Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Relationships? Signs Your Anxiety’s Getting The Better Of You

Sometimes, our fears can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we expect things to go badly, the more likely we’ll behave in ways to make that true. And if you struggle with relationship anxiety, you may be self-sabotaging, whether on accident or as a means to protect yourself from getting hurt. Look for these signs that you’re self-sabotaging your relationships by allowing your anxiety to call the shots.

  1. You’re always assuming the worst. People make a lot of assumptions about others, often without even realizing it. And if you’re feeling anxious, you’re more likely to make negative assumptions. This becomes a big problem when we start to believe our own assumptions, thinking they’re true without having solid evidence to support them. This can lead to a lot of unnecessary fights, breakups, or meetings that never progress beyond the first date. This is one of the biggest ways we end up self-sabotaging our relationships and the saddest part is, it’s easily preventable.
  2. Trusting others feels impossible. Because you’re assuming the worst, you might feel highly suspicious of anything your partner says or does. You don’t know when someone’s actually trustworthy or when they’re lying to your face. To play it safe, you look for signs of betrayal and deceit, even where there may be none. But eventually, other people will get tired of defending themselves and end the relationship.
  3. You often fall for unavailable people. You probably don’t want to fall for unavailable people, but it’s one common way of dealing with relationship anxiety. Emotionally unavailable people can feel safe because you know, subconsciously, the relationship is unlikely to work out. Then, you’ll never be expected to open up like you would with a more secure and available partner. By chasing after those who aren’t available, you can keep love at arm’s length, keeping yourself protected yet sabotaging your chances at having a healthy relationship.
  4. If they’re not unavailable, you pull away when they get close. You’re dating someone new, dreaming of what the future holds and fantasizing about finally having a fulfilling relationship. But just as that starts to become a reality, anxiety kicks in, and you start to feel super claustrophobic. Then, you pull away, feeling like you just need some space. For the other person, though, this can make it seem as if you’re unsure of the relationship, often causing things to fizzle out just as they were getting started.
  5. You overstep boundaries. Flirting with other people, breaking promises, backing out of plans together: you know you’re kind of being a crappy partner, but you’re not totally sure why. You might be overstepping boundaries and hurting other people because you’re feeling nervous and insecure. Even if it’s hard to admit, deep down you might wish that they would feel as anxious and scared as you do. Subconsciously, we may do this for a couple of different reasons: you’re either craving attention (including negative attention) from a partner who isn’t giving you enough, or you’re using hurtful behavior to get the other person to break up. For those struggling with anxiety in relationships, driving a relationship to its demise can actually make us feel, momentarily, comforted and in control.
  6. You won’t settle for less than perfect. There’s no such thing as a perfect partner, and you probably already know this. Still, you’re nitpicking others’ little imperfections and mistakes, feeling disappointed and detached. But in a (unhealthy) way, this can soothe relationship worries. Why? Because waiting for some elusive dream partner ensures that you’ll never have to get too close and committed to anyone, keeping you protected in your own bubble.
  7. You make yourself too busy for relationships. Whether casually dating or already committed, being too busy for others can sabotage your relationships. You may be filling up your schedule to avoid being available for dates, or you might be neglecting time with your SO to avoid facing relationship problems. Either way, your relationships have no chance at success if you avoid making time for them.
  8. You rely on indirect communication. Talking about feelings can be hard, especially if you’re dealing with anxiety. But always relying on indirect communication is a sure way to sabotage your relationships. Instead of communicating clearly, you feel more comfortable using vague hints, passive signals, and even mind games to get your point across. And when the other person can’t read the air, you may falsely believe the relationship is hopeless.
  9. You have an exit strategy at all times. If you’re focusing more on how to leave the relationship than how to maintain it, you’re on the path to sabotaging your love life. You might be looking for reasons to end your relationships, sometimes even immediately after they start. It’s not that you don’t want your relationships to work out. You just don’t want to be hurt, and knowing how to shut the relationship down before the other person can make you feel safer. But our thoughts and what we focus on often become a reality. Always looking for the exit sign almost guarantees you’ll need to use it.

If you’re worrying that you’re self-sabotaging your relationships, pay attention to your behavior and see if you recognize any of the above signs. If you do, find a way to change things so you don’t end up alone.

Relationship educator, writer, host of the Relationship Reminders podcast, and mental health advocate hailing from the US and currently based in Tokyo