How We Can Stop Sabotaging Our Own Long-Term Relationships
This is part II of my blog entry regarding how we sabotage our own relationships. This represents my third entry in the blogger of the month contest.
In my last blog segment, I talked about 10 things we do to sabotage our relationships, but I didn’t
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address ways in which we can avoid engaging in relationship-killing behaviors. In this blog, I will attempt to offer a few ways in which we can stop sabotaging our long-term relationships.
1. NEED TO CONTROL - If you feel you have to always be in control in your relationships, you need to examine how your controlling behavior affects your partners. You probably think you should be in control in your relationships because you are very effective as a leader in your workplace or that you are smarter than the average bear. However, behaviors which are considered as positives in the workplace, such as assertiveness, dominance, decisiveness, could intimidate relationship partners into submission, especially those partners who have a fear of losing you. You need to realize that the opposite of control really isn’t submission; it is compromise. Once you truly realize this, you might try compromising with your partners. You probably attracted partners who wanted someone else to take the lead, that is, until they found that they weren’t equal partners at all, but puppets who jumped whenever you whistled. In order to prevent partners from leaving you, you need to realize that there are intelligent people out there who can function just fine without being under your constant scrutiny. In fact, they probably will like you much better if you relinquish some of your control over them.
2. INSECURITY - The first thing you need to do is identify the source of your insecurity. Maybe you had a supportive family but you were never accepted by your peer group. I developed insecurity because, although I had the most loving, supportive parents, my peer group never accepted me because I dressed differently and was overly intellectual. I tried to fit in but I couldn’t. As I got older and developed greater confidence, I didn’t believe people who said they really liked me because I was always disappointed in the past. Once you identify the source of your insecurity, you need to practice some self-talk. You need to tell yourself that no one is perfect and you need to emphasize your strengths and capitalize on them. When you feel slighted or worried that your partner is losing interest, you need to tell yourself that perhaps your partner’s actions having nothing whatsoever to do with you. You need to reassure yourself that you are just as worthy of love as everyone else. You need to stop asking for reassurance. You need to learn to live in the moment and enjoy the present instead of obsessing about the future. Most importantly, you need to PROJECT confidence even if you don’t always feel it. People react more positively to confident people and don’t consider them as needy.
3. FEAR OF INTIMACY - Maybe you grew up in a family where you were always disappointed by your parents or siblings. Maybe people promised you things and never delivered. Maybe you found out that every time you tried to get close to someone, the person left you. So, you built a wall around yourself, as though you were telling yourself “I’m a rock, I’m an island. A rock feels no pain and an island never cries.” By building a wall around yourself, you drive people away because they think that, no matter how hard they try, they will never penetrate the wall you created for yourself. In actuality, you WANT people to stay with you. You need intimacy but you keep seducing partners and then pushing them away. You need to examine your pattern and stop sending partners double messages. I had a partner who feared intimacy and who kept telling me he was moving out of the state whenever I got too close. I finally got tired of this behavior, and I bolted. After I left him, he was incredulous. How could I do this to him? Wasn’t he always kind to me? Didn’t he show me how much he cared? He finally realized that, when I became engaged, the joke was on HIM. I hope he learned that he needs to let someone know he REALLY cares before it’s too late. In order to overcome fear of intimacy, you have to do a lot of soul searching and you have to take the plunge without fear.
4. DEFENSIVENESS - Perhaps you are defensive often because as young people you always had to defend or explain your every action. Defensiveness just puts other people on the defensive. To overcome defensiveness, if someone criticizes you, try to count to 10 before responding negatively. Don’t take everything so personally. It’s possible that your partner has a valid reason for criticizing you. Try to be more objective. This way your partner won’t feel as though he or she is walking on eggshells all the time and will be able to communicate with you without causing you to go on the defensive all the time.
5. BUYING AFFECTION - Love isn’t for sale. People often develop this tendency because they had parents who tried to appease or please them with things. You might believe that by buying gifts for your partners, you will overwhelm their partner with your generosity and you will ensure that your partner won’t leave you. Sometimes such behavior has the opposite effect because people don’t necessarily want to be bought and they don’t want to be smothered with affection. People earn other people’s love by being themselves, not by buying each other gifts or by constantly doing things to prove they are worthy of love. The best thing you can do is just be yourself and show your partner you care by being there and by listening. If you would just be yourself, you won’t scare their partners away by being too eager to please.
6. NEGATIVITY - People who are too negative and are pessimistic create an atmosphere of negativity and depression in otherwise positive people. By being negative, you drive away your partners. People want to be around positive people. First, try to figure out what triggered your negativity in the first place. Maybe you had tried things in relationships which didn’t work and this left you with a bad taste in your mouth. Maybe you learned that, if you expect little, you won’t be disappointed if you get nothing. However, you have a right to be happy too, but you won’t attract positive people and you won’t have positive relationship outcomes if you are too negative. Try practicing looking on the bright side of things and you might be surprised at the success you could achieve.
7. SELF-CENTERED BEHAVIOR - Most likely you were belittled as a child or even ignored. You knew you had something to say but no one would listen. So, the only way to make yourself heard was to brag about your accomplishments. You believed that the squeaky wheel always gets the grease, so you squeaked and squawked when it would have been better to let your partner do some of the talking. You didn’t realize that by acting as though everything was about you that others would feel as though you didn’t care one iota about them. I’ve known people who drove their partners away by talking excessively about themselves. You might want to listen for a change and sometimes keep your advice to yourself if you aren’t asked for it. You might want to find out what your partners want and hone in on their needs for a change. You might be surprised at how people will like you better if you stop tooting your own horn!
8. ADDICTIONS - Addictions are very hard to break without professional help. Some people have addictive personalities and often addicts are sons or daughters of people who suffered from addictions. The first step in recovering is recognizing what triggers your addictive behavior. Maybe you reached for a drink when you were under stress. Maybe you reached for comfort food when you were lonely. Whatever the reason for your addictive behavior, it is counterproductive to forming meaningful relationships because your partner isn’t competing with other people, but rather with your addiction. Join a 12-step program or go for counseling and you might find that it is possible to survive without the addiction and that an added benefit might be the possibility of a meaningful, long-term relationship.
9. NEED TO WIN - Needing to win often begins in childhood. You probably had a parent who was argumentative and who often challenged you. In order to assert your own independence, you developed a compulsive need to win every argument. No partner would be comfortable with someone who is combative or who is overly blunt and direct. You need to find alternatives to arguing, such as listening to other people’s points of view, and trying to appreciate what your partner has to say instead of challenging it. The constant need to win puts a strain on relationships because it puts others on the defensive. You need to learn to tone yourself down and learn from others and listen to what others have to say.
10. BETRAYERS - Betrayers are famous for promising what they can’t or won’t deliver and then finding rationalizations or excuses for their broken promises. Betrayers cause their partners to lose faith in them. The more consistent the lies and excuses become, the more skeptical their partners will get and the less trust they will incur over the long haul. You might think you are being honest and forthright by admitting to your partner that you cheated or lied, but, in actuality, most people don’t want to hear these sorts of things. They would rather be left in the dark than betrayed. Betrayers make promises they can’t keep because they have the illusion that they won’t get caught. But, often they are so used to lying that eventually their partners realize they won’t change and leave them. This is what happened between my ex, a betrayer, and me. At the moment, I am beginning to believe my fiance might become a betrayer, as well. If you tend to be a betrayer, you need to become aware of the fact that you are doing things which incur mistrust. You either have to avoid making promises you can’t keep or you have to keep their betrayals to yourself and keep your stories straight. Obviously, actually keeping their promises would be preferable, but you certainly won’t last in a long-term relationship if you continue to lie and make empty promises.