I’ve struggled HARD and still, to this day, struggle with abandonment issues.
Just like with emotional unavailability, narcissism, gaslighting, empathetic bankruptcy, codependency, etc…. When you understand what abandonment issues are, you’re then able to identify if you have them and/or if someone that you’re in a relationship with has them.
And just like that… ALL the dots suddenly CONNECT. Everything makes so.much.more.SENSE.
I never know when the wave of activation is going to hit, or what exactly is going to trigger my fear of abandonment. It might be a song, a sound, a relationship, a laugh, a piece of lingerie, a certain shade of lipstick, a circumstance, an event, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee, a cigar or cologne. It could be just about anything… And the wave comes crashing.
I’m all of a sudden, treading water for dear life without remembering how to swim; trying to hang onto whatever (or whoever), is left from the wreckage (and then tying my worth to being unable to keep us BOTH afloat).
The common denominator of abandonment issues is loss.
Although each and every one of us has experienced loss, we all process loss differently. Our own unique coping mechanism is formed depending on how young and impressionable we were during the first time a monumental loss came knocking at our door.
Why do I have Abandonment Issues?
The reason why so many people struggle with fear of abandonment, is because its origins are always at the time in which we were voiceless, powerless and the most malleable: Our childhood.
There’s nothing black and white about abandonment issues. You may not be able to even pinpoint any specific abandonment. You could have grown up in the most intact, put-together, antithesis-of-a-modern-family household, and have more fear of abandonment than someone whose parents physically abandoned them.
Although my parents never physically abandoned me, they got divorced and remarried, which triggered massive fear of abandonment in me. I’m also an emotional orphan; one of my parents unintentionally abandoned me emotionally and looking back, I mourned their emotional death by trying to resurrect them through romantic partners who were JUST AS unavailable/reluctant, for far too long.
This doesn’t mean that I have bad parents or that I’m unjustified in fearing abandonment. It just means that I have a scar from a wound – a scar that is still very sensitive and I think, to an extent, always will be. And that’s okay.
Awareness has definitely deactivated a great deal of the sensitivity.
Abandonment issues can come from ANY kind of loss that at the time, was heavier than what your emotional carrying/processing capacity could accommodate.
It could be growing up with parents who excelled at giving attention in one way, but were neglectful in another way, having emotionally unavailable and/or narcissistic parents/caregivers, experiencing death, being rejected by friends, coaches or teachers at school, not being chosen, being emotionally abandoned/orphaned by someone you trusted or who was a parental figure, etc.
Not everyone who has experienced loss, rejection and abandonment will have abandonment issues that hinder and often paralyze their emotional functionality when triggered. Symptoms of abandonment issues will vary a great deal.
I still struggle to this day with my fear of abandonment, but because of my awareness and ability to communicate my vulnerabilities (both to myself and if need be, to others), there’s space around my trigger. I’ve quit shaping my identity around my fear. I’ve forgiven my past “abandoners,” and also, I’ve forgiven myself for revisiting the scene of the emotional crime time and time again through past friendsh*ts and relationsh*ts.
As a result, I’m no longer ruled by my past, fearful of my future or hungry for a parent to emotionally walk with me when they’ve proven that there is a handicap. A handicap that was there before I even came into the picture.
When triggered, I no longer regress back to the emotional paralysis of the age in which I had my first taste of abandonment. I no longer look for lovers and friends to give to me what was withheld at some point in my childhood and I no longer give to others what was withheld from me, in hope of reciprocation that never comes.
I’m my own soulmate, my own best friend and there isn’t a person out there who could ever understand or take care of me better than I do myself (to the right lover and friends, this is an attractive trait because they possess the same trait. Anyone else will either be incompatible, “hate,” or be passive aggressive in their reactions toward your energy because they’re intimidated).
Because of this, I do lack quantity as far as relationships in my life go, but the QUALITY is magical. It’s beyond what words could ever convey.
YES – I still struggle with an intense fear of abandonment, but I no longer have a front row seat to my fears. It’s so much further away nowadays. I’m in like the nosebleed seats.
And that healthy distance, that knowingness that I am not my scar (nor does ANYone notice my scar as much as I do), has disabled these 10 symptoms of abandonment issues that I used to embody.
Here are 10 symptoms of abandonment issues + what to do if the fear of abandonment is crippling your relational, emotional and psychological evolution.
Before I get into these 10 symptoms of abandonment issues, I want you to keep this in mind:
You’re never going to be able to make complete, 100% sense of or fully understand your abandonment issues – why they occurred, why you’re triggered to the extent that you are and what the other person was thinking.
By choosing to surrender to this realization, you can now focus more on deactivation as opposed to unrealistic eradication.
How do you know if you have abandonment issues?
Here are 10 signs of abandonment issues in adults:
- STAGE 5 CLINGER. Whether you’re a full-blown cling’on or you’re like I used to be and have clingy relational tendencies, you’re always the one who’s making the effort, “bending,” and understanding/excusing at the expense of your sanity (and then getting blamed for being insane because… well, you’re acting that way). You feel like no one ever tries as hard as you do. Everyone ultimately ends up thinking you’re desperate, “too intense,” and a convenient IGNORE as far as texts, calls and invites go. If you have abandonment issues, you’ll attach way too soon, think way too much and take everything WAY too personally (nothing is ever personal. We take things personally and deprive ourselves of the golden GIFT that another person’s words, actions and reactions are and always will be: They are a window into THEIR dysfunction, NOT a reflection of ours).
- CODEPENDENCY IS A COMMON THEME IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP & FRIENDSHIPS. Just like magnets, you’ll most likely attract lovers and friends who seem to exploit your fear of abandonment with psychic ability and emotionally blackmail you with it through triangulation, inciting jealousy and/or deception. This gives birth to codependency – they’re dependent on having a doormat (you), and you’re dependent on deriving your value from being “useful” to them (aka USED).
- REJECTING PEOPLE BEFORE THEY CAN REJECT YOU OR REJECTING YOURSELF BEFORE THE OTHER PERSON HAS A CHANCE TO ACCEPT/REJECT YOU.
- CHEATING AS AN INSURANCE POLICY. Whether it’s emotional or physical cheating (or you’re just swiping, “browsing” online or haven’t yet totally deleted all of your online dating profiles), you’ll take out a sh*t insurance policy on pain and try to circumvent or “outsmart” abandonment through infidelity. You’ll justify it by saying to yourself, “If they hurt or leave me, at least I have THIS on them,” thinking it won’t hurt as badly. It always does, it’s karmically corrupt and cheating/”keeping your options open,” is just an all-around, bad idea. It’s also one of the most popular ways to cope with low self esteem, issues with control, loss and fear of abandonment. No judgement here – we’ve all either been on the doing or receiving end at one point or another. Commitment issues – whether it’s physical commitment, emotional commitment or committing to the belief that you are indeed ENOUGH – seem impossible to call yourself out on and overcome when you have abandonment issues.
- CHEATING AS A FEAR. You’re paranoid that your partner is cheating on you. In friendships, you want to be the bff and are always worried that someone is going to “take your place.”
- EXTREME JEALOUSY, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR BEHAVIOR & COMPARISON. These 3 things are the quickest way to kill any joy in your life. We ALL do a little “due diligence,” here and there, but if your investigation skills start to one-up the FBI and you’re constantly comparing; crippled by jealousy more than you’re enjoying emotional and sexual connection… Your fear of abandonment and being forgotten is outweighing trust – of your gut and your partner. You feel the need to control your partner and always want to question what they’re doing and who they’re talking to.
- SOCIAL ANXIETY, INSECURITY & FEELING A SENSE OF THE OTHER SHOE ABOUT TO DROP. YOU’RE ALWAYS WALKING ON EGGSHELLS. You underestimate yourself to the max and because of this, become complacent with the predictability of mediocrity as opposed to the unknown associated with taking chances.
- TROUBLE WITH VULNERABILITY. You feel like you can’t express “the real you,” to anyone. They’d just judge, discard, leave and forget about you… like everyone else. Your standby mode is: “patiently waiting to see what the other person wants to do with/thinks of me.” And because of the constant under-the-rug brushing, anger and resent start to build. You don’t ever feel comfortable enough to fully express yourself, so you just wade in the kiddy pool of emotional paralysis.
- SABOTAGE. You engage in relational self sabotage, electively throwing forks in the road of your happiness before any other person or force can. You can do this without even being conscious that you’re doing it.
- DISEASE TO PLEASE, PERFECTION & A MAGNIFYING GLASS. You suffer from the disease to please and because you bend over so much for everyone else, you have unrealistic expectations for your partner. You expect perfection from your partner and assume that they’re a mind reader. You personalized everything the day that abandonment occurred when you were a child and as a result, feel perpetually guilty for EVERYTHING. If you’re not in a relationship and are just dating around, you pick apart and and find (inconsequential/superficial) flaws in the other person so that you can pedestal yourself (yet another insurance policy taken out on potential disconnect/rejection/abandonment).
What to do if you have abandonment issues:
As a child, it’s impossible to rationalize and make logical sense of loss and abandonment – especially if it can’t be seen with the eyes (emotional abandonment). It’s also impossible, when we’re kids, to realize that our parents are fallible, human, sexual beings that could possibly be emotionally unavailable, narcissistic and have made a slew of mistakes with a sh*tload of baggage BEFORE they had us.
No one had the perfect parents and no one will be the perfect parent. We will all inevitably fail our parents at some point and they will fail us.
Forgive your parents and forgive yourself for not having the emotional tool belt of an adult when you were a voiceless, impressionable and innocent child.
Because we don’t have the emotional tools as children to process abandonment, we personalize the loss we feel and think that we’re unlovable, forgettable and discardable.
Even as adults, we strive for the validation that we are “enough;” we strive to get the validation that we are indeed un-abandonable, unforgettable and we tie our value to versions of our parents NOT abandoning us so that we can, for once and for all, invalidate Mom, Dad or whoever made us feel easy to walk away from and hard to love.
When our abandonment issues get triggered, we immediately want to try and find a way around the wave in the form of validation seeking. We also answer-seek and try to attain closure at the expense of our dignity, from the offending party.
I’ve learned that no matter how much I’ve tried to revisit the past through my romantic relationsh*ts and friendsh*ts, I can never change the past. I can only change the narration; the way I choose to view it.
The waves won’t ever stop coming. One wave, no matter how small it is, may remind us of a much bigger wave in the past and trigger us into feeling like we can’t make it; that we won’t survive this time around. But we will because we HAVE.
It’s not your fault. You were and always will be, no matter how old you are, your parent’s CHILD.
You don’t need to emotionally parent your parents and you don’t need to psychoanalyze them either – it won’t bring you the closure that you’re looking for, it won’t give them a personality or empathetic transplant and it won’t be a time machine. Your parents cannot give you the closure that you’re looking for – ONLY YOU can DECIDE to do that NOW.
The majority of my life was plagued with abandonment issues and the last few years have been dedicated to emotionally defibrillating that little girl; separating her from a narrative that she never asked nor had a choice to be a part of.
And because I’ve gone back and parented my younger self to the extent that I have and continue to do, I no longer look for the world to notice her, understand her needs and supply. I’ve got her back. I never let anyone f*ck with her and because of that, I’ve also been able to make peace with a past that was very hard on this little one.
I make my own emotional money these days.
And as I always say… if I can do it, so.can.YOU.
Cheers to emotional billions.