Relationship problems are one of the top reasons why people seek counseling and can be significant contributors to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Here are some ways people sabotage their relationships and how to overcome them.

1) Looking for the Bigger Better Deal

Socials have created a dating “marketplace” where there could be someone better out there with the flick of your wrist, making it hard to fully commit. With the illusion of so many potential options, many daters keep one foot in while searching for the “bigger better deal.”  The “He/She/They’re a 10 but…” meme format is funny but shows that with so many options, why settle, even if someone is a 10? People seek to avoid commitment because that way, if things go wrong they can leave without emotional or material consequences.

The solution: Tune out the distractions and focus on what is right in front of you. If you meet someone you might have a future with then try deleting your dating profiles. If you’re in a relationship, stop comparing it to what you’re seeing on socials. Remember, content manufactured for likes is not necessarily based in reality.

2) Fearing Abandonment

Sometimes, we sabotage our relationships so we aren’t the one getting ghosted. A 2019 study found that 29% of adults had ghosted people they had dated, 25% had been ghosted themselves and 74% believed that ghosting was an appropriate way to end a relationship. The need to protect oneself from being abandoned makes sense, but it deprives us of the chance to make positive intimate connections.

The solution: Unpack your attachment style (is it secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant or fearful-avoidant?) and address the baggage you are bringing into the relationship. Where does the fear of abandonment come from, and what are some of the words, actions and situations that trigger it? If you’re not sure about your attachment style, Psychology Today online has a great relationship attachment style test.

3) Being Unwilling to Trust

Find me a person who has never had their heart broken or been betrayed by a lover and I’ll buy you a beer. After we get hurt, it makes sense to shut down and perceive any potential mate’s words or actions in a negative light. Many of us have been in abusive relationships in the past and it is natural to never want to trust again. In some instances, we may even to want to become the toxic one ourselves as a form of self-protection. This is no bueno.

The solution: Think about where the trust issues are coming from and remember that not everyone is the same as your ex. The present situation is not the last one: that was then, this is now. Especially if you have been in an abusive relationship in the past, seeking support and therapy to work through these issues can be very beneficial.

4) Playing Mind Games

These include playing hard to get, trying to make your partner jealous, pursuit and withdrawal (pulling away when the partner is needy but clinging when the partner is avoidant), stonewalling/the silent treatment and overly critiquing our partners. People often sabotage their relationships with mind games when their self-esteem is low or they believe they are not enough.

The solution: Be honest and clear with your partner about your intentions, expectations, needs, and boundaries, and give them the chance to respond. If game-playing stems from self-esteem problems, address how the relationship might be triggering these insecurities and seek out individual or couples counseling to get to the root of the issue.


5) Engaging in Self-Destructive or Unhealthy Behaviors

Behaviors like binge-drinking, drug abuse, unhealthy eating, and not taking proper care of yourself can often signify an unconscious attempt to sabotage a relationship. This way, problems in the relationship can be blamed on these unhealthy behaviors rather than the root cause of the issue. Individuals who are unhappy in their relationships sometimes use these behaviors to cope when they don’t know how to fix things—often exacerbating difficulties in the situation.

The solution: If you have a substance abuse problem, please seek help and ask your partner to support you. If you are self-medicating to cope with underlying relationship problems, don’t bottle up your feelings- speak them in a constructive way. If the unhealthy behaviors are too much or becoming unsafe, it is ok to take a break from the relationship and seek therapy and/or treatment.