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Relationship Saboteurs
Presented by: Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes
Executive Director, AllCEUs

Counseling CEs for this topic can be earned at

~    Identify the causes, consequences and interventions for some of the most common saboteurs
~    Identify interventions for issues that are commonly seen in relationship sabotage.
~    Most saboteurs are protecting themselves from their basic fears
~    Most sabotagees end up experiencing these same basic fears
~    Fears
~    Isolation
~    Rejection
~    Loss of control
~    The unknown
~    Failure
Effects on the Saboteur
~    Constantly anxious
~    Hypervigilant to cues of abandonment
~    Untrusting
~    May constantly question/attack partner
~    Constant reassurance from partner prevents feelings of failure, rejection, isolation
Effects on the Sabotagee
~    Can feel smothered/isolated
~    Exhausting having to constantly reassure
~    Can feel a lack of trust
~    May feel like he/she is walking on eggshells afraid of the unknown…what will set him/her off next?

Needing to Control
Effects on the Saboteur
~    Exhausting having to always be in control
~    Exhausting always worrying about loss of control
~    Relationship failures due to inability to trust partners to not abandon or reject them
~    Relationship failures due to trying to control another person
~    Involvement in relationships with dependent, insecure others
~    Can distract from relationship problems (The Hero, The Enabler)
Effects on the Sabotagee
~    Often feel invalidated/disempowered/loss of control
~    May not feel heard or appreciated / Rejection
~    May not get needs met
~    May fear failure if he/she does not meet the saboteur’s needs (if you can’t/don’t…then we are done)
Fear of Intimacy
Effects on the Saboteur
~    Inability to develop a meaningful connection based on your authentic self (Fear of rejection due to low self-esteem)
~    Untenable anxiety when placed in a vulnerable situation
~    Maintain walls to prevent from getting hurt
~    Push people away when feeling vulnerable, emotional, close. (Prior abandonment issues)

Effects on the Sabotagee
~    Inability to really get to know and trust the other person
~    Gets pushed away or lashed out on if he/she gets too close (Isolation)
~    Often ends up getting hurt and pushed away because his/her authenticity is too much for the saboteur (Rejection, failure, loss of control)

Effects on the Saboteur
~    Prevents him/her from getting hurt.
~    Prior experiences create a self-fulfilling prophecy
~¬†¬† ¬†Allows easier relationship termination and ‚ÄúI told you so‚ÄĚ face saving
~    Creates an aura of negativity
Effects on the Sabotagee
~    Prevents him/her from feeling secure, confident and happy
~    Can draw an otherwise happy person into the abyss anticipating failure
~    Can lead the sabotagee to feel powerless to meet the saboteur’s needs  relationship termination, loss of control, rejection, isolation
Needing to Be Center Stage
Effects on the Saboteur
~    Ensures the other person is always attentive to them. (Helps maintain control)
~    Provides a sense of self-worth/external validation if always the object of attention (Avoiding rejection or isolation)
~¬†¬† ¬†Can be devastating if the person fails at something. ‚ÄúIf I am not the best, then I am nothing‚ÄĚ (Failure)
~    Distracts from any other problems in the relationship (The mascot, the Hero)
Effects on the Sabotagee
~    Can feel forgotten having to ALWAYS take the backseat (Rejection: My needs don’t matter)
~    Exhausting to deal with emotional upheavals when the saboteur is not center stage
~    Often fails to get his/her own needs met because all the focus has to be on the saboteur to prevent chaos.
Effects on the Saboteur
~    Gains control/power move (Prevents rejection)
~    Prevents people from getting too close
~    Controls what they do and don’t see
~    Protects against perceived criticism (rejection/failure)
Effects on the Sabotagee
~    Suspiciousness
~    Inability to trust/know the other person (Isolation, loss of control)
~    Fear of communication
~    Grow apart
Breaking Trust/Dishonesty
Effects on the Saboteur
~    Often getting a need met in an unhealthy way fearing disapproval
~    Addictions
~    Affairs
~    Buying stuff
~    Protecting from rejection after a failure
~    Avoiding a disagreement after not keeping a promise

Effects on the Sabotagee
~    Betrayal
~    Sense of powerlessness (loss of control)
~    Questioning own intuition/feelings
~    Reduced self-esteem
Effects on the Saboteur
~    Relationship with the addiction trumps relationship with the other person
~    Numbs pain
~    Prevents reaching out, asking for help, depending on others
~    Lying, manipulating
~    Guilt
Effects on the Sabotagee
~    Powerlessness/Loss of control
~    Feeling unloved and rejected
~    Anger
~    Betrayal
~¬†¬† ¬†Exhaustion from trying to ‚Äúfix‚ÄĚ the addict and/or deal with the emotional rollercoasters
~    Rejection
~    Isolation
~    Failure

Saboteur Sabotage
~    Addiction
~¬†¬† ¬†Addictions are behaviors used to help people escape from pain or distress when nothing else has seemed to work—and continue to be used despite causing other problems
~    Remember we choose the behavior which is most rewarding
~    The person with the addiction needs to
~    Value what may be lost more than the temporary comfort of the addiction
~    Engage in a treatment program that addresses not only the addictive behaviors, but also the concurrent mental health issues
Saboteur Sabotage
~    Addiction cont…
~    Sobriety means achieving a life from which the person does not need to escape.
~    Substitute addictions must also be addressed
~    During the first 6 months of recovery, most people have an increase in anxiety, depression and/or PTSD symptoms.
~    The brain needs to rebalance after the addiction is removed.
~    The person needs to develop the skills to deal with their own issues.
Saboteur Sabotage‚ÄĒGeneral Interventions
~    Abandonment issues
~    Where did it come from
~    Early egocentric, dichotomous learning
~    Need for external validation due to low self esteem
~    Interventions
~    Explore prior abandonment experiences.  Compare and contrast them to the current situation
~    Enhance self-esteem
~    Identify why you fear abandonment from this partner
~    Use the challenging questions worksheet to explore your thoughts and feelings
~    Identify what would need to be different for you to not fear abandonment
Saboteur Sabotage
~    Low Self-Esteem
~    Complete the following sentence…I am a good person because…
~    Identify all of your strengths and weaknesses
~    Of the weaknesses, identify which ones will help you be more like the person you want to be and develop a plan to work on them
~    Silence you negative internal critic
~    Stop comparing yourself to everyone else, and be the best you that you can be.
~    Examine why you need other people’s approval
Saboteur Sabotage
~    Fear of Failure/Conditions of worth
~    Many avoid relationships because they fear failure.
~    What will happen if a relationship fails?
~    What does it mean about you if a relationship fails?
~    If you believe that failure means you pushed outside your comfort zone, then what can you learn from this failure?
~    What would you tell a child who was afraid to make friends for fear of being rejected or the relationship ending?
~    Sometimes the risk is worth the reward.  What are the benefits to taking a chance
~    Why are you worthy of being someone’s significant other?
Saboteur Sabotage
~    Emotionally unavailable partner
~    Causes
~    Don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel
~    Temperament differences
~    Raised to not express emotion
~    Interventions
~    Become aware of your partner’s emotional language
~    Communicate your need for an emotional connection
~    Help him/her learn what being emotionally available looks like to you. (love languages)

Saboteur Sabotage
~    Projection/Transference
~    Causes
~    Unresolved past losses
~    Expecting someone to make the same mistakes
~    Expecting someone to be just like someone in the past (positive)
~    Interventions
~    Identify who this person reminds you of and how you are trying to rewrite that story
~    If your partner is projecting on to you, gently remind him or her that you are not ____, and clarify what is happening in the moment.
~    Become fully aware of who this person is and force yourself to stop comparing them with others.
Saboteur Sabotage
~    Projection/Transference
~    Interventions cont…
~    Identify who this person reminds you of and how you are trying to rewrite that story
~    Become fully aware of who this person is and force yourself to stop comparing them with others.
~    Relationship saboteurs often protect an insecure saboteur from feelings of
~    Low self-esteem/self worth
~    Need for external validation
~    Fear of Abandonment
~    Relationship saboteurs often affect the sabotagee by causing feelings of
~    Exhaustion
~    Frustration
~    Powerlessness
~    Low self-esteem/unlovability
~    Isolation
~    Rejection

~    Interventions involve addressing
~    Low self-esteem
~    Identifying and working through triggers for fear of:
~    Rejection
~    Isolation
~    Failure
~    The Unknown
~    Loss of control
~    Interventions involve addressing
~    Developing healthy relationships through
~    Improved self awareness
~    Self and other compassion
~    Effective communication
~    Reciprocal self-disclosure
~    Healthy boundary setting based on individual needs

Recommended Readings

~    Empathy Building Exercise
~    Improving Relationships: