Identifying and Resolving Destructive Behaviour in Your Relationship


We see it all the time on television shows, in movies, and in our own lives—destructive behaviours that sabotage a relationship and take a serious toll on everyone involved. It’s fairly common for us as humans to self-sabotage when things are going well, whether it’s in our career, our relationship or our family life.

When destructive behaviours ensue, they cause pain and heartbreak for everyone involved. Often, we don’t even realize we are sabotaging the relationship until it’s too late to take back our hurtful words and actions. So how do we become proactive and recognize these behaviours before the damage is done?

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Signs of Destructive Behaviour in Relationships

It’s fairly easy to recognize destructive behaviours because they typically manifest in similar ways. If you find yourself looking to start a fight, trying to find issues with your partner or being over-sensitive about things that normally wouldn’t upset you, you may be engaging in a destructive behaviour.

Tell-tale signs of self-sabotage in a relationship include:

  • Physical or emotional cheating
  • Feeling the need to leave when things get serious
  • Pointing out faults in your partner
  • Expecting the worst out of the relationship
  • Refusing to compromise
  • Feelings that you are undeserving of a happy relationship
  • Comparing your partner to previous partners

Why Do We Engage in Destructive Behaviours?

Because relationships bring some of life’s greatest moments, they can also cause intense pain. When we open our hearts and become vulnerable to another person, our insecurities often rise to the surface. If those insecurities are tied to poor familial relationships or childhood trauma, they can often lead to self-sabotage and destructive behaviours as a means of self-defence (attempting to avoid further heartbreak, and ironically causing it with our poor behaviour).

How Can We Avoid Destructive Behaviours?

The easiest way to avoid destructive behaviours in your relationship is to become self aware and recognize why you might engage in them yourself. According to Dr. Randi Gunther, to break out of self-destructive patterns, “you must be willing to look at them without defensiveness or negative self-judgment.”

Here are a few common practices to help yourself avoid destructive behaviours in relationships:

1) Take note of your triggers

According to marriage and family therapist Shadeen Francis, individuals should journal about experiences that trigger negative behaviours. Ask yourself what was happening, how it made you feel, and what the fear was at the time of the self-sabotage. This creates self-awareness so you can avoid the situation in the future or better control your emotion should it occur again.

2) Become aware of your own behaviour

Awareness is the first step and action is the next. If you find that you’re frequently picking fights or engaging in destructive behaviours, you may have lost your awareness. Observe your feelings, attitude, the tone in your voice, your body language and all other aspects of your communication that may be creating hostility between you and your partner.

3) Seek guidance in couple’s therapy

You can control your own behaviour, but you can’t control your partner. While you may be aware of destructive behaviour in your relationship, it can still be challenging to develop strategies for improving communication and reducing self-sabotage. In therapy, a counsellor will guide you and your partner in self-awareness, observance and communication techniques to diffuse destructive behaviour in your relationship.

At Your Counselling, we offer therapy for couples looking to improve the overall health and wellbeing of their relationship. Counselling can help to begin repairing wounds caused by destructive behaviour and can also help prevent it in the future. Call us today for a free consultation or to book your first appointment.