When you're in a relationship, it's easy to forget that the little things matter. The little kindnesses — buying a special treat for your partner or leaving a little note for them to find in the morning a long way.
However, there are also likely things you may be doing that will ruin your partnership every time. And, most likely, you're not even aware you're doing them. This is called self-sabotage and many of us are guilty of this, even if we do it self-consciously.
What is self-sabotage?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, sabotage is "an act or process tending to hamper or hurt" something. It is deliberate subversion intended to interrupt something from reaching its goal.
Self-sabotage, then, means you are doing things to hurt yourself or to subvert a goal that you, yourself, may have. If your goal is to have a healthy, happy relationship, you might find yourself self-sabotaging by doing things you know your partner doesn't like or by undermining the relationship itself. Maybe you hear yourself nagging, or you find yourself flirting and considering cheating.
It may be subconscious (as in, you're not deliberately doing it to hurt your partner or your relationship) but you are choosing to sabotage yourself and your relationship nonetheless, on some level.
Hopefully, by following these 7 rules, you can finally lean into your happiness and find the relationship you deserve.
Here are 7 examples of how you self-sabotage your new relationship (and how to stop):
1. Overreacting due to past hurtful experiences.
Sometimes when we get badly hurt or we finally got out of that difficult marriage, we make a deal with ourselves that we will never end up with someone like that ever again.
For example, you dated a guy who cheated on you. Then you decide, “I will never again end up with a guy who cheats.” So you go to the other extreme and date a guy who is really into you. He’s a good person, but too much in your face and rushing your relationship.
Now you find you have no freedom, feel smothered and it is all too much. Bam! You've sabotaged your own happiness trying to protect yourself.
All because you were scared of getting hurt.
How to stop self-sabotaging: Spend some time on your own and figure out what a really happy, healthy relationship looks like to you. Do you want someone who is there all the time, fawning over you, or would that become annoying? Would you prefer some space and a few date nights per week together?
Whatever was hurtful to you in the past, address it and figure out how you'd like a real relationship in the future to look — not just being reactionary to your hurt.
2. Saying you’re too busy when he asks you for a date.
I see this happen all the time when women feel confused about how much interest is OK to show a guy they actually like.
They're told not to change their plans for their partner (because, hello: "strong, independent woman with a life!" or they don't want to be called "whipped"). But honestly, it depends on who you are and what your patterns are.
How to stop: If you're someone who always tells friends and men you're too busy, you need to shift that. "Too busy" says to the other person, “You're not important to me.”
If you want love, and the relationship is going well, make the person you like a priority in your life.
3. Acting like "boyfriend and girlfriend" before you are.
A big mistake (and massive turn-off) is someone who acts like you're in a full-blown relationship after just the first few dates.
Have you ever had this happen to you? You meet a guy online. He asks you out for next Friday. And before you even meet him in person, he's calling, texting, and planning your future together.
How to stop: You need to catch yourself (and stop yourself) if you're doing this. Before you get even remotely serious (maybe after the first date) slow yourself down and visualize how you might like your relationship to progress. Think about the signs that a relationship is getting serious and make a list.
Your first kiss, the first night you spend at the other person's place, or having the "define the relationship talk" are all good markers for the passage of a relationship. Then be realistic about what each one means. Your first kiss is not a sign it's time to commit nor is it a sign that you should text them a hundred times a day or expect them to attend your grandmother's funeral.
Map out your realistic expectations ahead of time so you don't embarrass yourself and self-sabotage any progress you make together.
4. Not showing interest when you really are interested.
You definitely don't need to chase someone, but people do need to know their efforts are acknowledged and that you're interested in them. Playing "hard to get" can cost you the relationship.
A quality human being will treat you the same way he would treat anyone else close to them — as important, valued, and appreciated.
How to stop: Be brave, even if it means potentially risking rejection. If you like someone and they are a good person, let them know it. The right person will love this. If you're into someone and would like to spend more time with them, simply ask.
Self-sabotage will end up in rejection no matter what — better to take the risk and maybe find real love along the way.
5. Acting indifferent as soon as you realize you really, really like someone.
Lots of people — women, especially — have bold confidence until they sincerely like someone. Is this you?
As soon as you discover you like them, all your insecurities show up and, to self-protect, you start acting like you don’t care. At first, it might seem a little cute and inspire the other person to "chase" you, but eventually, people get bored of this and move on.
How to stop: You need to be consistent. Don't let feigned indifference get in the way of your biggest dream. Be consistent in your love, your behavior, and your words; it's the only way to build true intimacy. That person you like can't read your mind.
6. Looking for "issues" in your relationship where they don't exist.
Have you ever started a fight because you didn’t want him to think you were more into him than he was into you? Or, you're worried she'll cheat on you, so you check her phone and keep bringing up the subject?
How to stop: Catch yourself when you notice you're creating problems with your wonderful partner (who has shown you no evidence that there is a problem in your relationship). Is this in your head?
Try not to create the very thing you fear by looking for problems that don’t actually exist. That is just classic self-sabotage and both of you deserve better.
7. Constantly testing your partner's love for you.
If you need to test them or make them jump through hoops, you're either in the wrong relationship, or your "stuff" is showing up and getting in the way. Quality people are not attracted to being tested.
When you test someone's love or loyalty or even how well they "get" you, that is classic self-sabotage.
This is all a lack of communication on your part about what you want, need, and desire. Testing someone's love comes from insecurity and lack of self-love. Instead, simply speak up and tell him clearly what you want.
How to stop: If you absolutely must have proof of your connection, look for it in how your partner treats you on a day-to-day basis. Look for the ways they show love in their language.
Someone sticking around when you're treating them badly isn't proof they love you — it's proof they're willing to be treated badly. Ask yourself why you're willing to be the person who treats loved ones like that.
Self-sabotage is common in happy relationships and can show up in many subtle ways.
No matter how beautiful a person you are (inside and out) nor how close you are to finding true love, if you behave in ways that sabotage connection, it will cost you dearly.
Lorna Poole is a dating coach who helps women get results. For more information, visit her website.