ask ammanda

Why do I keep destroying relationships?

I don't know if you can help or point in the right direction. 

I'm really difficult to speak to in the flesh so thought I'd try this method. 

I've was in a serious relationship up until may when lockdown got too much. 

I've noticed I have this cycling behaviour when I feel abandoned or rejected that I push the person I'm with to the edge, without even noticing I'm doing it, I fly off the handle at the smallest things and they've now had enough of me and can't do it anymore and I understand it's just too much to handle anymore but am starting to think that I've always been like this and destroy any valid relationship I have and I don't know why I keep doing it.

I feel like my heart been ripped apart and I only have myself to blame, but how do I address these issues without going through my GP, I just keep hitting a brick wall, my physical health isn't the greatest and hitting them with a mental health issue is terrifying. 

Ok. I think many, many people will identify with your story. 

There’s nothing odd or peculiar about it, or you. I can’t comment as a mental health specialist but as a relationship therapist, as you have already identified, it sounds like what you actually have is a fear of being abandoned which may get heightened at certain ‘pinch crunch’ points in any relationship. What you’re describing suggests to me that when something happens - or is said - that raises the possibility, or even the merest suspicion, of being left, let down or rejected, you start testing your partner to see if they really do mean what you suspect they're trying to do, i.e., to abandon you. Then, perhaps you push and push until in the end, what you most fear happens – but, and this is very challenging I know, at least it happened on your terms. By this I mean that for some people, the pain and sadness of experiencing either the fear or reality of abandonment is so terrible that it leads them to begin pushing a partner away and to get what is most feared over and done with. So, in effect, you create situations where a partner gets really challenged by some of the things you say and do and then, as a result, pushes off which further clarifies and confirms another story which I suspect you may tell yourself, which is that you’re not loveable and OK to be with. 

That, in a miniscule nutshell is a cyclical problem many people get locked into. It's often a result of stuff that happened to them when they were young or growing up. So, let me say a bit more about that...

From when we’re babies right through to being arsey teenagers and beyond, we’re looking for care givers to love and cherish us. When we’re very tiny, we just expect it and hope it comes our way. As we get older, we might rage against it (that’s teenagers for you) and some of us may tell ourselves we don’t need it. But mostly, despite all this, those who have a responsibility for our welfare do their level best to meet those needs, even when we might behave as if we don’t need or like it. Sometimes though, our needs aren't met. That can be because, despite everyone's best efforts, something went awry and those parent/s or caregiver/s couldn’t, or wouldn’t, ‘be there’ for us in the way we needed. For some people, this ends up with them feeling terribly uncared for, unloved and worthless. So, sometimes, they might choose an adult partner who repeats patterns of behaviour of rejection and abandonment that they're used to. I know that sounds odd, but if you haven’t experienced anything different, then choosing 'what you know' can seem like a sensible option. Other people might choose a partner who wants to love and cherish them, but strangely, even though they yearn to be loved and cherished, it can feel very, very uncomfortable because you don't quite know what to do with it once you get it. 

Now, there are many variations on all of this and the important thing to remember is that some or none of the above might ring a bell for you, and only you can decide on that. But the unhappiness you feel really does jump off the screen and I think what might be really helpful would be to access some individual counselling. Working with a counsellor may help you to really understand why, and how, you do what you do - and perhaps find ways of managing your anxieties and behaviours differently. You don’t have to go via your GP because qualified counsellors can be located on the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy website and of course, Relate also helps many people with all sorts of relational issues. You write very eloquently, but if like many people you find talking ‘in the flesh’ as you put it difficult, then you can access counselling in different ways like through text (live chat), webcam or telephone. Relate also offer these services.

Please don’t rule out your GP either. GP’s practices often provide counselling across a wide range of issues, so it could be worth finding out what’s on offer. 

So in conclusion, I do hope you might consider the counselling journey, a similar journey which many others have taken and benefitted from - and get to understand more about how to make the changes you seek. Fear of abandonment is one of the greatest anxieties for many people. It’s quite normal, but sometimes just needs managing differently, so it doesn’t scupper what you most crave. 

Do you have a question to ask Ammanda?

Ammanda Major is a sex and relationship therapist and our Head of Service Quality and Clinical Practice

If you have a relationship worry you would like some help with send a message to Ammanda.

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