Romantic relationships offer some of life’s greatest joys.
They can also cause great pain.
When we open up to someone else, we leave ourselves vulnerable to rejection and abandonment, thus fueling some of our deepest insecurities.
For many, especially those who have experienced childhood trauma or unstable family relationships, these insecurities can lead to self-sabotaging behaviors.
Psychotherapist Mercedes Coffman, MFT, refers to the concept of emotional memory to understand why this occurs.
“While we don’t remember certain early life experiences,” says Coffman, “our emotional memory is often what triggers a deeper feeling of hurt in romantic relationships, which can feel like an overreaction to others and sometimes to us. same.
It can make us self-sabotage a relationship that could potentially turn into something wonderful.”
Fortunately, we have a choice.
We can let ourselves be flooded with pain from the past and risk self-sabotaging behavior, or we can choose to see relationships as opportunities to work on ourselves, mending old wounds.
The following are some of the ways you can start that job, avoid the trap of self-sabotage, and ultimately bring you closer to the love relationship you deserve.
1. Understand Your Attachment Style
When we experience difficulty, it is helpful to understand our attachment style.
“People leave their family of origin with a plan for how they relate to others,” says therapist Rhonda Milrad, LCSW.
“This attachment style is practiced in all relationships.
People who have experienced trauma, abandonment, entanglement, etc., most often develop insecure attachments as adults, where they have a hard time trusting relationships.”
She explains that the closer someone is to someone else, the more likely their attachment style is to be challenged and that tensions bring out their worst qualities, such as jealousy, anger, and plot, often leading to self-sabotaging behaviors.
“The way our parents responded to us as babies and children has a profound impact on how we develop and grow, particularly how we see ourselves and others,” says clinical psychologist Lisa Herman.
“Infancy and childhood parental attention may have been warm and caring at one time, but cold or distant at other times.
Not knowing what you can achieve as a child, you may feel this way in future relationships.”
This can lead to the need for an excessive amount of trust, which can deplete a partner.
Milrad acknowledges that this is not permanent: many people can rework how they relate in adulthood and thrive in romantic relationships.
2. Identify Your Triggers
Marriage and family therapist Shadeen Francis suggests journaling about the experiences in your relationship that trigger the behavior you experience as self-sabotage.
Ask yourself: what was going on?
What did you feel at the time?
What were you afraid of?
How likely is the outcome you feared to happen?
“Asking yourself these questions,” says Francis, “can help you find the pattern in your behavior and begin to explore your vulnerability.”
Being aware of what triggers these behaviors can prepare us for the inevitable conflicts that arise.
3. Be Mindful of Your Behavior
Insecurity in relationships is inevitable “because everyone has issues to work with,” says psychotherapist Marina Lenderman, LCSW.
“It is essential to know what yours are.
Awareness comes with behavior.
If you often fight or start blaming your partner, conscience both people play a role in the conflict, so it’s important to be aware of how much your share is.”
Milrad describes the need to develop an “ego observation” that can help you identify when your partner is acting out of your feelings of insecurity, even unconsciously.
(For example, I recognize that I’m feeling insecure about the relationship when I start to think my partner is cheating on me or looking at his phone.) “With this insight, a person can stop behaviors and learn to tolerate discomfort, and engage in the alternative, healthier behaviors.”
4. Decipher The Past From The Present
There’s a saying, “If it’s hysterical, it’s historic,” meaning that our strong emotional reactions can be our best clues to unfinished business from our past.
The next time you experience a reaction that you suspect is out of proportion to what you identify as the triggering event, pause before responding.
Lenderman suggests asking yourself, “How much is my past repeating and how much is actually the present?” We don’t always know the answer, but by simply considering the possibility, we approach healthy patterns of behavior.
5. Learn To Communicate
If specific topics keep coming up, at some point it might be helpful to talk to your partner, advises Lenderman.
They can be an asset as they can help you point out self-sabotaging behaviors as they arise.
Darren Pierre, author of The Invitation to Love, agrees.
He suggests inviting your partner to be patient with you.
“We all have limitations in relationships,” he says, “and a well-defined commitment made in advance offers an understanding that we are dedicated to each other beyond the adversities that are bound to occur.”
6. Practice Self-Care and Compassion
Finally, as most of us already know, without self-love there can be no true love for another – at least not the kind that leads to healthy, loving relationships.
Cultivating self-compassion is essential for anyone struggling with low self-esteem, especially when it manifests in relationships.
Seeking a therapist as a collaborator is a useful way to begin to heal past hurts, find self-acceptance, and move closer to lasting and fulfilling love.