Self-Sabotage in Relationships: It’s Not You, It’s Me (No, Really)

I love meeting up with my best friend Jade. We’re both busy ladies so it doesn’t happen as often as it should, but when it does, it’s cathartic beyond belief. I live my life around two people – my boyfriend, Keiran, and my brother, Joe, the first of which I sometimes want to moan about and the second of which who isn’t really that interested. This means that sitting down over some pizza and prosecco is more of a therapy session than a casual catch up, and after hitting the Prezzo menu hard earlier this week, I came to talking about self-sabotage in relationships.

We’ve all been there. Whether you call it self-sabotage, self-destruct or just general, repetitive fucky-uppy-ness, if you can relate, this blog post might have you saying ‘YAAS’. For me, my self-sabotage is a recurring mind-set that I can predict, that I’m aware is irrational, but that I just cannot seem to stop. In a typical 21st century stereotypical female fashion, my self-sabotage is also intrinsically tied up with my self-esteem – or lack thereof, should we say. It’s the recurring blogger theme; I’m confident enough to walk down a packed street, snapping photos and putting on my best Sasha Fierce, but I’m also so invested in my personal image that it makes me feel endlessly shit. Worst of all, it affects my relationships.

Blouse – ASOS
Sunglasses – Ray Ban
Blazer – Topshop (ASOS similar)
Jeans – Topshop
Boots – Zara (Mango similar)

But I can’t blame blogging for this one. I get all the credit for this. If I’m single or in the beginnings of a relationship, I’m so sure of myself. I’m Tyra Banks confident, feeling good about my body no matter what state it’s in, feeling affirmed that if I’m talking to someone and decide that they’re no longer interested/more interested in somebody else, that the issue isn’t with me and it’s especially not with the way I look. Even if it is, fuck them. A criticism like that doesn’t touch the sides.

However, the further I get into a relationship, the more the façade falls away. The more somebody tells me that they love me, the more I find myself thinking, “okay, I know he loves me, but does he fancy me though?” This recurring self-doubt struck again earlier in the week, when Keiran was telling me a story from way back when including some sexts and boob pics from when he was about 19. When we first started seeing each other, I relished this kind of story. “I’m hearing boy gossip straight from a boy about what it’s like to be a boy”, my inner voice squealed, feeling very much like I was part of the boy’s club. And in a strange way, I felt a twisted kind of success; these girls fancied him but I bagged the boy. If that isn’t systematic of a patriarchal society that pits women against each other for the ultimate goal of male attention, then I don’t know what is, but even knowing that, I can’t deny that I was a little bit chuffed.

Fast forward to now, and the tone of my inner voice has decidedly changed. “What if he misses that? Would he be that excited if I sent a nude pic now? Does he still fancy me?” Does he still fancy me? Do you still fancy me? This is a question that pops up a lot in the later stages of my relationships. The confidence fades and I end up feeling like a Yorkshire Pudding. Something thought of as homely, fond, safe. When the initial sparks of a budding relationship fade, for some reason I feel vulnerable. I know that I’m worth loving, but I struggle to feel like I’m worth lusting.

And that’s a bit backwards, right? The heard-about struggle is that women understand their physical appeal but can’t accept that they are worth love (whether this is ever true or not), but for me, it’s the other way around. I think I’m witty, clever, full of love and fucking hilarious, but I don’t think I’m a looker to be proud of. I’m the wife, not the mistress, and I can never seem to align myself as both. 

This is my self-sabotage because it always returns. And self-doubt is so poisonous. Even though I can sit here, typing out the issue and knowing that it’s irrational, I can’t stop that overwhelming self-doubt when I look at myself in the mirror and think, “he can’t believe that I’m a 10/10 when I’m more of a homely roast potato”; and it doesn’t stop the self-doubt when we have sex, and I’m thinking, “Oh God, he must think I look awful, but he loves me so I know he’ll never say”; and it doesn’t stop the self-doubt when he talks about a girl from his past and I’m suddenly struck by the “he misses that excitement” reminder. Worst of all, I know it’s awful for him. He’s in a lose/lose situation. If he says he fancies me I believe it’s out of pity, and if he doesn’t, the cogs in my mind start whirring and I’m sure that that comfortable love has set in. I bite my face to spite my nose, pushing him away at the times I probably crave intimacy the most.

With self-sabotage, saying “it’s me, not you” is actually true. It really is me, and I’m struggling to get to grips with why this mind-set always comes back and how I can defeat it. Maybe it’s because so much of my self-esteem is tied up in new male attention. Maybe it’s because I feel disappointed in myself for not making as much of an effort to look good (going to bed with my eyebrows still on, those were the days). Or maybe there’s some more fucked up shit going on in my head and at some point I will simply self-combust. Nonetheless, share with me if you’ve ever felt the same. Self-sabotage shared is self-sabotaged halved, after all (okay, it’s not, but let’s just go with it for now).

Photography by Michaela Tornaritis.


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