I have trouble being kind to myself. If I wake up at 4 a.m., I auto-think: "Why are you 28 and alone without a 401k, you leper?" By 8 a.m., my overdramatic woes have subsided, and I can recognize a few things that I'm good at: I'm smart, I'm a decent friend, and my family seems to like me. I'd say I do medium well at not failing at life. But in romantic relationships, I earn a solid "F." Because I would like to become a straight-A student again, I decided to research how to spot the signs your relationship is failing when you are an expert self-sabotageur like I am.
I used to pride myself on never getting attached. I also used to pride myself on not selling out and trying online dating, or taking 24 hours to respond to a text from someone I cared about dearly. I used to be "too cool" to maintain the relationships I took part in; I had Peter Pan syndrome just as bad as all the men I victim-blamed for my own insecurities and inability to commit. I was, quite simply, the worst. (I might still be.)
I have a great father (no daddy issues), I am a full blown "E" for extrovert on the Meyers-Briggs and am super open with my feelings in most situations (that don't involve feels feels), and I take good care of myself (I even go to therapy). But it takes two hands for me to count the number of times I've gotten into a relationship and then Kim Jung Un-ed it into total crisis mode.
Of course, there are two parties involved in any relationship, so it's not fair to place on the blame for relationship problems exclusively on yourself. That said, I often don't even realize I'm sabotaging things. Elite Daily spoke to licensed care social worker and author Fran Greene about some signs that indicate that you might be the culprit for your failing relationship:
1. You're Self-Sabotaging As A Means Of Protection
If you're having trouble being nice to yourself like I am, there's a good chance you're not confident that your partner can love you either. It sounds like something your mom says to you to comfort you when your first crush asks out Susan instead of you and you start blaming your awful eyebrows, but it's really true: No one can truly love you if you don't love yourself first.
When you don't feel good about yourself, you might start to self-sabotage so that you can protect your heart before it gets hurt again. "Self-sabotage is a band-aid for your heart," explains Greene. "Perhaps you were cheated on in your last relationship. Because you never saw it coming, you made a promise to yourself that you would never ever let your heart get broken again."
Here's the hardest part about this: You won't even notice yourself doing this. I have sabotaged so many relationships in which I blamed my partner for "being weird." My own fear of getting hurt has allowed me to lash out when all I really wanted to do was scream, "I really like you and I'm scared!" Greene explains that it's common for us to go into self-protection mode, which "causes your relationship to tank and not move forward."
Hot tip: Self-sabotaging leads to an even more painful break up than risking falling in love and getting your heart broken because you'll always wonder, "What if?" so dive in head first right away.
2. You Don't Give Your Partner Space
Of course, if you love and care for someone, you'll want to spend time with them. Ideally, they want to spend time with you, too (#relationshipgoals). But it's really important to give each other space to be the independent selves that you were before becoming a pair. Greene warns against being “overly needy,” because even though your partner might love and cherish you, they will start to feel suffocated if you don't give them the space to breathe.
I have a really overbearing landlord who texts and calls before the rent is even due. This gives me anxiety and makes me resentful, even though there's no actual conflict going on. Being badgered never feels good, and suggests that you might not trust that your partner can both have their own space and be there for you at the same time. Don't be the one to put baby in a corner.
3. You Criticize Your Partner
If you've ever had a partner criticize you, you know that it feels what can only be described as "yucky." I was on a first date recently where the dude criticized my decision to apply to grad school. That was loathsome enough, and we will never see each other again.
“You are overly critical and no matter what your partner does, it is never good enough," explains Greene. "And then you get hurt and disappointed when they don't take the initiative or they just tune out and shut down.” It's a vicious cycle, and it's never a good look.
As a woman, I feel like I get a pass to lightly poke fun at my partner about certain things (defense mechanism 101). I'm not mean, but it's definitely a way to put them down the tiniest bit and lift me up, usually because I'm afraid they're going to leave me.
Try and substitute a compliment every time you feel like you're about to snark-attack your boo. People like feeling good about themselves.
4. You Are Constantly Jealous
There are absolutely times when you should pay attention to your jealousy. Partners cheat, and it sucks. That said, if you are carefully checking in on your bae's Venmo to see what female co-workers they are charging for lunch, and then diving down the rabbit hole of her Instagram to see if she has a boyfriend, cool those jets.
Greene says it's really a warning sign when “you need to know their whereabouts at all times, and if they don't check in with you on your schedule, you become more possessive.” But even if you aren't coming close to being possessive, your jealous tendencies probably have a lot more to do with you than with them.
I think about how insanely imaginative I was when I was no longer dating, but lightly in touch with an ex who moved to another state. I took any scrap of social media interaction with a female person and turned it into "they're dating." I fully transformed him into Anthony Weiner-level, dick pic-slinging f*ckboy, which he was not. It was as though finding a thread of evidence of other woman in his life would somehow invalidate me in each and every way as "not enough." This is unhealthy AF, so learn from my mistakes.
5. You Have Extremely High Expectations
This circles right on back to self-sabotage. Even if you love yourself, if you have massive expectations for your partner, you will self-sabotage the relationship by expecting him to actually meet each and every one of them. “No one can totally and completely fulfill every need you have,” explains Greene.
Of course you deserve someone who cares for you, treats you with respect, and has a sense of humor/job/hobby you can connect with, but no one is perfect. Usually, the men I have dated who check all of my boxes (yes, pun intended) are usually not actually the right men for me. I'm currently trying to lower my expectations and go on dates with guys I might not have typically considered. So far, I've met some cool people.
At the end of the day, take note of your possible self-sabotaging behavior. Above all, I wish you self-love. I know it's hard, but it will do worlds for your relaysh.