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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

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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