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Therapy Lingo

Abandonment Issues

Building Better Relationships and Moving Beyond
Abandonment Issues

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1) Are you hiding out in relationships long past the expiration date? 
2) Are you haunted by the idea that your partner may leave you?
3) My personal musings
4) Abandonment issue aren't easy to recognize
5) Feelings of abandonment are learned
6) Infant life is naturally scary
7) Abandonment issues can be resolved

RELATED COMMENTS (and Shrinklady Replies):


1) Am I an "abandonment magnet"?
2) Toxic for eachother.
3) Can abandonment pain be physical? 
4) Can abandonment cause kindergarten meltdowns?
5) Took years to trust love. 
6) Don't expect anything from me. 
7) My partner's abandonment issues hurt me.
8) Help! I'm a serial abandoner 
9) Should she keep her distance from her father?
10) Is my husband reenacting?
11) I'm debating starting therapy. 
12) My dog is triggering my abandonment fears.
13) Will he leave me after sex? 
14) Abandoned twice. 
15) Why can't I be happy?
16) Will I ever have a partner?
17) My partner's abandonment issues are unsurfacing. 
18) How can I break the pattern? 
19) Revelations as I begin to allow myself closeness. 
20) Unsure of whether I actually need therapy.
21) How do I deal with Infidelity?

Dr. Shrinklady

By Psychologist Dr. Suzanne Lacombe

Yes, abandonment fears can throw a monkey wrench into your relationships. They are tantamount to the most desperate and scary feelings that can arise for any of us.

Without even being aware, unresolved abandonment issues can wreak havoc with our lives driving us into a revolving door of failed starts and premature relationship break-ups.

How do abandonment feelings show up for you?


#1 Are you hiding out in relationships long past the expiration date?

Strong feelings of abandonment can override your decision to leave a crappy relationship. Abandonment fears go to the core. It's all about survival. 

In fact, feelings of anger or despair can be so strong and easily triggered, they motivate people in ways that are quite puzzling to an outside observer.

Imagine a woman who no longer feels lovingly towards her husband and agonizes over leaving him. She avoids doing so because she could not bear to trigger the same pain in him.

So, out of desperation she treats him badly. In response, it's almost inevitable that he leaves her. This maneuvre delivers an upside-down means of controlling her own feelings. Tricky ain't it!

What she doesn't realize is that it is indeed her own feelings that are being projected onto him. His actual reaction to this event may be quite different than hers. He has his own history of psychological triggers that may or may not include issues with abandonment.

(And if he doesn't have these fears, he'll be totally perplexed and likely wonder where she's coming from...and you know where this is going...it's just like throwing gas on the abandonment fire.)

#2. Are you haunted by the idea that your partner may leave you?

You might recognize abandonment fears in your reaction to your partner's "departures". In other words, "I can't live without him" (even if he's going to the 7-Eleven to get ice cream! smiley-wink.gif ).

Moreover, you can feel downright squirrely if your spouse leaves to cool off after a heated argument. Unless your feelings have been heard and at least the promise of a resolution offered, you'll probably be triggered into anger or despair.

Your partner can also be physically present yet emotionally absent; he or she seems to "disappear" in front of your very eyes. This can drive you crazy especially if your he or she refuses to acknowledge the emotional distance that's sending you into a tailspin.

These feelings are so easily triggered that you feel abandoned even if you initiate a break-up. That is, you still come away feeling as if your partner had left you!

Unresolved abandonment issues help to explain why anger surfaces over the sudden accidental death of a loved one. Whether it is expected or not, the death of a loved one can feel sudden and shocking and give rise to feelings of being left behind.

Just so you know, unless abandonment issues are resolved (or until you learn better ways to respond) these feelings will arise in all your close relationships.

The reason these feelings are so strong is that these right-brain-based implicit "ways of responding" were learned at a time when physical survival itself was at stake - that is, in the first few years of life.

What the child learns in the early years gets ingrained in a way that is difficult to access as an adult. Yet, it is often only through our adult relationships that these feelings of abandonment are resolved.


"And without this bonding, this joining of two living beings, what is life? What is life without this exchange of soul essence but tasteless food in some dusty and empty place. And what are we then but abandoned and crumpled newspapers, yesterday's stories blowing down some wind-swept, darkened street." Stephen Harrod Buhner


My Personal Musings

If you feel that your feelings are snowballing and preoccupying more and more of your time, if your relationships are less than satisfying, consider getting help now rather than later. As someone who was unaware that her abandonment issues had been mis-directing her life for years, I would want you to avoid this same fate.

I've since learned that life can be much richer and more fulfilling with a little help from my therapist smiley-wink.gif And I wish the same for you.

If you feel the time is right - or maybe just curious - I found an online counseling service that I felt comfortable partnering up with. It's called LivePerson. I like them particularly because every therapist has a track record you can read - which I think gives you that extra assurance...besides they're fun to read. Click here to check them out w/o leaving the site.

Abandonment issues aren't always easy to recognize

Of course, it can sometimes take several relationships to recognize a pattern, and even longer to resolve it--if at all. (This is why psychotherapy can interrupt old patterns and help you learn new ways of being with your partner.)

They might explain for instance why some folks choose a spouse for whom they have no strong feelings. By trading emotional attachment for security, at least they'll feel in control over their fears of abandonment.

Unfortunately, it can take years before a person realizes the consequences of their decision.

Feelings of abandoment are learned

Yes, it's true. Bad relationship experiences can make us more guarded and fearful in future. After all, if my partner abandons me I'll probably be more sensitive to this happening again.

However, not everyone responds the same way to being left by someone. Our response to this unfortunate event depends to a large degree on our early attachment experiences.

Remember: our first years is the time the brain is most vulnerable to imprinting.

Infants are learning something very different than what we normally think of as "learning". Yes, they are learning to walk and talk. But they are also learning how to relate to others.

This type of learning doesn't lend itself to easy recall like remembering a history fact. These relational behaviours and emotional responses are stored in the right-brain-based implicit memory system which is why it's not so easy to identify patterns until they are "screaming" at you.

Infant life is naturally scary

As infants, we are extremely sensitive to the nuances in the behaviour and reactions of our parents. After all, they already know about this world and we only just arrived.

Recall that survival depends upon our connection with our parents and/or primary caretakers. As such, there are many ways abandonment fears can get triggered and imprinted in an infant, thus setting the pattern for how the grown-up will relate to loved ones in the future.

The conditions that give rise to these patterns don't necessarily require that Mom/Dad permanently leave the scene. For instance, they can be physically there but not emotionally present, a situation that is easily and painfully recognized by the infant.

Or Mom or Dad could get sick, or be so preoccupied by their own thoughts and stress that they're not there for you. (It's like talking to a friend who's obviously thinking of something else and not listening to what you say).

Parents can also abandon you emotionally if they find another interest that absorbs their time and energy, such as a new relationship, a new child, etc. This is why birth order or the time spacing between children can have such a strong impact on the growing child.

Indeed, research shows that an infant will show signs of clinical depression if Mom is absent for more than two weeks. These "depression" neuropathways develop at a time when early experiences have a crucial impact on the developing brain. Susceptibility gets imprinted, so that in adulthood we're at higher risk for depression.

Abandonment issues can be resolved

Feelings of abandonment can be worked through in a loving relationship with a partner who understands. However, what's critically important is that these fears be communicated and owned by you.

It doesn't necessarily mean that your partner must change his or her behaviour. But through his or her loving care and understanding you can begin to resolve these fears. You resolve them by experiencing something different.

In other words, your fears might come up but you aren't left behind. Repeatedly over time, your brain will learn to trust your partner and you will experience less fear in the events and interactions of your relationship.

This process can take years however and because our fears in relationships can undermine a solid foundation, some folks proactively work them out in counseling. This is often the best option - working them out before they reach a crisis when therapeutic interventions are less effective.

And, because these patterned responses are ingrained implicitly, they don't easily lend themselves to left-brain based talk therapies alone. This is why it's so important to have right-brain-based strategies in your psychotherapy. Right brain based interventions are experienced.

And, it's through experience that you change the brain.

Reviewed by: Coquitlam Psychologist Dr. Carole Gaato

Related Topic

Emotional Distancing

Online Counseling for Abandonment

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Reader Comments

Am I an "abandonment magnet"?

Please help me. I realized many years ago that I have abandonment issues. It began with my birth father when I was three. I have no memory of him, only the lack of him. My mom remarried and I was adopted. Thing is, it was abusive, toxic environment. She committed suicide in 1983 and I feel abandoned by her too.

I married the same year, had a couple of kids and lived the american dream of having a family. My husband of 15 years walked out on me on a Monday night like it was nothing at all. I went from the pan to the fire and got involved to a guy that abandons everyone.

We have a son together and he moved on to have many other children with other ladies. He abandoned me and our son when I was pregnant. I've built a good life, but, these issues have a way of festering. I have tried to forgive and move on.

Recently I wrote my birth father a letter forgiving him and asking him for forgiveness. He tried to have a relationship with me after I was grown, but, I could not handle it at the time. I could not and may never understand how a mother or a father can walk away.

Am I just an abandomnent magnet? I haven't dated in years. This way, no one gets hurt, or abandoned. I have so much love to give. My family consists of my three kids (2 adult) and two sisters. We have a wonderful relationship.

What can I do? Please Help Me.

Jackie (Georgia, USA)

Thank-you for sharing your story Jackie. It's stories like these that help others to see the devastation that comes about when infants are abandoned and subsequently don't receive the care they need to heal.

I think we all tend to attract people in our lives that evoke a dynamic we're struggling with. Until an issue gets resolved and worked through, we tend to find those folks and repeat these patterns in the hope of finally healing from it. That just seems to be the nature of being human.

And just so you know, our abandonment fears not only create chaos with partners they can also play havoc with other relationships such as the ones we have with our children. For instance, unresolved abandonment issues can create polarized behaviours…we cling too tightly or keep too far at a distance.

In order to heal and avoid being an "abandonment magnet" it's necessary that you feel a little of the pain of your fears in the company of a caring other. Basically, you need to re-experience some of your fears but this time, have a caring other that doesn't abandon you. That's what a good trained therapist does.

And, that's how the brain changes. It changes by experiencing something new.

So, I encourage you to find that special therapist that can help you move through these feelings. See him or her on a regular basis and at the same time each week. This regularity will help the body-mind anticipate being there, and in time, come to trust the connection you're building with your therapist.

Keep in mind that your fears will naturally arise related to your relationship with him or her. Talking about them, feeling them in the moment and hearing the soothing comforting voice of your therapist will help contain them. In time, you will change, and your life will very likely take on a new meaning.

All the best,

Shrinklady


Toxic for each other?

I have such huge abandonment issues that I don't know how to climb out of. I am having trouble letting go of my current marriage even though he moved out three years ago and just wants to be friends because he thinks we are toxic for each other - somewhat true. I would have been willing to work on it but he just wants to be left alone and says he is so hurt by his childhood that he can't handle being in a relationship but doesn't have the energy to work on it.

He wants to be friends but my counselor thinks I should leave altogether to get healthy. Although I hear her, it causes me anxiety to let go completely, even though I can tell there isn't much left. I hope that working on my self esteem and letting go as I can will help me to move on.

Many childhood issues caused this especially knowing my father was abandoned by his first wife - my heart felt so bad for him, plus my best friend was killed by a car and I heard it happen- when I was 4 or 5 etc. I have come along way - left a 20+ year abusive marriage 15 years ago or so. I can tell it is not that unusual - from your column - but it hits a fear that I must have had all my life. Any ideas on the best way to overcome this irrational fear?

Cathy (BC, Canada)

Hello Cathy, I tend to trust the wisdom of my body and I might suggest the same for you. It sounds as if you've done a chunk of work already and a part of you recognizes that you're just not ready to take the final step in letting him go. The pain of leaving your ex-husband is altogether too painful at this time.

Indeed, it's very possible that at some level, he's serving another more important purpose. He is triggering your feelings of abandonment.

Remember, as I suggested above, these feelings are not just about him. They could very well be about your early years. The way the brain is interconnected makes this a likely scenario. This is how the present heals the past.

Furthermore, the only way we can heal an emotion is to feel it. Each time we do so and if we are met or are provided with a resource, it changes the feeling. That's the notion of titration.

Over time, the emotion can evolve to something quite different than what it is today. It's just possible that you need to be more resourced in this area before making a change.

And, it's been my experience that when we're emotionally ready, we naturally step into the change. I suspect that when you're ready, you probably won't give it much thought. He won't be tugging on your heart in the same way and you'll find yourself just moving on without ceremony. That's when you know you've changed.

I would set clear boundaries in the relationship so you are very clear on the frequency and nature of the contact with him. Establishing clear boundaries will help you feel more settled because you will know what to expect and you'll be less triggered into feelings of sadness over the break-up.

This will require that you raise the subject with him. What does "being friends" mean to you? to him? Is it a once a week walk in nature or a once a month phone call? He will probably want to "leave it up in the air" but this often serves little purpose for you.

When we have been left, we tend to leave ourselves out of this equation believing it's all in our partner's hands. You have a right to set the nature of the relationship at this stage too. Be clear what works for you. For instance, don't let the situation evolve so that he can drop by anytime. Being specific on the kind of contact you have helps you to be prepared and can give you a measure of control in the situation.

I'd like to try reframing your situation.

You probably realize that your "irrational" fears are based on experience. From this standpoint they are actually quite rational when you understand how they evolved. You've been hurt before and your fears are real. Coming from this place, you can see that nurturance is what you need now.

In other words, that you are holding onto him is serving a self-soothing purpose. Your psyche needs to feel that a caring other is around. You can use this knowledge anytime you feel alone or in need of a caring other. During moments of sadness or aloneness, recall the things that others care about you. Pause for a moment of quiet reflection and take this into your heart. This is how resourcing helps to change an emotion.

It can also be useful to take him into your heart as long as it doesn't trigger "I wish I was back with him". Stay in that place of knowing he cares about you. The more present you are and less judging you do around it, the more healing can take place.

Hope that helps Cathy,

All the best,

Shrinklady


Can abandonment pain be physical?

I'm experiencing really intense abandonment pain, but not in the relationship with my husband. And I know that transference issues are also messed up in it. But it started out as jealousy, and when I thought about the jealousy and the very physical pain I was feeling, it came down to abandonment.

I feel it physically as a very deep pain in my chest, it takes my breath away at times and I see black. And I hate having all of it, and it's not logical, and I can't get rid of it and I don't know what to do.

Anne (Northampton, USA)

Hi Anne, it sounds as if you're right in the thick of things, working through something really important. I know it can feel pretty awful to experience a lack control. Not understanding how all this erupted makes it all the more intense.

The workings of the brain can feel illogical however the fact that this is surfacing for you suggests that you're ready to take on an issue that's probably been affecting you for some time. If you're like many folks, you may not even have been aware of its existence.

It might help you to know that emotional pain and physical pain reside in similar places in the brain. We're wired this way you see, because loss of connection is hooked into our survival mechanism. The "black" you experience is a physiological sign of its strength and a need for you to attend to it. You're being triggered and your body sensing the urgency.

It's so important to take the time out to bring your awareness into the present. The easiest way I know how is to feel the sensations in your body. In my experience, this helps us to own that which we project outwardly and it tends to lessen the transference. The best place to do this is in the presence of a well-trained therapist.

I hope you choose to see a therapist Anne if you haven't already. What's happening to you right now may seem insurmountable however it's also an opportunity to expand your life in ways you might not have imagined. My hope is that you will find sufficient resources to help you through it.

All the best,

Shrinklady


Can abandonment cause kindergarten melt downs?

Hi, I have a five year old grandson who has recently started kindergarden. Everyday at 2pm he is having a melt done in class. Starts crying, screaming. He is also saying things like, My mom isn't special, she won't come to school with me, I don't like mom.

His dad has left 3 times, and gone now. He has a 2 year old brother. We are sure he is having abandonment issues and we are wondering if there is anything that we can do to help the little guy.

Mom makes sure she has a lot of one to one with him as well as talking things through with him. We sure hope that you are able to give us some kind of gudiance.

Thank you,

Shelley (Kamloops, BC)

Hi Shelley, I can only imagine how this has gotten everyone quite puzzled. I'm glad you reached out for help. And so did I. I asked a colleague of mine, Dr. Carole for her thoughts and reflections.

First off, we would encourage you to get this problem addressed with a play therapist or a child psychologist. A therapist would do a thorough job of exploring all possible variables, forming and testing several hypotheses until the problem was fully assessed and hopefully resolved.

We also suggest seeking a professional therapist even if the behaviour disappears in the near future. A change in behaviour doesn't necessarily mean the issue has been resolved for the little guy. This kind of dynamic can go underground and potentially wound quite deeply, inadvertently shaping his personality and self-esteem. The best time to work with a problem like this is when it's showing up in his behaviour.

As you might have read in the other posts, abandonment issues stay with us. They shape our character and relationships in ways that we often don't have awareness of until we are adults..and it's a heck of a lot more work later on to shift these neurobiological attachment patterns.

One of the first things that struck us was the notion that "mom" is a safe target. We've seen this over and over again with children. The absent parent is idealized and the one that's present gets all the upset and anger. So, if Mom is feeling hurt by his words, I hope she appreciates it doesn't necessarily reflect badly on her.

Moreover, when he is saying "Mom isn't special" we think he might be making a reflection on his own self-esteem i.e. "I'm not special, if I was, Daddy wouldn't have left".

With his Dad gone, this little guy is now the male head of the household. This new "role" for him might unconsciously figure into his feelings about himself and the situation.

One thing to remember is that his feelings are coming from the emotional centers in the brain. Words (i.e. the left brain) are not always the best way to soothe (you can't often settle a child down in a thunder storm merely by explaining where the noise  comes from). It's the soothing tone of voice and being held that actually helps calm a child (i.e. using right-brain strategies).

Right now, the idea of going home might conjure up feelings of being left so he may be reacting to that. It might help to have something to help him transition from school to home.

In other words, he needs to have a different experience, one his emotional brain can learn from. This is what a therapist can help you to create for him.

One thing, we wondered about the possibility of Mom spending some time in the classroom with him (around 2 PM) so he establishes memories of her being there with him. That way she could provide the soothing voice and cuddles that he needs when he is in such distress. He'll be able to tap into these resources when he later anticipates the trip home.

When you get a better handle on what's going on for him, you might try a little technique that's used quite successfully by child therapists:

Create a story about a small boy with a name similar to his name (e.g. Robbie for Bobbie). Then describe similar circumstances that he's gone through (with good explanations) and the specific triggers you've uncovered that are troubling him. Here's an outline of a story and how it might be used for a child having a hard time adjusting to daycare.

The story might include the idea that "Mom is working at her office and all day long she's thinking about Robbie. She remembers how Robbie likes this or that and how they played at the park. She imagines him at the daycare and how he enjoys playing with his friend there. And, when her work is done she can't wait to get to the daycare to see him. Mom scoops up Robbie and they head off home together"...happy ending.

This story helps him understand that even though Mom's not with him, she's thinking of him.

So, these are our thoughts. We hope they're helpful.

All the best for you and your family, Shelley.

Shrinklady and Dr. Carole


Took years to trust love.

when i was 3 my grand father died in an accident and my mothers manic depression was triggered and has been that way most of my life. my father never really paid attention to me and a lot of the time I felt he hated me (ADHD). I was crap at school and never really got on with many people.

As I grew up I had to deal with a lot of bullying and slagging. My oldest sister left home when I was 13 and set up more abandonment. when I finished school I went working various jobs until I headed to Australia with friends (life changing trip).

I'm now back home and I'm back in college. I got diagnosed with dyslexia and (ADHD) this Year. I'm actual quite happy now but its my abandonment issues that are holding me back. I can't get into a relationship with a girl and find it hard to trust anyone except my other sister who gives me unconditional love but it took me years to take it.

Regards...Den 29

Thanks Den for sharing your story. I'm glad to hear you're happier these days. It's not hard to imagine how you might have developed issues around abandonment. In light of her father's sudden death and your mother's subsequent emotional state, you would not have received the kind of attuned care you needed.

In addition, your father's unpredictability and his inability to connect with you probably intensified your feelings of loss.

One of the interesting things I noticed was, as you put it "…it took me years to take it." I assume you mean that it took some time before you could truly accept your sister's love. I've witnessed this dynamic many times in my work as a therapist. In fact, truth be told, I've also been there myself.

Childhood scars can hamper not only our ability to love others but also our capacity to receive love. I've seen many very loving people who are incapable of taking in love from others. It's easy to understand why if we see that our first love was met with withdrawal (by your mother, even though it was obviously not intended) and judgment (by your father).

I hope you pursue a course of therapy Den. In my view, it's the most effective and fastest way of moving beyond these issues. You obviously have the potential for a full life with a loving relationship.

All the best,

Shrinklady


Don't expect anything from me.

I have had a fair bit of councilling in my time and was told to look at abandonment issues. A lot of what's on this site rang true for me. I have had only two relationships because I just don't trust people. My parents weren't particularly affectionate and I spent the first three weeks of life in a humidicrib.

I never really formed any emotional bonds with anyone but it seems to have spread across to my work life as well. Any time anyone expects anything of me I seem to push them away until they leave me alone. I would like to find a way to resolve this as I like my current job but seem to be following the same pattern. I'm not sure about giving relationships another go...baby steps I guess.

Amanda (Australia)

Yes, Amanda, I'd agree with you, "baby steps". They offer the greatest chance of changing old implicit patterning.

Bringing as much honesty into your relationships as you can tolerate is a good beginning. On the down side however, if you attempt this, it is very important that you own your stuff as you do so. My experience is that this is easier said than done. Many folks don't get this part very well.

We all change through relationships but my experience is that this process is a hit and miss endeavour and it takes much longer than the changes we create through a therapeutic relationship. This is because a relationship with a therapist offers a much greater chance of safety than relationships outside our sessions. By engaging in a therapeutic relationship, your emotional brain will learn new ways of being, new ways of relating to others.

You mentioned that you've had a fair bit of counseling. I wonder if was relational? Was your therapy sustained enough to allow a deep connection with your therapist? Was the subject of how you and your therapist work together brought to the table?

You might find the article on corrective emotional experiences helpful. It's these types of healing moments that create the difference that makes the difference.

All the best,

Shrinklady


My partner's abandonment issues hurt me.

The issue here is not me but my partners. She was adopted as an infant but still harbors very strong angry feelings to her birth mother, there has been no contact what so ever between them and although her adoptive family is wonderful she still is having issues.

These issues affect our relationship greatly. There is the anger and lack of trust that occurs every time we have a disagreement. She refuses to go to therapy, what can I do to help and possibly help with her discomfort?

Elyse (Tampa, USA)

Hello Elyse, I can see that you sincerely want to help your partner. I'm going to suggest something that might sound opposite to your current strategy. I suggest that you first start to take care of yourself in this relationship. Helping her through her discomfort may actually - inadvertently - be making the situation worse. You see, you may be taking on her stuff when you need to be setting better boundaries for yourself.

Otherwise, there is much you can do. She needs to "feel" the problem in order to be motivated to get help. It is just possible that your fears are interfering with your ability to call her on her behaviour. And if that's the case, it's very likely you'll end up looking as if you have the problem.

I'd encourage you to stay in the present as much as possible. Maintain good boundaries by calling her on inappropriate anger as you see it. Don't take it on if you feel it's misplaced or out of proportion to the situation you're dealing with.

When she distrusts you, be sure to state clearly and calmly that this is not your intention. If she is continues to feel this way, help her to understand that it's not something you can resolve for her. She must do this herself. As long as you take it on, she will be less motivated.

Just so you know, refusing to take on other people's stuff is not something folks learn to do just by having a greater awareness of the patterns. This is exactly how therapy can be useful. I'd encourage you to consider it for yourself.

From your post I was also wondering if you were getting frustrated with her anger and distrust? Is it possible that she's heard your analysis of her history? I'd like to say a few words on this if that's the case.

In situations such at these, it is tempting to want to analyze the situation for your partner to help her to see how the pattern is repeating. We try these strategies as a way to get our needs met. However, it is usually more effective and certainly, far more respectful of one's relationship, to address our needs directly.

I've learned that folks who are in similar situations as yourself sometimes have difficulty in managing boundaries and expressing their needs. They want their partners to change so they won't have to change and go through the angst of saying more clearly what they want and setting good boundaries. If so, this is why therapy can be useful for you personally.

In an atmosphere of distrust, interpretations are usually felt as accusations and are not well received. Indeed, it is up to each individual to speak his or her own story. I suspect that her history is more complicated than what it appears on the surface.

I'm tempted to think she may be angry with your impatience (as with "still having issues"). This would not be a line of argument you would use to mobilize her to consider therapy. Doing so would mean giving into the idea that her history could be summed up by what you seem to be implying (i.e. she is holding on for no good reason).

Thanks for you question Elyse, I wish you all the best in your relationship,

Shrinklady



Help! I'm a serial abandoner.

Hi I am 28 and a serial abandoner. My father was always away at work weeks at a time. The times when he was around it was spent in anger and physical abuse towards my siblings and mother. He had a hot temper and liked to break things. The abuse went on for about ten years of my life. When he wasn't in a violent rage he was an amazing man. Supportive, sacrificing and very helpful around the house. I admire him to til this day.

My mother was a natural diplomat and always buried and was the enabler of all problems. She was a housewife who was a perfectionist and was unsupportive of anything emotional. At a young age my mother did harbor a few casual affairs. No one else knows about the affairs outside of me and my brother. I assume that was the main reasons for my fathers rage since he was otherwise a charming intellectual loving man. They are still together to this day. Their love for each other was always present although never shown in any physical or emotional way.

As for me I have dated alot of men. I am always the one who abandons the relationship. I always date guys who are supportive and emotionally safe. Anytime I meet a man who I find very ideal I usually screw it up somehow. I pride myself on being the master at manipulating men to fall in love with me. Deep relationships are very far/few in between.

My abandonement issues are very apparent. I have a reputation for never commiting to anything. I am only faithful in the beginning months of my relationships. My last relationship ended four months ago and we were best friends for 7 years prior. I trusted him more then anyone in the world. I finally opened up and let someone in. I've always had mild insomnia and started taking Xanex in a very unorganized/unprescribed manner. That made me very depressed in which led to other hard drugs that only further the depression. He resented me for many things and started to be emotionally unavailable knowing that was the only way he could hurt me.

After a long battle he decided to leave me which I thought was completely justified because of my unfaithful behaviors. I've pretty much worked out everything and learned my lessons and am happy for him.

I'm usually really quick about moving on and finding replacements however this time around I just kept myself very busy in a positive way and have been isolating myself from the world. I feel lonely but I feel safe. I am otherwise a well adjusted balanced indivdual. I love life and who I am today. I just want to fix all my emotional disorders so that i can be truly happy one day. Thank you very much

Niki (Orange County, USA)

Hello Niki, it takes courage to face ourselves and it's clear that you have done some deep soul-searching. You are aware of the pattern. As soon as the intensity your relationship peaks, you make your exit. Your fears are overwhelming. You abandon him to avoid any chance he might leave you.

It doesn't surprise me that you reached for drugs to help sustain you in this last relationship. Getting the love from your friend of many years would have been enormously triggering…not because it was bad but because it was so good. You see, this love more easily triggers the longing you might feel for a heart-felt connection. But this same connection would undoubtedly harken back to your childhood where the pain still lingers.

It's in this dark space that primal, survival-related fears of being abandoned reside. Until they are worked through and resolved (in a titrated way), you'll be continually compelled to repeat old patterns.

But our awareness of the pattern can only take us so far. We need to have a more positive experience to unlearn old ways and imprint new ways of being in the world. This is why I encourage you to find a good therapist (I couldn't tell from your post if you were in therapy). A strong therapeutic relationship offers hope. We will repeat patterns from our childhood until we move through the emotions powering them.

So, choose your therapist wisely. One who clearly understands this.

Niki, it's also obvious to me that despite what appears to be a set-back, your entry into this last relationship is also very hopeful. I believe you are moving more closely to having this issue resolved than you ever were. Did it ever occur to you that it was only recently that you were able to take this relationship on?

It's very possible you were not strong enough to go there before. The way I see it, you were ready to take on a deeper connection. This was your next move and while it might not have ended in the way you wanted, it has helped you to see your pattern more clearly. And that's a giant step towards changing it for good.

Take care Niki,

Shrinklady


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aha! I get it. That's why I get so freaked out.