Why We Sabotage Good Relationships (Without Even Realizing That We Are)


I understand break-ups happen in life but it seems so easy to end a relationship as soon as one partner believes there to be an issue, whether real or not. A question that pops up into your head and creates some sort of doubt, those “what if” scenarios. Or a gut feeling of some kind. This could lay the ground work for a potential break-up. By real I mean the occasional argument, which is normal but may or may not lead to something else if the arguments increase. By not real I mean those destructive thoughts/scenarios such as “What if my partner doesn’t like my family?,” “What if my partner doesn’t like me in 1 year?” or “What if I open up to my partner and they don’t like what they see?” These negative thoughts could have been triggered by some harmless factor, whether intentionally or unintentionally, but pose no real threat to the relationship.

“Have you ever been in a place where you suddenly realize how quiet, calm and still the environment around you is? You know that uneasy feeling you get thinking that something is wrong or something bad is about to happen? You wait for a few seconds or minutes and nothing happens, everything is perfect, it was just your mind playing games and making it feel like you are in danger. Those voices in your head spitting out doubts. That is similar to what happens with this gut feeling telling you something is wrong. You may be mistaking a feeling of something actually being right with a feeling of something being wrong.”

I believe that these feelings might be anxiety due to a commitment conflict. I am not saying that people who experience these feelings don’t want a commitment though. The relationship and partner they had is more than likely everything they wanted yet something still felt off and the relationship could end without much understanding or an explanation. These feelings can occur at any point in a relationship. After the first few dates, a year or two, or even after marriage. They could be triggered by a certain event like spending a birthday together, going to a wedding together, spending a night together or having sex, even simply introducing your partner to your parents or friends. What do we call it when one partner all of a sudden gets some feeling like something is wrong? How do we define being in a great relationship enjoying every minute of it one day and planning a future with a partner, then the next day wanting to break-up without much of an explanation other than a gut feeling? Do we call it relationship anxiety, an occurrence of doubt or being scared?

Love can be exciting and blissful but it can also be scary and create overwhelming feelings, good and bad. Many know the good side of love but many also don’t know the scary side. Love makes us feel vulnerable, it can stir up pain from the past. Love challenges an old identity (feeling that you are unlovable.)

With real joy comes real pain, some feel if things are so good there must be something bad just around the corner which makes one hesitate to go “all in” for fear of being hurt. Some believe that the relationship with their partner can break their connection with friends or family, this doesn’t necessarily mean on a physical level but can be more on an emotional level. Love is not always equal, one might think they like their partner more than their partner likes them back. People develop feelings for one another at different rates, love takes time.

Love can stir up many different fears and can cause one to doubt not only him/herself but their partner and relationship. “Should I feel this way if I actually like this person?” “Are they the one?” “Do I have the same feelings for them as they do me?” “Am I ready for a relationship?” “Am I ready for a commitment?”

They may start to find faults in their partner to justify not continuing the relationship. If they think of opening up, and sharing their true feelings with their partner, the fear of being rejected and/or abandoned come to mind. They may choose to break-up even if things were moving in the right direction, they couldn’t imagine the pain caused if their partner were to break-up with them (“hurt them before they can hurt me”)

There can also be a fear of intimacy, getting close to their partner and not necessarily just sex. Fear of commitment, loss, control, freedom, identity, independence and the fear of being trapped. There are many and these fears can be masked by various justifications as to why things aren’t going to work out. This can lead the person to self-sabotage or end the relationship. The following might have played a role in triggering these overwhelming or uncomfortable feelings:

− Your partner may have a lack of relationship experience or no relationship experience at all. They may not necessarily know what they are feeling.

− Your partner may not be ready for a certain part of the relationship (sex, meeting family, sleeping in the same bed). This might make them believe they are not ready for a relationship as a whole or that you are not “the one”.

− Maybe your partner reads a lot of books or has watched a lot of TV shows/movies that depict a certain type of fantasy relationship and it has skewed their view on what a real relationship might look like and how it may unfold.

− Maybe your partner finds that you text them too much. Or the two of you hangout too much and your partner wants to slow things down but can’t communicate that without thinking they will hurt you so they choose to end things instead. Avoiding any conflict altogether.

− Your partner may simply not want to get hurt themselves and choose to end things before you hurt them, whether intentionally or unintentionally. By intentionally I mean that they may think you might break-up with them for whatever reason. By unintentionally I mean they may think of an event where there is an accident and you get injured.

− Your partner might have had a bad relationship in the past, romantic or not, and it still impacts them today.

− Maybe you had your first argument with your partner, or accidentally annoyed them.

− Your partner may have kept on being pressured by their family and friends to include you in more events, invite you over more or to tell them more about the relationship which could be overwhelming on its own.

− Maybe things started to get too repetitive or your partner felt they didn’t have a lot of time to be in a relationship. With a little communication this can be avoided and worked around though.

− Your relationship with your partner could have been getting pretty serious, the two of you were getting really close and you were also getting close to your partner’s family. Your partner might have thought you may not like what you see as he/she and their family open up to you more and get more comfortable around you.

Most people have some sort of relationship anxiety or at some point get scared. Unfortunately many may not necessarily know themselves what they are feeling. As we know with love there is a lot of new, exciting, overwhelming and scary emotions/feelings one can experience. There can also be additional pressure, religious beliefs or childhood experiences at play. The difficulties we face as adults are linked to how we grew up as kids. Your partner’s parents might have raised them in a certain way when they were younger that impacts their relationships today. This doesn’t necessarily mean their parents didn’t raise them well or they had a poor life. They could have had the best parents and best up-bringing however events that occur during childhood do affect adulthood. This leads into Attachment Theory and Styles (Secure, Anxious and Avoidant).

If someone becomes scared, or gets anxious/nervous, and they don’t understand what they are feeling then that may reflect on their partner. This might make it appear as if something is wrong.

Maybe the reason why those who experience this odd gut feeling, or the thought of something being wrong, think that the right thing to do is (or was) to break-up is because it is the easiest and fastest way to get rid of the anxiety and overwhelming emotions they felt. They feel as if there is no other option, they just need to get out fast. The hard thing to do is to face these emotions/fears and to talk with their partner. If they choose to stay in the relationship, these feelings won’t necessarily go away quickly. They may come and go, or stay for quite some time. With that being said, once they face these emotions/fears they can continue to have a truly rewarding and loving relationship. One that brings many benefits to life. If they choose not to face these emotions/fears history may repeat itself down the road. Or they may find themselves in relationships with built in distance, whether physically or emotionally. They may find themselves with partners who can never truly commit to them on a physical or emotional level. The reason why they might stay with these partners is because they feel safe, those emotions/fears will never be triggered like by the one partner they felt closest or the most connected to.

It is normal to feel scared, insecure, anxious, doubtful and a little off-center with the people we love. If we don’t realize this our minds begin to doubt the relationship as a whole. The more connected you are, the more your fears are going to get stirred up. Some can overcome them easily while others will want to escape them, or run, as they are too intense. Our experiences in life factor in to how we manage and manifest these emotions/feelings. If you can’t reciprocate all the feelings your partner shows you, or the things they say to you, this doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong either.

Unfortunately for those that don’t recognize this they will put all the blame as to why the relationship ended or will end on their partner, whether consciously or subconsciously. As they try to escape or avoid what they are feeling, or what they have felt, they may fail to realize that they are leaving something great behind.

Truth of the matter is I don’t think most people are truly ready for everything a relationship has to offer. The good or the bad. Some believe things should always be blissful, others know there can be rough patches but don’t know exactly what forms those rough patches can take. There are people who can understand their feelings, emotions and fears. They can shrug off the anxiety that comes and enjoy the relationship they have and what it can become. Others dwell on their emotions and feelings, they unfortunately cannot shake off the fear or anxiety a relationship can create as easily and it gets the best of them. Those grey areas, doubt and “what if” scenarios frequently playing in their minds even though there may not be anything to worry about at all.

Don’t shy away from these feelings. They may be scary and make you feel unconformable but explore them. Talk with your partner about what and how you feel. Don’t walk out on them without talking, give them and your relationship a chance. Try talking to a family member, or friend, who is or has been in a committed relationship. Try even talking to a counselor. Don’t throw away something that could have turned into a healthy and rewarding long-term relationship just because of these doubts, feelings, fears or past bad experiences. These feelings have come to be for a reason, to be healed. This is an opportunity for you to grow, embrace it.

“Whether we avoid something because it scares us or bores us, or because we think it will force a change we’re not ready for, putting it off only creates obstacles for us. On the other hand, facing the task at hand, no matter how onerous, creates flow in our lives and allows us to grow. The relief is palpable when we stand on the other side knowing that we did something even though it was hard or we didn’t want to do it. On the other hand, when we cling to our comfort zone, never addressing the things we don’t want to face, we cut ourselves off from flow and growth.” — Madisyn Taylor


If your partner knows what is causing them to feel like something is wrong, and have experienced the feelings before, there is a good chance they may talk to you about it. If your partner doesn’t know what is causing them to feel like something is wrong, or they are not comfortable talking about their feelings, then odds are they may avoid the discussion and/or break-up with you citing some vague reason. You know your partner very well and in your heart you can see right through whatever excuse they give you. It doesn’t really answer why they broke-up with you though. What factor made them have a change in heart? What caused them to feel the way they do now when a day or week before everything was perfect? You may never find out, if you try you will be met with the same answer or potential hostility. Again your partner may not know what they are feeling and see you as the issue, they just want to forget everything. As much as you want to just talk with them and figure things out, they may see it as you pressuring them to talk about something they are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.

Your partner will try to push you away and say something to make you stop trying to communicate with them. This will hurt but ultimately do the trick and you will be left to figure out what went wrong and if you could have changed the outcome. You come to your own conclusions, the relationship never had to end in your eyes as you were more than willing to work things out and be there for your partner. The answer seems so clear to you, but it isn’t for your partner.