9 Common Ways People Ruin Their Own Relationships

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woman rejecting flowers from her man

If you struggle to make relationships last or run into the same issues in your love life over and over again, without even realizing it, unconscious limiting beliefs and negative thinking patterns could be causing you to self-sabotage.

Of course, you start new relationships with the best intentions.

At first, everything seems great, but over time, self-sabotaging behaviors and problems you thought you’d left behind when you broke up with previous partners emerge once again. Frustrated by it all, you're left wondering to yourself, "Will I ever find true love with someone?"

What you may not be aware of is a tendency, common among men and women, to be so afraid of being your authentic self that you aren't honest — with yourself or your new love — about your wants, needs, and desires right from the start.

You focus so keenly on finding love and getting into a relationship that you don't take into account what it requires of you to keep it.

Because of this, just as your new romance is beginning, the relationship is already on shaky ground.

Just because this has become somewhat of a routine, it doesn't have to stay this way.

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It's entirely possible for you to learn how to stop overthinking things and find real love and happiness with someone.

When you allow yourself to become more self-aware by taking inventory of what you keep getting wrong, you teach yourself how to stop negative thoughts and self-sabotage in your relationships.

Rather than obsessing over when you'll meet your soulmate, the key lies in recognizing the limiting beliefs that have been holding you back so you can make positive changes that will, in turn, help you find someone who's right enough for you. We need to connect with someone who is good enough, and accept them as they are.

Perfection is a pipe dream, and this idea keeps us out of high-quality relationships that can be quite satisfying. No one is perfect, and it isn't necessary for partners to be perfect. We need to be with someone kind-hearted and who is willing to meet us on this amazing and challenging journey.

9 Common Ways People Ruin Their Own Relationships

Here are 9 ways limiting beliefs and negative thoughts self-sabotaging behaviors in relationships, and how to stop overthinking so you can find and sustain true love.

1. Thinking of dates as auditions rather than being yourself.

Keep your relationships real!

We all try to put our best foot forward when initially meeting someone new, but it's important to give a realistic view of who you really are to the person you're dating.



Meanwhile, you should be trying to get to know the most authentic version of this guy or girl you're with, too. Observe their interactions with others — friends, family, colleagues — as well as the way they describe former relationships.

You can use it as a sort of litmus test to check their ability to form secure attachments. It also helps you take stock of patterns that may affect your relationship if it progresses.

2. Hiding your needs in order to appear "low-maintenance".

Some men and women hide their needs at all costs because they fear that the person they are dating or in a relationship with will leave them if they're "too needy." Some go so far as to give everything they can to their partner in a subconscious attempt to become indispensable and "lock in" the connection.

Unfortunately, keeping your needs quiet more often has the opposite effect. You teach your partner to believe in your super-autonomy so much that they fail to give you what you really need. This results in your feelings of emotional bankruptcy and physical exhaustion.

You have a right to need things from your significant other in a relationship, but you won't get those needs met if you don't make them known. Ask for what you need rather than robbing your partner of the gift of giving. It feels good on both sides!

3. Playing mind games.

Many people refer to successful dating skills as “having game”. Knowing how to flirt, woo, or engage another can indeed be a skill, but that's not the same thing as “playing games” with your partner.

Game playing in relationships is usually manipulative in a way designed to make your partner feel insecure by threatening to leave, giving ultimatums, actively trying to make your partner jealous, or withdrawing your attention as a way to punish them.



All these strategies lead to distress and threaten your bond. You both lose with this type of self-sabotaging behavior.

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4. Keeping the other person at a distance to protect yourself.

Securely attached people want real love and closeness and are not afraid of it. They respond to your requests, emails, and texts in a timely fashion, staying attuned to you in order to understand what you are truly asking for so they can give a quality response.

For example, if you tell your partner you want to spend some time alone together, a securely attached guy will jump at the chance to take you to a romantic dinner at your favorite restaurant for a special date night, rather than complain about being too busy or having too many other commitments.

When you and your partner get closer, practice staying present for the gift of intimacy, rather than protecting your heart and keeping your distance.

If you need a little break, tell your partner when you will return — and stick to the timeline so they aren't stressed with unnecessary worry!

Don’t disappear or give them the cold shoulder. You may be the one eventually frozen out if you do.

Stay connected by letting your partner know you are there for them and when they can expect you to show up again, even when you need some space and alone time.

5. Letting emotions overwhelm you instead of turning to one another.

We all need to know how to practice both self-regulation and co-regulation when it comes to our feelings in relationships. It's critical that you learn how to self-soothe so you can support yourself and be emotionally healthy enough to support your partner, as well.

Observe your partner and tune into their needs so you'll know what lifts them up when they are down, and what calms them when they are anxious or angry.

When you can do that for each other, there's no other place either of you will prefer to be, because we all want to be with someone who is soothing and supportive.

Clinician, teacher, and developer of the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy® (PACT), Dr. Stan Tatkin, created a particularly effective tool for couples he calls the 'Welcome Home Exercise."

Start by giving your partner a welcome home hug every day. Hold them in a chest-to-chest and belly-belly full-frontal hug until you both feel calm and present.

When your partner arrives home or you first get together at the end of a long day, drop what you are doing and make this your priority. Let nothing get in the way of your new greeting ritual.

6. Not having your partner's back because you're focused on your own.

It is important to have each other’s back at all times, whether that means comforting your partner when they're worried, sticking up for them with your family, defending them from bullying colleagues, or helping them break their bad habits.

Stand by your man or woman. Look out for each other inside and outside of your relationship, and show your support as often as you can.



Learn to regulate yourself in heated discussions so you never unleash your full-blown anger on your partner. Be available when needed as much as you can. Say “yes” as often as you can. Be there when your spouse is grieving a loss or celebrating a win. And above all, collaborate rather than compete.

Remembering that you are on the same side of the same team is a powerful glue for relationships.

7. Being too stubborn to repair rifts.

Even when you feel like your partner was 100 percent in the wrong, it's critical for you to be willing and able to both initiate and receive attempts at repairing things.

Give some thought to what you could do right now in order to move toward repairing a mistake or misunderstanding between yourself and your partner.

Have you been blocking a repair attempt coming from your partner because you don't think they apologized soon enough ... or because they didn't show the right amount of remorse ... or because they brought you the wrong reconciliation gift ... or because they failed to use proper grammar?

Make a conscious choice to see your partner's intention to get closer to you again, and let the rest go. The sooner you are willing to receive their bid on repair, the more quickly you can get back to enjoying each other.

8. Running at the first sign of conflict.

Relationships aren't always easy. In fact, best-selling author and mystic, Dr. Carolyn Myss, describes a soulmate as someone who pushes your buttons in ways that help you grow.

Old wounds may get triggered when you allow someone to get close, but don’t ditch your relationship when the path first seems difficult to navigate. Instead, see this as an opportunity to help each other heal.

Observing your reactions to your partner can be an effective way of shining a light that guides you toward healing. And by sticking with them even when times get tough, you may possibly undergo an amazing transformation that makes you all the stronger in the long run.

When conflict arises, as it inevitably will, be compassionate with each other.

common ways people ruin their relationshipsPhoto: janiecbros / Getty Images Signature via Canva

Recognize that relationships are an innately challenging human journey, and commit to experiencing the ups and downs of life and deep love together.

9. Not respecting each other's boundaries.

Boundaries are critical for healthy, happy relationships, so make it a point to honor each other’s boundaries both inside and outside of your relationship

Do not share your intimate secrets outside the relationship, and respect the privacy that belongs to the two of you inside of your love. Create a safe haven where you can discover each other’s disowned parts and allow more of yourselves to surface in a way that makes you both feel accepted.

If any of the behaviors or limiting beliefs above sound familiar, it’s time to make a change if you want a strong relationship that's built last.

It’s never too late to change your behavior and learn how to open up and communicate more effectively with the person you love.

By making these changes in your life, you’ll find that trust, honesty, and effort will lead to a rewarding kind of love that makes those “bad” relationships a thing of the past, replaced by the secure feelings that come with a healthy, blossoming partnership.

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Diane Poole Heller, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist who helps individuals and couples understand and decode the attitudes and behaviors that were instilled in them from childhood so they can enjoy enduring love, intimacy, and happiness. She is the author of "The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships."