5 Ways to Stop Sabotaging Your Relationships

5 Ways to Stop Sabotaging Your Relationships March 11, 2019

Dear Terry,

I read your column weekly and think you give good advice. I know my problem is common but I just don’t know if I should stay or leave my partner. We’ve lived together for four years, have a three-year old daughter, Kayla, and fight all the time. I still love Steven but we aren’t happy anymore. Most of our arguments are about small things like who is going to cook dinner or do dishes but we also fight about how often we should make love or how much money we should spend on a vacation.

At this point, I’m beginning to question whether our arguments are damaging our daughter who usually cries when we yell at each other. I should mention that we also call each other names and get ugly when things get headed up. I’m usually the first one to start the argument and the first to end it. My boyfriend, Steven is very stubborn and always wants to be right so he really digs his heels in and will argue all night until we collapse into bed at midnight.

What should I do to end the struggle? By the way, my last few relationships were also like this one and ended badly. I was sure Steven was the one and we got along fine before we became parents. We argue a lot about money since Kayla was born. We spend a lot of money on day care, her clothes, and medical bills since Kayla has asthma and we have a lot of co-pays on doctors’ appointment and medicine.

Please give me advice because I’m very confused. My parents argued a lot too and then got a divorce when I was twelve years old and I’m not sure if I want to go down that path.



Dear Heather,

Many people complain that they just can’t find the right partner or they complain about the one they are currently in a relationship with. Don’t get me wrong, we all have annoying behaviors and living together, day in and day out, can cause even a patient person to question: Is this person really the best fit for me?

However, you say you grew up in a family with high conflict between your parents and then they divorced.  You may be sabotaging your relationships because conflict is what you are comfortable with. You also recognize that you have a pattern of toxic ways of relating to partners. I believe that becoming more aware of things you might be doing to sabotage your relationship would be helpful at this point. Examine the list below and then select one of two areas to work on. Sit down with Steven (after Kayla is asleep) own your part in your issues, and ask him what he feels your problems are.

5 ways to stop sabotaging your relationship

  1. Explore any unrealistic expectations of how others should treat you. This can lead you to feel easily disappointed. Then when your partner treats you badly, your suspicions are confirmed.
  2. Stop Holding onto negative beliefs about your partner. It’s easy to fall into the trap of criticizing your him or her, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As a result, might pay too much attention to their flaws and what you expect them to do or say instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt.
  3. Feeling resentful and holding a grudge when your needs aren’t met. I’d recommend that you don’t sweep your feelings under the rug. Certainly, pick your battles, but if something is really bothering you, ask your partner to sit down over a beverage and discuss it, without yelling or blaming each other. Start with a soft start up like, “I’d really like to talk and hope we get back on track.”
  4. Accept your part in relationship dynamics. Rather than pointing a finger at your partner, say something like: “I love you and want things to work but I get easily annoyed and need more reassurance that we’re a team working on our relationship.”
  5. Set boundaries and ground rules for arguments. This includes no name-calling, yelling, put-downs, or insults. Be sure to state what you want from your partner in a positive way, such as “I’d really like it if you’d cook one night a week so I can take a break.” Make sure to have a recovery conversation if you had a dispute and briefly process what happened after you both cool down.

In the Seven Principles that Make Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman explains that your relationship will improve greatly if you focus on really listening to each other and a having a 20-minute stress-reducing conversation rather than finding each other’s faults and pointing them out. If you practice these suggestions for a month and don’t see improvement, you might want to try couples counseling before you throw in the towel.

The most important step in improving your relationship and preserving it is to make it a priority. Try going out for a date night (or staying in) one night a week. Light a candle, pour your favorite beverage, and give each other a hug while you relax. Physical affection can help you reconnect and feel more intimate both emotionally and physically. This will help restore your trust and love!

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 



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