your brain which makes you notice more of whatever you focus your attention on.

You may have heard of the Law of Attraction; your Reticular Activating System is your brain’s biological equivalent.

When you consistently acknowledge your partner’s positive qualities, he or she leans more in that direction due to the reward pathway being activated in their brain. In psychology, this is called positive reinforcement.[1] Dopamine and oxytocin are released in the brain’s reward pathway; these hormones naturally make us feel good which motivates us toward further similar actions to activate further rewards.

If you would like your partner to do more of what you want, you can use positive reinforcement to make it happen (but please use this technique in an empowering way).

For example, you really want your partner to go shopping with you. Sadly, that’s not his favorite activity. Next time he goes shopping with you, you can say this to him, “You know what, when we go to the shopping mall together, I feel really lucky because most men wouldn’t happily go shopping with their women. The fact that you are willing to have more shared experiences with me really turns me on.”

Now what he has actually heard is: When he goes shopping with his lady, his lady is turned on by him. Every man wants to turn on his woman! From now on, he will more likely be happy to go shopping with you.[2]

The important thing to remember here, is to be honest and sincere with your positive reinforcement. We can always sense when a comment is forced, and as such it will sound false, have a negative effect and possibly sabotage your relationship.

Remember that praise and appreciation are best expressed in the moment they are felt.

4. Eliminate Blame

There are many ways that blame can sneak into your relationship, however, it is usually in the way that we word things that makes it sound like we are blaming and therefore sabotaging our relationships. Saying things like, “Don’t waste money on books” rather than “Honey, since we need to save money for our house, I’d appreciate it if you could borrow books from the local library instead of buying books online.”

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In the example above, “don’t” is a negative word. Psychologists claim that our subconscious mind doesn’t understand the word “don’t”, although logically we know what it means. Consequently, that person’s partner receives this message: “buying books is wasting money and it has annoyed him, so he is blaming me.”

No one likes being blamed, and being on the defensive makes it harder biologically for an individual to feel motivated to change their behavior.

When you blame others, you give up your power to change. Blame and false accusations are at the crux of most relationship breakdown. Sometimes it seems easier to blame your partner than to take responsibility for your words and actions (or lack of them).[3]

How many times have you been in an argument with your partner and felt like you were being falsely accused? Neither of you agree on what was said. You are both adamant that you are right and do your best to prove that your partner is wrong (to prove that you are right). Your voices rise as you struggle to feel heard, feel understood and to defend your stance.

Our brains are complex and during a heated debate when we are triggered, our ancient emotional brain kicks in. This affects our short-term memory, our ability to hear, and our ability to communicate clearly.

Because our cognitive processing is affected when we are emotionally triggered, we cannot accurately remember what was said and not said. When you argue, there are instances where both or you are wrong and both of you are right… but unless you recorded the argument, neither of you can prove who said what.

Arguing your point and blaming your partner not only sabotages your relationship, due to how your brain works it is a complete waste of time. It’s better to admit that you could be wrong… because insisting that you are right and blaming your partner will sabotage your happiness as well as your relationship. As the old saying goes: it’s better to be happy than to be right.

5. Be Aware of the Importance of Intimacy

This is a topic that most people avoid talking about, but it’s one of the most significant topics in a relationship.

In general, there are three pillars in a relationship: emotional connection, attraction alignment and intimacy. Therefore, as one major pillar in a relationship, intimacy is of vital importance.

It is said that most couples make love frequently at the beginning of their relationships because that’s the honeymoon stage. Unfortunately, within three years, a lot of couples stop making love.

This is sad, but true. Actually, it happens more often than you think.

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One in three couples suffer from intimacy problems. People just don’t want to talk about it either because of a religious upbringing, or because it’s become such a sensitive topic they don’t know how to approach it.

Due to the nature of my work, I have helped many couples overcome their intimacy challenges. I’ve also helped many individuals overcome the grief and loneliness associated with losing their partner due to unresolved intimacy challenges.

In other words, sexless marriages rarely last.

We are not taught how to drive our bodies sexually. This often results in confusion and frustration for a person trying to complete the act. I do apologize if this statement isn’t the prettiest thing to say. However, many relationships fall apart due to intimacy challenges and if they aren’t addressed, reluctance on either or both partners to engage sexually will eventually result.

A disappointing sex life often results in either partner having a low libido[4] which leads to a sexless marriage… or no marriage at all.

In order to maintain a healthy and sexy relationship, you must invest your time and energy in your pleasure. Dr Christiane Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom states that pleasure is your birthright.

How many times have you had random thoughts during sex that were unrelated to the sexual act? Or you’ve thought about your work, your business or your finances during sex? In which case, how does your brain know that you want your sexual programs activated? Not knowing how to be in charge of your biology can sabotage intimacy as well as your relationship.

You are entitled to pleasure. But you also need to know how to balance your pleasure to stay in charge of your body sexually. Focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time is the culprit of most intimacy issues and applies to both men and women. This can be easily rectified with the correct knowledge and technique. It’s exactly what we need to learn if we want to stop ourselves from sabotaging our relationships.

Therefore, you are strongly recommended to seek professional advice if you need help in this regard. Don’t wait until your relationship is already falling apart.

The Bottom Line

Many people believe that they must switch off their emotional brain and switch on their logical brain in order to be successful. But ignoring the power of the emotional brain is a way to sabotage their relationships.

While you cannot ignore your biology, you can learn how to harness it; mentally, emotionally and physically.

To sum up, the above-mentioned strategies are high-leverage methods of stopping yourself from sabotaging relationships. Remember to incorporate these techniques in your relationship gradually, and you’ll benefit from them in record time.

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Featured photo credit: Matt Nelson via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jacqui Olliver

Psychosexual Relationship Specialist

How to Make Long Distance Relationships Work for You Why Boundaries in Marriage Are Good for Your Relationship Signs You’re in a Loveless Marriage (And How to Cope with It) How to Save a Marriage That Is Falling Apart How to Stop Yourself from Sabotaging Relationships

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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