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Signs You May Be Self-Sabotaging Your Relationships

Written by Sarah Jones
Dating Coach for Introverted Men at Introverted Alpha
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Think back to the last time you procrastinated on a deadline for work or had a challenging day and were short with your partner. Both of these scenarios are examples of self-sabotage.

Psychology Today defines self-sabotage as any behavior that: “creates problems in daily life and interferes with long-standing goals.”[1] Procrastinating on a deadline for work can interfere with your goal of obtaining a promotion, while being short with your partner may cause some tension within your relationship, prohibiting the two of you from taking the next step.

While a small amount of self-sabotaging can be a normal part of the ebb and flow of relationships from time to time, frequent occurrences can cause larger challenges in the areas of your life you value most.

4 Signs That You May Be Self-Sabotaging Your Relationships

Here are four signs that you may be self-sabotaging your relationships, as well as some helpful guidance on how to reframe your actions.

1. You Have an “All or Nothing” Mindset

Of course, while we all strive to be the best version of ourselves every day, sometimes situations occur that are out of our control like stormy weather that rains out what was supposed to be a fun day at the beach or a last-minute work crisis that causes you to miss your fitness class at the gym.

Have you recently set a goal for yourself? While goal setting is important in maintaining motivation and performing at your peak each day, lofty goal setting can sometimes lead to setting yourself up for failure, which can sabotage the most important relationship of all: the relationship you have with yourself![2]


Self-Sabotage Vs Recognizing Life as a Growth Process

Consider this scenario: you recently decided you’d like to adopt a healthier lifestyle. While creating a plan to achieve this goal, you’d likely start by developing an exercise routine, throwing away junk food from your pantry, and writing a shopping list to prepare healthy meals for the week.

What happens when you have an unexpectedly busy day at work, and then you don’t have time to work out and decide to stop at a drive-thru on your way home since you missed lunch earlier? Do you throw your hands up and forget about your goals? Or do you take a deep breath and start fresh tomorrow?

The former is self-sabotaging behavior, while the latter is your ability to recognize that life is a growth process, and every setback is a chance to learn and grow.

When we set goals for ourselves, whether in health and fitness or any facet of our most important relationships, we can sometimes be tempted to adopt that “all or nothing” mindset.

For example, regarding health and fitness, you may think to yourself, “If I eat a highly restricted diet and exercise at maximum capacity for an hour or more every single day, I will see fast results.” While you are correct that diet and exercise will bring you closer to your goals, you’ll want to keep in mind that everyone needs rest days to make sustainable progress.

3 Truths to Set Yourself Up for Success

You can set yourself up for success by understanding three truths.

  1. First, some factors are out of your control, and that will always be the case.
  2. Second, you can stay encouraged by using every opportunity—including those with factors you can’t control—as a chance for learning, creativity, and growth.
  3. Third, you can set smaller, more obtainable goals to help yourself stay on track.

For example, instead of aiming to exercise seven days a week, start by making a goal to work out three times a week. Once working out becomes more of a habit for you, you can gradually increase the presence of exercise in your life to include more days per week.

Start with smaller, more manageable goals to feel more accomplished and achieve more consistent results in the end.

The same principles apply to growth in your relationships. If you’d like to get out of the house with your partner more, go to bed earlier together or have healthier food in your fridge.

An incremental and forgiving growth process helps you achieve success and increase intimacy along the way!

2. You Tending to Overthink and Overanalyze

We all can overthink and overanalyze situations sometimes, especially those pertaining to our relationships. Overthinking and overanalyzing are traits that often stem from a feeling of fear, and fear can be a driving force behind self-sabotaging behavior.[3]

Perhaps you’re concerned about the idea of ending up alone. You may overthink and overanalyze what your significant other does or doesn’t do, like not texting you back.

Your worry about being alone can then manifest in your relationships and lead to thoughts like:

  • “Why aren’t they texting me back?”
  • “Do they not like me anymore?”
  • “Did I do something wrong?”

When your mind starts to race, you can unintentionally jump to conclusions without knowing the full picture of what is going on. If you know you’re prone to overthinking, you can proactively notice some patterns in your thoughts so you can prevent the negative ones from snowballing.

For example, if you know you tend to overanalyze your partner’s response rate to text messages, you can remind yourself that there are several reasons why they may not be responding right away. Perhaps your partner is in a work meeting, or maybe they forgot their phone at home.


Having a confident mindset takes practice and is key to stopping the cycle of overthinking. [4] When you reframe your negative thoughts into positive ones, you will begin to feel encouraged by how your outlook on a situation can change.

3. You Procrastinate or Are Avoidant

As surprising as this may sound, procrastination is a form of self-sabotage that can have lasting, negative effects on relationships if not dealt with proactively.

According to Marriage.com, “One of the main procrastination causes and effects is how damaging it can be to our relationships, most especially to our partners. Couples may struggle if both or any of them avoid doing and talking about issues that affect them.”[5]

One example of procrastination in relationships is avoiding intimacy. If you’ve been with your partner for a while, you’re likely out of the “honeymoon phase.” With life and other obligations, such as your career being a priority, your relationship can sometimes take the back seat.

Instead of addressing the situation firsthand, you may be tempted to avoid the issue entirely by avoiding your partner, which could create a larger problem. While conversations about a lack of intimacy can understandably feel uncomfortable at first, addressing the situation before an argument ensues is important.

Sit down with your partner and discuss how the two of you can make more time for each other or set a date to reconnect. Sometimes, a little anticipation is all that’s needed to bring the spark back.


Communication on a bedrock of trust and respect is the most important aspect of any relationship. When you feel as though a problem is brewing, having an early conversation with your partner can prevent needless long-term conflict.

4. You Nitpick or Cause Arguments With Your Partner

Another sign you may be self-sabotaging your relationships is if you find yourself picking apart certain aspects of your significant other. Starting arguments or making comments on how they didn’t wash the dishes “your correct way” can cause unnecessary fights.

By creating an argument from a seemingly small issue, you’re self-sabotaging the relationship. Doing so is a defensive mechanism designed to reinforce a position of power in a relationship.[6]

Sometimes, those that tend to pick fights are not even aware they’re self-sabotaging. They’ve likely been hurt many times in past relationships and expect to be hurt again, so they get ahead of their feelings as a way to protect themselves.

As you’ll come to learn, nitpickiness only leads to larger fights and additional problems within the relationship. Take a step back and remember your partner would never intentionally make you upset.

By picking apart their actions with a suspicious eye or interpreting them to fit an unfavorable narrative, you’re hurting your own feelings—an outcome that no one wants!


Feel confident that your partner loves you and wants to live life with you by their side. Focus on the wonderful qualities your partner brings to the relationship and remind them what you love most!

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Relationships

Now that you know some of the signs of self-sabotaging your relationships, how can you reframe the behavior?

Consider Therapy

You can find a licensed therapist who will help you identify any potential triggers for engaging in self-sabotaging behavior so you can make different choices more easily. A good therapist will help you determine why you self-sabotage relationships.

Do you have childhood trauma that needs to be dealt with? Have you experienced a lot of mistrust in various relationships in your life?

Once you’re able to identify why you’re self-sabotaging your relationships, you’ll be able to start breaking the cycle.

Keep Open and Honest Communication

Open and honest communication is imperative to maintaining a healthy relationship. By creating that safe space with your partner, the two of you will feel more at ease around each other. You’ll trust one another to share intimate conversations and discuss what’s on your mind.

If you tend to overthink or overanalyze, share your thoughts with your partner. They’ll be able to listen and reassure you that your overactive mind may be escalating your feelings in the situation and help you can calm down.


Oftentimes, talking everything out will help you feel better, and over time, this increased communication and support may even shake the thoughts before you act on them.

Final Thoughts

Self-sabotaging behaviors can arise from past relationships, a fear of being hurt, unresolved childhood trauma, and more. Determining why you engage in these behaviors and recognizing the signs so you can stop self-sabotaging are the first steps in improving your personal and relationship habits so that you can thrive in all areas of your life.

Featured photo credit: Matt Nelson via unsplash.com


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