Quiz: Are You Sabotaging Your Love Life?

You've found a terrific partner, someone who's sweet and fun and compassionate. It should be an ideal match. So why do you keep doing things that drive the two of you apart? Whether we realize it or not, many of us have become experts at undermining perfectly good relationships. Take this short quiz to find out how much you know about relationship sabotage.

1. Which of these can be considered an act of sabotage?

a. Always arriving late

b. Lying

c. Losing your temper

d. All of the above

2. Which of these emotions is most likely to drive a person to sabotage?

a. Fear of rejection

b. Hostility

c. Jealousy

d. Sadness

3. Which of these statements is true?

a. Sabotage is usually committed unconsciously.

b. Commitment-phobic men are by far the most common culprits.

c. Sabotage can be a good way to "test" a relationship.

d. All of the above

4. People who grow up in families where troubled relationships are the norm are likely to sabotage relationships. True or false?

____True

____False

5. If your romantic partner complains about some aspect of your behavior or personality, this automatically means:

a. Your partner is mean and negative.

b. You should counter-attack.

c. You should reject your partner before you get rejected.

d. None of the above.

e. All of the above.

6. Only someone with low self-esteem would destroy a good relationship. True or false?

____True

____False

7. Marriage is a sure sign that a couple has overcome their destructive tendencies. True or false?

____True

____False

8. If you still get along with them, a frank conversation with your exes can help you avoid future acts of sabotage. True or false?

____True

____False

9. A good therapist can help a person overcome destructive tendencies. True or false?

____True

____False

Answers

1. Which of these can be considered an act of sabotage?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

Relationship saboteurs have many weapons at their disposal. They can lie, cheat, and break promises. They can also show up late for dates, make snide comments, or do any of a hundred other things that annoy their partners.

2. Which of these emotions is most likely to drive a person to sabotage?

The correct answer is: a. Fear of rejection

A fear of rejection drives most acts of sabotage. Whether they realize it or not, many people would rather kill a relationship quickly than risk greater heartache down the road. They start to alienate their partner, and their fear of rejection becomes a prophecy.

3. Which of these statements is true?

The correct answer is: a. Sabotage is usually committed unconsciously.

Few people destroy relationships on purpose. Most acts of sabotage are unintentional, and the results are unforeseen. It takes careful introspection -- and perhaps professional help -- to spot destructive patterns and stop the sabotage.

4. People who grow up in families where troubled relationships are the norm are more likely to sabotage relationships. True or false?

The correct answer is: True

People who grew up in dysfunctional homes are less likely to trust their relationships and more likely to sabotage them. However, even people from close, loving homes can develop a deep fear of rejection that sends them on a sabotage spree.

5. If your romantic partner complains about some aspect of your behavior or personality, this automatically means they are a) mean and negative; b) that you should counter-attack; c) that you should reject your partner before you get rejected; d) all of the above; or e) none of the above.

The correct answer is: e. None of the above.

If your partner criticizes you, try not to panic or overreact. It doesn't necessarily mean the relationship is in trouble. Responding to every passing problem with fear and alarm may be a sign of low self-esteem. Research from the University of Buffalo recently showed that people with low self-esteem tend to seek evidence that their partner is secretly dissatisfied with them, and when they do, they are quick to reject their partner or decide the relationship is falling apart. Researchers gave a group of participants false information -- that their partner was unhappy with aspects of their personality, and insinuated that the relationship was in serious trouble. People with low self-esteem agreed and began keeping the partner at a distance. On the other hand, people with high self-esteem kept their confidence in the relationship and even showed more esteem for their partner in response to the "threats" from the experimenters. The conclusion, according to the researchers: Low self-esteem can sabotage a relationship.

6. Only someone with low self-esteem would destroy a good relationship. True or false?

The correct answer is: False

Low self-esteem can make it easier to resort to sabotage, but it's definitely not a requirement. Even successful, confident people can undermine their personal relationships -- and they often do.

7. Marriage is a sure sign that a couple has overcome their destructive tendencies.

The correct answer is: False

Married people aren't immune to sabotage. They can still harbor deep-seated fears that ultimately drive them further apart. A husband may worry that his wife will leave him if she ever gets to know his "real" personality. A wife may worry that she'll be taken for granted. He stays emotionally distant, she withholds affection, and the partnership suffers.

8. If you still get along with them, a frank conversation with your exes can help you avoid future acts of sabotage. True or false?

The correct answer is: True

A careful examination of your past can help you identify your destructive behaviors. And, for better or worse, nobody knows more about your past relationships than your exes, especially those with whom you've remained friends. As difficult as it may be, consider calling them up and discussing what went wrong.

9. A good therapist can help a person overcome destructive tendencies. True or false?

The correct answer is: True

Many people can overcome their destructive tendencies on their own, but some need professional help. If you have trouble holding relationships together, a good therapist can help you overcome your fears and put an end to the sabotage.

-- Chris Woolston, M.S., is a health and medical writer with a master's degree in biology. He is a contributing editor at Consumer Health Interactive, and was a staff writer at Hippocrates, a magazine for physicians. His reporting on occupational health for CHI earned him an award from the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists.

References

Interview with Sharlene Talbott, MSW, dating coach and relationship counselor. http://www.AssuredSuccess.com

Kal Heller, PhD. It's fear of intimacy, not lack of time.

Karen Nichols, PhD. Sabotaging intimacy. Murray, S. et al. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2002; 83:556-573.

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