5 Ways You Are Sabotaging Your Relationship

fighting woman and man siting in dollhouse You know you have this problem if...
You cringe and cover up when your partner sees you naked.
Compliments make you nervous and defensive.
Thinking about his positive attributes makes you wonder what he's doing with you.

Why is it a problem?
When we are ashamed of our bodies, we "withdraw sexually" and have trouble "being playful and free," says relationship expert Dr. Alice Pisciotto. Many people resort to substances to deal with their insecurities (for example, drinking in order to have sex), which can ruin a sense of closeness.

How to fix it:
The first step is awareness: realizing, for example, that when he says, "you look beautiful in that dress" and you hear, "go to the gym," it's not because he's being sarcastic, but because you feel ashamed of your body. The second step is to learn to talk about it in an open, honest way. Explain your insecurities to him, why you think you have them, and how they make you feel. Then, pledge to yourself to throw the symptoms of insecurity out the window. Once you stop calling yourself fat, for example, you may stop feeling so fat.


You know you have this problem if...
You bring up sore points — issues you argue about often or recently — at romantic dinners, family functions, or company events. Or, worse yet, you bombard him with accusations the second you're alone.

Why is it a problem?
"This really drives guys crazy," says Pisciotto. Everyone knows that communication is important to a good relationship, but knowing when and where to communicate can be just as important. Bringing up a problem at an inappropriate time or place will almost never solve it, and will become a problem in its own right. And he'll be reluctant to bring you along to his cousin's wedding if he's worried you'll be shooting him dirty looks all night.

How to fix it:
If you want to talk about a problem, give some forewarning, says Pisciotto. "X is really bothering me. Can we talk about it tonight?" Have a safe, private place where you can talk without feeling uncomfortable. And if you really want to resolve the issues, make sure you are talking in person and never by text message or e-mail.


You know you have this problem if...

Your partner complains you're always blowing up at him — whether he forgot to pick up the dry-cleaning or threw out the manuscript for the novel you've secretly been working on.

Why is it a problem?
You may be using these explosions as a substitute for intimacy, says Pisciotto. "If you say, 'I love you,' who knows how he's going to react?" You may get a grunt, you may get a kiss, you may get some bad news. "But if you scream at him, you know he's going to scream back." Excessive anger may be a sign that you're insecure about his feelings for you. Snapping at him allows you to control his behavior because his response — anger — is predictable. But if he feels like he's always about to step on a land mine, you may be doing the very opposite: driving him away.

How to fix it:
"This is really an issue of self-awareness," says Pisciotto. The next time you feel mad at him, ask yourself if your anger is proportionate to the offense. If not, think about why you feel so furious: Are you mad about something else that you haven't talked about sufficiently? Does his anger reassure you of his feelings (i.e., "if he's screaming at the top of his lungs, he must be passionate about me")? Are you insecure about his feelings because of something he has done, or because of something unrelated that happened to you in the past? Instead of blowing up at him, try to calmly and insightfully tell him why you are feeling so enraged. Use "I" sentences instead of "you" sentences: "I felt angry when you didn't call, because it made me feel like you don't care about me," rather than, "You didn't call me! You don't care about me!"


You know you have this problem if...

You're keeping a tally of the gives and the takes.
You say things like, "Yes, we hung out with my friends tonight but I hung out with his friends for the last five days."

Why is it a problem?
"Keeping score is usually a sign you don't feel understood, that you don't feel heard," explains Pisciotto. You feel that your partner doesn't realize or appreciate the contributions and sacrifices you make for the relationship. "This becomes the 'yes, but' of the relationship," says Dr. Pisciotto. "Yes, you took me out to dinner tonight, but I paid the last six nights. Yes, you initiated sex tonight, but I always initiate. Yes, you care about me, but I care about you more."

How to fix it:
When you catch yourself thinking or saying, "Yes, but..." step back and ask yourself why. Is this an isolated incident: Are you really the one who always does the dishes, and you just want him to help out more with household chores? Or is it part of a bigger problem: Do you feel like you always make more sacrifices for the relationship, and the dishes are just one example of many? Keeping score provides you with ammo to win the argument "Who's the better partner." It's childish behavior that you should do your best to minimize. Be hypervigilant when your thoughts slip into the "Yes, but..." pattern. Remind yourself that although you may give more in this particular area — you always pay for dinner out — he may give more in another, like always buying the groceries.


You know you have this problem if...

You blame your current boyfriend for problems you had in your last relationship: Your ex had an affair with his personal trainer, so you tell your new boyfriend you like the "chubby look" to keep him out of the gym.

Why is it a problem?
It's a basic truth of psychology that "we often repeat problems in order to solve them," says Pisciotto. For example, when you're suspicious that your new boyfriend is going to cheat on you, like your ex did, your subconscious is trying to come to terms with the old problem. The effect will hardly be productive: You're likely to create some new issues with your current boyfriend without solving the issues from your past.

How to fix it:
Take a moment to ask yourself: Are there any issues or arguments you had with a former boyfriend that still bother you? If so, write them down and be on the lookout. The next time you're angry with your current boyfriend for something similar, ask yourself whether or not he deserves it. If not, Pisciotto recommends telling him about your ex and asking him about his. But be clear that you're talking about your old flame solely for the purpose of improving your current relationship. Your new guy doesn't want to hear about how your ex just got a promotion, what a great cook he was, or how amazing he was in bed.



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