We all have fears, because we are all human. Secretly, every human has had a fear of abandonment at some point. Abandonment issues, however, are a different beast altogether.
Deep fear of abandonment, if it’s not properly grieved, will cripple you and cause the slow painful death of every good relationship you have.
This article will be your definitive guide on abandonment issues in relationships. I’ll help you test yourself (or someone else) for signs of abandonment issues, and we will go through 15 undeniable signs you have a fear of abandonment.
I can remember looking through my adoption record, which the local government services had so responsibly kept on file for 21 years. They were kept there should I ever decide to search for my birth mother.
I looked slowly through my records. I was eager to learn, but my body was also full of trepidation.
Through these records, I learned what happened to me as a newborn baby. I learned what happened to my birth mother and everyone around her. I also learned what ultimately led to my being taken from my mother the moment I was born.
No cuddles. No breastfeeding. I was just taken from her. Then I was placed into a hospital crib, waiting hopefully for a foster carer to pick me up.
- As babies we need full, healthy attachment…
- Sign #1: You preemptively push people away
- Sign #2: Shame haunts you
- Sign #3: You keep going back to people who don’t actually care about you
- Sign #4: You think abandonment is always around the corner
- Sign #5: You secretly don’t feel worthy of love
- Sign #6: You think no man can be trusted
- Sign #7: You are always chasing approval
- Sign #8: You just can’t say ‘NO!’
- Sign #9: You’re afraid to have a real opinion
- Sign #10: You can’t seem to ask for help (or be relied upon when others need help)
- Sign #11: You never give 100%. You hold back so that you don’t give too much.
- Sign #12: Your lovers have felt abandoned by YOU
- Sign #13: You replace love with addictions
- Sign #14: You quietly believe you are superior to those close to you
- Sign # 15: You cling cling cling
- Where to go from here…
As babies we need full, healthy attachment…
As I was learning about the history of, well, myself…I came to a little story. A story of the moment I was picked up from the hospital (not too many days after my birth mother gave birth to me).
They described the emotions of this week-old baby so vividly.
The carefully handwritten words told my story back to me. “Baby Marie”, as they called me then, was picked up by her foster mother. She was to take the 4 hour car trip down to Melbourne, Australia. Baby was very unsettled, she cried most of the way.”
Suddenly upon reading that, my entire body was overcome with a peculiar feeling of grief. I knew grief. Just not like that.
But it wasn’t just grief. I was suddenly gripped by this overpowering sick feeling in my stomach. I burst into tears and couldn’t make myself stop. I couldn’t remember a time where I’d grieved like that.
I can’t explain this to you without risking sounding like a crazy person. But in that moment I knew I was feeling the grief of a newborn baby.
Babies are capable of grieving, as was stated by Robert Karen, P.H.D. in his book “Becoming Attached.” Perhaps the older parts of me somehow connected to the newborn part of me in that moment. In ways I obviously don’t understand yet, at least intellectually.
I was feeling what couldn’t be articulated by myself as a newborn. The grief. The separation and loss of my very own mother. She never got to hold me, look at me, or even find out whether I was a girl or a boy.
It turns out it wasn’t just me who struggled. Many years later I realized that the power of loss affected my birth mom just as much as myself.
Many researchers say that it is traumatic for a newborn to be separated from their birth mom or family. After all, that’s their genetic line pulled from them.
Well, I and many other adoptees know they are right.
And so began my long journey with abandonment issues, and fear of abandonment.
Many of you who know me, know that I had a long journey of healing from anxious attachment. And I have miraculously, (but also not so miraculously because I had the help of a securely attached husband) healed from that. Proudly, I can say that I am now a very different person.
Knowing how to grieve and process emotionally helped me a lot. Eliminating toxic people, though hard, (because that was most of the people in my life), helped tremendously.
But having my own children also helped. I was able to ensure that my children never went a moment without their mother, or without the mother’s milk they so needed (that I never had).
I held them close, and I still do.
I’ll never forget the look of sorrow in my oldest son’s eyes when I explained to him a portion of my story.
I told him that my real mom had to leave me behind. He was only 5 at that moment in time, but looking into the eyes of my own flesh and blood (which I had never had the privilege of experiencing for the first several decades of my life), changed me profoundly.
The meaning of that for me, and the value of that…is something I’m not sure I could accurately describe to you.
I can say with joy, that the ‘me’ that existed 15 or 20 years ago is not me now. That to me, is success.
But – boy do I remember being gripped by the invisible forces of fear. Fear of loss. Fear of being left behind and discarded.
I still feel it’s important to appreciate the ‘me’ from before. The one who was often feeling strangled by fear of abandonment.
Anger & dread; the emotions of an abandoned human
I couldn’t work out why I constantly felt this feeling of dread. I had gotten used to it, but somehow…it followed me everywhere.
I remember the anger that can come out at unexpected times. Anger that felt too big for me.
Anger over something you can’t quite pinpoint. But you know deep down inside that something bad happened, and you know it hurt. Badly.
Yet, you don’t have the conscious reference points or the visual memory to help yourself recover.
Your body and soul knows loss, but your mind tries to escape it
For many of us with signs of abandonment issues, our issues are not conscious.
They just linger on in our poor patterns of relating. They linger on in our semi awareness of our ever decaying sense of trust in people and the world.
So, having had no support for dealing with your issues, all you’re left with is a bunch of terrible patterns of “relating” to people at worse.
At best, you’re left with a bunch of intense emotions. Intense emotions that on some conscious level, you realize have very little to do with the current circumstances. Or the current people you try so desperately to keep in your life.
I didn’t know anything different than to exist the way I did, back then. But I learned how to open and connect with a man (and others) through those fears, and you can too. In fact, I wrote an article about this a while ago, titled how the fear of abandonment can make you more beautiful.
Actually being cheated on by my ex boyfriend didn’t help matters.
Having a mother who evidently only wanted me in her life for the image of having a child, and a father who outwardly told me he never wanted to adopt a child, did not help. He used to blame my mother for adopting. They’d fight about it, commonly within earshot.
Having parents who refused to attend my wedding and my father refusing to walk me down the aisle also didn’t help.
But there’s one thing I do know. And that is that if I can heal from abandonment issues, so can you.
I know that my story may not be your story.
You may have grown up with your own flesh and blood, and they may have still emotionally abandoned you.
Often it’s not about the genetic line. After all, maybe your family members, parents or friends have abandoned you in ways too painful to describe.
Sometimes their actions are so abominable, and it feels like it hurts so badly that they might as well have left you for dead.
Here’s the GOOD news
So without focusing too much on the emo side of things (cause I’m not usually one for writing “cut your wrist” type articles if you know what I mean), I have really good news for you.
The good news is this. With the right environment and the right conscious choices (made by you), you can move on from the crippling fear of abandonment.
At the end of these 15 signs of abandonment issues, I’ll give you three steps to take to heal from them.
I don’t know how much you really want to heal from your abandonment issues right now. You may just want to know the signs that you have abandonment issues.
But I know one thing: the very first person you cannot abandon is YOU.
That’s a promise you have to make to yourself.
If you don’t, not only will you be alone for the rest of your life, you will also emotionally abandon each and every person you love.
Can you live with that?
If you can’t, then perhaps this article may help you. I’m not perfect, but I’ve been there and I certainly remember a thing or two.
Testing your residual signs of abandonment issues…
So let’s test whether you have signs of abandonment issues or not. We will now discover the 15 undeniable signs of abandonment issues, and teach you how to deal with abandonment issues.
If you have 3 or less of these signs, you are probably somewhat normal on the spectrum of fearing abandonment.
If you have 4 to 8 of these signs, you most likely have a moderate amount of residual abandonment issues. If you have more than 8 of these signs of abandonment issues, then make sure you read to the end, where I will share with you what steps to take next.
We can also see how you can heal from your fear of aba to become the best partner possible in the future. Especially for the sake of your beloved (or future beloved).
Sign #1: You preemptively push people away
One word: sabotage. When you get close to someone, you push them away. The closer you get to someone, the more freaked out you get, so you shut off to the possibility of intimacy.
Instead of dealing with your deepest fears, you make it so that no relationship you have can force you to vulnerably feel your pain. You ensure that you don’t have to surrender to your abandonment issues or acknowledge your fear.
Instead of consciously grieving and feeling the fear of being left, cheated on or abandoned, you make sure you’re the first to abandon your lover. This is a way to ensure that you “get at” them before they get at you (read: hurt you).
People who preemptively push people away often aren’t even aware that they are doing it. They may not realize that they’re acting from old patterns, rather than intelligence or logic.
Sign #2: Shame haunts you
This one was hard to put into the list. Namely because admitting shame makes shame larger.
The more you realize you feel shame, then the more shame you feel, and the more shame you feel, the more you then feel a need to dissociate from those feelings, making those feelings seemingly non existent.
Shame is quite the monster.
Many people who have an issue with chronically feeling shame are in denial about it, or pretend it doesn’t exist.
If someone is pretending shame doesn’t exist, then can they really get value out of reading this point?
I am not sure. But I decided that I would put it here, because it’s real, and it can’t be ignored.
If you struggle with shame, that’s a sign that you’ve been abandoned as a child in some form or another.
It’s one thing to feel shame as a once-off occurrence due to doing something that broke some social rules. It’s one thing to feel shame for doing something once-off that really hurt someone, or transgressed their boundaries.
However, if your feelings divert to shame a lot in social situations or in your relationship, then you can be pretty sure you have a deep-seated issue related to abandonment.
Why is that?
It is due to a phenomenon called “ugly needs, ugly me.”
It’s because you were a child who internalised the lack of maternal or paternal embrace as “ugly needs, ugly me”. It is common among adults with shame.
It’s because shame comes about when we have been made to feel that our needs for closeness, attention, intimacy and praise are wrong, or “too much”.
By the way, so you can get a clearer picture of what a healthy attachment looks like, here are 10 ultimate signs of a healthy relationship.
If this happened to you as a child, it leads to haunting shame
When our needs are pretty much treated as a nuisance growing up, that leads to shame.
When and if a parent dismisses our needs as “needy”, and tells us we need to be more “independent”, that leads to shame, because we interpret our own needs as “ugly”.
It’s a vicious cycle. Because once those very natural needs are made wrong, those very natural needs don’t just go away. They are there for good.
Even if we develop an avoidant attachment style (or become emotionally unavailable) in order to detach from our primary needs, they don’t go away.
Detaching, having avoidant attachment style or being emotionally unavailable might make us look like we are “above” normal intimacy needs. Nevertheless, those needs never, ever go away.
And so, we always have the need, which means we always have the shame. But the more we need to fulfill that natural human need for attention, closeness, emotional or physical help, the more we HAVE to feel our shame.
And the more we have to feel our shame, the more shame we feel.
This sadly leads to us feeling fundamentally unlovable and unworthy of intimacy. It’s hard to escape the vicious cycle.
Shame is intricately linked to THIS
Shame is so intricately tied to our primary attachment style.
For example, my husband is and always has been, securely attached.
However, when we met, I was anxiously attached. That is, I had an anxious attachment style.
Thankfully, if you ask me (or even ask my husband), I’ve healed that at least 70% over the last 15 years. The anxious attachment hasn’t gone away fully. After all, I lived as an anxiously attached person for a couple of decades of my life.
You can probably guess that when we first met, I often felt shame in intimacy and in some social situations.
Oh do I feel an enormous sense of freedom, happiness and relief when I think about the fact that I’ve finally made it. I finally worked my way out of the perpetual shame hole.
Shame sometimes still shows up under extreme circumstances, but it has now been mostly replaced by a healing sense of love and adequacy.
But I know a thing or two about shame. It’s my ex foe.
I remember feeling ashamed of my very own existence. See, deep down, my intimacy needs weren’t met, and I was constantly on the verge of breaking down in grief. That is, grief over a loss too deep and vast for me to process.
Loss of not only my birth mother and family, but a loss of the adoptive parents I so desperately could not let go of (and tried to cling to).
I was adopted, as you may know by now from the above story. But the fact that I was adopted by two parents who I almost never hugged, and one of whom had severe sociopathy, you can imagine the abandonment I faced.
Their internal sense of shame and pain over not being able to have their own children, and their constantly struggling and insecure relationship made them very unfit to be healthy parents of any child.
One of them was better than the other from my point of view, but they were never unified for me, their only adopted child.
They were unified for the purpose of pursuing the perfect image. And the fact that I could never, ever live up to that image (first and foremost because I wasn’t of their genetic line), was a burden I carried for decades.
This is how you heal from shame
Yes, if you struggle with shame, it’s possible to heal. If someone like me, who was haunted by shame for the first 22 years of my life can heal from it, you can too.
I want you to know that the recipe to heal from that crippling shame lies in your ability to do the following 3 things:
1: Remove your attachment to the people who created your insecure attachment..
2: Create an environment where you only interact with the healthy people, not the toxic people. (here are 10 seemingly harmless signs of a toxic relationship if you need help with that.)
3: Grieve. And grieve a lot.
If shame follows you around, then you will also have a deep well full of anger, hurt and despair.
Feel all those emotions. Perhaps talk through them with a trusted lover, friend or therapist.
Make them real, don’t push them far away. The further you push them away, the more dysfunctional you will get, and the more your abandonment issues will control your entire life.
Take it from someone who was once there. It’s very possible to renew, to heal and to dust yourself off. Don’t be afraid. Grieve, because it’s a necessary part of the process.
Do you know what the 2 critical elements of any intimate relationship are and how they will make or break your love life? Find out the 2 critical elements here.
Sign #3: You keep going back to people who don’t actually care about you
You are used to seeking the approval of people who have emotionally abandoned you.
Perhaps that’s what you’ve known for most of your life, so you wouldn’t have a clue what a healthy relationship looks like.
People who have abandonment issues have been conditioned that way through repeated experiences of abandonment or loss.
Abandonment doesn’t just have to come through one big event. It can occur during a multitude of little moments that accumulate. This accumulation of moments eventually causes you to lose trust in the process of relating to others intimately.
Instead, you settle for surface relationships with the wrong kinds of people. You don’t necessarily know they don’t care, at least not consciously.
You’re aware of it in your gut, perhaps. But you override that because perhaps you don’t know any other way. You’ve been abandoned so many times that you’ve now become dependent upon superficial “replacements” for intimacy.
Replacements, such as having a good but superficial night out at a party with people who couldn’t give two sh*ts about you.
Replacements, such as hanging out with toxic people who insult you, treat you poorly, and break down your self esteem.
Here is an article for you on ‘Is having low value friends even worth it?’
If you have been abandoned as a child, young adult (or even as an adult), you won’t know that there’s the option to choose to befriend and be in a relationship with healthy people.
It may feel to you like there’s almost no way you can let go of the superficial relationships.
Perhaps because dealing with the truth that they never cared about you is too much.
Especially on top of all the other abandonment issues you already haven’t felt through or processed.
Sign #4: You think abandonment is always around the corner
You think abandonment is bound to happen (and you dread abandonment constantly).
People who have fear of abandonment generally fear abandonment. A lot. This one’s pretty simple.
If you fear abandonment in an uncalibrated way, that’s a sign of something deeper. What does “uncalibrated way” mean? It means that you desperately fear abandonment even in response to the slightest signals of separation or abandonment with your lover or friend.
So if you’re due for a short separation with your lover, and you are already fearing abandonment before anything else is said or done.
Because the fear of abandonment is so all-encompassing, this sign also includes the habit of seeing abandonment everywhere.
What we focus on becomes our reality
What we seek, we shall find. And it’s always easier to look for stories of abandonment when we feel like all we have known is abandonment. Because these stories do the job of keeping you small and shallow.
They ensure that you keep your old patterns.
What’s harder is to believe.
What’s harder is to seek out the stories of success, value, and fidelity.
Fears are powerful aren’t they?
Otherwise you wouldn’t have been searching about the topic of abandonment issues. Instead, you would have searched for stories of loyalty, love and fidelity.
Maybe your life has been so emotionally painful, and you’ve had so much trauma related to abandonment, that all you can see is the stories that reaffirm your own experience.
This is a dangerous position to be in. You come to a place where all you can hold onto is all the terrible stories of women and men who have been cheated on, left, used or abandoned.
These are the secret thoughts of someone with abandonment issues
And when you hear about them, you almost feel a sick sense of affirmation.
“Yes, jackpot!!” You secretly think.
“See, I told you so!” You think.
“I knew it!” You think.
“Those women in successful marriages don’t REALLY have faithful husbands!” You think.
What a sad and self destructive place to be in.
Yes, the world can be an ugly place.
Yes, people cheat.
But yes, also, to the world being a beautiful place.
Yes also, to lovers being faithful for life. There are people with morals and integrity. There are people (men, lovers, partners whatever you want to call them) out there who would never leave you.
Take it from someone who was abandoned repeatedly. I found my one. And I started to believe again.
And you know what? This sign, (you think abandonment is everywhere), is a big one.
Some coaches prey on this fear of abandonment
And it’s so easy for some dating coaches to prey on this. In fact, in the corners of the interwebs where they teach women to choose rich men, they use this fear.
They teach women that they should only approve of and choose men who provide lavishly from the start. They go on to use stories of abandonment perhaps to scare the bejeezus out of women.
These women then become completely blind to the truth of what a high value man really is. They get stuck in this superficial cycle that does nothing but keep them single.
A man’s value to you can be connected to the amount of money he has, but it is also often not connected to that at all. Here’s an article where I explain more: Can A broke Or Jobless Man Still Be High Value?
The women who follow these coaches get hooked on the negative stories. They become reliant on fear, or fear of abandonment to so called help them “choose” the “high value” men. But all it does is ensure that they stay single for a very. long. time.
Just because one broke man once “used” a financially stable woman to start his own business, and then left her for someone younger, does not mean that all broke men will do the same.
Not all once broke or jobless men who team up with a financially stable woman will end up abandoning that woman.
The women who latch onto these stories often get sucked into the false comforts promised by the devil. The devil lures them in with the sick appeal of fear. “If you fear abandonment like me, you will also ensure that you will get a rich man who provides, conquers, and never leaves you or uses you.”
Sadly, these women then don’t care for getting to know a man’s soul. Instead, they choose men based on their abandonment issues or their own sense of entitlement.
Entitlement is not high value. In fact, not only is entitlement a sign that you’re fearful, it’s a sign that you’re showing up low value.
If you would like to know the 7 common signs a woman is showing up low value in the eyes of men, here is a free report on that.
Whether someone abandons us or not has everything to do with who they are, and the quality of the relationship that you build with them.
Not with their financial standing. Not with their social status. And not with their initial appearances of generosity that might or might not indicate real emotional commitment!
Remember, fear begets fear. Resentment begets resentment. Toxicity begets toxicity.
If you trust fear of abandonment more than you trust love, or hope, you’re in trouble. You’re really just abandoning yourself and your own love life.
Ask yourself whether siding with the stories of abandonment are really who you are in your soul.
This will make or break your love life…
You want to know something important?
It takes no courage to side with your fears.
It takes courage to side with the bravery inside your soul.
Your soul wants love. Your soul knows love.
And when you bring that energy to the world, you will meet another soul who also knows love.
Then, you will speak to that other soul, and form a real connection.
And so you should.
Because the alternative is distance. Remember, you wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for love in some form.
When you are biased and you trust your fears, you become a petty person. You stay small and you only create more distance between yourself, your friends, family and men.
So when would now be a good time to decide what you want to side with?
When would now be a good time to decide what you need to trust more?
Fear or love? Which one will it be?
Sign #5: You secretly don’t feel worthy of love
In other words, you secretly don’t feel worthy of love but you are in denial about it or don’t even know it.
Some of us who have abandonment issues walk around with the feeling that we are simply not worthy of a real, sacred, close relationship.
We carry this burden of “I am not worthy”. It’s not even conscious. It’s a bodily memory from the past.
Here’s what I mean. As babies, we are very needy. As toddlers and young children, we are also needy.
If our cries for attention and belonging are repeatedly ignored, our mind and body gets one message.
That message is: I am unworthy.
I’m unworthy of emotional safety.
I am unworthy of love.
I am unworthy of any real relationship.
I am unworthy of the love and attention of the opposite sex.
“Why would someone want me in their life?” our subconscious memory asks.
There’s really no way around the fact that big events of abandonment can leave us feeling unworthy of relationship and intimacy.
Of course, not all of us will interpret abandonment this way. But if no one is around to help us process the event, most of us will learn that abandonment means that they are unworthy.
The worst thing about feeling unworthy of love is not that we actually feel unworthy of love.
It’s that we pretend we don’t have that feeling.
It’s kind of like the emotion of shame. We’ve all felt it. But most of us never want to talk about our shame if we had the choice. Because it makes it more real.
It’s the same with a lack of worthiness. Shame of course, does tie into that.
The moment you realize you don’t feel worthy of connection…
I can remember a few years back, I found one of my biological half brothers on one side of my biological family. We gradually developed a sibling relationship, but we came to a hiccup along the way. Something happened and I wasn’t able to communicate further with him (at least in that moment).
The connection stalled and I couldn’t seem to engage deeper with him.
I remember telling my husband about this. I was trying to make sense of it. After listening to me for perhaps a few minutes, hubby said “you feel unworthy of connecting with him.”
I said: “nah”, and looked away.
My knee jerk reaction was one of “who the heck are you to say that to me? How insensitive and confronting of you”
I didn’t say that to him of course. Some ancient part of me said that. It was just a message from my subconscious mind.
He said: “yeah, you do feel unworthy of his love.”
“What?!” is all I could muster.
I looked away and murmured a few incoherent things to myself. I could feel myself going into a daze. I was zoning out, not sure how to handle such a statement.
Then my hubby sat down next to me and said gently: “you’ve been here before. You’ve felt this before. You feel unworthy of his connection. That’s all this is.”
“Oh my god….” was all I could think.
I started panicking. “But…really?” I said.
“Yes.” He said.
I wanted to run away.
This was the last thing I wanted to deal with. I just wanted to continue on with the story I had made up in my mind. The probably incorrect story about why my biological half brother and I were having this disconnect.
But it wasn’t working. Hubby cut through all the BS and now there was no turning back.
Eventually, I relaxed into the truth.
“Yes”, I said.
“I do feel unworthy of our connection. It feels wrong to have more love in my life. It feels right to have less love in my life. That feels like HOME.”
What a….ridiculous notion.
It feels like HOME to have less love in my life? Talk about having a pattern of sabotaging good relationships.
Well, thank god for my husband because this saved me in my relationship with my half brother too.
I actually went ahead and told my half brother this. I said “sometimes I feel unworthy of our connection, because it’s too pure. Too real.”
To my surprise (which I really shouldn’t have been surprised), he completely cradled me in the moment I admitted that. He didn’t leave me. He didn’t abandon me in that moment of authentic vulnerability.
He said: “Awww….how could you ever, in ANY universe, not feel worthy of our connection?”
And that was that.
By the way, if you’d like to learn why some people pull away from you, here’s an article I wrote on the 12 Secret Reasons Some People Will Always Be Distant From You.
Sign #6: You think no man can be trusted
You’re a woman. Men are men. Of course you’re going to feel unsure of them and their intentions at times.
Indeed, you’re going to be suspicious of these humans who feel a little different to you.
The danger is not this inherent suspiciousness or ambivalence towards men’s actions or motivations. The danger is in turning one, two or more bad experiences with men into a reason to write off the male species entirely.
I understand trauma. I understand pain with men. I’ve been cheated on. I wouldn’t trust many men. But there’s also a lot of men that I would trust, if I had a deep enough connection and attraction with them.
It isn’t men that are bad and abandon women.
It’s the low quality emotional connection and low quality emotional attraction in your relationships with them that dramatically increase the likelihood of them abandoning you.
(By the way, a low quality connection in the relationship is your fault. It could be the result of one or two people inside of that relationship having poor patterns of relating, or due to one or both of you having insecure attachment.)
The lower the quality and depth of your relationship with men, the more likely you are to be abandoned by them in general.
The more your relationships with men began due to sex or lust, the more likely they will abandon you. That is because leading with your sex appeal, or your desire to be desired isn’t a good way of keeping men around.
Of course, whether a man abandons you or not, also has to do with his morals and values.
But I believe that counts for less than the quality of your relationship with them!
Many women will disagree with me on this. They don’t want to believe that if any man were to abandon them, it’s due to the quality of the connection. They’d rather believe the man is inherently bad.
People who show signs of abandonment do THIS a lot…
And that’s one reason why this sign is a sign that you may have abandonment issues: because people who deeply fear abandonment are also people who default to assuming the worst about people.
They are the people who think the world is only full of people who abandon others. That’s the job of abandonment issues and fear of abandonment.
On the one hand, the job of fear alone, in its purest most spontaneous state, is to help save your life and also protect you emotionally.
However, abandonment issues are a different beast altogether. They take on the job of or-arching rejection of intimacy and trust.
The job of abandonment issues is to consume you and blind you to the truth.
But if you keep making your dating and relationship decisions based on this sense of distrust, then is it helpful?
Or is it more destructive?
This takes me back to the point before where we discussed the sign “you think abandonment is always around the corner”.
If you have abandonment issues, then you know the drill, right? It goes like this.
You always think you’re smarter for seeing the “bad intent” and the “evil” in men. You tend to think people who believe and trust men are always “inexperienced”, “too young”, or “naive”.
This is what holding onto fear does. It makes us rather uncalibrated and causes us to prematurely and disproportionately assume bad intent in others.
And then something like the ‘me too’ movement comes along. And you see some of the celebrities that you previously admired as honest men come crashing down, along with their reputation.
Then you decide that men are irrefutably untrustworthy.
The truth is that the male species is not specifically untrustworthy. But when you have an underlying belief that tells you that “all men leave”, and “men can’t be trusted”, then you’ll convince yourself that’s true no matter what.
Sign #7: You are always chasing approval
Are you addicted to approval? Or are you perhaps a pleaser woman?
When you have abandonment issues that have developed since you were a child due to actually being abandoned, your ability to relate with and befriend people authentically will be obstructed.
This is because you have lots of unmet primal, human needs for attachment. There’s essentially a gaping hole that has never been filled.
The challenge is that even if you’re not consciously aware of that, you don’t just stop wanting or needing something resembling intimacy.
You just end up having to compensate somehow. You can call these things a coping mechanism, a distraction, fake intimacy – whatever you want to call it.
What this means is that instead of trusting intimacy (which someone who didn’t have abandonment issues would do), you replace it with something that looks or seems like love.
Since every human ultimately wants to experience love (whether they let themselves or not), we don’t just choose to pull away for good. Inside, we still search for something that resembles love.
That something that resembles love is often approval.
Often, what looks and seems like love is actually just approval. And we often seek this approval from the same people who have already abandoned us before.
Due to the fact that this has become a habit since we were a child, we now default to approval seeking. This is because we’ve never been given the safety and opportunity to grow out of it.
Though everyone seeks approval at some point, everyone also has to grow out of perpetual approval seeking at some point.
It’s still ok to seek approval from time to time. That’s normal to do every now and then when you get involved with someone.
Yet, if approval seeking is all you recognise as a trustworthy exchange in a relationship, that’s a worry.
Approval seeking is something people with abandonment issues often default to. The reason is because the people who abandoned them in the first place, could have been selfish or narcissistic people.
These selfish or narcissistic people are usually manipulators whose best currency is approval.
In other words, manipulators want YOU to seek their approval. They rely on it to keep thier position of power.
These are selfish people who force the people around them into approval seeking. Perhaps all they attract is approval seekers, because they’re manipulative.
The trouble with having the primary pattern of defaulting to approval seeking, is that you won’t realize it. Unless someone tells you.
What are the signs that you default to approval seeking?
One clear signal that you default to approval seeking is that you try to share your personal successes in exchange for “love” (read: approval).
Another clear sign is that you’re always over-crossing your own boundaries. You’re willing to almost completely sacrifice your own needs in order to get someone else to “belong” to you or to get their attention.
Handing over money or donations when intuitively you feel it’s not right by yourself to do so, is a good sign that you have very poor personal boundaries. It’s also a good sign that….you guessed it. You seek approval.
Sign #8: You just can’t say ‘NO!’
Do you have trouble saying no? It’s not always a sign that you have abandonment issues, but it definitely can be.
Sometimes people fear saying “no” because they’re afraid of getting hurt physically. So it’s not always a sign of abandonment issues, as I mentioned.
However, if you feel that in order to ‘keep people around’ in your life, you must acquiesce to the things they want all the time, then you’re operating from fear. Fear of abandonment to be exact.
A lot of us who have abandonment issues would rather keep mediocre friendships and relationships in our lives than we’d rather say ‘no’’, and risk them leaving us.
With women, this often comes up in dating when the man wants sex before she is ready. Not all women are ready for sex when the man is, but many women acquiesce to the demands for sex from the man, as they hope that this would keep him around.
Yeah, it might keep him around, but it doesn’t mean he wants a real relationship with you after that!
So you really need to be careful with this. Have solid boundaries around sex. That’s what a strong woman is. She is a woman who has the capability and willingness to exert her boundaries.
Think Casual Sex is Harmless? Then, I suggest you think again and read this article about the secret cost of casual sex for women.
Sign #9: You’re afraid to have a real opinion
You think that by agreeing with someone all the time, they’ll love you more and be less likely to abandon you.
Of course, people can be afraid of voicing their opinion for many reasons. We’ve all been afraid to voice our opinion in the right context before, I’m sure.
Some people don’t want to give their opinion because they don’t want to get their ass kicked.
Some people don’t voice their opinion because they feel there is no point doing it with particular people. (Why waste the energy?)
Some people want to protect their child and family. (In this day and age where information is being censored left right and centre, it makes sense for many people to have a healthy sense of fear about voicing their real opinion. In particular circumstances.)
I consider these to be a well calibrated and healthy level of fear about voicing one’s opinion. Kind of like picking your fights sensibly.
Although, if your primary modus operandi in a close relationship is that of having no opinions, that’s unhealthy.
Maybe you have that pattern due to the fact that all healthy development of opinions was conditioned out of you.
Perhaps somewhere along the line you learned that having opinions of your own meant that someone else felt abandoned by you. And you didn’t want to be abandoned by them, so you hold back all of your own thoughts.
Or perhaps you really are too oppressed or scared to have opinions. Oppressed is also a manifestation of the signs of abandonment issues, of course.
So if you have fears about voicing your opinion, ask yourself: “Is this me wanting to hold back my opinion due to being street smart?”
“Or do I always fear voicing my opinion, irrespective of context?”
And, “is this actually a sign that I deeply fear abandonment or have abandonment issues?”
Sign #10: You can’t seem to ask for help (or be relied upon when others need help)
An child or adult who hasn’t been abandoned by their mother or father will comfortably flow between independence and asking for help (depending on others when needed).
If you were abandoned, then you won’t trust relationship.
You won’t believe in connection and intimacy. You’ll assume that help and assistance won’t come. So, you either ‘cope’ by resisting it (and being emotionally unable to) ask for help or pretending you don’t need it.
Consequently, because your relationship with asking for help is so kinked, you also won’t be able to be relied upon to help others when they really need you.
You’ll feel contempt towards people who ask for help as if it’s “disgusting”, “wrong”, or “weak”.
You may want to help, but you just can’t be that consistent, dependable person. You don’t have that sense of inherent “goodness”, if you will.
Sign #11: You never give 100%. You hold back so that you don’t give too much.
If you believed you would ultimately be abandoned, then why would you invest in that person?
You’d always hold back. Even if it’s 10%.
But do you think your lover, your children or your friends would feel that missing 10%?
I will suggest to you that the difference between giving 100% and giving 90% is big, especially over time.
And most people who have abandonment issues hold back a lot more than just 10%.
This can be devastating for the quality of their relationships over time. They will go through partners like crazy, or simply just not be able to form any relationship, due to fear.
Negative, toxic messages from peer groups or from the outside world can make an insecurely attached person (who fears abandonment) sink deeper into depression (and singledom!).
Well-meaning friends can sometimes unintentionally turn you into a man-repeller (or woman-repeller if you’re a man), by encouraging you to resent the opposite sex, or by encouraging you to adopt “fake standards” for yourself.
What are fake standards? They are standards you say you have, but are just a long checklist of things that you want to take from the world.
Don’t let other people, or other women influence you to just throw your expectations at a man in a relationship and do away with your own responsibility to add value.
If you cannot take responsibility for adding value, then it will be hard to make a man realize your value.
I don’t care what rules you have, if your rules get in the way of showing your presence and love, your relationship will foot the cost.
Especially if those rules arise out of deep seated abandonment issues (which they often do).
This attitude never has a relationship ending well. Ultimately, it only adds to the painful cycle of loss, for the person who has abandonment issues.
Why is this?
It is because a romantic relationship between a man and woman develops properly when both people are equally interested in, and attuned to each other.
If one of you is always holding back vulnerability, trust, love and presence, the other will leave, if they are smart. Attitudes like this also ensure that resentment continues to build in the relationship over time.
This is one of the glaring signs of abandonment issues…
People who have deep fear of abandonment and don’t know how to deal with abandonment issues, tend to hold back. They aren’t emotionally generous and therefore they don’t give their presence or their value.
They do this out of this overarching fear of being abandoned. They get sucked into petty ideas and rules about how they should expect this and that of men.
They probably grew up in an environment where their parents held back, weren’t emotionally generous, and kept their distance emotionally.
It’s never a good recipe for really falling in love with someone, or having a man fall in love with you!
Holding back due to an overwhelming sense of tension and closure in your body, is a recipe for disaster.
Ask me how I know. Oh how good of you to ask! I know because I did this in the past. I couldn’t figure out why my relationship was having issues. Once I fixed this attitude, and gave my presence and trust and my pure vulnerability, things turned out so much better with my man.
If you’re never letting yourself risk anything or be vulnerable, it will affect the quality of your interactions with your lover, or family, and others.
If you’re unsure how to be vulnerable, that’s understandable. A lot of people who fear abandonment don’t ‘get’ how to really be vulnerable, because they have not practiced it.
Like anything in life, you get better as you do the practice. Here’s an article that will help you understand better: How to be Vulnerable Without Being NEEDY.
If you suspect you might have abandonment issues, just know that you will sometimes (if not all the time) err on the side of stinginess in a relationship.
When the fear of abandonment is at the forefront of your mind, you’ll assume that if you give too much, then people will only take advantage of you. (And basically run off with your trust).
Sure, they might!
But living in fear won’t change the likelihood of being abandoned.
If you want to understand how to deal with abandonment issues, then understand that holding back in tension, fear and being small, is not the answer. It’s not the to attract the right people who would not abandon you!
Only your willingness to test people’s intent, as well as being attuned to the other person’s intent will influence that.
To learn about people’s intent, TEST them vulnerably first
Vulnerability counts for so much when it comes to ‘testing’ men and people in general.
This is one reason why my hubby and I specifically mention that on the very first date with a high value man (not the second or third), you offer to pay for something small. Like a coffee or a cup of tea.
The reason is not because we’re “feminists”. Nor is it because we believe a man should pay only 50% of the bill. (Although we are not against that. Everyone has to figure out what works best for them in their relationship).
For the record, I’m ont saying this because my husband and I go 50/50. We don’t. He provides for me fully. He’s always been far more comfortable giving me free access to all of his money. (and no, under no circumstance have I ever abused that.)
But the key is that as a woman, if you’re not willing to be vulnerable – if your primary mode is to “take” from men, and have rules for them, then you’re not going to be able to accurately test their intent!
Is $5 too much to risk for a coffee in order to find out how serious a man is about you, on the first date?
I think not. In fact, you’ll eliminate the ones who aren’t serious faster that way.
He’s an article and video my husband did on this topic. 3 Reasons Why it’s High Value for Women to OFFER to Pay on the First Date.
Sign #12: Your lovers have felt abandoned by YOU
If you’re someone with abandonment issues, you’re a hurt person. Full stop.
And you know what they say. “Hurt people, hurt people.”
The way others have done you wrong has stayed with you. It’s probably still very much in your bodily memory, tucked cleverly away from your conscious awareness.
You’ll abandon your lover.
You may abandon your children. In moments.
“Hold back.” your mind tells you.
‘Keep safe.” it says.
“Protect yourself….” it pleads.
“They’ll leave anyway.” it reminds you.
Your way of operating in relationships may feel like one huge constant state of emotional abandonment to your lover! Not just to your love, but to your family, friends or your kids.
And you may not realise it. Other people may not directly tell you in the way you would hear it. They just won’t feel emotionally close to you.
You’ll be the person that people admire perhaps. But you will not be the person that people feel close to, want to be intimate with, or even take care of.
So you have to listen to people, and watch carefully.
Be sensitive enough to feel their wincing. To see the pain in their eyes. The pain caused by you. Unintentionally. But you still caused it.
Abandoned people, abandon people
One of the first things to know in knowing how to deal with abandonment issues is that abandoned people, abandon people.
Why would this be so?
It is so because the state of abandoning others emotionally feels ‘safer’ to you. Your nervous system may not be able to handle the intimacy required in order to truly give your gifts.
By ‘gifts’ I mean give your presence, your heart, and your love in your own artful way. We all have a unique way and that unique touch comes through when you’re vulnerable and authentic enough.
I just want to remind you that it’s ok. It’s ok to trust vulnerability in this moment, more than you trust abandonment.
You need it.
Your soul needs it.
Your lover needs it.
Give a little more of your presence each day. Over time, it adds up.
And then, even if you don’t end up ‘together’ with this person, you walk away without the added burden of guilt related to always holding something back.
Then, not only do you have to process all the pain related to people abandoning you, you then have to grieve all the guilt on top of that.
Don’t get me wrong. A bit of guilt can be good. But not piles of guilt from leaving a trail of hurt people.
You don’t want that kind of burden if you can help it.
Sign #13: You replace love with addictions
If more people realised how much their addictions were there to replace the hole that abandonment dug, the world may be a better place.
Addiction could be anything. It could be alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate or sex.
An addiction to anything is really a way to cope.
When we “cope”, we often become disembodied.
What does it mean to be disembodied?
It means to be separated from the body or to be existing without the body.
Your body is a treasure trove of awareness and knowledge. It is absolutely necessary for love, connection and intimacy with another human.
But when you train your body to go to addictions, then you repeatedly train it to pull away awareness, love, sensitivity and responsiveness.
Without those things, you’ll have less intimacy in your relationship.
This is how you fill the hole of lost love & attachment…
A lot of us use food to fill the hole of lost love.
Take eating disorders as an example. We don’t feel nurtured, embraced and taken care of. So instead of processing those painful emotions, our only way to cope is to try to “control” food.
By controlling food, perhaps we can control our appearance in some way, so that perhaps the people around us may judge us less.
The less they judge us, the closer we’ll get to them loving us and always sticking around, right?
Nah not really.
This goes back to approval seeking. Just because people approve of you more if you somehow try to look a certain way, doesn’t mean they’ll be less likely to abandon you.
I use eating disorders as an example because lots of women can relate. So many of us are so scared of being abandoned that we become very controlling. And at the heart of eating disorders is control.
Trying to create the perfect image. That’ll keep ‘em sticking around, won’t it?
Not really. It just puts a band-aid over the issue.
Sign #14: You quietly believe you are superior to those close to you
I think it’s natural for people to feel superior at times.
Many of us want the feeling that we are superior in some contexts. For example, this thinking is partly what’s behind the “Us Vs Them” paradigm.
“We’re better than them”, because we’re different, we do it better, we’re more resourceful, smarter, better looking, etc.
However, when that feeling of superiority pervades even your close relationships, then you’re just an asshole.
But really, if you go to “I am superior” in your intimate relationships, you have to ask why.
Why would you want to feel superior to your lover? Are you playing zero sum games with your lover?
Why would you want to have a power trip over your husband or wife? Your children? Your parents or your brothers or sisters?
If it’s because you believe that it’s best to have other people more attached to you than you are to them, that’s a sign that you haven’t yet discovered how to deal with abandonment issues.
I mean, your love and your children, they’re the people you would ideally be the most loyal to. Unless they’ve badly hurt you, of course.
People who fear abandonment often go to the thought that they’re “superior” because they’re not like “those other people” who need attachment and relationships.
These people think they are superior since they are not “needy”. Instead, they assume they’re independent people who don’t really rely on others.
This is the sad story of an adult who has a hurting, abandoned child inside.
Trying to cope with your abandonment issues by perpetually assuming your superiority is just a way to escape your own torment.
The torment caused by an unattuned, rejecting mother or father.
Torment caused by an unexpected death of your mother or father when you were young.
Torment caused by repeated abuse and humiliation from a mother or father (who should have done nothing less than protect you).
Sign # 15: You cling cling cling
Babies, toddlers, children and perhaps even teenagers will cling at times. Babies especially so!
In nature, that clinging can actually be a sign of tenacity. I learned that from the book “becoming attached” by Robert Karen.
Be that as it may, an adult in an intimate relationship who clings to their lover like velcro is probably not doing it out of love or tenacity. They’re doing it out of dysfunction.
Clinginess has a “yucky” feeling to it precisely because the person is operating from a defective attachment style.
They haven’t developed that ‘secure base’ (as attachment theorists may call it) from which they can be free to be intimate without constant fear of abandonment.
This secure base could have only been provided by a parent. If it’s not provided, problems will occur with that adult’s ability to have a healthy relationship.
(By the way, here are 10 Ultimate Signs of A Healthy Relationship).
Look, we are all needy at times. Especially when you get into a relationship with a man, you will feel to a man like you’re needy at times. That’s completely normal.
Infrequent moments of neediness can occur for any normal healthy person.
Clinginess? Not so much.
Clinginess is done out of a deep fear that that person is bound to disappear, no matter what.
In the clingy person’s mind, people leaving and disappearing is almost the rule. Not the exception.
So, I didn’t put this sign here so I could tell you to stop being clingy. It’s a pattern after all, and as such, it needs healing, not condemning.
If you’ve been clingy before, it’s ok! You’re not alone!
Go back in time and ask yourself where mom or dad was when you needed them emotionally.
Dig deep into your past and feel the great losses your soul knows that you’ve been through (but perhaps haven’t fully processed).
Where to go from here…
In conclusion, here’s what I would suggest for you to do if any of these signs apply to you.
I’d suggest that you begin with asking yourself some serious questions about your relationship with your mother, father or caretakers.
Ask some questions that will force the truth to come to the surface. This is so that you’re made to stop repeating the same old patterns of avoiding the issue or trying not to emotionally process it.
Here are some questions to get you started.
What was your mother like? What was your father like?
Was she or he emotionally generous? Or were they absent, dismissive, angry or even abusive parents?
Was your mother or father ever reliable? Or were they inconsistent? Was their care superficial, never fully there and more a superficial attempt to placate you?
Were you intimate with them? Did you hug? Did you feel relaxed, safe and close when hugging them? Or did you go stiff or limp?
What is your relationship with your parents like now? Do you still seek their approval, desperately hoping that that “perfect love” will come?
Are you confident that they gave you as much as was possible to give (emotionally)?
Did they give things like emotional safety? Humour? Acceptance? Attention? Affection?
Or did they moreso brush aside your feelings and emotions, demanding that you be a certain way for them?
If after reading this article, you know that you have abandonment issues, here are 3 steps you need to take.
1: Grieve. Feel. All the anger, despair, torment, hatred and resentment needs a way to be felt. It’s a way of releasing your body from the chains of unfelt grief.
2: Send the people who abandoned you forgiveness. And then send yourself forgiveness.
3: Find anchors of secure attachment. Connect with these anchors daily.
One way to do this is to use movies depicting securely attached relationships so that you become acquainted with and comfortable with the idea of being intimate and close.
Here’s a few movie examples for you to watch and use (perhaps watch certain scenes from them repeatedly), so that you become familiar with the idea of secure attachment.
- The Time Traveler’s Wife (even read the book, the book was amazing)
- The Notebook
- The family man (Nicholas Cage)
Now over to you! I’d love to hear your story. How many of these signs do you have? Do you see any signs missing?
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