I’ve been feeling very discouraged about my ability to keep a relationship together and notice that I’m always nagging and picking on my partner. I’ve recently started counseling and my therapist recommended that I begin to look at my own behaviors and to stop focusing so much on what my fiance does wrong.
Since I first started dating in middle school, I’ve picked guys who were either out of reach and difficult or too nice. I definitely have trust issues and seem to undermine my own happiness by finding fault in others. For example, when I first got engaged to Kevin last year, I’d blow small things out of proportion when he did something even slightly suspicious such as texting a friend. I usually didn’t give him a chance to explain and would issue an ultimatum such as “I’m done with you and breaking off our engagement.”
The last straw for me was when Kevin said he was unwilling to stop going out for drinks with co-workers some Friday nights. I just didn’t see a need for it yet Kevin said I was controlling and suspicious. He said that my mistrust was ruining our relationship and he’s tired of our heated arguments. Kevin said I don’t respect him and maybe he’s right. I realize now that he was only gone a few hours and we’d always spend time together afterwards (and most of the weekend) so it probably wasn’t a deal breaker.
Now that I’m aware of my problem, I’m not sure how to show Kevin that I love, trust, admire, and respect him. I hope you can help me to stop sabotaging my relationships because I’m at the breaking point and know I need to make some changes. I’m afraid that if I don’t change my way of treating Kevin, we’ll break-up before the wedding.
Most people who sabotage relationships are not intentionally self-destructive. Most likely, they begin all of their relationships with the expectation that they will do well and yet they watch them slowly fall apart. Like you, most relationship saboteurs are distressed and don’t really understand why their relationships are not working out.
In your case, there appear to be many ways your baggage is getting in the way of how you relate to intimate partners. Is it possible that you have not come to terms with your tendency to create self-defeating relationships that match your negative view of yourself and love and commitment? As you grow and learn about yourself, it’s important to look at the choices you make and to see what lessons can be learned from your experiences.
In order to stop sabotaging relationships, you are wise to examine how your trust issues are getting in the way of creating a loving partnership. For instance, as you describe your trust issue with Kevin, it sounds like you never really gave him a chance to explain himself when you noticed him contacting a co-worker. Sometimes people’s actions are not intentionally hurtful and it’s possible that he wasn’t aware that this was a hot-button issue for you. Since you were convinced that your mistrustful feelings were because of his behavior, you spent too much time analyzing him rather examining ways you could have extended trust to him and worked on communication.
Many relationships are sabotaged by self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe your partner will hurt you, you can unconsciously encourage hurts to emerge in your relationship. But day by day, if you learn to operate from a viewpoint that your partner loves you and wants the best for you, you can enjoy trust in your life. For instance, you seem to have unrealistic or rigid expectations of how others should treat you and so you are easily disappointed. Then when a partner treats you badly, your suspicions are confirmed. Yet you failed to set healthy boundaries from the beginning.
5 ways to show admiration and respect to your partner:
- Gain awareness of your past. For instance, if you are a complainer or nag, you may be drawn to partners who you attempt to fix. Learn more about how your parents’ unhealthy patterns have impacted your choices in partners.
- Take responsibility for your part in the dynamic. For example, if you’re experiencing mistrust try to figure out how much your feelings are based on the present and how much on the past. It’s natural for one person to see their style as preferred and to be convinced that their partner needs to change – neglecting to see their part in the struggle.
- Freely communicate you love and admiration for your partner often by saying things like “I appreciate your generosity and kindness.”
- Examine your expectations about intimate relationships. You might be focused on your dream of how a relationship should be rather than the reality of how it is – leading to disappointment. There is no such thing as a soul mate or perfect partner. If your partner lets you down, don’t always assume that a failure in competence is intentional – sometimes people simply make a mistake. Recognize the newness in each day and that you have the power to make positive things happen.
- Write a new story for your life– one that includes taking your time picking partners who are trustworthy and willing to work on a committed relationship if that’s your desire.
People who build healthy relationships have learned from their mistakes and have treated their setbacks with compassion. With an empathic attitude toward yourself, you can start to connect with Kevin in a more authentic way, as you remember that we are all flawed in some fashion. And you start to realize that the wonderful thing about behavior is that it can be improved. You can restore your faith in yourself, your partner, and love one step at a time.
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry