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Published on May 9, 2018

Do You Have Fear of Abandonment? (Signs and Ways to Overcome It)

Do You Have Fear of Abandonment? (Signs and Ways to Overcome It)

There are some people that will have affairs because of their fear of abandonment. That may make zero sense to you, but here is why — they have such a deep fear of abandonment in their current relationship that they pursue outside relationships simultaneously, so that they have a back up relationship in case something happens with their current marriage or relationship.

In this article, I will look deeper into the cause and consequence of having the fear of abandonment and how to overcome this fear to lead healthy relationships again.

What is fear of abandonment

Bustle.com examined research on the topic of fear of abandonment and infidelity and stated the following:[1]

People with abandonment issues and lower self-confidence are more likely to cheat.

This is obviously not a healthy way of dealing with fear of abandonment. It is harmful to the person who is being cheated on and also is mental torment for the person trying to manage and keep both relationships afloat. They are putting their relationship at stake, living a lie and obviously not dealing with their fear of abandonment in a healthy manner.

Signs of fear of abandonment

People with fear of abandonment can exhibit a variety of behaviors. Many of these behaviors are destructive to relationships, so the fear of abandonment should be recognized and dealt with appropriately for the sake of the relationship and both individuals involved in the relationship.

Below are some signs that someone has the fear of abandonment:

  • Feel jealous often.
  • Perceive others of the opposite sex as a threat to their relationship.
  • Give too much or go overboard in the relationship.
  • Have thoughts about their partner or spouse leaving them.
  • Demand unrealistic amounts of time with their significant other.
  • Have difficulty in completely trusting their partner or spouse.
  • Look more at the faults in their spouse or partner than positive attributes (again this is about pushing away the person or failing to trust them completely).
  • Have a hard time being alone if a relationship ends. Always look out for the next relationship or significant other to replace the one most recently lost.
  • Have feelings of resentment if their significant other does an activity without them such as going out with friends.
  • Feel unworthy, less than or unworthy of love.
  • Have lower self-esteem/ self-confidence.
  • End relationships before the other person can so that they have control over the potential abandonment.
  • Move too quickly in relationships because they are fearful the person will leave the relationship if things don’t move to the next level fast enough.
  • Stay in unhealthy or abusive relationships because of the fear of being abandoned or alone.
  • Feel jealous of platonic relationships that their spouse or partner has, such as with work colleagues.
  • Are controlling of their significant other, especially when it comes to their time and interaction with others.
  • Overanalyze the relationship on a regular basis, often nit picking on the negatives or problems rather than focusing on the positive qualities within their partner and relationship.
  • Will pursue relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable.
  • Cheat on their spouse or partner.

An individual does not need to have all of these behaviors to have fear of abandonment issues. Some people with fear of abandonment issues possess only a few of these behaviors. However, having even a few of these behaviors is unhealthy and detrimental to their life and relationships.

There are also some people who will sabotage their own relationships by pushing away their partner or spouse. They may have undesirable behavior in order to test their partner. The result in these situations where the behavior escalates enough is that they were right, their partner left them. Unfortunately their spouse or partner leaving them was of their own doing because they were pushing things too far and subsequently pushing away the other person.

How to handle the fear of abandonment

Many people have fear of abandonment issues because they were abandoned earlier in life. It could have been a previous relationship, but likely the source is from childhood. Abandonment in childhood, for example, such as having a parent or both parents not participating in the childhood rearing, can cause deep seated psychological issues.

The key is recognizing that the fear of abandonment exists. Below are some tips on how to handle your fear of abandonment issues so that you can lead more healthy and fulfilling relationships.

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1. Recognize that you are worthy of love

The underlying emotional battle with almost all who have fear of abandonment is their feeling that they are not worthy of being love. Their fear of abandonment likely stems from abandonment that happened sometime during childhood.

Because someone they were attached to left them (for whatever reason) and they subsequently were left feeling that they were not fully loved. The brain of a child thinks something along these lines “if he/she loved me then he (or she) wouldn’t leave me”. Leaving in the mind of a child means they were not fully loved. Even though this is likely not the truth, it is how the more simplistic mind of a child works.

As time goes on, they begin to wonder what it was that made them unlovable. Were they not pretty enough? Were they not smart enough? Were they not good enough? These thoughts can take root and carry into adulthood. The result is an adult who still feels that there is something about them that makes them not worthy of being loved completely and truly.

They often believe (subconsciously) that once in a relationship they need to control things so that the person doesn’t leave them. They will try to control their relationships and their significant other based on their fear of abandonment.

The first step in overcoming the fear of abandonment is to recognize that they are worthy of love.

Accept that you are worthy of love.

Everyone is worthy of love. There is no such thing as a perfect person. We all want to love and to feel loved. We all have flaws. Therefore love involves two flawed individuals. Each is worthy of love and being in a relationship.

You are worthy of love, flaws and all. It doesn’t mean that everyone needs to love you because that is unrealistic. However, there is someone out there for everyone. When you find that someone, remind yourself that you are worthy of the love and attention you receive. Reciprocate and care for the relationship. However, don’t allow it to become your identity or the center of your worth.

Become emotionally self reliant.

Your identity should never be solely tied to a relationship. It is part of who you are but it is does not define you. Make sure you can embrace these thoughts and know that you can be okay if you were to become single or alone. You do not base your worthiness on being in the relationship. Instead you are worthy because you are YOU and nobody else can be a better you.

Becoming emotionally self reliant may not come easy if you have been emotionally dependent in your current or past relationships. Therapy can be helpful if you are having difficulty in being emotionally self reliant. Becoming emotionally self reliant does not happen instantly, so be gentle with yourself in the process. One day at a time, and keep reminding yourself that you are responsible for your emotions and you are still an individual even if you are in a relationship.

Remind yourself as often as you need that it is not another person’s job to make you feel emotionally secure. Your emotional security comes first from you. You are an individual first and a partner second. Take ownership of your emotions and feelings. When fear starts to surface address those feelings rather than turning them into the unhealthy behaviors mentioned above such as jealousy, giving too much in the relationship or being preoccupied with thoughts of your significant other leaving you.

Being emotionally self reliant in a nut shell is taking responsibility for your emotions and doing so in a healthy way. It is no longer looking to your spouse or significant other to make you feel secure in the relationship. It is not their job to make you feel secure in the relationship. They cannot take away your fear.

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You must deal with your fears in order to be emotionally self reliant. Handling the fear often involves understanding where your fear is rooted.

2. Understand your fear to handle your fear

Where did your fear of abandonment begin? What happened in your life that has made you feel this way? Were your fears at that time warranted? Are those fears carrying into your current life and relationships? Questions like these can help you understand where and when your fear began and how they are currently affecting you.

If you have an understanding of where and how they began, you can also begin to understand that they are not helping you at this time. These fears in some instances can never be fully erased, but dealing with them by uncovering the source and development of the fear can help you better dispel the fear when it arises. When you know the root of this fear is the cause, the fear is no longer helpful to your life.

Journal about your abandonment

Journaling about your abandonment is one way of uncovering all your feelings, emotions, and thoughts on this issue. If you are able to get them out on paper, you are helping your mind process through these fears and emotions. If you get emotionally stuck in this process or find that it is not helping enough, then find a therapist who can help you. One way or another you need to uncover and process these emotions in order to understand the root of your fear.

Understanding the root helps you recognize that it is no longer needed or helpful in the functioning of your current relationships, because it has caused unhealthy fearful actions. Here are some questions you can address while journaling.

  • When did you first recognize the issue that caused your fear of abandonment?
  • Have there been multiple times you have felt abandoned in life? If so, what were those experiences and how did you deal with them?
  • Did you feel that your abandonment was your fault?
  • What messages, false or not, did you tell yourself about the abandonment (particularly about the cause)?
  • How has the abandonment earlier in life affected your relationships, both currently and in the past?
  • What behaviors can you recognize that were caused by your fear of abandonment?
  • What behaviors would you like to make yourself more conscious of in order to change them in regard to acting out of fear of abandonment in your current relationship?
  • What things can you do today to stop unwanted behaviors that are based in fear of abandonment (for example: instead of demanding time with your partner when they want to be with their friends, you call friend to hang out)?

You can address one question or several during an single journaling session.

3. Accept that some level of fear may always exist.

To have fear is to be human. You may never fully eliminate your fear of abandonment, but you can have control over your reactions to the fear.

It is important to recognize when you are having those fearful moments in your relationship. For example, those moments of fear that cause you to want to control who your spouse is looking at, where they are going or what they are doing without you by their side. You have to recognize the unhealthy patterns of thought and understand where the root of that fear is based. Doing so can help you recognize that the fears and the subsequent thoughts to control your spouse or significant other are not healthy for the relationship.

Channel the thoughts into positive self talk. Tell yourself you are worthy of love. Also remind yourself that your worth is not based on a relationship. You can be okay in a relationship and you can be okay alone. Acknowledge the root cause of the fear and tell yourself it is no longer needed because it is not helping you function in a healthy manner in your relationships.

You may always have some level of fear because the fear of abandonment is so deep rooted and fear is a natural human reaction. But you can help yourself minimize its toll by not allowing it to control your thought patterns and behaviors any longer.

4. Stop looking to your significant other for help in squelching your fears.

In order to deal with your fear of abandonment, you need to stop looking to your significant other as your solution. If you are having fears of abandonment, you are not to place the responsibility on them to make you feel secure. You must stop the controlling behaviors that are based in fear and place the onus of your fear of abandonment back upon yourself.

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Again, you circle back to reminding yourself of the cause of those fears and how they are no longer needed for your emotional health. In fact, holding onto those fears only hinders you.

Let go of the feelings that you are not worthy. Start by telling yourself you are worthy. Self talk can help you re-establish new ways of thinking when these thoughts of unworthiness based on fear pop into your mind.

5. Use self talk to replace fear with positive thoughts.

Self talk is incredibly powerful. It helps shape the way you think about yourself. Are you allowing your self talk to wallow in your fears, doubts, and negativity about yourself? If you are, it’s time to replace any of those thoughts with positive self talk.

Your goal with positive self talk is not to focus on the relationship because that is not the cause of your fear of abandonment. Your fear of abandonment is based on feelings of unworthiness which came about because of an abandonment earlier in life. You need to replace your negative and fearful thoughts with positive self talk regarding yourself and your worthiness.

Remind yourself that you are a person of worth. Look for positive attributes in yourself that are worthy of praise that you can refocus on when you have emotions about fear of abandonment settling upon you. Dispel the ugly feelings for abandonment and fear by replacing them with positive thoughts about yourself being a person of worth and value.

6. Accept the idea of being alone.

It is okay to be alone. You do not need another person in your life in order to be a person of value. You are worthy because you are you. It is okay to be single and it is okay to be in a relationship.

If you have a relationship that ends, then look for opportunity to embrace your season of being single and what that may look like for you. Find the positive in both single and involved relationship statuses, so that you can be okay either way. Your worth is not based on your relationship status.

7. Stop pursuing the emotionally unavailable.

Some people with fear of abandonment issues tend to seek relationships repeatedly with people who are emotionally unavailable.

Instead of seeking the emotionally unavailable, it’s time to break the cycle and seek out partners who are ready, willing and emotionally able to hold a relationship with you. If you have a long pattern of these unhealthy, emotionally unavailable relationships, then therapy can be quite helpful.

8. Create a network of support.

For some individual with fear of abandonment issues, they become highly entrenched in their romantic relationships because of their habit to give too much and their demand for their spouse or significant other’s time. This causes other relationships to fall by the wayside.

It’s hard to maintain friendships with others when you are obsessed with one person to the exclusion of others. Do you talk insensately about your significant other when you are with friends? Do you think non stop about your significant other when you are out with friends? These behaviors do not help you create meaningful relationships with others.

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In order to have a balanced life, you need friends outside of one singular person. You need a network of people who can be your support system. That way if your romantic relationship fails, you have the encouragement, love and support from friends and family around you.

Make yourself open to other friendships by participating in activities that interest you. If you enjoy running, then join a running club that meets once a week. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or singing group. If you like to help others, then join a volunteerism organization such as the rotary or Junior League. These are just a few examples.

Don’t spend your time so involved with only one person that you fail to develop friendships during this season of your life because you need friends for every season of life. Your fear of abandonment causes you to fixate on your significant other and you want to spend all your time with this person. Loosen the reins and allow yourself to have time to foster friendships with others so that you and your significant other are not your only support network.

You need more people in life because you are not an island in this world. It is healthy to have friendships with others while you still maintain your romantic relationship.

9. Be mindful of behaviors that feed off of fear.

There are behaviors caused by fear of abandonment, as discussed previously. It is important to not only recognize that these behaviors have happened in the past, but to also become aware of them in the present.

Practice mindful awareness to catch yourself when you begin with these behaviors so you can stop them in their tracks. Remind yourself that you are acting based on your fear of abandonment issues and these behaviors haven’t helped you with your relationships in the past, nor will they help you in the future.

Talk to your fears and tell them you are taking control by changing you behavior today.

Summing it up

The fear of abandonment may be inside of you for a long time but by recognizing your self worth and understanding the root of the fear, you will be able to get over it and lead healthy relationships again.

Anyone who feels insecure will always be insecure if they only rely on others for security. Take control of your fear today by following my advice and you will see your relationships change.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

Doctor of Psychology

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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