While you shouldn’t ignore any problems within your relationship, denying that either (or both) of you has abandonment issues is especially detrimental. Abandonment issues that are left untreated will result in unhealthy and potentially even harmful behavior. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
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Background on Abandonment Issues
Abandonment Issues Stem from Past Relationships
A fear of abandonment typically stems from a childhood trauma, such as a parent not being there, either because of a divorce or death. When a child experiences the loss of a parent, they often never really get over it and feel as if they could be abandoned by anyone significant who enters their life. So when you have abandonment issues, you believe you will be rejected.
Abandonment issues could also arise if a child doesn’t feel protected by a parent, such as if they were the victim of abuse or molestation. If a child is neglected, either physically or emotionally, they can also experience feelings of abandonment. Abandonment issues could also begin later in life, such as after losing a spouse through divorce or death. Even a breakup can cause these feelings.
People Often Feel Like It’s Their Fault
When parents divorce, children often feel as if it’s their fault. If this happened to you, and you thought this, you should know that it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t ask to be born. However, sometimes the stress of raising children does lead to a couple divorcing, and children often intuitively get that, which is the reason many children feel as if their parents’ breakup was their fault.
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If parents don’t do a good job of reassuring their children that it wasn’t their fault, their children will probably believe it was. But you should know that if your parents divorced, it was between them. It wasn’t your fault.
But if you weren’t told this, you might have abandonment or intimacy issues. More on that here.
When It Comes to Romance, You Might Be Choosing the Wrong Types
Choosing the wrong type can lead to actual abandonment, and for people with abandonment issues, that’s what they’re used to. If a parent emotionally abandoned you, if they ignored or neglected you, or were just not emotionally available for you (think this might be the case? look for the signs), you might choose a man who isn’t emotionally there for you, either. You then keep trying to get him to be closer to you, to open up to you emotionally. You do this because you are reliving the experience you wish you could have had with your parents.
The problem with this behavior is that the longer you stay in this sort of relationship, and the longer you keep giving and trying, the more you have invested, and the less he does. This is not a healthy dynamic for a relationship, and it will ultimately leave you unfilled, and because he isn’t as invested as you are, he may leave.
How Abandonment Issues Hurt Your Relationship
If you didn’t receive the emotional support you needed as a child, you might now have low self-esteem. When that happens, you might choose abusive partners who reinforce your low self-worth. People would often rather be in a familiar relationship than a healthy one because they get comfort from the familiar. Also, people with low self-esteem don’t feel as if they deserve anything better.
Is your relationship unhealthy? Look for these 11 signs of abuse.
You might be controlling because you don’t want to give your man a chance to leave you. Therefore, you try to control all his actions. You might insist for him to spend all or most of his time with you, and when he isn’t with you, you might require him to check in with you often.
Doing so means you don’t trust that your man will come back to you on his own. You think that you must keep him on a short leash; otherwise, he’ll run off. This is not the way to have a healthy relationship, and most people won’t be happy if they are constantly being controlled.
A fear of abandonment could also cause you to be distant with others. If your parents emotionally abandoned you, you may have developed a defense mechanism to deal with your hurt, and that mechanism might have been for you to shut off your feelings. People who want to get back at their parents often do so by not sharing with them their emotions or what goes on in their lives. If this sounds like you, you then may continue this behavior with everyone who tries to enter your life.
Mood Swings and Anger
If one or both of your parents abandoned you as a child, you will probably have anger issues and mood swings. You might feel rage one moment and sadness and loneliness the next. When people have these feelings, they often push others away. And this behavior of rage, sadness, and pushing people away will likely alienate people who want to become close to you.
So your behavior is actually exacerbating the problem. When people leave, you become even angrier and unhappier. You get in an unhappy and unhealthy cycle.
You Might Not Let People Get to Know You
If your parents emotionally abandoned you as a child or if one left through divorce, you might have repressed your feelings. You may not have felt it was your place to tell them how you feel. So you keep your thoughts to yourself and don’t let your parents know who you are.
This learned behavior can continue with others you meet. You don’t let them get to know you either. When you behave like that, you then start to feel as if no one understands you. So you then start to blame the other person. You probably don’t even realize that they don’t understand you because you are holding back in the relationship. But until you can truly open up, no one will be able to know the real you.
Opening up fosters true intimacy. What’s that? Find out.
You Fall for Men Too Fast
Attaching to a man too soon, before you really know who he is, is a sign of a fear of abandonment. People who do so also tend to be clingy, hanging on too hard so this one doesn’t get away.
The irony of this is twofold: One, you don’t even know yet if this is the guy you should be trying to hang onto. And two, the harder you hold on and the clingier your behavior, the more likely you are to drive people away.
You Look for Flaws
When you go on dates, if you find yourself only looking for flaws instead of trying to see the good qualities in your date, you might be doing this to sabotage the relationship. People who look for flaws might be so afraid of a possible abandonment that they don’t give any relationship a chance to work. They are doing this because they are afraid of rejection.
But this sort of behavior keeps people from ever getting in a relationship. This ultimately could be worse than going through a breakup, particularly if it means being alone for the rest of your life if that isn’t what you want.
You May Think No One Can Really Love You
If you grew up feeling abandoned, you might feel that if even your parents can’t love you that no one ever will. You feel alone, and because you might actually be alone, this reinforces your belief that no one will ever love you. The tragedy is that your negative thoughts can cause you to act in ways that make it difficult to love you. You probably have lots of baggage and tons of defense mechanisms, so much so that you can’t see the role you play in your own unhappiness.
You May Sabotage Your Relationship and Happiness
Sabotaging your relationship is similar to always looking for flaws when dating, only it happens at a later stage. If you do this, you are doing so for the same reason, fear of eventual abandonment. You just move a little further along first, but when you start to feel as if things are becoming too intimate, you do something to ruin things, such as sleep with someone else or act out in anger. You do those things because you are afraid you won’t be able to handle the hurt that will come if he leaves you, so you make sure he leaves you before you really fall for him.
This is just one of many commitment issues. More on that here.
You Have a Hard Time Trusting
If you have abandonment issues, it means you have a hard time trusting people not to abandon you. And when you can’t trust your partner, it’s difficult to be intimate with him.
How to Deal with Abandonment Issues
If you have abandonment issues, you might wish to seek therapy. That way, you can work on addressing the problem. Therapy might reveal to you the source of the abandonment issue and just how much trauma you endured (abandonment can even lead to PTSD ). After that, your therapist can teach you how to keep your past from affecting your present and future. You’ll learn to stop letting your past control your life.
Build Trust in Your Relationship
Once you’ve had therapy or once you have discovered how your abandonment issues are playing out in your life, you can start to be more understanding of not only yourself but of your partner as well. You might see that you chose your partner so that you could act out your old abandonment issues. Being aware is the first step toward change.
The next is learning to trust your partner and to realize that he is not your father who abandoned you. As you recognize your issues, you might see that he has issues as well. When both of you can work toward not being in a relationship that is based on filling each other’s unhealthy needs, you can work on redefining your relationship. This leads to trust and security.
This post on re-building trust in a relationship might be beneficial to read.
Recognize That You Are Not Responsible for Other People’s Actions
If you grew up believing that you were the cause of your parents’ breakup, you might also think that if you are a better person, you can make the love interest in your life stay. Realize that life doesn’t work that way.
Once you are free to be yourself and can be honest in a relationship, you’ll need to trust that your man is there because he wants to be. You can’t make him stay or love you. This takes a huge burden off of you, allowing you to enjoy your relationship instead of trying to force it.
Abandonment issues might be irrational, but that doesn’t make them less powerful. If you can deal with them, your life will undoubtedly improve. But if you can’t, you may suffer as a result.
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