How to Identify and Address Abandonment Issues in Relationships
Having a fear of abandonment can present serious challenges for future relationships, and that is why it’s important to identify any abandonment issues in your life.People don’t always come through for you as hoped or expected. A person may experience significant letdowns that end up shaping his or her worldview and relationships. When that happens, he or she may find it difficult to trust others and be vulnerable with them, which can have a detrimental effect on intimacy in relationships.
One of the main ways that a person develops abandonment issues is through the loss of loved ones, either through death or the relationship breaking down in some way. Such losses are a part of life; they disappoint and hurt us, but they are part of how our lives in a broken world tend to be. Fear of abandonment is a type of anxiety and fear that a person feels about the possibility of such losses in a relationship.
How abandonment issues manifest in relationships.
If a person has abandonment issues, those issues can show up in several different ways. Some of the signs of abandonment issues include the following:
- Being a people pleaser; being agreeable to the point that it becomes detrimental to your well-being.
- Struggling to make a lasting commitment in relationships.
- Getting attached to people easily and quickly, even to unavailable people.
- Having very few long-term relationships as a result of failure to commit.
- Moving on from relationships just as quickly and easily as one entered them.
- Engaging in self-blame.
- Remaining in toxic or unhealthy relationships.
- Needing constant reassurance.
- Sabotaging relationships before they get serious.
- Struggling with being hard to please and nitpicky.
- Having difficulty experiencing emotional intimacy and vulnerability with others.
- Having feelings of general anxiety and depression.
- Feeling insecure and unworthy of love.
- Testing people to see if they are loyal to you.
- Engaging in unwanted intimacy, including sex.
- Having a tendency to overthink things and working overtime to discern hidden meanings in interpersonal interactions.
- Finding it hard to trust other people and their intentions.
- Often feeling jealous of everyone you meet.
- Experiencing intense feelings of separation anxiety.
- Being hypersensitive to criticism or reproach.
- Having repressed anger and control issues.
If you live in fear that your relationships might end at any time, that fear can produce insecurities and behaviors that distort your relationships. You may desire to avoid the pain of loss by avoiding commitment – after all, if you aren’t invested, then the loss of the relationship supposedly won’t hurt as much. Or if you’re afraid you might lose relationships, you can go the opposite way and overcommit yourself, even to your detriment.
That is why people with abandonment issues may find themselves in horrible relationships, even physically and emotionally abusive ones, just because they don’t want to be left behind in the wreckage of a relationship. A person with abandonment issues may violate their boundaries and safety just to keep relationships, and that is not healthy for them or the relationship.
Fear of abandonment doesn’t manifest in the same way for everyone, nor does it show up in every relationship. A person with abandonment issues may fear abandonment in romantic relationships, but not necessarily in others such as close friendships.
For a person with abandonment issues, conflict in a relationship can be particularly challenging. No one is perfect, and your partner, friend, sibling, or colleague may do something that triggers that fear. It might be an unanswered text message, a phone call they don’t return quickly enough, a request for a few days of alone time, or an expression of displeasure at something that’s occurred in the relationship.
Fear of abandonment can lead a person to respond by either being clingy, running away from the relationship, or acting as the perfect partner so that no feathers are ever ruffled, and their partner doesn’t leave. None of these are sustainable, and these behaviors can themselves become the reason why the relationship struggles and withers, which then reinforces the behaviors.
Addressing abandonment issues.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who has abandonment issues, you can do a few things to help them. Your role is one of support. Recognizing some of the signs above is a good first step. It’s important to know that if you raise your concerns, which may be perceived as a lack of loyalty or signs that you want out of the relationship.Persevere and validate his or her feelings. Validating someone isn’t the same thing as agreeing. When you validate, you’re simply acknowledging how he or she feels without passing judgment. Some things you can try include the following:
Take the time to listen. Practice your active listening skills as you converse. That means having no distractions, summarizing and reflecting what you’re hearing him or her say, and asking clarifying questions.
As you listen, offer to help him or her identify abandonment fears. By owning what he or she feels as fear, he or she can get one step closer to healing. Exercise empathy by not only understanding his or her history that led to the fear of abandonment developing but also by normalizing his or her fears by acknowledging how that history makes the fear of abandonment understandable.
Create space for him or her to express his or her feelings. An insecure person may lay down bait to draw your attention. That can take the form of ambiguous statements, facial expressions, or body language intended to draw you into conversation. Rather than indulge those vague expressions, create space for him or her to speak plainly about what he or she feels.
For the person with abandonment issues, there are a few things that can be helpful to begin repairing relationships with others. With mild fear, simply becoming aware of your tendencies and learning new behavior strategies to counter those behaviors may be a great start toward recovery. It’s important to understand what triggers your fear of abandonment.
Additionally, whether it’s with your partner, a family member, or a close friend, take steps to get more comfortable about having conversations constructively. It may be difficult to do this at first, but it does get easier with time.
Fear of abandonment strikes at the heart of what it means to be a human being created in God’s image. God created us as relational creatures. Our lives are enriched through relationships in remarkable ways, and it’s only in the context of healthy relationships with others that we become truly ourselves.
The sense of belonging is a big part of being human. That is precisely what the fear of abandonment strips from an individual, with the negative results of relationship drifting or staying in toxic situations.
Another step to take is to rebuild a community that comes alongside you. A solid group of close friends can play an important role in your life by helping you feel like you belong. You also need to prioritize self-care. Taking care of yourself by journaling, getting regular exercise, and having hobbies you enjoy can help you make sure that your emotional needs are met. This can improve your friendships and relationships.
Christian counseling for abandonment issues is helpful because your counselor will help you explore the root cause of your fears of abandonment and identify negative patterns of thought and behavior. Also, your counselor will help you to learn how to replace negative patterns with healthy thoughts. Additionally, therapy can help you learn how to establish necessary boundaries in your relationships and avoid behaviors that undermine healthy relationships.
God has promised that He will never abandon nor forsake His people (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20). This truth grounds the believer in the understanding that whatever the circumstances, God won’t leave them. God encourages believers with these words:
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” – Isaiah 49:14-16, NIV
If you have a fear of abandonment and are experiencing the negative consequences of that fear in your relationships, it may be helpful to see a Christian counselor. With help, even the deepest fears can be overcome. Reach out today and seek the help of a Christian counselor who will create a safe space for you to work through your abandonment fears.
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