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How to identify Sabotage by Your Inner Child in Your Relationship

23 February 2024
self sabotage in relationship

Unveiling the Subconscious Dynamics Affecting Your Relationship

Everything is going well in your relationship, and then suddenly everything your boyfriend used to do seems to annoy you, and you are left wondering once more, ‘have I made a mistake, Why do men I date, all let me down?!’

The all too familiar pain of relationship hurt comes hurtling back.

If this sounds familiar to you, then keep reading.

We shall explore why some people seem to make relationships work, quite effortlessly, while others really struggle with long term relationships. If we are to believe the statistics that half of all marriages end in divorce, and that the rest who stay in marriages do not necessarily do so because they are happy, then we are left asking an important question, how do the ones who are truly happy, create happiness in their relationships.

In this blog we shall explore:

  1. How to identify when your inner child is sabotaging your relationship.
  2. Ways in which you can become more secure so that you too can conquer the joy of being in a happy long term relationship.

Back to your experience, you are clutching your pillow and going through another jar of your favourite ice cream, after screaming at your boyfriend who was just a week ago the best thing since sliced bread. And you are saying to yourself, how did this happen, how could he let me down so badly. I thought he loved me!

If this seems to be you, it is not your fault and it is not your boyfriend’s fault either. Before you break up with him again, and find yourself on bumble or tinder or match, hold a minute and let us explore what is going on. Why do you seem to attract the same man, just in a different body? (Only you are not a wake to this realisation yet, but hopefully through reading this blog, it will start to be clear that it indeed is the same person just in different forms). We refer to these as one of the three life’s bothers. My mentor once told me that I can run away and go to a different place but everywhere I go, I will always take myself with me. So who is this self?

Who is The Inner Child?

The inner child is a part of you that is ‘STUCK’ in the past.

This self who seems to want to run away every time things get ‘comfortable’ in a relationship, and crushes and burns, is your inner child. The inner child has you doubting yourself. You start asking yourself, am I good enough, or you start thinking what if he leaves me, how will I cope? Or you say to yourself, it’s me, I am not loveable. By the way when we talk about you talking to you, it brings about an interesting conversation which I shall share in a later blog.

What are The Inner Child’s Tests in a relationship?

What does the inner child in you do?

Your inner child, starts obsessing over something your boyfriend did in the past.

Maybe he watched another woman walk by a little too long, and you remember how a past boyfriend cheated on you. You start obsessing about how this boyfriend is also going to cheat on you too.

Soon you start creating arguments every time a pretty girl walks past him, and he starts getting tense around you because he is afraid to look at anyone in case it starts another fight.

The next time he forgets to call you, on the date and time you agreed, you start imagining all sorts, maybe he is with another woman, and as soon as he calls you, lay into him, starting an argument.

What the inner child is doing is trying to control the break up, trying to get ahead of it so you do not get hurt again, by creating scenarios to ‘protect’ you. Inevitably this creates a situation that eventually does lead to a break up.

How does the inner child get stuck in the past?

Usually in sensitive children at the age of between 10 -13, there is an event that happens that affects them emotionally.

It may be a huge event for example a parent getting divorced or something not so huge for example a teacher who made you feel very small, this triggers a certain emotion in the child. It is at this point, the child makes a vow, that this will never happen to them.

What then happens later in life is that every time something happens that triggers this emotion, or a similar emotion, the inner child comes to protect the person – so they do not get hurt.

How does the inner child who is stuck in the past show up in a relationship?

Let us look at what happens in relationships, how does a great love go to great pain and how can you overcome self sabotage by your inner child in your relationship.

During the honeymoon phase, when everyone is showing love and is fascinated by each other it is always easy to love your boyfriend. In a secure attached couple, you have a healthy balance between depending n your partner and giving them space.

Where there is a wounded inner child, two people seem to attract partners with attachment ‘gaps’. Anxious attached people, seem to attract, Avoidants.

The opposite energies produce fireworks in the honeymoon phase but when they are comfortable in a relationship these same energies will repel each other as they seem to depend more and more on each other and loose themselves in the relationship which starts to build negative experiences that build up sometimes into a so called toxic environment.

Why some people seem to easily make relationships work?

If you have come across the term attachment, then you may have heard of the term secure attachment and unsecure attachment. If you have not, let us explore what secure attachment is, how it is formed and how this affects future relationships

Secure Attachment and Unsecure Attachment

The term secure attachment was coined by John Bowlby, a British Psychologist in the 1970s.

When we are young, our point of reference of what is going on in the world is usually formed around our guardians. Those we look up to.

If our parents were loving and consistent in how they showed love to us, this may help to create a secure attachment. Let us take a simplistic example. When a baby cries, the mother carries the baby and makes them feel safe, this baby may grow up with their needs being met, their emotional needs because they felt safe and natured.

If on the whole, this is pattern follows through, and the child grows up learning to self sooth and feel safe, emotionally, they tend to develop secure attachments around them. Of course this is a generalisation, and a very simplistic example.

If the opposite happened, where there was chaos, and confusion, unsecure attachments are formed.

The ability to self sooth when things are tough shines through in relationships where we are bound to hurt each other sometimes unintendedly or intentionally as human beings do. 50% of the population have been found to have secure attachments.

These children grow up able to navigate relationships with less, ‘drama’. But of course this is only one part of what makes a relationship work. In our Nguzo work – nguzo means pillar, we usually explore the power of being in tune with our inner being, or our intuition and we look at 4 personas of Nguzo. The two most important in this conversation are Mwangaza or the Visionary Pillar and Mawasiliano – The Communicative Pillar.

We have explored this in this blog in more detail, but for now consider this. If you are able to listen to your inner being, you are more likely to live in the present moment and let go of the fears of the past. But if the attachment at a young age, was disrupted in some way. Perhaps creating an Anxious, Avoidant or a combination of both inner child in you, they when things are difficult in a relationship, our fight or flight will be triggered.

How to identify Sabotage by Your Inner Child in Your Relationship

The three unsecure attachments that come up in a relationship where the inner child sabotages the relationships are.

The Anxious Attachment, The Avoidant Attachment and The Anxious-Avoidant (Fearful) Attachment.

In an anxious attachment, when things in a relationship are not going the way we expect them to, they tend to become clingy and may appear controlling to their partner.

On the Avoidant attachment, when things are not going well, they tend to pull away.

In the anxious-avoidant, it is a mix of both.

What makes it challenging in a relationship is usually, the anxious usually attract the avoidant/ Fearful because they seem so exciting at the beginning and the avoidant/ Fearful attract the anxious as they seem to adore them, and they can do no wrong but when the relationship encounters challenges, as is the norm in relationship, these traits that were so adorable at the start become bottlenecks to the partners.

The avoidant’s, need for space grows larger, and each time they need space it creates fear in the anxious who becomes more clingy and needs constant reassurance, which only leads to the avoidant requiring even more space.

They resort to more and more extreme ways of demanding their need for either space, or assurance are met which eventually leads to ‘sabotage’ in the relationship. Or a self fulfilling prophecy – an relationship failing.

If you are have found that your inner child is sabotaging your relationship, then do not despair. You can learn to self soothe, and develop a secure attachment.


Learning to trust your instinct is usually the first step, though what goes wrong in relationships is much more than just one thing, there are skills that need to be learnt and life has a large part to play with it’s onslaught ups and downs.

Overcoming the influence of the inner child is a transforming process that requires self-awareness, dedication, and vulnerability. Individuals can break away from the bonds of prior trauma by reflecting on their childhood experiences, practicing self-compassion, developing their communication skills, engaging in treatments, setting boundaries, and prioritising emotional connection, all of which help to build a relationship based on trust, growth, and understanding.

Remember that the way to overcome the inner child is unique to each person and relationship. Accept the process, celebrate progress, and nurture a love that thrives in the context of self-discovery and shared growth.

One theme that has been found in happy couples that are in long term relationships, they tend to accept their partners for who they are. Meaning they do not demand their partners consistently meet their needs. They realise that their other half is human, and so are they. It is that ability to ‘cut each other some slack,’ this takes a level of maturity and learning to parent one’s inner child. As Dolly Parton, celebrating her 50+ years to Carl Dene said – her husband learnt to accept her stupidity and she learnt to accept his foolishness.

Embrace the journey of self-discovery and create a more fulfilling bond of love that will stand the test of time.

You can request a strategic session to discuss more about healing your inner child.

Would you like to help us on our mission in helping women who are facing challenging circumstances? At the wellbeing concierge we work to empower women facing challenges, from trauma, to domestic violence, with an aim of healing generational hurts. A donation of as little as $2 will go a long way. Support the Wellbeing Concierge Today!

Further reading on the inner child:

Healing Your Inner Child by  Eliana Wise is a life coach with a background in psychology and philosophy. Her book, which entailed Ending Toxic Relationships (self Love workbook), is a one-time stop to read. 

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