I know you’re thinking, “Abandonment issues? I don’t have abandonment issues”. Some people may not even realize some of their decisions while in a relationship are influenced by a fear of abandonment. Sometimes it’s very obvious. Some people have been left by their mom, dad, or previous significant other. They may still be dealing with that loss and be afraid of another in the future. Other people may have an underlying fear of loss, but have no obvious reason for it.
You may not realize how powerful fear can be in your life. Many people will make huge adjustments in their every day life just avoid certain fears. Fear of fat? Will try to avoid eating and may exercise a lot. Fear of heights? Live in Illinois and will drive many miles to avoid flying. Fear of getting older? Pay lots of money for anti-aging creams and laser surgery. We all have fears and some people choose to face them while others maneuver their lives around them.
In relationships, fear of abandonment has a strong pull. Some people have an overt fear. This means they do acknowledge they don’t like to be left and for good reason. Their fear is real. Someone they loved left them. If that person was a parent or someone they depended on it can be very traumatic. The brain will try to avoid repeating that experience at all costs. Other people have a covert fear. This means they make decisions based on their fears, but it isn’t always conscious or deliberate. They haven’t thought it through far enough to acknowledge their decision is based on a fear. They never have been left by someone they depended on, but their brain can imagine it happening in the future. This causes them to do things in relationships whether they are aware of it or not.
So, how does this fear play out in a relationship? It can look differently depending on the person. If a person is a people pleaser, they usually will bend over backwards to make the other person happy. They may take all the responsibility if things go wrong and do their best to make the relationship goes as smoothly as possible. They will also be the first one to apologize so the fight will end. If you try to leave they will chase you and beg you to stay. They can appear very clingy and needy. They may or may not be aware of their fear of abandonment that drives them to act this way.
If a person is more controlling type, they may try to coerce the person to do what they want. This means telling the person what they want to hear to get their way. They may also resort to threats to get a person to stay with them. They trade a fear for a fear. They will try to make you afraid to leave them so they don’t have to face their fear. Usually this type of person can come across as very jealous and insecure. You may not have given them a reason to be jealous, but their fear influences their thinking. They may have an irrational fear of you leaving which pushes them to believe you could be cheating or wanting to date someone else. If you do get tired of being accused of something you aren’t doing, you may actually try to leave. At this point, they will turn on the charm and beg you to come back.
Of course, life isn’t this black and white and not every situation can be explained so easily. Usually, people are motivated by several feelings, not just one. The fear of abandonment is usually just one feeling that is influencing different decisions within the relationship. It is hard to simplify all the dynamics that go into a relationship. However, the fear of abandonment can do a lot of damage unless it is addressed. Like I pointed out earlier, some people will be open about this fear and freely admit they are too clingy or too controlling depending on their personality. Other people have no insight into why they are acting the way they are. All they know is that they get pulled into this cycle. Logically they know they should leave the relationship or let the other person go when they try to leave, but a force inside of them pushes them to do things to try to stay in the relationship.
This is another reason break ups can be so messy and sometimes drag out for a long time. When those fears kick in, they are very powerful. They have a huge influence on your decisions. No one likes to feel anxiety. If you can find a way to reduce that anxiety, you’ll use it. Facing the fear actually increases the anxiety at first, which is why it takes so much effort to fight it.
Facing the fear is the only way to conquer it. It is the only way you can achieve a healthy relationship. Leaving an unhealthy relationship usually requires an extreme amount of emotional effort, but in the end it is worth it. Don’t give up. Your fears are strong, but I also know you are stronger if you only believe in yourself. Don’t let what happened in your past take away from the happiness in your future. You can make a positive change. You can’t control other people and what they are going to do, but you can control your fears and how they influence your life. Good luck!!