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The four different attachment styles include:

  • Secure attachment: secure in being with a partner but also in being alone; good emotional intelligence; can convey appropriately emotions and expressions of intimacy; recognises and maintains healthy boundaries; has a positive view about relationships.

  • Anxious-preoccupied attachment style: nervousness around relationships; relationships cause the person a higher level of stress; feelings of neediness, possessiveness, jealousy, control, mood swings, oversensitivity, obsessiveness, suspicion, negativity and drama; requires constant validation.

  • Dismissive-avoidant attachment style: independent and distant in both emotions and behaviours; avoids true intimacy and connection to avoid being vulnerable; excludes partner often; commitment issues and avoids closeness.

  • Fearful-avoidant attachment style: high level of inner conflict; struggles with having confidence in others; cannot rely on others; fears being in loving relationships; suspicious of the intentions of others.

People who have a secure attachment traverse the changing stages of relationships positively. They have a low level of internal conflict, maintain healthy boundaries, negotiate conflict appropriately and believe that relationships are positive and provide comfort and support.

Conversely, those who have developed one of the other three attachments styles find relationships stressful, stormy and difficult to navigate.


These people are likely to self-sabotage their relationships in two ways:

  1. The way the individual behaviours, responds to and manages the relationship unwittingly causes a level of discord that the partner and the relationship cannot withstand. Both buckle under the strain and the relationship eventually comes to an end. The person with the dysfunctional attachment style may or may not see the end of the relationship coming.

  2.  The individual cannot endure the stress and turbulence that the relationship brings and will either:

    •  Purposefully end the relationship to relieve the stress or

    •  Will tend to blame the other for relationship issues.

Either of these scenarios will end the relationship either in the shorter term or will eventually bring it to an end even after many years.

The good news it that attachment issues can be rectified in many cases. Therapy begins with understanding the attachment style and what’s working well or impacting negatively. The final step is to implement strategies to overcome the dysfunctional behaviours, responses, thoughts and emotions to regain workable functioning.

The important point is to not let the situation go unchecked and unresolved for too long. The longer the issue is left in place the more damage it is likely to do to each individual and to the relationship. Issues identified earlier are often easier to solve.

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You feel like you’ve got dating wired. You have no trouble meeting people, and starting a relationship is a no-brainer. But it’s the relationship longevity that has you perplexed. You can’t understand why they don’t proceed past the initial stages. You’ve recently started asking yourself, “am I self-sabotaging my relationships?”

You may simply be experiencing bad luck meeting the right person but there may be a possibility that you are contributing to the demise of the relationship. Your thoughts and emotions and then the resulting behaviours may be the catalyst for the relationship not being able to continue to grown past the early stages.

There are many reasons why people unconsciously sabotage their own relationships. Four of the more common are:

  • To avoid pain

  • Being self-critical

  • To protect ourselves from hurt

  • Retreating into fantasy

Without appropriate exploration it’s difficult to determine the exact reason of the self-sabotaging behaviours, and in addition there could be more than one driving factor.

One possibility worth investigation is the Theory of Attachment. Attachment Theory developed by John Bowlby, tenets that the way we learnt, either positively or negatively, how to attach to another in childhood determines the way we are able to attach to another in adulthood.

If we learnt through early experiences that others are inconsistent, not to be trusted, absent and that relationships equal pain, we may be more likely to consciously and/or unconsciously believe they will be the same in adulthood.


We may desire to be in a relationship, seek one out and enjoy the early stages but may have difficulty navigating things when the relationship reaches a more serious juncture.

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