Although we seek love, we may unwittingly damage or derail it. Surprisingly, our fear of not being loved, which includes fear of abandonment, loneliness, and rejection, can lead to eight common behaviors that sabotage love and relationships.
When we lack self-love, although we may have relationships, generally they’re unfulfilling or don’t last. We won’t find real love if we don’t believe we’re lovable. How this unconscious belief affects us is explained in “The Startling Reason We Sabotage Love.”
This article focuses on behavior that sabotages love. For example, we’ll find fault with intimate partners who love us or we’ll attract someone unavailable or who don’t show us, love. We allow people to treat us as we treat ourselves. We might even tolerate abuse, believing we can’t do better or because we’re afraid of being abandoned or alone. Here are common ways in which our fears and insecurities derail love.
8 Ways We Sabotage Love
Most relationships deteriorate because of conflict. Conflict usually stems from feeling undervalued or rejected in some way. Our needs aren’t being met, nor communicated effectively.
Healthy communication is the bedrock of fulfilling relationships. Dysfunctional communication leads to conflict or shuts down communication altogether. Researcher John Gottman identified four predictors of divorce: Criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
Partners are either silently resentful or complain or attack in ways that make their partner feel criticized. In either case, both feel hurt and unloved, yet want to be loved and not abandoned. When we feel vulnerable, we usually attack or withdraw, thereby triggering each other in endless, painful cycles of conflict.
Often our reactions are caused or intensified by events long ago when emotional abandonment by a parent would have felt life-threatening. (These dynamics are explained on Conquering Shame and Codependency.)
“We want love, but sabotage it, because we fear not having it.”
2. Dysfunctional communication
Dysfunctional communication is a relationship killer. It derives from feeling insecure about ourselves and our acceptability. We won’t express our needs and feelings but instead harbor hidden expectations and resentments. We blame and complain, manipulate, or are defensive and don’t take responsibility for our behavior and mistakes.
Due to fear of rejection, rather than be vulnerable and openly admit our errors and hurt or ask for what we want and need (including boundaries), we withdraw or attack or expect our partner to read our minds. We can’t collaborate causing further resentment, and problems go unresolved. Stockpiled hurts and the lack of assertiveness can diminish sexual satisfaction.
Whether or not warranted, jealousy stems from fear of abandonment and feeling not enough―shame. Jealous accusations and suspicion hurt an innocent partner, ruining a relationship.
Trust is essential to fulfilling relationships. It takes time to build but is easily destroyed. Partners sabotage love when they don’t consider the damage of deception. They hide information they fear will lead to judgment and abandonment. Once trust is damaged, it is difficult to rebuild.
5. Choosing the wrong person
Instead of finding a suitable partner, we may be drawn to someone who needs us or is a “diamond in the rough.” Then we try to change the person into a partner we want. Because we feel inadequate, fear commitment, or fear of being abandoned or alone, we attach to someone who is emotionally unavailable, or who is dependent, needs us, and who we know won’t leave.
An addict is an example. These codependent relationships fuel resentment and disappointment. They’re doomed from the outset. If we stay because we’re afraid to be alone or start over again, or we expect our partner to change, we block the possibility of finding love.