People who have experienced abandonment feel anything but self-assured. They feel lost, undesired, discarded, insignificant, and helpless. Abandonment is a traumatic shock to your emotional system because you are suddenly cut off from a significant relationship.
Consequently, life post-abandonment involves searching to fill this emotional void. Relationships turn into a minefield of rejection triggers. Your fear of abandonment runs the show and drives your partner away.
You are sensitive, clingy, rigid, manipulative, anxious, and obsessive. The more you overreact and need, the more you despise yourself. You feel ashamed of your desperation.
To cope with your chronic insecurities, you increasingly become fused to your partner. Emotional fusion means you depend on people to regulate your self-image and emotions: “I need you to feel good about me so I can feel good about myself. I can’t handle you getting upset with me because that means I am bad and you will desert me.”
Because you rely on your partner for stability, you live defensively reacting to whatever your partner does. Basically, life feels out of your control, and you look to your partner to calm the storm.
No doubt that trauma fragments the soul. The journey to put yourself back together is no small feat. But somewhere along the way, you abandoned yourself. You stopped believing yourself. You relinquished your strength and gave your power away to someone else to fix you. You depend on someone else’s reassurance to be your source of peace.
To overcome abandonment, you must reclaim your power and take complete ownership of yourself. Your focus needs to shift from avoiding abandonment to building a strong self. Recovery is a process of letting go of feeling like a victim and accepting the belief that you are a powerful person.
5 Ways to Overcome Abandonment Issues in Relationships
This article will offer five areas of responsibility for you to take charge of in order to break codependency and develop a solid self.
1. Get Clear on Emotional Responsibility
When your abandonment paranoia gets out of control, do you expect your partner to calm your anxiety? If you struggle with abandonment issues, you probably have an intense desire to feel taken care of. This feeling is completely legitimate; however, it will distort your paradigm of personal responsibility.
The deep emotional chasm you feel inside compels you to look to a relationship to be the answer to your problems. For example, you manage your fear of abandonment by placing the responsibility on someone else to behave a certain way to make you feel secure. You panic if that person doesn’t perform perfectly. Your partner becomes your anxiety reliever, and his reassurance is the basis of your security. Consequently, when your partner is having a bad week, you are an emotional wreck.
To stop this emotional reactivity, you need to assume complete ownership of your feelings. People will trigger your insecurities, but it’s not their job to make you feel better about yourself. It’s your responsibility to cultivate a healthy mind that believes the best of yourself.
To insist that your partner be emotionally responsible for you is asking that person to take on something that is not within their power to do. Accept 100% accountability for your reactions instead of blaming someone else for your anxiety.
2. Correct Idealistic Expectations
Do you approach relationships with a consumer mentality? Do you assume it’s your partner’s job to fulfill all your needs? Subconsciously, people with an abandonment history are continuously looking to compensate for what they lost in childhood.
When people are hurt, they feel like they are owed something. Enter unrealistic expectations. The burden to repay the past emotional debt is often placed on the significant other. That person is put on a pedestal and clutched tightly. The relationship becomes addictive because that person possesses something you “need.”
Fear of abandonment and love addiction go hand in hand. Love addicts search for that constant “fix.” They use people to make them feel whole. They rely on their partner to be their source of well-being. Unfortunately, the relationship “high” only medicates pain temporarily. For one, this expectation puts an immense amount of pressure on one person. Secondly, you will encounter disappointment because no human being can satisfy every longing in your heart.
To break this toxic dependency, you must change the way you primarily get your needs met. What would it look like if you took full responsibility for your happiness? You need to invest in yourself and purposely create the life you desire. For some, this looks like seeking after God, working with a therapist, joining a small group, traveling, exercising, creating new life goals, learning a new skill, diversifying relationships, or starting a new career.
3. Learn to Self-Validate
Most people who struggle with fear of abandonment are highly reliant on external validation to make them feel confident. They operate from the belief, “I need constant reinforcement to verify that people love me so I can feel good about myself.”
Abandonment wrecks your self-esteem so naturally that there is a huge appeal to look to other people to be your primary source of validation. A deep yearning resides inside your soul to be told, “You’re okay.” There is nothing wrong with accepting affirmation. The problem lies when you cannot function without it and continually need people to resuscitate you emotionally.
Do you crumble when your partner disagrees or disapproves of you? Do you spin out of control when you get criticized? The fact is, sometimes we don’t receive the positive feedback we desire. What would it be like if your mood was not controlled by people’s words and behaviors?
Don’t give people the power to determine your self-worth. Learn to anchor yourself instead of relying on others to prop you up. Approval-seeking is a fruitless endeavor; it will never satisfy. Besides, no amount of praise will convince you of your significance if you don’t believe it yourself. When you self-validate, it will force you to get clear on who you really are instead of defining yourself based on how people treat you.
4. Be Authentic
Have you discarded your true self? Do you misrepresent yourself or hold back in relationships? Abandonment can disrupt the development of a person’s individuality because they believe the lie that says they are not good enough. As a result, they adopt counterfeit identities, and their sense of self becomes fluid. They often adjust themselves to fit the desires of people around them.
Individuals who struggle with fear of abandonment are afraid to be authentic in relationships because they think their differences will threaten the stability of the connection. They are willing to lose themselves in exchange for approval and attention. Instead of genuineness, they aim for a watered-down, palatable version of themselves to achieve “sameness.” They appease their partner to avoid causing waves. They believe one wrong word or mistake could cause the relationship to end.
People pleasing will result in a lifetime of walking on eggshells and putting up with bad behavior. Don’t compromise your originality. Abandoning yourself is a toxic preservation strategy. Resilient relationships are created when two differentiated people come together. Hold onto your sense of self in close relationships. Be brave enough to clearly define your identity. Commit to valuing yourself enough so you don’t sell out any longer.
Have you sacrificed your integrity to “save” a relationship? Most of the time, the worst in us comes out during conflict. Hurting people hurt others. Individuals who fear abandonment are masters at control. If they can manipulate people, then they can reduce their anxiety of abandonment.
Do you lie and tamper with the facts when your partner finds you at fault? Do you play the victim role to gain sympathy? When your partner confronts you, do you pretend to be confused? Do you shame your partner into spending time with you? Do you attack your partner’s weaknesses to get your way?
Most people would rather turn a blind eye and tolerate their depravity than acknowledge its existence. It’s much easier to blame your partner. “If only he noticed me.” “If she would just listen to me.”
The first person you need to confront is you. Individuals with a strong self admit when they are wrong. To heal from abandonment, you need to become a person who daily self-confronts and takes responsibility for how your actions hurt people.
Self-confrontation is a time of reflection where you examine if your attitudes and behaviors are out of alignment with your core values. You correct personal flaws and take ownership for bad behavior even if there are costs. You change not to get a “certain response” from your partner but to maintain your self-integrity.
The best in you stands up when you confront the worst in yourself. In return, you will gain much self-respect. Resolve to stop dodging responsibility because of your past. Stop blaming, justifying, or making excuses for bad behavior to save face. Just own it.
Take inventory of how unfairly you treat your partner. Boldly admit your culpability in the toxic relationship dynamic. Don’t accept more responsibility than is due, but own your part. Humbly confess your offenses to your partner. No doubt this move will disrupt the status quo, however, sometimes upheaval is necessary to create traction in areas of relationship gridlock.
The question remains: will you tolerate discomfort for the sake of growth? Building a strong self will stir up your anxiety. But each time you abstain from reassurance seeking and controlling behaviors, you strengthen your emotional muscles. Can you hold the line with yourself? When you start to over-depend on your partner, will you self-confront and readjust?
Use your relationship insecurity as an opportunity to learn how to transfer your pain into personal growth. What if this abandonment wound is an invitation for you to reorganize yourself into a resilient person? It is only when we test our capacity that we will discover the strength that resides in us.
“Searching,” courtesy of Luiza Sayfulina, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Empty,” courtesy of Eddy Lackmann, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Contemplative landscape,” courtesy of Heidi Sandstrom, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Be Still and Know,” courtesy of Chad Madden, unsplash.com, CC0 License