How to stop self-sabotaging when dating

13 April, 2023 / words by IALH Editorial Team

Written by Kelle Salle

Image by @milo.maria

Dating should be an exciting experience. After all, it is a great opportunity to enjoy the company of a potential partner in the hope that a connection would be formed but in actuality, it’s the complete opposite. Women are constantly being presented with reasons why we shouldn’t date – from self-appointed relationship experts spreading misogyny online to ‘who should pay on the first date?’ conversations trending at least twice a year to people sharing shocking stories about never ending talking stages. It’s safe to say that dating is a challenge.

If you are dating at the moment, then you’ll know that a certain level of discernment and resilience is needed in order to navigate dating with your best interests at heart. On the other hand, there’s a lot of emphasis on what we shouldn’t be looking for in a potential partner and that can make it hard to focus on what we should be looking for in a potential partner. Some of us may be so accustomed to poor or lacklustre dates that we mess up the good ones. Self-sabotage can affect our dating lives just as much as any other area in our lives, so if you think you may be blocking your blessings, keep reading.

We’ve asked Shomi, Psychological Therapist at Lafiya Health, to provide some insight on what self-sabotaging is, what it looks like in a dating situation and how to stop.

What is self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage is when you behave in ways that work against your best interests. This could be due to subconscious cycles that you are used to.

Why do you think people self-sabotage when dating?

Relationship anxiety is a major cause of self-sabotaging when it comes to dating. People don’t want to get hurt. They fear vulnerability, avoid conflict and may become avoidant or overbearing as a result.

What does self-sabotaging look like in a dating situation?

Excessive reassurance-seeking

If you’re constantly looking to check-in regarding how the person feels about you directly or indirectly through overcompensating and overexerting yourself, you’re engaging in self-sabotage. If this kind of behaviour becomes excessive, it can signal a lack of trust and make the other person feel like their efforts are ineffective.

Constant worrying/overthinking

This can result in a lack of trust and ability to be present. Anticipating the worst can mean that you are less open due to a fear of the pain you expect to come – this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy as a lack of vulnerability can cause issues in a relationship.

A lack of self-expression/people-pleasing

Shutting down your own wants, opinions or preferences to avoid conflict and accommodate the person you’re dating can come across as inauthentic and it can also be emotionally draining for you. It can lead you to feel resentful towards the person you’re dating or for them to resent you when you suddenly decide to assert yourself more beyond what they are used to.

How can people stop self-sabotaging when dating?

Therapy is a great place to start. However, it is possible to examine your own behaviours and limit the maladaptive habits you may have adopted, for example, having weekly check-ins with the person you’re dating and practise asserting your boundaries and also disagreeing with them when you have conflicting opinions.

The final takeaway

Self-sabotage is often noticed when you’ve repeated the cycle a few times. We normally adopt certain habits because they kept us safe in the environments we were in when we were younger. It takes time and self-compassion to overcome and it also takes a lot of intentionality. Be gentle with yourself but also be brutally honest, the journey to recovery isn’t always pretty.


IALH Editorial Team


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