How To Ruin a Great Relationship in 8 Easy Steps

Do you attract creeps, control freaks, abusive alcoholics, and narcissists? Have you had to secure at least one restraining order, because you broke up with some lunatic who had his mom text you that he was going to commit suicide unless you took him back?

Have you ever thought about why that keeps happening?

Maybe you attract train wrecks because you want train wrecks in your life. Train wrecks are your spirit animal. Train wrecks are your jam. See, part of you likes the fact that you’re just so much better, or smarter, or richer, or healthier, than these fools. These guys satisfy your need to be in control, while reinforcing your poor sense of self-worth. That’s pretty much the textbook definition of co-dependency.

So, when a Good Man randomly makes his way into the pockmarked minefield that is your love life, it’s only natural that you’d engage in a scorched earth policy and burn any chance of happiness to the ground.

Why? Because he’s mentally healthy, and that freaks you out. Because he’s kind, so he must have an agenda. Because he’s patient, so that must mean he’s judging you. Because he’s good in bed, so that must mean he’s sleeping my around. Because good men don’t actually exist.

If concepts like “Contentment” or “Happiness” or “Healthiness” or “Respect” make you dry heave, then here are 8 sure-fire steps to ensure that you drive the good ones away, and continue to attract the self-important, vacuous dumpster fires you’re more comfortable dating.

Step 1: Make him responsible for the sins of others

One of the most effective ways to ruin a great relationship is to compare it to all the terrible ones you’ve had. By doing so, you get to use your own confirmation bias to perpetuate the false narrative that All Men Are Jerks. It’s super healthy. It’s so easy and convenient as well, which makes this step genius.

You know that alcoholic man-child who moved in with you after three weeks? You know, the guy who berated you in public and called you a c-nt? See, he was pretty bad, and he had a penis. So the Good Man you’re dating now is not actually a Good Man, because he had a drink that one time you went to a bar together. Also, he’s got a penis too. So they’re basically the same person.

It’s totally fair and in no way immature to engage in these types of awful, judgmental behaviors. Double points for you if you’re into Jesus and this somehow makes you feel even more morally superior to the unwashed masses you occasionally invite into your bed.

Step 2. Keep it in.

If there’s one thing all your terrible relationships have taught you, it’s that you should never, ever express your feelings. This is because unhealthy people in unhealthy relationships will use your feelings against you. If you presented yourself as vulnerable, in any way, you were basically saying that it was open season on all your darkest fears.

So, yeah. Now that you’re in a healthy relationship, you should definitely keep that up. It’s worked so well for you so far, right?

The beauty of this step is that it does an excellent job for you of retaining Bad Men. Hey, if you don’t say anything, it must be okay, right?

Also, a Good Man actually wants you to talk to him. If he’s doing something wrong, he actually wants feedback. He is naturally inclined to please you. Who wants that garbage?

Pro tip: If you really want to sandbag a perfectly healthy relationship, keep your concerns to yourself. Let them fester. Let them turn into resentment. That way, by the time you finally blow up at him because of some perceived slight that has no actual basis in reality, then you’ll have excellent justification for when you kick him to the curb.

Step 3. Violate boundaries, and be awful at communicating.

Steps 2 and 3 can be done concurrently. And remember, the steps are in place for a reason. The aim here is not just to destroy the current healthy relationship you’re in. It’s to destroy all healthy relationships you might ever have. After all, change is scary — especially positive change. We can get used to the temperature in Hell. And once we do, cooler weather makes us uncomfortable.

In any unhealthy relationship, whether it’s with your boyfriend, or your boss, or your mom, or your best friend, problems always always always come down to two things. Make sure you master them.

First, ineffective communication. This can be a bit complicated, so here’s some examples with which you are no doubt familiar. Talking indirectly about a problem. Talking at someone. Using text messages to convey sensitive information. Sarcasm, passive-aggressive barbs, anger masquerading as teasing, or my personal favorite — not saying a damn thing at all!

Second, boundary violations. Invariably, people who have a pattern of unhealthy relationships are all about enmeshment and drama. They crave it. It’s like a drug for them. They either create the drama themselves, or they put themselves in situations where drama will ensue. If you want to avoid Good Men and the chance of, say, a good friendship that could even lead to a healthy marriage with kids and schools and mutual funds and all that crap, then you’ve simply got to keep doing this.

Say, for example, that you have a boss, and that boss is a man who is married to a woman who is also technically your boss. First, you should definitely be friends with those two, because nothing has ever gone wrong in a dynamic like that.

Second, if they’re having marital issues, definitely find a way to get involved. Provide counsel to your male boss. He will definitely want to keep things platonic with you and never will he entertain the idea of having an affair. Never. You’ve got this, kiddo. It’s all you.

Third, if they split up because she might be cheating on him, definitely agree to let your female boss come stay in your home for an indefinite period of time. That way, she can screw whomever she wants without her husband knowing, and that will in no way come back to haunt you.

Does this sound like something you might do? Or do you read that scenario and think — I don’t see what the problem is, these people are my “Friends” and I’m just trying to help.

Congratulations, you have poorly defined boundaries.

The takeaway from this step is this: if you want to ensure that your relationships are unsatisfying, shitty, and/or possibly abusive, then definitely use unhealthy communication styles, and set poorly maintained boundaries. Works like a charm.

This will also drive a Good Man away, because screw that insanity. Why *in the world* would you want to be with a man who actually cares about what you have to say? Why would you want a man who is willing to learn from his mistakes? Why would you want a man who is willing to say he’s sorry? Blech.

It’s just so much easier to date scum bags. Because it secretly makes you feel better about yourself, doesn’t it? You’re so much better than they are and they’re so much worse. Poor you.

Also, and maybe this is the best part: You get to keep playing the victim card! That way, everybody will feel sorry for you and leave quasi-feminist Girl Power memes on your Facebook, and your parents will call to check on you and to voice their “concern”, and all the while it’ll reinforce your ridiculous notion that the world is conspiring to keep you single.

No, it’s not. It’s all you, babe. The world’s got nothing to do with it. But let me know how that works out for you.

Step 4. Never, ever say you’re sorry.

This one is so, so important, and yet so, so simple. It’s genius, really.

Author’s Note: In the 1970 movie Love Story, Ali MacGraw’s character says “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” after her boyfriend gets pissed off and later apologizes for it. This is, arguably, the stupidest line of movie dialogue to ever poison the national zeitgeist.

What a terrible idea. Of COURSE you have to say you’re sorry in a healthy relationship! Of COURSE you do! What kind of insane pills were those screen writers eating? Of COURSE you have to apologize, on occasion… Unless you like terrible relationships, in which case, you go girl!

To you, apologies are a sign of weakness, and weakness makes you vulnerable, and vulnerability has no place in an enmeshed, chaotic, drama-infused marriage of co-dependency and resentment. You know, like all of your relationships.

If you never apologize, then congratulations! Your relationships will continue to suck, but that’s what you want, right? Definitely keep it up. Definitely say asinine things like “my family was never big on sorry” as if that somehow justifies such awful behavior.

You see, in healthy relationships, people make mistakes. And when they do, they take responsibility for those mistakes. This is called “Being an Adult.”

If you like Bad Men, then avoid taking responsibility for anything, ever, at all costs. People who take responsibility have “self-awareness” and “insight” and recognize that relationships are partnerships, and that no side is ever 100% at fault. Ever. The awesome thing here is that if you buy the false narrative that you’re teflon and that it’s always his fault, it lets you play that victim card again. Because you’re just a leaf in the wind. Things just happen to you, and they’re wildly beyond your control.

What an awesome way to look at life. Many happy returns!

Step 5. Cherry pick.

If you want to reinforce the walls of your own borderline-delusional reality, you’ll really need to step up your game when it comes to confirmation bias.

Don’t know what that is? Here’s an Official Definition from this Psychology Today article I just Googled:

Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true.

So here’s a random example that has totally never happened. Let’s say you’re dating a Good Man, which is an oxymoron, because there’s no such thing. And so you’re on the look out for things that just don’t seem right, because Good Men are the Yeti of the dating scene, so it just has to be a ruse, right?

And maybe one day one of your crazy exes (and there are many, because that’s your thing) starts stalking you, so you call your Good Man over and you have him check out the house, because you’re scared. And so he starts asking all these reasonable questions, like “have you told your parents” and you admit that when you called your mom you downplayed how terrified the whole thing was for you.

And so knowing you downplayed it, the Good Man says “Had you told your parents what was really going on, they’d probably have an entire armored division encircling your home.” And instead of hearing that statement, you instead revise it in your head to something with which you are more comfortable: “Your parents are shitty.”

And because you fixate on that one exchange (and better yet, remember it wrong), you’re now thinking:

“My Good Man thinks my parents are terrible parents.”

“How dare he say that about them, and so soon into our relationship!”

“What an arrogant son of a bitch. The nerve of some people.”

“My Good Man is actually a Bad Man.”

What you’ve done here is brilliantly “cherry picked” a harmless statement and turned it into a declaration of war.

This is something people who come from dysfunctional backgrounds do all the damn time. They perceive perfidy where there is none. And instead of challenging the initial, totally benign statement, they let it fester for a few weeks, so that when they finally do bring it up, the thing that they’re pissed off about in no way reflects what was actually said.

It’s pretty brilliant, actually. Keep this up, and you’ve all but assured that no Good Man will date you for more than a few weeks. Why? Because this kind of behavior is straight up psychotic. And yes, I’m using that word both intentionally and correctly. Psychotic. Look it up.

Step 6: Make assumptions

The beauty of all these steps is just how seamlessly they intertwine with one another. Step 6 is no different. And the good news is, if you have a history of trashing great relationships for no legitimate reason, you’ve probably already mastered this one.

An assumption is a guess. It’s conjecture, extrapolation, hypothesis. It’s a thing that is accepted as true, without any actual evidence. Assumptions are bad. Humans are terrible at making them, and we are almost always wrong.

So, by all means, keep it up! Remember — the purpose here is not to learn how to enjoy a healthy relationship. The purpose here is to stay in terrible ones, so you can be a victim and remain morally superior without ever having to accept personal responsibility for anything at all. Who wouldn’t want that?

When you assume that a Good Man is just a Bad Man waiting to happen, you tend to look for ways to make it true. See the previous discussion about confirmation bias.

When you assume that a Good Man’s mistake is just indicative of who he is, you won’t even bother to give him a chance to fix it, and you’ll likely just drop him like third period French, because men are pigs and they never change.

When you assume, you make a one-sided decision without the hassle of communication or compromise. Assumptions are a real time saver!

Step 7: Hold court with your friends

By the time Step 7 comes around, you’ve all but destroyed any chance for a meaningful, positive relationship. Keep it up the good work. You’re almost there.

In mature, healthy relationships, it’s definitely a good idea to involve your catty, maladjusted friends. They secretly think you’re pathetic, so when you do this, it just reinforces that notion. So everybody wins!

Women who live and breathe dysfunction like to get together and hold court — usually on new relationships. What’s awesome about these gatherings is that they’re only going on your perception of the “problem,” which naturally you will embellish, because it’s up to you to hold their attention by really selling how terrible the in-no-way terrible relationship you’re actually in is. You know — for sympathy!

But reality isn’t important right now. Your friends’ callous, uninformed opinions are what matters. And your victim’s mentality. Don’t forget that one. This is a perfect opportunity to reinforce that belief.

So all of your friends get together, and they put your new relationship on trial, because maybe their own relationships are terrible and unfulfilling, so it gives them satisfaction to tear yours apart. And besides, you’ve dated some real sleaze bags in the past, so they’ve gotten pretty good at this.

Except no, their advice and analysis totally sucks. There’s at least four reasons why.

First, they’re not just holding court on your Good Man. Their holding court on every relationship you’ve ever had. And every relationship they’ve ever had, too. And because they’ve never met your Good Man, they get to make wild assumptions (there’s that word again) that actually have no basis in reality. But you don’t care, because Girl Power! You’re sisters have your back, and that’s all that matters, even if they’re analysis is laughably incorrect.

Second, advice *always* sucks. In professional counseling, advice is considered unethical, because it rests on the idea that you are too stupid to figure things out on your own.

Consider this quote:

“The problem with advice is that the advisor seldom understands the full implications of the problem. When people share their concerns with us, they often display only the “tip of the iceberg.” The advisor is unaware of the complexities, feelings, and the many other factors that lie hidden beneath the surface.” — Robert Bolton, People Skills

People who give you advice — especially relationship advice — inherently believe that they immediately know the solution to a problem that has heretofore confounded you. Don’t believe them. They never, ever do.

Third, there’s this thing called “Group Think,” which basically says that the more people who are involved in a decision, the more idiotic the decision will be. Group Think never produces useful results. But that’s cool. You don’t want actual, useful solutions. You want to be a victim. You want other people to make decisions for you.

Fourth, talking a bunch of shit about your new boyfriend is something a 16-year-old does. Grown, mature women talk to the man in their life. They work together towards a resolution. That’s what makes healthy relationships. If you’re the one acting like a 10th grader, then maybe it’s not your Man who’s the problem.

What you seem to forget is this: all the Bad Men you’ve dated have taken active measures to actively dissuade you from spending time with your friends. I don’t know, maybe they were onto something. The less you are with your friends, the less likely you are to be influenced by them. These might have been Bad Men, but they weren’t stupid.

The irony is, a Good Man actually encourages you to spend time with your friends, even if they are catty, uninformed brats. So then you use that time to throw him under the bus and armchair quarterback every little thing he’s done since the first words you spoke to one another. Super mature. You’ll never, ever have to worry about a healthy relationship if you do this. You’re almost a pro. Just one more thing and you’ll be set.

8. Make decisions while drinking.

This one’s pretty straight forward.

Drinking is just the best. Calms the nerves, releases inhibition, and critical thinking — screw that noise. Always make decisions while drinking. If you can, always make important relationship decisions while drunk. What could possibly go wrong? When has alcohol ever steered you in the wrong direction?

You can also work smarter, not harder, by performing Steps 7 and 8 simultaneously. Add Steps 5 and 6 and now you’re cooking with oil!

No man, regardless of how Good he actually is, can possibly withstand this one-two rope-a-dope. Get together with your catty friends, knock back some wine, and spend a few hours sifting through every single conversation, intimate moment, and phone exchange you’ve ever had. Make sure to leave out all the ones that were really just wonderful, quiet moments where the two of you really connected — those will totally get in the way. No, make sure you focus on the minutia. He won’t be there to defend himself, so you can’t possibly fail!

The bottom line is this: things just make more sense when you’re drinking. The details are just so clear. Nobody has ever gone wrong poisoning their bloodstream with a toxic chemical, so feel free to really turn it on.

As a bonus, confront you’re Good Man the next morning, preferably when you’re hungover. And bring your friends, so you can humiliate him while they watch. That way, even if he attempts to use “reason” to dissuade your unfounded arguments, you’ll be holding back the urge to puke, and totally unwilling to listen to anything he has to say! The genius is in the simplicity.

If you follow these steps, you will never ever have to endure a healthy, mutually beneficial, mature relationship. You’ll never have to experience the burden of effective communication. You’ll never have to deal with the angst of proper social and emotional boundaries. You’ll never have to rely on “direct conversation” to make your point. And you’ll always have friends and family members to remind you that you’re a pathetic victim, unworthy of love.

That way, you’ll be able to continue dating jerks with reckless abandon. No more ridiculous kindness, empathy, or respect. No more of this “you’re needs getting met” nonsense. Nope — just follow these steps and you’ll never have to deal with that trash ever again.

The beauty is, you don’t even need to use all 8. Any one of these, performed with consistency, will do the job just fine.

Randy Withers, MA, NCC, LPCA, LCAS

Randy Withers, MA, NCC, LPCA, LCAS

I'm a dually-licensed in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselor, specializing in Co-Occurring Disorders.
Randy Withers, MA, NCC, LPCA, LCAS

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