Love can be challenging at times, especially when you really care about keeping your relationship healthy. The ability to maintain a relationship in the long term isn’t a skill that most people naturally have. You want to make your relationship work yet the reality is that you sometimes sabotage your relationships without even knowing it.
Luckily, there are practical ways to stop yourself from sabotaging relationships effectively and I’d like to share some of these helpful methods with you today.
1. Communicate Your Standards and Values Early in the Relationship
You need to know what’s important to you and communicate it early in the relationship. A couple may have been together for five years and now they have major problems. However, closer examination shows that the root of their problems didn’t rock up recently. In fact, the seed of their most common issue of contention was planted very early in the relationship.
This happened because the couple didn’t communicate their values and standards at the beginning of their relationship. Initially, they were so crazy about each other; and being truly, madly and deeply in love, they chose to ignore communicating one of the most important parts of a healthy relationship: their values and standards.
For example, you’re in a new relationship. Knowing you value quality time together; you expect your partner to have a date night with you at least once a week. However, you soon discover your partner is a workaholic who wants to work seven days a week and is unwilling to invest more time in you. Because you are wildly attracted to them, you ignore this warning flag and continue to emotionally invest in being in a relationship with them.
The potential problem is that the attraction isn’t sustainable because the dynamics in this relationship and your values aren’t compatible. In the long term, you become resentful as your partner never seems to have time for you.
Then you wonder why you are sabotaging your relationship because you are frequently triggered into angry reactions due to your needs not being met. You know the truth is that you didn’t communicate your values and set your standards early in the relationship, and this has led to ongoing conflict within you.
It’s up to you to communicate important values in the early stages of your relationship. A relationship will naturally follow the course and direction you choose for it. If you want to stop yourself from sabotaging relationships, you need to clearly communicate your wants and needs. If you expect your partner to miraculously know your needs without clearly communicating them, chances are you will constantly be disappointed when they are not met.
When you are communicating your standards to your partner, remember to be kind, polite and sincere. It’s always easier for someone to accept your viewpoint when they can see you are being mindful of respecting their feelings.
In the second place, avoid playing games. Note that honesty is the best policy in all communication with your partner. He or she will appreciate your honesty in this regard because that shows your integrity and strength of character.
If you really want to be in a relationship with a person with conflicting values, clear communication becomes even more paramount.
For instance, you would like your partner to spend more time with you every weekend, but your partner wants to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You can say this to him or her, “Honey, I understand that your work is very important to you and I really admire your work ethic. Honestly, it will be better for our relationship if we can spend more time together every weekend, because I miss you when you are working all day Saturday and Sunday. Which day do you think we could schedule some time to spend together?”
In this example, there is no “but”. When you say something then inject the word “but”, it detracts from what you previously said. For example, if you were to say, “… I really admire your work ethic, but…”, this “but” eliminates the previous statement of appreciation as the word strongly points out something completely different from what you’ve just said.
While it is ideal to be in a relationship where you don’t have conflicting values; clear, kind and honest communication goes a long way to preventing you from sabotaging your relationship.
2. Respect Each Other’s Boundaries
Like values, boundaries need to be clearly defined and articulated. Some years ago, I had a client who told me that her husband always brought his friends to their house for drinks every Friday night, and his drunk and loud friends wouldn’t leave until 2:30am. That happened every single week.
She was frustrated and upset. Further examination revealed that this client and her husband had different boundaries around their social life. She preferred more one-on-one time with her partner; however, an essential requirement for her husband was to spend time drinking with his friends.
In her opinion, her husband would have been well-advised to take his friends somewhere else for drinks most weeks and maybe bring his friends to their house only twice a year. In contrast, her husband thought it was perfectly okay to bring his friends to their house every week.
Neither of them was wrong. They just had different boundaries. Unresolved boundary issues need to be resolved, otherwise they can eventually lead to separation and divorce.
The solution to this couple’s problem was to find a happy medium. For example, she could allow her husband to bring his friends to their house every 6 weeks, and her husband could go to his friends’ places on most Friday nights.
In the end, my recommendation was that her husband and his friends took turns to host Friday night drinks each week. That worked out well for them, because it was an effective way to respect each other’s boundaries, thereby stopping each of them from sabotaging the relationship.
It’s important to note here that each partner needs to spend time fulfilling their own needs. Depending too much on your partner for your happiness will eventually sabotage your relationship. This is because it puts pressure on your partner to be responsible for your happiness.
Happiness is the result of your thoughts, words and actions so make sure you regularly indulge in pursuits which enhance your sense of self and develop you as a person.
3. Focus on the Qualities Your Partner Possesses That You Love
It’s too easy to indulge in negative thinking and to allow little annoyances to become the main point of focus in your relationship. This can become the start of the end and sabotage your relationship unless you take immediate steps to correct your focus.
In terms of your partner, it’s miraculous to witness how the more you focus on the qualities they have that you love, the more these qualities come forward and the less you even notice the things that bug you about them. This is because there’s a part of your brain which makes you notice more of whatever you focus your attention on.
You may have heard of the Law of Attraction; your Reticular Activating System is your brain’s biological equivalent.
When you consistently acknowledge your partner’s positive qualities, he or she leans more in that direction due to the reward pathway being activated in their brain. In psychology, this is called positive reinforcement. Dopamine and oxytocin are released in the brain’s reward pathway; these hormones naturally make us feel good which motivates us toward further similar actions to activate further rewards.
If you would like your partner to do more of what you want, you can use positive reinforcement to make it happen (but please use this technique in an empowering way).
For example, you really want your partner to go shopping with you. Sadly, that’s not his favorite activity. Next time he goes shopping with you, you can say this to him, “You know what, when we go to the shopping mall together, I feel really lucky because most men wouldn’t happily go shopping with their women. The fact that you are willing to have more shared experiences with me really turns me on.”
Now what he has actually heard is: When he goes shopping with his lady, his lady is turned on by him. Every man wants to turn on his woman! From now on, he will more likely be happy to go shopping with you.
The important thing to remember here, is to be honest and sincere with your positive reinforcement. We can always sense when a comment is forced, and as such it will sound false, have a negative effect and possibly sabotage your relationship.
Remember that praise and appreciation are best expressed in the moment they are felt.
4. Eliminate Blame
There are many ways that blame can sneak into your relationship, however, it is usually in the way that we word things that makes it sound like we are blaming and therefore sabotaging our relationships. Saying things like, “Don’t waste money on books” rather than “Honey, since we need to save money for our house, I’d appreciate it if you could borrow books from the local library instead of buying books online.”
In the example above, “don’t” is a negative word. Psychologists claim that our subconscious mind doesn’t understand the word “don’t”, although logically we know what it means. Consequently, that person’s partner receives this message: “buying books is wasting money and it has annoyed him, so he is blaming me.”
No one likes being blamed, and being on the defensive makes it harder biologically for an individual to feel motivated to change their behavior.
When you blame others, you give up your power to change. Blame and false accusations are at the crux of most relationship breakdown. Sometimes it seems easier to blame your partner than to take responsibility for your words and actions (or lack of them).
How many times have you been in an argument with your partner and felt like you were being falsely accused? Neither of you agree on what was said. You are both adamant that you are right and do your best to prove that your partner is wrong (to prove that you are right). Your voices rise as you struggle to feel heard, feel understood and to defend your stance.
Our brains are complex and during a heated debate when we are triggered, our ancient emotional brain kicks in. This affects our short-term memory, our ability to hear, and our ability to communicate clearly.
Because our cognitive processing is affected when we are emotionally triggered, we cannot accurately remember what was said and not said. When you argue, there are instances where both or you are wrong and both of you are right… but unless you recorded the argument, neither of you can prove who said what.
Arguing your point and blaming your partner not only sabotages your relationship, due to how your brain works it is a complete waste of time. It’s better to admit that you could be wrong… because insisting that you are right and blaming your partner will sabotage your happiness as well as your relationship. As the old saying goes: it’s better to be happy than to be right.
5. Be Aware of the Importance of Intimacy
This is a topic that most people avoid talking about, but it’s one of the most significant topics in a relationship.
In general, there are three pillars in a relationship: emotional connection, attraction alignment and intimacy. Therefore, as one major pillar in a relationship, intimacy is of vital importance.
It is said that most couples make love frequently at the beginning of their relationships because that’s the honeymoon stage. Unfortunately, within three years, a lot of couples stop making love.
This is sad, but true. Actually, it happens more often than you think.
One in three couples suffer from intimacy problems. People just don’t want to talk about it either because of a religious upbringing, or because it’s become such a sensitive topic they don’t know how to approach it.
Due to the nature of my work, I have helped many couples overcome their intimacy challenges. I’ve also helped many individuals overcome the grief and loneliness associated with losing their partner due to unresolved intimacy challenges.
In other words, sexless marriages rarely last.
We are not taught how to drive our bodies sexually. This often results in confusion and frustration for a person trying to complete the act. I do apologize if this statement isn’t the prettiest thing to say. However, many relationships fall apart due to intimacy challenges and if they aren’t addressed, reluctance on either or both partners to engage sexually will eventually result.
A disappointing sex life often results in either partner having a low libido which leads to a sexless marriage… or no marriage at all.
In order to maintain a healthy and sexy relationship, you must invest your time and energy in your pleasure. Dr Christiane Northrup, author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom states that pleasure is your birthright.
How many times have you had random thoughts during sex that were unrelated to the sexual act? Or you’ve thought about your work, your business or your finances during sex? In which case, how does your brain know that you want your sexual programs activated? Not knowing how to be in charge of your biology can sabotage intimacy as well as your relationship.
You are entitled to pleasure. But you also need to know how to balance your pleasure to stay in charge of your body sexually. Focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time is the culprit of most intimacy issues and applies to both men and women. This can be easily rectified with the correct knowledge and technique. It’s exactly what we need to learn if we want to stop ourselves from sabotaging our relationships.
Therefore, you are strongly recommended to seek professional advice if you need help in this regard. Don’t wait until your relationship is already falling apart.
The Bottom Line
Many people believe that they must switch off their emotional brain and switch on their logical brain in order to be successful. But ignoring the power of the emotional brain is a way to sabotage their relationships.
While you cannot ignore your biology, you can learn how to harness it; mentally, emotionally and physically.
To sum up, the above-mentioned strategies are high-leverage methods of stopping yourself from sabotaging relationships. Remember to incorporate these techniques in your relationship gradually, and you’ll benefit from them in record time.
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Featured photo credit: Matt Nelson via unsplash.com