Most of us, at one time or another, have experienced a sense of abandonment. It’s a sense of disconnection from others leading to a feeling of rejection. It’s when the fear of abandonment is so frequent and severe that it’s considered a problem.
Fear of being rejected by others can prevent someone from getting close to another person. As infants and children, we require physical and emotional care, and when that is inadequate, we experience feelings of abandonment.
The loss of a parent, through death or divorce, can threaten a child’s feelings of security. Being adopted can also result in feelings of abandonment. Safety is threatened when a child is subjected to physical or sexual abuse.
Emotional neglect can be as traumatic as the loss of a parent. Emotional neglect results from being raised in an emotionally stifled household, one where the parent ridicules them, or expects unreasonably high standards.
Parents who treat their children as peers, expecting them to fill the role of partner or friend, also create feelings of abandonment in the child because they are unable to fulfill those roles.
Abandonment in adults can result from the loss of a partner through death, divorce, or separation. If compounded with feelings from childhood of being abandoned, the results can be devastating to the individual, resulting in relationships disrupted by the person’s fear of loss.
The fallout from abandonment fears impairs trust, feelings of worthiness, and intimacy. Often it is difficult for the person to trust another, because they have not experienced trust in their own lives. This can drive a wedge between the person and her partner. Choosing partners who reinforce these abandonment fears is common. Basically, abandonment issues in women stem from fear of rejection by others.
10 Signs of Abandonment Issues in Women
- You sabotage all your relationships. If things are going well, do you pick fights, or point out problems?
- Do you constantly suspect that your significant other is cheating on you? Even when there is no sign that it’s actually happening? Too much suspicion can drive a wedge in the relationship.
- Do you try to control your loved one’s comings and goings? Do you constantly ask for details about where, with whom and for how long they will be gone? Do you constantly question their every move, particularly when they aren’t with you?
- Do you find “flaws” in the other person, particularly when the flaws are irrational? This may be a way of keeping them at arms length so that you don’t have to get involved, thereby protecting yourself from getting hurt.
- Do you choose partners who are likely to abandon you? Either consciously, or unconsciously, you may be choosing people who are likely to leave you.
- Do you have a tendency toward self-defeating behavior patterns that sabotage your love life, goals, or career?
- Do you have difficulty letting go of someone, even when you know the relationship cannot meet your basic needs?
- A tendency toward unpredictable outbursts of anger.
- Do you experience episodes of self-neglectful or self-destructive behavior?
- Do you tend to rush into relationships and clamp on too quickly? Even when the person doesn’t feel right somehow?
If you can identify with most of the signs listed above, you are probably experiencing abandonment issues.
How to Cope with Abandonment Issues
So what can you do to start living in a way that doesn’t rely on others for your self-worth?
- First, stop beating yourself up over this. Even if you didn’t come from a background where life was fraught with danger and where people could leave easily, you may have experienced some serious losses as an adult that have caused you to fear abandonment. Just know that it’s not your fault.
- Stop making your insecurity your partner’s problem. It’s not their problem to fix.
- When left alone, you may fantasize that something terrible has happened to your partner – that he left you for someone else, that he died, etc. The fear of being discarded may be overpowering, but you can change negative thoughts to positive ones.
- If you experienced abandonment by your father, for example, you may be fearful of actually letting yourself love someone, and become emotionally distant. That may feel like protection against having it happen again, but it may result in pushing your partner out, thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Becoming aware of this behavior and seeking help to stop it is important.
- Seek help from a qualified therapist to learn to deal with your anxiety and fears.
“Lily pond,” courtesy of ethermoon, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Peace,” courtesy of Renate Dodell, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Harbor,” courtesy of Ansgar Koreng, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License