Are You Unknowingly Sabotaging Your Relationships? Understanding two underlying reasons and what you can do about it

Hey guys! 

How are you? How’s the start to your weekend going? I just got back from Master Coach Training last week. I’m taking it all to the next level my friends. Are you coming?

So excited that you’re joining me in this exploration on self-sabotage in relationships. This information is huge!

Keep in mind you’re in the driver’s seat.  You drive your mind and tell it where to go, it doesn’t drive you. You just need to learn the skills, and you can learn them right here in this blog.

I'm in such gratitude that I get to do what I love and be able to teach you all what I know and learn. Speaking of which, I've been working on developing a podcast! I’m so excited! So stay tuned. I may need your input and help. 

New live online class coming this month!

Be on the lookout for information about a live online class I’ll be teaching soon. I can’t wait to share the details with you.

I truly believe that everything’s happening for me, even the things I would usually deem as negative. I believe this is the case for you too. It’s so amazing to see life this way, even in the midst of negative emotion you can be unstoppable.

Life is simple.jpg

So let’s dig in. I want you to understand how you might be sabotaging your relationships… without making a BIG story about it. Ok?

This is so important to understand but not if you use it against yourself.

Often, I see clients use the knowledge they start to understand about themselves— (or others even)— to define themselves, feel shame, loss of hope, worry or whatever your "go-to-thing" is. So you’re not allowed to do that ok?

Let’s say you get a diagnosis, or a label of some sort. Have you noticed how sometimes if you identify with it you end up feeling powerless over it?

So try not to over-identify with any of what I say here, but use it as a tool to help you decide HOW you WANT to think, feel and do the work required to grow beyond any relationship self-sabotage you might be engaged in. 

Don’t identify with any label, they’re not the essence of who you really are...

You're not just a woman, a sister, an entrepreneur, a girlfriend, a wife, or someone who has Lupus, or Anxiety. And you’re not “just” some of the things I will discuss today, such as a woman who has fears of abandonment or PTSD.

Don’t identify with any symptoms you may have…

For example, clients might tell me, “I have low-energy, brain-fog, bad PMS, sensitivities to the full moon.” Hey, I’m totally aware that when it’s full moon time, something can be up with me. But each full moon is an opportunity for me to not think in habitual ways about it. That’s what cause these negative thought patterns. It’s not going to serve me to think, “Oh no, another full moon, what’s gonna happen this time?” That just freaks me out and makes it more likely that I’ll collect evidence for the full moon being a bad thing.

Like, “Wow, I can’t believe I forgot my red and white polka-dot travel wallet on my bedroom nightstand and I don’t have cash in US dollars, only euros in my purse for the parking attendant— who by the way, I swear hates me… Plus I forgot my egg-salad sandwich, which I had a huge craving for at home along with my bullet-proof coffee, and I can’t believe my back door office key stopped working today…Hmmm, for sure, it’s because of the full moon.”

Instead, I just notice it’s a full moon. I’m curious about what happens and I don’t make any assumptions. I try and keep in mind that all of the things that happened, forgetting my lunch and whatnot are neutral circumstances, until I attach a thought to them like, “All these unlucky things are happening because of the full moon.”

It’s not always easy once you’ve had several negative associations not to get into a negative habit of thought because of the way our brains are designed. But it’s very possible with attention and awareness. And research shows regular sessions with a professional to keep your mind healthy, like you would use a personal trainer to keep your body healthy. Do you have something like this full moon story, that you’ve developed a habitual way of thinking about that’s not serving you?

How does this have anything to do with relationship self-sabotage? Because when you have certain experiences in life, your brain is on the lookout to find more of the same.

Even if you’re not destined to have more of the same, your brain will look for the evidence that your “new friendship will end like that one did with Shelia,” or the new guy you’re dating “will be disrespectful in just the same way your ex was.” Then if you are not careful, you’ll go about the business of creating evidence for these exact things you are worried about.

For example, Morgan was worried that her new best girl friend would “become envious and competitive with her” because she felt this happened in several past relationships that had ended painfully. Morgan was unconsciously looking for her new friend to exhibit these behaviors in an attempt to stay safe. But instead of staying safe, this intensified her fearful feelings of the same pattern repeating because instead of just allowing something to be a misunderstanding or disagreement with her new friend, her mind wanted to jump to the pain she experienced before. Morgan was expecting a failed friendship before it even happened. It’s so interesting that the same situations “happens to us” in different relationships, even though we are the constant and the players are always different.

This didn’t necessarily mean Morgan was right or wrong about her new friend, just that it’s what she was “expecting to see.” And extremely important information for Morgan to be aware of as she got to know this new friend so that she could decide on purpose what she wanted to believe. She could decide to think or focus on something totally different and who knows if she’d circle back to the same storyline of envy and competition. Even if she really believed her new friend was envious and competitive she may decide she didn’t care and choose to be friends with her anyway, taking her power back. Or she may decide “No, not the friend for me.” But either way, it would be coming from an empowered place, not a place of feeling like a victim to someone’s envy and competition but from a place of, “No matter what, I get to choose who I want to be in a relationship with, knowing no one has the power to make me feel anything, that all feelings comes from my thoughts.” Our thoughts always cause our feelings. And that doesn’t mean we condone behavior we don’t like, it just means we understand what we might be “expecting to see and collect evidence for,” and know we have the power to choose to think differently on purpose.

As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.
— Byron Katie, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life

I love this quote by Byron Katie, because it gives you back ownership of your life.

Don’t identify with what you do or don't do well or otherwise…

I’m a woman who’s good or bad at math, always late or on time, communicates well or doesn’t, or follows a schedule or can never get it done. You get the point. 

Don’t put limitations on yourself because of any identification of any kind. 

Our minds are the most powerful tool we have. And something I love to ponder is that what happened a minute ago, last week, last year, when you were a young adult, a teenager, or a child never has to be your reality again. Every moment is new for you to reinvent.

All it takes is a commitment believing something different that empowers you to be who you are RIGHT now.

You get to be the person you want to be no matter what. No matter what happened in your past, no matter what label, symptom, action or inaction you’ve taken. If you were bad at math in school, that doesn’t mean you’re bad at math now, you can change your beliefs about yourself. Maybe you’re kick ass at budgeting as an adult even though math wasn’t your subject long-ago.

We always get to choose how we think about the past in the present, in ways that serve us and help us create the life we most want. 

You manifest your life with your current thoughts about your past, present and future. Nothing in the past has the power to affect you but your thinking about it in the present moment. Isn’t that wild? How you think about everything in your life and in the world, is TOTALLY up to you. Allow this information to empowered you to decide how you want to think and feel about all of it. 

So, why you might you be sabotaging your relationships without even without realizing it? 

There's only ever ONE real reason you sabotage your relationships and that’s because of your thinking.

Often times my clients come to me stuck in repetitive thought patterns and behaviors. Sometimes they’re sabotaging their businesses and their relationships. They try and change how they’re thinking and feeling, but they find themselves having a hard time not repeating the patterns even though they really want to change. If you come up against this, it can be really helpful before you can really do the work of changing your thoughts and patterns to understand why you’re stuck in this pattern anyway. 

The short answer is that we have patterns of thinking because that’s the way our brains work. Not until we begin to realize that we can CHANGE what we CHOOSE to think about do we realize how important this is. An unexamined mind, mindset, or belief system is just you running on previous experiences and beliefs to dictate your future. As an adult, you get to choose how you want to perceive and interrupt yourself, your relationships and your life.

When you were a kid, you relied on family, school, your culture and your socialization to help you decide who you were, how the world works, and what your life's about. But now it’s up to you, the adult version.

It gets a little wonky because we interpret the world and ourselves through the lenses of these old experiences that shaped our minds. Change requires you to drive your own mind and not let it drive you. I’m telling you guys it's the MOST valuable skill I can teach you. 

We can retrain our brains and our unhealthy patterns of thinking and operating in the world, but before you do that, you may not even realize you’re doing it, or you may not see the value in it, unless you understand WHY. Once we let go of the self-blame and shame about why we’re the way we are then we can actively CHOOSE a new paradigm for ourselves. You following? 

Two main factors in relationship self-sabotage are: 1) Fear of Abandonment and 2) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

1) Fear of Abandonment

This has to do with your past. To sum it up, it just means that as a child one of your primary caregiver wasn’t consistently available to meet your needs. Now this can be severe to slight. So it’s on a continuum. I work with women all the time who didn’t even realize this was a thing for them. If it was really obvious, you may still hold resentment and feel like a victim to your past circumstances in the present moment. 

Neither end of the continuum’s a super exciting option because left unexamined it contributes to the way we think about ourselves and our relationships that don’t serve us, it’s the default way of thinking about yourself. In the moment when your childhood needs were not being met you were literally in survival mode, that’s the way the brain works. This is a good thing because it helped you survive and make sense of the world around you. As children, we cannot take 100% care of ourselves. So we need to remind our adult brain that what happened in the past is in the past and the way we think about it now is what determines how we feel and the decisions we make today. We don’t have to live from default settings that will keep us in fear that we’ll be abandoned.

Thankfully, as adults we don’t need to be in survival mode anymore. One of my mentors, says that adults cannot be abandoned. As adults, we can take care of our own needs. How awesome is that? I love independence. But we also want to balance it with a healthy interdependence in our relationships with others. We don’t need to be overly independent or not needing others. It’s actually not natural for us because we are pack animals and we need to feel a sense of belonging and allow others to help us. 

Even though you’re no longer in survival mode as an adult your mind has logged relationships as potentially threatening. Furthermore, your brain’s already wired to be looking for danger back from our days in the cave. So, can you see how easy it might be to have fear of abandonment stuff come up?

The inability to have your needs met as a child can result in unhealthy attachments styles. You may have heard of anxious or avoidant attachment styles. There’s no need to over-identify with these labels once you understand them because all that’s happened is that you have a habitual way of “thinking” about relationships as unsafe on some level. But you have the power to re-choose your thoughts.

Instead of thinking something’s wrong with me, I’d like you to be curious about how you are attaching without judgement. Ask yourself, “Is it easy to attach, hard to attach, does it feel scary, smothering, etc. etc.?” The first step is awareness, the second is becoming the observer of your thoughts, the third is deciding what you want to think and feel on purpose.

2) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The second factor in relationship self-sabotage is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you suffer or suffered from PTSD, it’s more on the extreme version or continue of what we just discussed. If you have PTSD your brain will expect things to go wrong and be on the lookout for this. What we look for we usually focus on and are worried about and this can absolutely affect how we perceive other people’s behaviors in relationships.

What is hypervigilance stress?

Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect activity (threat). Hypervigilance can be a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or various types of anxiety disorders.

You may innocently expect the worst from your partner or other relationships and be in a state of constant hypervigilance. No matter how the relationship was going to go in the first place, expecting the worst and being in a state of hypervigilance will usually lead to sabotage.

Think about it like a car GPS system that’s only programmed for one state. If your state is “I’ve been treated poorly in the past” and you navigate your life from this map— it’s kind of hard to jump over into the state where “relationships are safe,” and navigate your relationships from this GPS point of location or focus.

This is why AWARENESS of what’s going on here is important. We can’t change what we don’t have awareness of. When I first got a car with GPS, I remember typing in the address of where I wanted to go and the GPS telling me I had to drive about 1000 miles from where my current location was to get there. I knew this couldn’t be correct- I had a general idea of where I was going and it was more like 20 miles away. I was baffled until I realized that I had accidentally reprogramed my GPS so that it read that I was in another state. Whoops, I set it back to California and got the correct reading— and that’s exactly what we need to learn to do with our brains.

In my professional opinion as a psychotherapist and coach there’s nothing wrong with you if you have fear of abandonment or PTSD. This may be a hard pill to swallow if you’re in the habit of fighting for your misery. And by the way so many of us are without even realizing it.

And I mean this with the upmost care and respect for who you are, your struggles and what you’ve experienced. It isn’t like it’s not important or you should just “get over it,” not at all. But what I do know is it’s not helpful to focus on “what’s ‘wrong” with us, or how we perceive ourselves as flawed because of something in the past. That’s so disempowering, and you can’t get in the right state with the right GPS from there. It’s not fair to you to see yourself from that lens. What’s more fair is to tell yourself that no matter what your past experiences, you always have the power to create your future. You get to choose how you think about everything.

You always have the ability to think about your past anyway you choose to in the current present moment. Like, “Heck yeah, I had those experiences, that programming and wiring and now it’s up to me to change that if I want.”

“I don’t have to be a victim to that stuff by default. Yeah, maybe it sucks I had to go through it but I’m a more powerful person because of it and I can choose to be empowered by my life and see how strong I am.” I believe we all could use a therapist or a coach to help us navigate our particular past experiences and programing. Because depending on the severity of it, you may not know how to navigate it alone. There’s no shame in that.

It takes courage to look at what’s going on, understand it’s not the way you want it to be, and believe that you have the power to do something about it for yourself. Because you do and you can!

In reading this, if you’ve identified that you need some help sorting out your GPS system take good care of yourself and get the help you deserve and need to move through the obstacles of relationship self-sabotage. 

Jump on a mini-session and we’ll sort through what you’re experiencing so you can come up with a game plan. Next week I’ll talk about the 7 tactics that you may use to sabotage your relationships and what you can do about it. 

Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience; taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them.
— Byron Katie

We’ll keep exploring together in this blog why most of us don’t question our beliefs, and why we don’t take responsibility for choosing what we want to believe on purpose, but simply believe what we’ve been taught. Because choosing what you want to believe can help you go from feeling like a victim to your every circumstance to the director and award winning actress of your dream come true real life. I want you to feel GREAT about your life, so let’s keep digging into this work together.