Understanding Self-Defeating Behaviors in Romantic Relationships

20 December 2023
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When our romantic relationship is going well and everything is in harmony, we give ourselves credit for its success.

We take pride in our relationship.

When our relationship takes a turn for the worse and conflicts arise, we blame our partner for the difficulty of feelings and emotions we face.

It is natural for us to seek an explanation for the challenges we encounter and to place the burden of responsibility on someone else.

We want to regain control of our feelings and emotions.

One place where we often go in romantic relationships to do this is by pointing fingers and assigning blame for the problems that arise.

We fail to recognize our self-defeating behaviors that contribute to these breakdowns.

But there is a more constructive way.

Instead of focusing on assigning blame, we can to take a step back and reflect on our actions and behaviors.

Taking responsibility for my reactions, choices, and priorities is the most powerful thing in the world.

This allows me to gain insight into how I have contributed to the current state of my relationship.

It opens the door for personal growth and the opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

In this article, you will learn how to transition from being a victim of self created circumstances to being the architect of your relationships.

Self-Defeating Behaviors

Self-defeating behaviors in romantic relationships is your tendency to deceive yourself by disregarding or rationalizing your own red flags or negative behaviors.

You turn a blind eye to warning signs in your behavior by engaging in self-deception to maintain a false sense of self.

You avoid confronting uncomfortable truths about your behaviors.

This prevents you from taking responsibility for your actions and hinders personal growth.

Some examples of self-defeating behaviors in romantic relationships are:


Addictive behaviors, such as substance abuse or excessive gaming, and rationalizing or disregarding the negative impact it has on the relationship.

Emotional Manipulation

Using manipulative tactics to control or influence the emotions and actions of your partner, while convincing yourself that it is for their own good or the betterment of the relationship.

Denial of Personal Responsibility

Blaming external factors or your partner for relationship issues, while avoiding taking responsibility for your actions and behaviors that contribute to the problems.

Taking Responsibility

If you don’t own your reactions and actions 100% of the time, you are not taking responsibility. Not to be confused with ” being perfect”.

It is refraining from blaming your partner for your own choices and actions.

The quality of your relationships won’t improve by changing your partner, the same way a dysfunctional refrigerator won’t start working before you fix it.

Or Swiping left the moment things become uncomfortable.

It is not a solution; it’s an emotional disability.

Your relationships will only improve when you acknowledge personal patterns and behaviors that contribute to self-deception.

Things get better when you pursue a more accurate and objective perception of your role in the relationship.

This is a process of trial and error.

Recognizing and addressing the tendency to mislead yourself is the only way to break free from harmful patterns and cultivate healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

Factors Contributing to Self-Defeating

You don’t check in with yourself

If you forget to take the time to check in with yourself and reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and overall well-being, you can’t pause and ask yourself how you are doing. What you are bringing into the relationship, both physically and emotionally.

Empowering Questions to Check in with Yourself:

  • How are you feeling physically and emotionally right now?
  • What thoughts and beliefs are currently occupying your mind?
  • How much of your overall well-being and happiness in this very moment is your responsibility, meaning, how much of it is based on your ability to respond?

By checking in with yourself, you gain a better understanding of your needs, identify areas for improvement, and make necessary adjustments to enhance your overall happiness.

You don’t Address Your Fear of Vulnerability

If you don’t feel safe you won’t change.

One common psychological phenomenon that many people experience is the fear of being hurt or rejected.

This fear, can be so strong that you ignore the reality of your actions negative impact on your partner.

You do this, to protect a false sense of security and evade confronting potential pain or rejection. The result? You remaind stuck in a never-ending loop of hurt.

Empowering Questions to create a safe space for vulnerability to flourish:

  1. What specific steps can I take to gradually open up and become more vulnerable in my romantic relationships?
  2. How can I challenge and reframe my fear of vulnerability to see it as an opportunity for growth and connection?
  3. What practical actions can I incorporate into my daily life to build trust and create a safe space for vulnerability in my relationship?

The first step towards healthier relationships is to acknowledge and confront your fears.

You Avoid Addressing Past Experiences and Traumas in Romantic Relationships

Previous negative experiences have a profound impact on shaping your beliefs and reactions.

These experiences can lead to self-defeating tendencies, which ultimately result in the destruction of the relationship.

Recognize how past negative experiences can influence your perceptions and behaviors to prevent further harm to the relationship.

Empowering Questions for Healing Past Traumas:

  1. What specific actions can you take to address and heal from past traumas in your romantic relationships?
  2. How can you actively cultivate self-awareness in your daily life to recognize self-defeating behaviors triggered by trauma?
  3. How can you develop healthy coping mechanisms when you get triggered that support your healing journey?

By acknowledging and addressing these past traumas, you can prevent further harm to yourself and your relationships.

Traumas feed off you reliving them.

This cycle intensifies negative emotions, heightens stress levels, and contributes to a sense of ongoing distress.

Healing from past traumas allows you to develop a healthier mindset, build trust, and create a safe space for vulnerability.

You Navigate all your Relationships Blindfolded

Self-reflection is the act of taking off the blindfold. It is becoming aware of patterns, biases, and blind spots that contribute to your self-defeating behaviors.

Identifying and acknowledging your biases and tendencies is the only way you can break the cycle of self-deception.

You are never stronger than the self-awareness you embody.

Your personal growth is limited by your level of self-awareness.

You don’t become stronger, both mentally and emotionally, without a huge portion of self-awareness.

If you want a deeper understanding of yourself and aspire to be conscious of your thoughts, emotions, and actions, you have to engage in self-reflection.

There is no life-hack for this. Self-reflection is the life-hack.

Empowering Questions for Improved Self-Awareness:

  1. How can I actively cultivate self-awareness in my daily life to recognize patterns, biases, and blind spots that contribute to self-defeating behaviors?
  2. What specific actions can I take to challenge and confront uncomfortable truths about myself and my behaviors to foster personal growth and development?
  3. How can I seek feedback from trusted individuals and create a supportive environment for self-reflection, encouraging open dialogue and constructive criticism?

Improved self-awareness is important as you gain valuable insights that empower you to take pragmatic actions towards changing your relationship.

You Shot down all Communication

Self-defeating behaviors related to shutting down communication in romantic relationships include:

Ignoring or dismissing your partners attempts to communicate or express their feelings.

Using defensive tactics such as blaming, criticizing, or becoming aggressive during discussions, which hinder open and honest communication and destroy your relationship.

Stonewalling or silent treatment, refusing to engage in conversation or provide any response, effectively shutting down communication.

Avoiding difficult or uncomfortable conversations by changing the subject or diverting the focus away from the issue at hand is akin to not leaving a burning room.

Withholding important information or feelings from your partner is a self-defeating behavior that is based on your fear of vulnerability or a desire to maintain a sense of control.

The truth is that you are not avoiding potential conflict, protecting yourself from rejection,or judgment by using these tactics; you are only creating more of it.

Empowering Questions for Improving Communication:

  1. How can I actively practice active listening and empathy in my daily interactions with my partner to enhance understanding and connection?
  2. What specific steps can I take to improve my communication skills, such as using “I” statements and expressing my needs and emotions clearly?
  3. How can I create a safe and non-judgmental space for open and honest dialogue with my partner, encouraging them to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of criticism or rejection?

By asking these empowering questions, I can gain valuable insights and take pragmatic actions to improve my communication and foster positive change in my romantic relationships.

You engage in perfectionism

Recognizing that you are not perfect and that you don’t have to be, that no relationship is perfect, and understanding that both partners have flaws and imperfections.

I remind myself that nobody is perfect, including me several times every single day, and that striving for perfection is detrimental to my well-being. Instead, I embrace my flaws and imperfections.

No relationship is perfect.

Both partners have their own set of flaws and imperfections, and it is in accepting and supporting each other through these imperfections that a relationship can truly grow and thrive.

By accepting and learning from your mistakes, you become a better version of yourself. When you start to recognize this, you realize that you are worthy of love.

And what we genuinely love, we do not destroy!

So, embrace your imperfections and use them as stepping stones towards your journey of self-improvement and personal growth.

Empowering Questions for Improving Perfectionist Behavior:

  1. How can you shift your mindset from striving for perfection to embracing growth and progress in your relationship?
  2. What steps can you take to practice self-compassion and acceptance of both your partner’s and your own imperfections?
  3. How can you communicate your needs and expectations in a way that promotes collaboration and understanding, rather than focusing on unrealistic standards?

By asking these empowering questions, celebrate small victories and acknowledge the progress made in your relationship, rather than solely focusing on perceived shortcomings.

Difficulties in Establishing Trust and Emotional Intimacy

Difficulties in establishing trust and emotional intimacy are closely related to self-defeating behaviors in romantic relationships.

This prevents you from taking responsibility for your actions and hinders your personal growth.

If you have a fear of vulnerability, you will deceive yourself by avoiding addressing your own insecurities or past traumas, which will affect your ability to establish trust and emotional intimacy with your partner.

What you are witnessing is a dysfunctional relationship, but you are missing the fact that you are the source of this dysfunction.

Additionally, self-defeating behaviors lead you to blame your partner for difficulties in the relationship instead of reflecting on your trust and emotional intimacy issues.

This creates a cycle of broken relationships and hinders your emotional development.

Empowering Questions for Establishing Trust and Emotional Intimacy:

  1. How can I cultivate self-trust and self-acceptance to build a solid foundation for trust in my romantic relationships?
  2. What steps can I take to communicate my needs and boundaries effectively, fostering open and honest dialogue that strengthens emotional intimacy?
  3. How can I practice vulnerability and create a safe space for my partner to do the same, allowing us to deepen our emotional connection and build trust over time?

Final Thoughts

Self-defeating behavior in romantic relationships is a real thing that we all do more or less.

Better relationships start with you. It starts with recognizing and acknowledging your self-defeating behaviors.

That is fantastic news because now you have transformed from being a victim of circumstances to being the architect of your relationship.

When you take responsibility for your actions and choices, you break free from harmful patterns and cultivate healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

You heal past traumas, improve your communication skills, and accept your imperfections.

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