Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Relationships?

How your hidden beliefs may be getting in the way of you having all the love you deserve:

I was speaking with a client just the other day who wanted to refer a friend who had just gone through a very difficult breakup. While she was explaining the situation to me, my client brought up a story about some mistakes that she, herself, had made in her younger years.  I was really impressed by her candor when she confessed to how she used to try to rescue men who were troubled…even relating a story of how she “stood by her man” to no avail when his double life landed him in jail.

However, I was even more impressed with her next revelation because her level of vulnerability and self-awareness were absolutely stunning. She confided that now, years later, she could look back and see that at the time, she was basically living out the “world view” of a hurt little girl inside a grown woman’s body. That’s because her parents’ divorce had affected her so much, she was committed to “showing her mother” how to keep a relationship together no matter what…even if it was a fatally flawed relationship from the start. Can you see how that deep scripting kept her stuck in the wrong relationships for years until she learned some very hard lessons?

You can’t believe everything you think

It took my client years and many hard lessons to discover the wisdom she now possesses. Now in her mid-40’s, she’s single again…but she’s a much healthier woman who makes better decisions. That being said, through coaching, we have detected and worked through some other limiting beliefs that have done nothing but hold her back. The fact is that the very things which hold you back the most are the ones most hidden from view in your “blind spots.” With coaching, you have an objective third party on your side who knows where to dig to find the gold. It’s not that we have all the answers…but we do have some really powerful questions that will reveal the answers within you.

Speaking of powerful questions…

I’ll give you another example. Just today I spoke with a brand new client who had been married twice before. When I asked her how she felt about being married, she put a smiley spin on it and said she didn’t have a great need to ever do it again because she had “been there and done that.” She even made a joke about approaching “Elizabeth Taylor-territory” – a reference to the famous movie star who was married seven times. While I can certainly appreciate that viewpoint, it was also clear with the smallest amount of further questioning that this lady had some deep, un-noticed and unspoken reservations about how her past choices reflected on her ability to make future choices. (By the way, for those reading along at home, the past definitely does not equal the future…if you are smart enough to learn from it.)

In other words, that single, invisible and un-noticed belief…which is protected by her good sense of humor…was more than enough to cause her to self-sabotage herself again and again whenever someone seemed to have any amount of “potential.” Can you see it? Plus when you add that to her underlying self-esteem issues that pulled her dating standards far too low, it was clear that this very attractive and good-hearted woman was in for a world of pain when it came to relationships. In essence, her blind spots were making her “jerk bait” and every single failure only brought her standards and expectations ever lower. I wonder how many of you may be able to relate?

How much time can you afford to waste?

As I’ve demonstrated, you are doomed to repeat the same painful lessons of your past over and over again – until you learn from them. If you or someone you know has been struggling for some time in the area of relationships, the chances are very good that they haven’t yet identified the root of their issues and without some sort of intervention, that pattern is not likely to just spontaneously change. The beauty of coaching is that you will get a new perspective on old issues from someone who’s trained to zero in on the problems and help clients to “correct and continue” – always moving forward.

Why wait when you can enjoy rapid transformation?

If these examples I’ve just given make sense to you, that should give you a good idea of just how fast change can actually happen. In the time it took to read this short blog, two beautiful and really wonderful women had breakthroughs that were absolutely life-changing to say the least. In just moments, we literally saved them what could have been years of struggle with the wrong partners had they not done the work. The good news is that our work together created all new possibilities for them that did not exist previously.


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Dave Elliott is A Relationship Coach and the founder of Legendary Love For Life. Check out his site at

  • Claire

    What a great article…until you turned it into an unpleasant, negative selling point for yourself at the end…never come across this in such a blatant way on #TDL before…”Are you Self-Sabotaging Your Own Business?” Yes I think you probably are!

    • CoachDave

      Claire, thanks for your reply. At first, I was a little taken aback by your sharp criticism regarding my FREE offer to help people who may be in a tough spot right now…and then I looked at it again. I guess I can see how my directness about “doing the things you’ve always done while expecting a different result” just one sentence after my offer could be construed as hard sell. That could be a fair point and it wasn’t my intent to solely link the two so I appreciate the feedback. I certainly don’t believe a free session w/ me is the only way to stop sabotaging behavior…but I do believe that people have blind spots in their own behavior – which is WHY I offered the free session. If another coach offers a free session, by all means, take them up on it. I know some very good coaches. I also know that undisturbed people don’t change course so if my blog makes even one person take a good, hard look at their own behavior, well then…that was my intent and I stand by it. I am willing to “lovingly” disturb people a little if it’s the only way I can serve them.
      That being said, I’d be willing to bet that you’d be very hard-pressed to find a single client or anyone who actually knows me that would describe me as a hard-seller, much less unpleasant or negative. In fact, I’m very comfortable that the opposite is true…which is why I give away my time in many venues to serve people. If people choose to become clients for the value I bring, that’s great. If they don’t, I still have served them…even if just in a free blog I wrote and we never speak. I put myself out here in public forums because I have a mission to serve first and foremost…and sometimes I take a little heat from people who disagree with me…that goes with the job. I still do it though – because I absolutely love helping good people break free from their own fears, insecurities, habits and limiting beliefs in order to create conscious, loving and deeply satisfying relationships. Oftentimes, change comes in the form of a brand new awareness. While I will own the fact that my sentence construction may not have been ideal in this case, I won’t apologize for being direct or for offering my valuable time for free if that’s what I choose. Lastly, since I mentioned that people sometimes have blind spots in their own behavior, while I already thanked you for your feedback, I have to tell you I found your response quite harsh and very presumptive – especially in such a public forum. My experience tells me that what you do in anything is what you do in everything so I would ask the question if perhaps that may be showing up elsewhere in your relationships with people you actually know? You sabotaged a perfectly reasonable point by trying to mind-read and launching a personal accusation when you had other more effective options available. That would stop MOST people from even considering your point and force them to either retaliate or go into defensive mode…neither of which are incredibly effective when it comes to resolving an issue. Claire, I wonder if that may sound familiar to you or the people who know you? If that resonates, feel free to give it some thought. Of course, I could be totally wrong…I wouldn’t make an accusation like that. But I would point it out if I thought I could serve you…at no charge, of course.

      Thanks for writing.

      • Cozetta

        I really love and genuinely respect your response. How easy it would be to get defensive and respond harshly, but you handled the criticism with patience, understanding and grace. I imagine that you are a wonderful coach and are very good at what you do. Thank you for setting such an honorable and kind example for how we should treat others, especially those that may not make it so easy to do.

    • Esnaj

      I find this response so aggressive. I did a free session with Dave a week ago (after a really great TDL article)and it was so helpful I signed up for a 5 session package on the spot. He wasn’t pushy at all. In fact I was the one who asked about doing another session.He operates with such integrity and love. I truly wish you had chosen your words more mindfully. Because you couldn’t be more wrong.

      • CoachDave

        Wow. Thank you so much for posting this. I am truly gratified by all the good people who have taken the time to write in my defense. It’s one thing for me to defend myself but when others back up what I’ve said, it really drives the point home in a way I simply could not.

        You’ve all given me a very powerful reminder today that all of us know what it’s like to be unfairly accused and how it changes everything when good people break their silence and take a stand.   I thank you from the bottom of my heart for speaking up and reaffirming a higher standard of civility for all of us. 

        • lynne

          uuuuuh…. I completely missed the offer? So Im going to find the gratitude in what may have been a challenge…  I’d love to try a free session, so I’m happy this disscussion was here or I could have missed an opportunity! <3

  • Sunshine

    I thought your blog today was very timely.  I recently happened upon my own sabotaging behavior though I’m still not 100% sure why I do it (it may seem obvious once I describe the behavior but I think it goes deeper; where I do not know).  So, my behavior is this: if I feel that the relationship is no longer serving me or there are negative issues that I choose to deal with passively (to a point) I will ultimately walk away from the relationship (male or female) and not look back nor provide any real feedback as to why I left.  These are not necessarily relationships I want to leave but feel compelled if in my final analysis they aren’t “good” for me.   So, I know that the surface issue for me is communication.  However, I also know how to communicate effectively when I want to so it isn’t that I don’t have the skill.  I simply choose not to in certain situations.  

    • CoachDave

      Thanks for writing, Sunshine. You bring up a really great point with a lot of nuance. While I definitely agree that there is no need to keep negative or hurtful people in your life, I also believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt whenever possible and finding the positive intent. Sometimes your needs or values just unintentionally get in the way of theirs so I look at it as a learning experience and get curious about what action is triggering a response in me. Once I get clear on the issue, I usually tend to address it from a place of strength, clarity and compassion – and here’s why.

      I don’t need to keep score but I do believe in defining boundaries clearly and holding people accountable when they overstep or attempt to hurt me. (Coincidentally, I believe you’ll see an example of me practicing what I preach below). In life, people will treat us as we allow and I view an occasional “disagreement” as a great opportunity for me to speak my truth and be true to myself…especially if it’s hard. That skill is called radical authenticity and it is the secret to achieving your own personal power and becoming an incredible communicator with deep, meaningful relationships. Of course, the message should also be tempered with compassion and forgiveness, otherwise you’re just beating people up in the name of feedback and that would be no better. Just like in the gym, muscle only grows when it meets RESISTANCE so by you clamming up and walking away about issues that matter to you, you are actually robbing yourself of an opportunity to step into your own greatness. 

      So that being said, I’d suggest that if you assume the annoying situation is something that can be fixed – and if you honestly DON’T want the relationship to just end without fighting for it at least a little (as you already mentioned), then I’d just put it out there (without making an accusation) and work to come to a solution. No one is perfect and I find that when we give people the space and the opportunity to make a better decision, they often will. I’ve helped negotiate a number of issues that have ended up in court and each time, my client has prevailed because they have used my advice to position themselves intelligently – and at the same time, given their opponent a graceful way to concede without losing face. 

      I hope this makes sense, Sunshine. Thanks for asking such a great question. I know there are A LOT of people reading this who have self-sabotaged just as you describe…and my hope is…they may reconsider a better way the next time an opportunity comes up. Good luck and thanks for writing!

  • Tali

    Coach Dave – I think you are so wonderful and love reading your posts – they make sense to me! I would take the ‘snappy’ remarks as a good thing, I bet you have helped so many women (myself included) and even when these comments arise – your genuine responses have no doubt assisted once again and whether we like to admit it or not – you have a wonderful way of dealing with and understanding, and wanting to help women and this definitely shines though – I even get a little humor from how well it is done so kudos to you and the ladies (myself included!) you are helping 🙂

    • CoachDave

      Aww, Tali, thank you so much. That really means a great deal to me. No one likes to be criticized harshly – and especially not so publicly – in front of hundreds of thousands or even millions of potential readers. It’s especially unfortunate that in today’s online world, haters can attack anonymously with no repercussions. I put myself out here publicly for one reason only – I want to try to help people have and enjoy the kind of loving relationships they deserve. You’d think that would earn me the benefit of a doubt but people see the world through their own filters. The fact is I truly value the good people in this wonderful community and I would never disrespect them as I’ve been accused…anonymously by someone who does not know me. I really appreciate your very kind words…and I especially thank you for seeing the gentle humor in my response. After the other comment, yours was a VERY welcome perspective check! You’re my kind of lady and I hope we’ll keep in touch either thru the mailing list on my website or in my Facebook group, Legendary Love For Life. Thanks, Tali – and have a terrific evening. <3

  • James

    Dave, I thought it was an excellent article. When I saw the criticism I literally had to go back and reread the last paragraph more than once to see the offending phrase. It is interesting how when you have read many persuasive and informative articles how the ‘call to action’ just seems….logical. I know your style is not ‘hard sell’. You are a communications expert who is a great listener with a huge toolbox of personal change resources and years of experience and success. I like your style. The free call is a huge value. 

    I thank Claire for her feedback too, because it is easy to forget how sensitive some people are to anything they perceive as self promotion. Your article was an education, as was Claire’s response. Thank you.

    • CoachDave

      James, as I said to Tali just below, I REALLY appreciate the perspective check. Thanks for weighing in with your very kind words!

  • Karin

    Dave, I can only second James’s comments. And how offering something great and helpful for free could be so bad is truly beyond me. Also, Claire, this one’s mainly for you: having dabbled in a number of ways of how to make my life happier, there’s one thing that runs like the proverbial red thread through all of them: the things that irk me the most, are the ones I need to take a veeeeery close look at. So if the “cheek” of someone offering something for sale (which Dave clearly didn’t – it’s free) really gets to me, I would have to look at why it bothers me so much. And if I looked close and with an open heart, I might find stunning answers and my life might change for the better thanks to that. So in the end, it would be a gift I got, too, even if the offer hadn’t been free.
    Well, all in all, I think you, Dave, do a wonderful job helping people. I love your articles and your writing and even without calling you, I’ve gotten good things from you and I thank you for that. Keep up the good work and “wow” to you for being such a kind soul that you can calmly and very eloquently explain yourself in the face of such an unwarranted attack and give free advice even then.
    All the best.

    • CoachDave

      Karin, that’s some really good coaching there! Very nicely done…and it was free, too. 😉 I’ve been giving it some thought and I have to agree – Claire has a very good point. I am sabotaging my business every time I give away my time and expertise for free…I’m sure my accountant would agree with her. However, I just believe that when you serve people and provide excellent value, the finances take care of themselves.

      Thank you so much for feeling moved to write for the first time. It feels great to know that I’m serving more people than I would ever know. That’s why I LOVE this community and start my day by reading it daily! So many good people who are conscious, compassionate and seeking the path of love. I’m honored to be among you.

  • I, too, have been married and divorced twice, and recently ended a 16 month long emotionally abusive relationship that I thought I had to fix. 

    What a difference to be on the outside looking in on my past, and knowing that right now is the time to self reflect and NOT make the same mistakes over and over for the rest of my life.

    This blog piece led me to your site, which is pretty thought provoking as well.  Just what I needed to read this morning as I start my day!

    • CoachDave

      Stacia, thank you so much for your post. I just checked out your blog also and I am delighted for you! It sounds like you are rebounding beautifully and right on time after a very difficult period. I’m glad you checked out my blog and found it thought-provoking; I’m especially glad I became a part of your morning coffee ritual and I would love it if you’d stop back & subscribe so we can stay in contact. There’s plenty more thinking to provoke and I’d be honored to support you in knowing and never forgetting your true value. My fear is that you may be pulled backward again if you don’t have enough support in your new lifestyle. Will you allow me to help support you in that way with a couple of free blogs per month?

      Good luck to you, Stacia!  Please know I send my very best always…

  • Ricca

    Dear Coach Dave,
    I came across your article just after I realized I have my own elephant in the room that I cannot see. You called it blind spot, but it’s the same thing. I run away from relationships even though I want them. When I meet someone I am open, talkative, not shy BUT when someone shows some interest in me I radically change my behaviour, I find stupid excuses to avoid meeting them, I don’t agree on meetings saying I’m busy. This is how I act, although it’s not how I want to act. I feel that if I knew what is in my blind spot, I could face it and fight it, I just can’t see it! I would surely like to meet you, but as I live on a different continent, it’s not possible… is it possible for you to say here something about such a way of self-sabotage as I described? Thank you in advance

    • CoachDave

      Ricca, the great news is – you’ve spotted the elephant! And you know more about it than you think you know, too. At some level, it’s clear that you have some limiting beliefs from your past that cause you to self-sabotage when it comes to the idea of relationship. Maybe you had some bad experiences, maybe someone left, maybe the uncertainty of it alone is enough to bring out this behavior – the only thing that I can say about it is that it will nearly almost always be fatal to any potential developing romance. The next step for you is to identify the root and rip it out. If you’d like some help with that, I can absolutely help you whether you live on another continent or not. I work with clients all over the world through the miracle of Skype. Please know that I send you my very best wishes – and feel free to email me privately if you’d like to set up a time to speak. Good luck! [email protected].

  • JamiA

    As always Dave you provide beautiful insight.  This post is near and dear to my heart. I have learned that most of the time our conditioning limits what we can see and having a great coach such as yourself helps us to see the bigger picture and our full potential.  Keep up the great work Dave! 

    • CoachDave

      Thanks, Jami! It’s especially rewarding when I get to see my clients turn out to be the ones with incredible insight. Sometimes it’s just knowing which questions to ask…and also knowing that my clients have unbelievable potential far beyond what they may be accessing currently. I hope you will also keep up your great work!

  • selfinthecity

    Well said and very true. Our beliefs impact our behavior and often we don’t even realize it. It’s great to talk it out with a coach to see “blind spots” and raise your awareness so you can move forward. Thanks for a great post! 

    • CoachDave

      Thanks for the compliment, selfinthecity! Much appreciated. 😀

  • And_esvb

    Hi Dave, i just read it and i notice for sometime in my life and relationship i continue to repeat the same test and i fail to pass. im getting frustrated and my partner too. he loves me but i feel this situation is making him to back up of and leave me do deal with it alone. how can i identify the root and make that change i need to do? 

    • CoachDave

      Thank you so much for writing. You ask some great questions but you haven’t really given me enough information to really help you. The good news is that you already realize that we “test” in relationships all the time. Based on your description, the challenge you have is that this failed test you describe is not bringing out your best – and it’s taking away your feeling of being “safe.” Nothing happens in a relationship until the feminine feels safe. Plus, it sounds like your partner checks out because he feels powerless to help you or to change the situation. It’s torture for the masculine to have to confront a problem he can never solve…so he has to change his focus…which leaves you even more frustrated, scared and not safe. If this sounds like a vicious cycle, it absolutely should. I really suggest you do some work to get to the root of your issue so you can pass your test and get back to feeling good again. Simply put, you and your partner deserve it. There are many good resources available that may be able to help you and if I can help, please feel free to reach out.

  • Wow this is wonderful. 

  • Gina Neoh

    Hi Dave, I am a total sceptic when it comes to relying on external coaching or alternative sources to help with development. I even avoided reading books or anything online entirely, believing that I could learn on my own through experience and by being true to myself. 

    I recently opened myself up to coaching and realised that communicating with and understanding our unconscious mind was never taught in school nor had I ever come across it. 

    All this self development, and learning is related to our unconscious mind. And trying to do it on our own can result in taking much longer to get to where we ultimately want to go, or much much longer to find inner peace.  

    I recently experienced an intervention with the unconscious mind. Before experience the massive change it had on my life, I would have said that all this talk was just a scam. 

    So for all the sceptics out there… face your unconscious mind pro actively  rather than reactively. Life’s a lot smoother and healthier that way

    • CoachDave

      Gina, thank you so much for your incredibly relevant – and rewarding – share! I am delighted for you that you found such value in opening up to a new experience. Sometimes the most dangerous and most costly words in any language are “I know that.” Speaking of words and their effect on the unconscious mind, I’d highly suggest that in light of your incredible share, you may want to consider re-wording your opening sentence above. You claimed that you were ” a total sceptic when it comes to relying on external coaching…” – yet you just went into great detail about the positive effects it had on your life. In light of that, you may want to consider changing the tense of your statement to more accurately reflect your growth. In other words, it seems to me that you USED TO BE a total sceptic…but now, you literally “know better.” Congratulations, Gina! Thanks for sharing!