Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Relationships?

by 6th August 2020

Why do we do it?

Talking to couples that self-sabotage this is what I have discovered.

You meet who you think is the ideal partner, you are happy dating for a little while. The connection and chemistry are amazing, and you start spending more and more time together. You spend money on each other and start to think about a future together as a couple.

Then, for whatever reason, you stop replying to text messages: you message and cancel dates, and begin thinking of all the excuses under the sun not to go out.

You avoid talking about how you’re feeling with regards to taking the relationship to the next level. This is when your partner expresses frustration and disappointment in you, and possibly anger due to your behaviour. Shortly afterwards your partner decides the relationship cannot continue as it is and ends it.

Does all of the above, or some of the above, sound familiar to you? If so you or your partner might be self-sabotaging your relationship.

Why do we self-sabotage?

The reason that we self-sabotage relationships are context specific. Due to each of us having a different past, we are all brought up in different environments, and learn and emulate different values through our childhood and teenage years. Our first serious relationship also influences us, and possible our self-esteem.

A major reason I come across for relationship self-sabotage is the fear of intimacy; the fear people have of being in close emotional or physical contact. This could be due to the vulnerability it causes you to feel, the lack of trust you have in others, or the fear of abuse. Fear of abuse in particular is a problem at a very deep level, stemming from being a child that was subject to abuse or neglect. Overcoming all this takes time and understanding, and finding someone you can trust and confide in.

The Fear Of Intimacy

Intimacy is sharing your true worth with someone and forming very close connections.

Fear of intimacy falls into 4 areas

1. Intellectual: The ability to share knowledge and ideas with each other. It could be that you feel that they are too intelligent to be with, or too academic, or on the flip side that they have a to much of lack of intellectual ability to have a relationship with.

2. Emotional: The ability to share your innermost feelings with someone. It could be you’re not sensitive enough, which means you come across cold, or that you are too sensitive in your relationship, causing too many arguments or upsets.

3. Sexual: The lack of ability to share yourself sexually. You may not feel sexy enough, or feel that you are not worthy. It could be the fear that sex is going to hurt, causing you to avoid it.

4. Experiential: The ability to share experiences with one another. As you both investigate and trial new projects or experiences together, it may become apparent that something causes you to be uncomfortable, so instead of communicating it, you sabotage the relationship just to avoid it.

Although the fear of intimacy is separate to the fear of vulnerability, the two can be closely intertwined. People often feel vulnerable when a relationship becomes too close, igniting the fight or flight, fear-induced response.

What causes this fear?

The fear of abandonment, and sadly a fear of loss – is at the heart of intimacy for many people, and these fears of intimacy and vulnerability may both exist. Both types of behaviour pull a partner in, and then push him or her away again.

These fears are normally deep-rooted from childhood experiences and the values that were given to us through modelling our surroundings or from what we were told to believe. The programme created from this learnt behaviour is then is triggered by the behaviour or the experiences in the here and now in adult relationships. This programme can also cause confusion and frustration in an individual if they do not understand why it happens.

Fear of abandonment

The person really worried that the partner will leave. This again can be due to them being brought in an environment where an important adult or parent abandons them either emotionally or physically as a young child.

Fear of being controlled

The fear the child witnesses in a parent being controlled or finding it difficult to escape can have a deep impact on their future view of relationships that that child embodies. If a child is being brought up in a controlled environment and not being allowed any freedom, they will believe, even if subconsciously, that that is the norm for a relationship, and therefore will actively avoid being in one for fear of this situation.

Social phobia/anxiety disorder

The person is terrified of judgement and has a deep fear of rejection. These feelings of insecurity are likely to make a person shy away from intimacy in a relationship, and avoid personal contact and connection in fear of opening themselves up to another and potentially exposing their ‘flaws’.

As silly as it sounds to some, some people have specific phobias, such as having a phobia about being touched, and this can have a big part to play with intimacy. Hence why, with the advance with social media – whether good or bad in your eyes – some people prefer to build friendships and relationships online as this is easier for them than face to face relationships.

Risk Factor

The fear of Intimacy can stem back to childhood and being unable to trust a parental figure, which may lead to attachment issues.

They may have experienced: –

  • Verbal abuse;
  • Physical abuse;
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical neglect – Not experiencing forms of comfort and affection through physical touch or contact;
  • Emotional neglect – Feelings that a parent can’t be relied upon;
  • Loss of a parent – Through death, abandonment, imprisonment or a divorce/separation;
  • Parental illness – Illness in a parent causing the inability to rely upon them, and this is especially apparent when there is a role reversal, and a child must take on the tole of the parent or carer at such a young age;
  • Parental mental illness – Depression, stress and anxiety in a parent;
  • Parental substance abuse – Either the abuse of drugs and/or alcohol;
  • Controlling family dynamic – On the surface, they look like they are in a perfectly normal and loving family, while in reality, they are in a toxic environment where there is lack of escape behind closed doors.

A major fear of intimacy is common in people who were taught through the means of fear not to trust strangers and not to talk to people that they don’t know. This can have a big impact on an adult’s ability to socialise.

Sign and manifestations

The fear of intimacy can play out several different ways in any type of relationship; be that romantic, platonic, or family. It’s vitally important to note that the underlying fear of intimacy can often be interpreted as opposed to what the person is wanting to achieve in a relationship and connection. For example, for someone always wanting a strong close relationship and desiring this, may sadly have an underlying or subconscious fear that prompts them to cause problems in sustaining this. The relationship, unfortunately, unbeknown to them, is sabotaged if there are values that conflict either with their partner or themselves, and this is most important to understand. Please know however that conflict in values can be easily sorted and you can always contact me for help. Fear can be an obstacle when people desire closeness, so let me help expel that for you.

The serial dating & fear of commitment

A person who has the fear of intimacy can still interact with others, but the problem manifests itself when closeness arises, which will then result in the relationship falling apart. This can be classed as commitment phobia, and you could be ‘labelled’ as a serial dater; the fear of intimacy could be one of the reasons for this.

Perfectionism in oneself

Perfectionism stems from a fear that a person does not deserve the love and affection that they crave. Due to this, the fact that they want, or expect themselves to be perfect, can cause pressure and expectations that are impossible to maintain. These expectations can take the form of being a workaholic, or other manifestations of perfectionism that are all-consuming, to prove that they are good enough. This often leads a partner to be pushed away, feel neglected and causes a breakdown in the relationship.

Difficulty in expressing needs

A person that fears intimacy could have difficulty in expressing what they need and wish for. This could go back to previous programming, and due to the fact that a partner can’t mind-read, this wish or want often goes unfulfilled and sadly this causes the person to feel that he or she is unworthy or not wanted. This then becomes a vicious cycle in each relationship, manifesting a lack of trust in a relationship.

Sabotaging relationships

The results of people who fear intimacy are activities like nit-picking, being very critical of their partner, inability to allow themselves to be vulnerable, accusing the partner of doing things that they have not done and overall a lack of trust and satisfaction.

Difficulty with physical contact

How a person responds to physical contact comes in extremes; on one hand not wanting any physical contact at all, and on the other hand constantly wanting physical contact to the point where it become unmaintainable.

Looking at, or living in your past

Most of us do not want to think negatively about our parents and our upbringing, however, we need to be honest with ourselves and evaluate our childhoods, as this can unlock potential issues that need addressing to be able to move forward. You can make this easier by remembering that your parents did the best they could do for you with the resources and knowledge they had, and you will not lay blame or become a victim. With that in mind, it’s time to think about what went on in your family; think of the questions you asked and how you were answered, think of how your family made you feel, and then think about how should they have answered and how should they have made you feel.

Tune into your internal dialogue

Find out what your internal dialogue is saying about you. If it’s negative, learn to turn that around and do not accept it. Listen to positive material. Look at your goals, your skills, your good qualities and your achievements.

What do you really want in life?

Do you want a long-term, intimate relationship?

If that is what you want to have, why have you pushed people away in the past? Reflect on all of your past relationships.

Look at your goals and actions for your relationship, ask yourself how they are going to help or hinder me?

Give yourself time

You need to work on continuously to overcome intimacy issues, it does not happen overnight. Allow yourself to be forgiven and speak kindly and gently to the inner you. Don’t view fear has being a flaw in your character, but a problem that stems from your distant past, that believe me, with NLP, you can remove for a better future.

Word of advice, if you have a partner who has a fear of intimacy, at least now you can understand why they may have this fear a bit more. So, the main thing is to communicate, reach out for support, and be patient, be gentle and be kind. If you need help please contact me.

About Karen Baughan

Karen Baughan is an NLP Master Practitioner based in Bromsgrove, UK. Having used NLP to affect her own personal transformation, she now helps clients, from around the world, to transform their lives and achieve their dreams.

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