Ten Common Relationship-Sabotaging Behaviors: Part 1

Learn the ten most common behaviors that can jeopardize a relationship. These behaviors may not be obvious when a relationship is new, but over time, they slowly erode intimacy.

By Randi Gunther, Ph.D.
Updated: September 08, 2016
Dating after Divorce

The ten most common relationship-sabotaging behaviors may not be obvious – or even offensive – when a relationship is new. Most new partners, bathed in the wonder of romantic lust, do not see these behaviors as serious issues. Over time, however, they slowly dissolve intimacy. When the damage is done, the relationship may be beyond repair.

This article will give you a snapshot of what these behavior patterns look like. Each of these behaviors are be explored in detail in my book, Relationship Saboteurs.

INSECURITY: “WILL YOU LOVE ME FOREVER?”

Anxiety, possessiveness, and jealousy are the constant companions of people who suffer from insecurity in their relationships. Fear of anticipated loss, whether substantiated or not, interferes with their ability to fully experience the positive aspects of their relationships.

New partners of anxious people may initially be attracted to their vulnerability and need for reassurance. Rescuers, particularly, may feel more important in a new relationship with someone who is anxious, and take pleasure in providing whatever is asked. They feel rewarded when their insecure partners feel safe in their presence.

Unfortunately, people who are innately insecure cannot be soothed out of their continuous distress. Over time, their partners begin to feel invalidated and ineffective when they are unable to stop the endless need for reassurance, and they may eventually transfer their devotion to others who are easier to help.

ARE YOU TOO INSECURE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS?

By answering the following questions, you can recognize whether insecurity has been a factor in your relationships:

  • Are you likely to focus more on whether your relationship will last than on enjoying it as it happens?
  • Do you find yourself obsessing on the slightest change in your partner that might signal a decrease in interest?
  • Are you threatened by your partner’s other close relationships?
  • Do you find yourself often seeking reassurance?
  • Do you constantly worry that your partner may leave you?

If the answers to these questions are yes, you may have sabotaged your relationships because you were too insecure. The chapter 3 of this book will help you understand your behavior and provide the steps to overcome this problem.

NEEDING TO CONTROL: “I RUN THE SHOW”

People who have a compulsive need to control others believe that they are not only entitled but also obligated to do so. They are not comfortable unless they are micromanaging their partner’s life, and sincerely believe that they are the only ones who can do things correctly.

This need to dominate may hide an underlying fear of being controlled. Controlling people may have been raised by similarly overbearing parents who forced them into obedient subservience. As a result, they may be determined never to be in that role again. Or the opposite can be true: the controller may have been allowed to rule the roost as a self-appointed child dictator and have no intention of giving up those rights in an adult relationship.

Initially, controlling partners may appear to be expert caretakers, anticipating their partner’s every need. They are so willing to take care of every aspect of the relationship that they seduce their new partner into self-indulgent comfort. But over time, the price becomes evident; all decisions about the relationship are made unilaterally and delivered without options.

Controlling people are easier to take when they wield their power with compassion and fairness. They’re harder to tolerate when their decisions are based on biases that cannot be challenged or changed. At the beginning of a relationship, they are usually careful to rule with tact and diplomacy. Once their dominance is established, though, they can revert to dictatorship and may be difficult to unseat.

DO YOU NEED TO CONTROL YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

By answering the following questions, you can determine if needing to control has been a factor in your relationships:

  • Do you only feel comfortable when you make the rules?
  • Are you resentful if your partner argues with your decisions?
  • Have past partners complained that you dominated the relationship?
  • Are you ever able to let your partner tell you what to do?
  • If there is a conflict over a direction in the relationship, do you insist on having your way?
  • If your partner doesn’t do what you want, do you punish him or her?

Learning to share decision making is crucial for a relationship to work. The chapter 4 of the book Relationship Saboteurs by Randy Gunther, Ph. D addresses the need to control and how to overcome this problem.

FEAR OF INTIMACY: “I NEED YOU, BUT NOT THAT CLOSE”

Everyone has some fear of too much physical or emotional closeness because all intimate connections require surrendering some personal independence. Most people manage those fears by entering relationships gradually and leaving exit room if necessary. If the balance between closeness and autonomy works for both partners, they will continue exploring an ever-deepening connection. If they cannot sustain that mutual comfort, they will eventually drift apart.

People with deeper fears of intimacy may be torn between desire and expectation of disaster. They cannot differentiate between a deepening commitment and entrapment. That internal conflict drives them to alternately seek and reject closeness with their partners.

As their relationships deepen, the terror of losing themselves to their partner’s needs intensifies, and they bolt, temporarily or permanently. They are often labeled “commitment phobic,” partners who can only love with one foot out the door.

DO YOU FEAR BEING TRAPPED IN INTIMATE OBLIGATIONS?

By answering the following questions, you can determine if fear of intimacy is a factor in your relationships:

  • Are you only able to be open and passionate when you’re in control?
  • Do you find yourself retreating from your relationships when they seem too close?
  • Have you become an expert in convincing your partner to reenter the relationship after he or she has given up on you?
  • Do you feel sincere in your desire to connect, but later become surprised when you feel trapped?
  • Do your partners tell you they don’t trust your love anymore?

The chapter 5 of this book addresses fear of intimacy and how to overcome this problem.

DO YOU NEED TO CONTROL YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

By answering the following questions, you can determine if needing to control has been a factor in your relationships:

  • Do you only feel comfortable when you make the rules?
  • Are you resentful if your partner argues with your decisions?
  • Have past partners complained that you dominated the relationship?
  • Are you ever able to let your partner tell you what to do?
  • If there is a conflict over a direction in the relationship, do you insist on having your way?
  • If your partner doesn’t do what you want, do you punish him or her?

Learning to share decision making is crucial for a relationship to work. The chapter 4 of this book addresses the need to control and how to overcome this problem.

FEAR OF INTIMACY: “I NEED YOU, BUT NOT THAT CLOSE”

Everyone has some fear of too much physical or emotional closeness because all intimate connections require surrendering some personal independence. Most people manage those fears by entering relationships gradually and leaving exit room if necessary. If the balance between closeness and autonomy works for both partners, they will continue exploring an ever-deepening connection. If they cannot sustain that mutual comfort, they will eventually drift apart.

People with deeper fears of intimacy may be torn between desire and expectation of disaster. They cannot differentiate between a deepening commitment and entrapment. That internal conflict drives them to alternately seek and reject closeness with their partners.

As their relationships deepen, the terror of losing themselves to their partner’s needs intensifies, and they bolt, temporarily or permanently. They are often labeled “commitment phobic,” partners who can only love with one foot out the door.

DO YOU FEAR BEING TRAPPED IN INTIMATE OBLIGATIONS?

By answering the following questions, you can determine if fear of intimacy is a factor in your relationships:

  • Are you only able to be open and passionate when you’re in control?
  • Do you find yourself retreating from your relationships when they seem too close?
  • Have you become an expert in convincing your partner to reenter the relationship after he or she has given up on you?
  • Do you feel sincere in your desire to connect, but later become surprised when you feel trapped?
  • Do your partners tell you they don’t trust your love anymore?

Chapter 5 of Relationship Saboteurs addresses fear of intimacy and how to overcome this problem.



Relationship SaboteursThis article has been edited and excerpted from the book Relationship Saboteurs (New Harbinger Publications, 2010) by Randi Gunther, Ph.D. Dr. Gunther is a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor in Lomita, CA. She has given multiple workshops and lectures, inspiring hundreds of couples to go beyond their limitations to create successful relationships. A practical idealist, she encourages her patients to give up their deadlocked limitations and to create the relationships of their dreams. In more than forty years of practice, she has spent over 90,000 face-to-face hours helping individuals and couples. www.newharbinger.com



Other Articles by Randi Gunther, Ph.D.

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November 17, 2010

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