How to handle abandonment issues

Written by rebecca epstein
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How to handle abandonment issues
Worrying that a loved one will leave can be very stressful. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Abandonment issues, also known as fear of abandonment, are an adult's worry that a loved one will disappear (abandonment issues are a normal part of the development of children). Fear of abandonment varies in severity. A sufferer might accuse a romantic partner of infidelity, become overprotective or even stalk someone. How it affects each sufferer depends on factors such as what support system he has or whether he has a mental illness, but it almost always leads to repercussions in the sufferer's personal, professional or family life. Learning how to handle this problem can help both the sufferer and the loved one.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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    Manage Your Own Fear of Abandonment

  1. 1

    Examine your childhood. Understand the root causes of your fears. For example, if your parents divorced when you were young and one parent moved out, this might be part of the reason you fear abandonment in your adulthood.

  2. 2

    Increase your focus on other, less fraught relationships in your life. Go to friends' houses, visit siblings, or meet new people through your work, school, or common-interest groups, such as a reading group or a choir.

  3. 3

    Utilise the support of other people in your life besides the person you fear will abandon you. Talk about your feelings and behaviours with friends, family, and/or a mental health professional, such as a psychologist.

  4. 4

    Be more objective and rational about your behaviours. If you notice, for example, that you get distraught when your spouse leaves for work, observe that your spouse is going to come home at the end of the day. Write down your fear, and then write down the facts of the situation that contradict your fear.

  5. 5

    Participate in new activities that will fill up your idle hours and help you understand your own emotional and physical strength and independence. For example, take tennis lessons, or volunteer at the local animal shelter.

  6. 6

    Forgive yourself for your behaviours. Having abandonment issues does not make you a bad person. Trust that you are always doing the best you can, at all times.

    Handle Someone Else's Fear of Abandonment

  1. 1

    Stay calm. Identify irrational and fearful or abusive behaviours to your relationship partner. State the factual, rational truth.

  2. 2

    Maintain your boundaries. While it makes sense to express your love for your partner on a regular basis, you do not need to constantly reassure her that you are not going to leave. Remember that the burden of working through this issue is on your partner, not on you.

  3. 3

    Discuss your own feelings and behaviours with friends, family, or a counsellor. While it is not your fault that someone else is irrationally afraid you will leave, there are always things you can do to improve any relationship, and by identifying these things, you might lighten the burden of the abandonment issues on the relationship. In his article "The Legacy of 'Father Hunger' -- Abandonment Issues," Mark Smith says, "Remember, you are no healthier emotionally than your partner; you are just put together differently."

Tips and warnings

  • Anxiety is an inability to accept the uncertainty of the future, and the same applies to fear of abandonment. You can never have 100 per cent security that a relationship will last, but by learning to live with the hope that it will, you will do yourself and your relationship partner a great service.
  • Intense fear of abandonment can be a symptom of a mental illness, such as Borderline Personality Disorder. If you are concerned that you might have a mental illness, see a counsellor.
  • If you are in a relationship with someone who has a fear that you will abandon him and who doesn't own up to his issues or actions, think about ending or reducing the intensity of the relationship.

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