He was a jerk. It’s his fault. It was supposed to end this way. I’ll find a better man.
I kept finding myself repeating words like that to myself after each of my breakups. Sure, maybe a lot of it was true. But after a while, I began to see the biggest common denominator in my failed relationships was me.
That doesn’t mean everything was my fault; it wasn’t. But blaming others only got me so far. For me to find and keep the love I wanted, I needed to start looking in the mirror. When I finally started to do that, I noticed four ways that I was sabotaging my relationships.
1. Building a brick wall and moving too quickly at the same time.
After a series of hurtful break-ups I built a humongous brick wall around myself and around my heart. I knew the wall was going to crumble sometime—that I’d eventually let someone in again—but also that it was going to take some time.
The strange thing is, even though I had built a wall of self-protection around my heart, I didn’t build boundaries in my relationships. And so my actions in relationships didn’t always work to protect me. I’d move fast—get intimate, move in—with someone after a matter of days or weeks. As I wrote here, this didn’t always end well. By getting too close too fast before really even knowing someone, I was opening myself up to more heartache.
2. Bringing past baggage into a relationship but blaming it on your partner.
This baggage could be from childhood, or a past relationship, but if you’re not dealing with it head on, it can become like an infectious disease it spreads and affects your current relationship. It takes a toll on you and you end up blaming the relationship, when most of the problems are actually because you’re dragging your baggage.
Past baggage can also make it easier to keep someone at a distance, not really letting them into your heart and life. As hard as it can be, it’s important to remember that your current partner did not cause your pain or put you in that place. It’s not fair to treat them as if your issues are their fault. I’ve found if I don’t deal with my own issues, I slowly let them build and build until they explode and damage the relationship.
3. Not closing the door on one relationship before beginning another.
I’ve started relationships while I’m still pining for my ex. Sometimes a new relationship seems like the easiest way out, but it can actually be the hardest way forward because of the complications that come from it. As I wrote before, getting into a relationship to heal from another relationship can end up hurting everyone involved. I think it can also lead to cheating, because you are thinking about someone else instead of the person you are with. It’s better to close the door on the past before beginning something new.
4. Running from commitment because it seems too good to be true.
There was a time at the beginning of one of my past relationships when everything seemed to be going well. But I got scared and thought this was too good to be true; so I ran. I left my boyfriend and got with someone else. Sometimes people do this because they don’t think they deserve a good relationship, or because they are so used to things going wrong that they expect the worst to happen and want to run away before it does.
But other times, your gut instinct is right and there are red flags that you should pay attention to. In order to figure out if a relationship is actually good or rather “too good to be true” I had to ask myself, Why did I leave? Why would I go back? I needed to take myself outside of the picture and look at it with an outsider’s perspective in order to analyze the situation as objectively as possible and make a better decision about the relationship.
Recognizing some of my unhealthy patterns has been an important first step to help me break out of a self-destructive cycle. Instead of throwing my hands up and saying, “I can’t do this,” I’m learning how to navigate relationships. I want to learn and grow from past relationship mistakes, then turn those lessons into a lasting marriage.