We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. Dr Phil.
According to abandonment.net, abandonment is about loss of love itself, that crucial loss of connection. It often involves breakup, betrayal, loneliness.
Outofthefog.net describes it as: an irrational belief that one is imminent danger of being personally rejected, discarded or replaced.
People struggling with abandonment issues include those going through the ending of a relationship as well as searching adoptees, recently widowed, and those suffering the wounds from earlier disconnections.
Many people, men and women, have abandonment issues that may manifest during childhood but surface later in life when the person is on his or her own in the world. Their core belief is that no one likes them and those that love them will leave.
Abandonment issues may particularly flare up if you’re going through a break up, separation or divorce and are entirely alone, either physically or emotionally. Today we look at abandonment to help you understand what it is and how to cope.
What is abandonment like for the person suffering?
Abandonment is a cumulative wound containing all of the losses and disconnections stemming all the way back to childhood. Abandonment.net says that for sufferers abandonment is:
- A feeling
- A feeling of isolation within a relationship
- An intense feeling of devastation when a relationship ends
- An aloneness-not-by-choice
- An experience from childhood
- A baby left on the doorstep
- A woman left by her husband of twenty years for another woman
- A man being left by his finance for someone ‘more successful’
- A child left by his mother
- A friend feeling deserted by a friend
- A father leaving his marriage, moving out of the house, away from his children
- A child whose pet dies
- A little girl grieving over the death of her mother
- A little boy wanting his mommy to come pick him up from nursery school
- A child about to be ‘replaced’ by the birth of another sibling
- A child needing his parents but they are emotionally unavailable
- A boy realizing he is gay and anticipating the reaction of his parents and friends
- A teenage boy with his heart twanging, but afraid to approach his love
- A teenage girl feeling her heart is actually broken
- A woman who has raised a family now grown, feeling empty, as if she has been deserted, as though the purpose of her life has abandoned her
- A child stricken with a serious illness or injury watching his friends play while he must remain confined to braces, wheel chair, or bed
- A woman who has lost her job and with it her professional identity, financial security, and status. Now she is left feeling worthless, not knowing how to occupy her time – – feeling abandoned by her life’s mission
- A man who has been ‘put out to pasture’ by his company, as if obsolete
- People grieving the death of a loved one report feelings of abandonment
- The dying fear being abandoned by their loved ones as much or more as they fear pain and death
- Suicide is an excruciating form of abandonment
- Abandonment is all of this and more. Its wound is at the heart of the variety of human experiences, and is found in the uniqueness of each person’s life.
What does it look like?
Abandonment is ugly and generally pushes people away. For example:
- A spouse assumes their partner is having an affair without any objective evidence.
- A mother does not allow her teenage child to form romantic or peer relationships.
- A boyfriend calls or texts repeatedly – 15 or more times in a single day.
- A girlfriend shows up at an office function to which she has not been invited.
- A divorcee stalks his ex-wife after the dissolution of the relationship.
Some examples of statements from people who have a fear of abandonment include:
- “You’ve never loved me.”
- “I know you are having an affair”
- “You prefer them to me.”
- “You never want to spend time with me.”
- “I know you want to leave me”
Symptoms of abandonment include:
– Clinging. One of the prominent symptom observed in people suffering fear of abandonment is reaching out or clinging to the person whom the sufferer is in relationship with. Since these people live with a fear of being left alone they tend to hold on to the person, which at times drive them away from the one they love.
– Reaching out. The person will generally reach for someone they have a relationship with, which may form unhealthy relationships. It may also lead the person to realise their worst fear by driving the person they’re clinging to away.
– Panic/dreading. Generally it’s over small indiscretions, but their reactions are severe. They call often if the person they’re clinging to is late, fails to pick up the phone, doesn’t call right back or refuses to meet with them for any reason.
– Emotional blackmail. Strongly linked to panic, the person may threaten self harm to their loved ones, which is a sign of desperation.
– Complacent disposition. Seemingly ok, they may take on the most disgusting household chore or sexual activity even when they don’t want it.
– Leaving relationships. In an attempt to keep from being rejected, the person may bounce from relationship to relationship, so they are the ones doing rejecting. Even if it’s going well, they may leave thinking it’s only a matter of time.
– Continual need for reassurance. The person may look for constant reassurance of affection or love. If they don’t do this, then they may be doing it more subtly but in a more destructive way to the relationship, for example they will continually test the person they are with to ensure they still love them.
– Weakened sense of self worth. They feel happier and more confident when someone else is there to prop them up and protect them. Which is why they may try to surround themselves with someone – ANYONE – when they are feeling desperate.
How abandonment will destroy your relationship?
These tips are from Johanna Lyman.
1. You keep looking for flaws in someone who is potentially a good partner for you. You concentrate on their faults.
2. People think you’re shy or reserved. You don’t trust people which makes you hard to get to know. You’re afraid to let people in because you don’t want to get hurt, so you end up lonely instead.
3. You fall in love hard and fast, and over and over again. You don’t know who to be as an individual so you’re always in a relationship to hide from getting to know yourself. You can’t do enough for your partner and are a giver. You can’t understand why your partner doesn’t appreciate you.
4. You love the chase. You’re really attracted to someone when you’re trying to catch them, but once you’re in the relationship you get bored. You withdraw emotionally, and your partner starts to think they’ve done something wrong.
5. You are a perfectionist. You believe if you get it right, you won’t get rejected. Whether “it” is a work project, the way your home looks, how you dress or what your body looks like, perfectionism is a thief. It steals your happiness under the guise of preventing rejection.
How the relationship cycle works when you have a fear of abandonment
About Phobias published this piece about how the relationship cycle works when you have a fear of abandonment.
People with a fear of abandonment often follow one of a few basic patterns. This is how a typical relationship may evolve:
1. Getting to Know Each Other – At this point, you feel relatively safe. You are not yet emotionally invested in the other person, so you continue to live your life while enjoying time with your chosen person.
2. The Honeymoon Phase – This is when you make the choice to commit. You are willing to overlook possible red or yellow flags, because you just get along so well. You start spending a great deal of time with the other person, you always enjoy yourself, and you start to feel secure.
3. The Real Relationship – The honeymoon phase cannot last forever. No matter how well two people get along, real life always intervenes. Although this is a very normal and positive step in a relationship, it can be terrifying for those with a fear of abandonment, who may see it as a sign that the other person is pulling away. If you have this fear, you are probably battling with yourself and trying very hard not to express your worries for fear of appearing clingy.
4. The Slight – People are human. They have foibles and moods and things on their minds. Regardless of how much they care for someone else, they cannot and should not be expected to always have that person at the forefront of their minds. Especially once the honeymoon period is over, it is inevitable that a seeming slight will occur. This often takes the form of an unanswered text message or unreturned phone call, or a request for a few days of alone time.
What Happens Next
For those with a fear of abandonment, this is a turning point. If you have this fear, you are probably completely convinced that the slight is a sign that your partner no longer loves you. What happens next is almost entirely determined by the fear of abandonment, its severity and the sufferer’s preferred coping style. Some people handle this by becoming clingy and demanding, insisting that their partner prove his love by jumping through hoops outlined by the fearful partner. Others run away, rejecting their partners before they are rejected. Still others feel that the slight is their fault, and attempt to transform themselves into the perfect partner in a quest to keep the other person from leaving.
From your partner’s point of view, your sudden personality shift seems to come from out of left field. If the partner does not suffer from a fear of abandonment, he probably does not have the slightest idea why his previously confident, laid-back partner is suddenly acting clingy and demanding, smothering him with attention, or pulling away altogether.
Similar to phobias, it is impossible to talk or reason someone out of a fear of abandonment. No matter how many times your partner tries to reassure you, it will simply not be enough. Eventually, your behaviour patterns and inconsolability could drive your partner away, ironically leading to the conclusion that you fear most.
Resolving abandonment distress
Overcoming these symptoms can be the first step to becoming a self-satisfied, content person for anyone suffering from this condition.
Powerful healing techniques aren’t difficult to test and there are many ways for overcoming a fear of abandonment. You could:
- Face the fear head on. Imagine life without anyone at all, how would you live, what would you do, consider your favourite activities on your own. Start putting more time into these areas. Practise being alone.
- Date yourself. You don’t actually need to wait for someone for someone else to ask you out! Whatever is happening which is contributing to your fear of abandonment and being alone, do yourself. For example, if you need someone else to make you feel special at the moment, find a way to do it yourself.
- Relax your mind by practicing yoga. It will keeps your mind calm and free from an sort of negativity.
- Understand the power of the mind and its capabilities improves self-awareness.
- Maintain a healthy distance from people and rely first on yourself in all situations. Your intuition will guide you – trust your journey.
- Keep busy. A busy life helps in forgetting the past and takes away the attention from unnecessary things. Try playing a team sport, studying, giving more time to work, going out with friends. The healthiest way to practise is not to rely on anyone. Finding a hobby or something you’re passionate about can also really help shift your focus.
- Aim high! Set goals, and do things that add to the feel-good factor. Even if it doesn’t feel good immediately, keep trying because it will eventually.
- Take it day by day. Overcoming a fear of abandonment will take time, be patient with yourself during the process.
Why it’s important to fix your abandonment complex
Abandonment can lead to other disorders including anger, depression, anxiety, co-dependence and fear of intimacy. Unfortunately there’s no way to fast track getting past these issues, especially if they’re significant – hang in there and find yourself a psychologist. Tackling this one will be well worth it in the end!
Need more help? I’m a qualified life coach who specialises in regaining your independence and confidence following a failed, toxic or abusive relationship. Contact me.