Why People Sabotage Good Relationships

By December 16, 2013 Article, Couples, Individual, Relationships

Trust is the overall feeling of security we have in a relationship. In this article I describe how some people sabotage relationships due to their difficulty trusting.

Living in Fear
When a relationship is going well, someone with trust issues is forced to live in a constant state of fear. This is paradoxical. One might expect people to be happy when they find someone they trust. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The past tells them that all people will eventually betray them. When things are going well in a relationship, people with trust issues live in a constant state of fear. The perceived betrayal is always around the bend; the executioners guillotine always lingers above their head.

In more extreme cases, people will sabotage their relationship in order to escape the constant fear, and gain a sense of control. This is a way of paradoxically staying safe by ensuring that they are in control of the destruction of the relationship rather than their partner.

Judy’s Story (* for confidentiality reasons, this made up example)
Judy had experienced a troubled childhood. Her mother had been depressed most of her life and her father was an alcoholic. She had learned not to depend on others, but rather be fiercely independent. She used this fire to become very successful in the work place; however, she had gone through a string of failed relationships.

In each new relationship, Judy experienced a wonderful initial period with the men in her life. Each one offered her the hope of finally having the intimacy she craved. However, as the relationships progressed, she started to feel more and more scared. She constantly worried her boyfriends were cheating on her. At times she could see that there was no evidence to support this, but these were fleeting moments. Most of her evenings were spent worrying. Accusations flew and eventually Judy could no longer handle the worrying and the arguments that occurred daily. Eventually driven by exhaustion and distress, Judy would break up with her boyfriends (or get them to break up with her). As her relationships ended, she could finally feel relief.

In therapy, Judy was able to see her part in her relationship patterns. Therapy helped her learn to understand the origins of her fearful feelings and gave her a way to redirect her energy. Having a safe outlet where she could understand her feelings, allowed Judy to express her fears to her boyfriend in a way that he could sympathize with. After many months of therapy, Judy found a new ability to control her fears and started to feel safe again.

In the example above, we see how Judy’s attempts to gain a sense of control and escape her fear, lead her to repeatedly sabotage relationships.