Netflix’s ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Teaches Us 4 Causes of Self-Sabotaging


Photo Credit: Netflix


**Spoiler Alert**


Did you see the rollercoaster of a love story, Malcolm & Marie? It’s a complex and tense relationship captured in a modern day black and white film. It was written and directed by Sam Levinson starring Zendaya and John David Washington. I initially thought this is too much conflict for one relationship, but could not stop watching it. From the music, drama, self-sabotaging, trauma, toxicity and relationship conflict, I had to keep watching. Trigger warning.

This wasn’t just a drama-filled love story, but a story that teaches us some raw realities about the causes of self-sabotaging.

1. Emotional safety has many layers. Malcolm and Marie showed many layers of safety issues from name calling, intimidation, manipulating and even public humiliation. These are real issues in unstable and toxic relationships. At one peak of their intense monologue, Malcolm yelled, “When I met you, you were a pilled-out disaster…!” It is never okay to throw painful experiences in someone’s face especially if they are recovering from substance use and struggling with depression. This could lead them back to time where they felt emotionally unsafe and the outcome can be harmful. The music in the movie made you feel the different rhythms of the actors and they were not on beat, emotionally.

Not having a sense of safety can build overtime — mentally, emotionally and physically and cause you to question your sanity. During the movie, just when you are catching your breath, there are breakthroughs of recognizing that the other person was hurting. Malcolm and Marie are drawn back to each other for comfort. In your life and relationships, take time to process, learn and apply healthier habits from each experience. The next person doesn’t deserve to pay for the hurt of your past.

2. Too hurt to see your worth. Everyone isn’t meant to be in your life especially if you lose the ability to see your own worth. Marie goes through a battle within herself by talking negatively about her successes, beauty and strengths. The pressure from the chaotic argument caused her to shutdown and the effect was expressing her feelings through downgrading herself and even appearing violent to Malcolm. These are signs and symptoms of trauma. Alternately, because she felt miserable she began putting her own negative beliefs onto Malcolm which kept the rollercoaster going.

If you are in a relationship, be aware that self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors like “I don’t deserve to be loved or to be happy” are not healthy. Addressing conflict is critical and you don’t have to throw out your worth while doing it. You can rise above toxicity in relationships, but it starts with you loving yourself. Marie was a prime example of wanting someone to love her more than she loves herself.

3. Stress will spill over into your life. ⠀ Every person will go through stress in their life, but it’s how you go about working through it. If you or your partner are not emotionally stable, it’s probably not the best time to have heated arguments. Malcolm and Marie came home after the premier of his film and all of their bottled anger and resentment erupted. Both individuals displaced their real feelings into other things, Malcolm focused on music and drinking and Marie angrily started cooking. When stressors are through the roof, they will spill over into many areas of your life. Neither, Malcolm or Marie knew their limits. It was nauseating. Be mindful about your relationship with stress because it will show up and show out when you least expect it.

4. Substances don’t help resolve conflict. When your thoughts, feels and actions are mixed up with substance use, it’s dangerous. Marie was 20 years old an recovering from substance use and living with depression. She shared how her painful battle with these two struggles have contributed to her insecurities and numbness at times. Substance use such as alcohol or drugs are not helpful coping tools and adds to the lethality of conflict. Be careful that a toxic and conflictual relationship doesn’t become your substance and anecdote of self-sabotaging. It’s hard to detox from it, but not impossible.

Conflict is a normal part of life and love, but love should not hurt. Be mindful about these 4 causes of self-sabotaging and seek professional support if needed.



Dr. Dominique Pritchett is a licensed mental health therapist, speaker, consultant and media contributor. She is known as the #1 Self-Sabotage Therapist. This is not therapy nor does it constitute a therapy relationship.

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