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How to Stop Yourself from Sabotaging Relationships

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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.

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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.

More Articles About Relationships

Featured photo credit: Matt Nelson via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jacqui Olliver

Psychosexual Relationship Specialist

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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