Have you ever been stifled with anxiety over the idea of someone leaving you? Or, do you find yourself unable to fully trust even those closest to you? Is it difficult for you to create and sustain lasting relationships? Though many factors could contribute to these struggles, a common theme that might be at the root of these difficulties is a fear of abandonment.The fear of abandonment is the overwhelming worry that someone close to you – such as a spouse, significant other, or friend – might at any time choose to leave you or reject you in some way. These thoughts tend to be intrusive and can have a lasting, negative impact on how you operate within your current or future relationships.
In this article, we are going to unpack the common root cause of this fear, two different types of abandonment, how fear of abandonment impacts your relationships, what God’s Word says about being abandoned, and how to move forward in healing.
Different Types of Abandonment and the Common Root Cause
When it comes to uprooting fear, it can be helpful to begin by going straight to the source. Although anyone can develop the fear of abandonment at any stage in life, the most common root cause tends to be childhood trauma, often in the form of emotional neglect.
There are two types of abandonment: physical and emotional. Physical abandonment is characterized by someone being physically removed from your life. This may look like a parent or loved one unexpectedly leaving due to death or of their own choice, such as divorce. Either way, this form of abandonment can leave lasting wounds well into your adult years.
Emotional abandonment, while not as obvious as physical abandonment, is just as powerful (sometimes even more so), and can leave you with deeply rooted pain that is often difficult to identify or define. This type of abandonment happens when, as a child, your emotional needs were not met, or were rarely met.
If you grew up often feeling invisible, unheard, as if your emotions were “too much” or not allowed, having to be the emotional caregiver for others around you, or unsure of the love and care offered by your primary caregivers, then you likely experienced some level of emotional abandonment.
How Fear of Abandonment Affects Your Relationships
If you are still unsure if fear of abandonment is something you struggle with, then it may be time to look at how this fear may be manifesting itself in your current relationships. Let’s explore some of the symptoms of fear of abandonment to help you determine whether this is something you should dive into on a deeper level.
- Difficulty committing to relationships
- A history or pattern of unhealthy relationships
- Trouble trusting others
- Extreme emotional swings or bursts of anger in relationships
- Overwhelming jealousy in your relationships
- Intense feelings of insecurity in relationships
- Low self-esteem
- Wanting to control or be controlled by your significant other
- Being overly eager to please the other person
- Lack of emotional or physical intimacy
If you have experienced physical or emotional abandonment in the past, your body and mind have learned the pain of that experience, and the above behaviors serve as forms of self-protection, to avoid feeling that pain again. This fear of being abandoned, when left unaddressed, has the power to keep you from forming healthy, lasting relationships – thus perpetuating the harm that was inflicted on you earlier in life.
The Truth of God’s Word
Fear of abandonment is the fear of being alone. We all long to be seen, heard, cherished, and loved. And not only do we long for these things, but we were created to have them fulfilled! As image-bearers of a deeply relational God, He created each of us to crave community and find a sense of safety and intimacy in our relationships.
But even though we were created for community, we still can’t find our full sense of identity, joy, and security in another human being. God is the only one who can fill those needs properly and make us whole. Because of sin, people are broken and imperfect and God is the only one we can truly count on to never abandon us.
Joshua 1:9 assures us that we all long for by reminding us that God will never leave us or forsake us, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Countless other verses speak to God’s faithful, constant presence, and steady pursuit of the hearts and minds of every one of us.
Nevertheless, knowing the truth that God never leaves you and actually internalizing it is much easier said than done. Because you may have experienced abandonment and now fear it, there’s a level of trust that must be re-established in your relationship with God and others. Let’s look at a few different ways you could begin to re-establish this trust.
Spend Time in God’s Word
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
God’s Word is the ultimate reference point for what you’re experiencing and is the ultimate source of truth and wisdom. When you’ve experienced past trauma that led to a fear of abandonment and rejection, there are certain lies you have come to deeply believe, perhaps without even realizing it. It will take intentional time with God, in prayer, and in the Bible, for the truths of His love, His character, and your inherent value, to begin to speak louder than those lies and penetrate your heart.
When you spend time in God’s Word getting to know the heart of God, you can guard and fortify yourself with His truth and remember that He can be trusted to take care of you. When you have the Lord, you are never truly alone, and His perfect love is our greatest weapon in casting out our fears of loneliness, rejection, and abandonment (1 John 4:18).
Create a Circle of Trust
When you are struggling with the fear of abandonment, as uncomfortable or scary as it might seem, it can be helpful to share your struggle with a few trusted friends. If you are afraid of being abandoned, a common theme you may notice in your relationships is that you tend to push people away.
But as we’ve established previously, God created us to rely on others and have others rely on us. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 shows us what happens when we choose to respond to the invitation of community, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
This process of creating community will not be perfect, and there may be times when people do hurt you again. There is risk involved in vulnerability. Even still, establishing new, healthier ways of being in a relationship with others requires an intentional choice to trust God in your relationships and open yourself up to loving and being loved by others. As you have experiences of being in authentic relationships with others, the fear of abandonment loses some (or much!) of its power over you.
A helpful step toward re-establishing trust in God and your relationships is setting aside some time for self-reflection or self-examination.
You could do this by simply setting aside thirty minutes to an hour of uninterrupted time alone with a journal and a pen. You might begin by making a timeline starting from the time you were five and increasing the age in five-year increments until you reach your current age.
Once you’ve created your timeline, go back into each age category, and record the times you remember feeling a powerful sense of abandonment and how you chose to cope with that feeling. Recognizing the toxic ways in which you coped (in either self-soothing or self-protective ways) in the past can help you stop utilizing those coping skills moving forward. From there, you can seek out healthy ways to cope with your fear of abandonment and usher in true, lasting healing.
Healing from Fear of Abandonment is Possible
While spending time in God’s Word, creating a circle of trust, and self-examination can all be helpful tools, the reality is that a fear of abandonment is often deeply rooted within us.
It may require significant effort to identify the parts of your story where this fear came to life, how fully it impacts you, the lies you have come to believe, and how to go about making the changes necessary in order for relational healing to occur in your life. In this case, a licensed therapist can serve as both a trained guide and a steady presence as you move through the process of growth and healing.
We believe that with God’s help, healing is always possible So, if you are looking for additional support, biblical wisdom, and desire freedom from fear of abandonment, please reach out to me or one of the other counselors in the online counselor directory.
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