To this day, I still struggle with abandonment issues.
I never know when the wave of activation is going to hit or what exactly is going to trigger my fear of abandonment. It might be a song, a sound, a person, a laugh, a circumstance, an event, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee or cologne. It could be just about anything… And the wave comes crashing.
I’m all of a sudden, treading water for dear life without remembering how to swim; trying to hang onto whatever is left from the wreckage.
The common denominator of abandonment issues is loss.
Although we have all experienced loss, we all process it differently. Our own unique coping mechanism is formed depending on how young and impressionable we were during the first time we experienced a monumental loss.
There’s nothing black and white about abandonment issues. You may not be able to even pinpoint any specific abandonment. You could have grown up in the most intact household and have more fear of abandonment than someone whose parents physically abandoned them.
Although my parents never physically abandoned me, they got divorced and remarried, which triggered a massive fear of abandonment. I was also, emotionally orphaned. One of my parents unintentionally abandoned me emotionally. And for years, I mourned their emotional death by trying to resurrect them through romantic partners who were just as unavailable.
This doesn’t mean that I have bad parents or that I’m unjustified in fearing abandonment. It just means that I have a scar from a wound – a scar that is still very sensitive and I think, to an extent, always will be. And that’s okay.
Awareness has definitely deactivated a great deal of sensitivity.
Abandonment issues can come from ANY kind of loss that at the time, was heavier than what your emotional carrying/processing capacity could accommodate.
It could be growing up with parents who excelled at giving attention in one way but were neglectful in another way. It could be having emotionally unavailable and/or narcissistic parents/caregivers, experiencing death, being rejected by friends, coaches or teachers at school, not being chosen, being emotionally abandoned/orphaned by someone you trusted, a parental figure, etc.
Not everyone who has experienced abandonment will have abandonment issues that paralyze their emotional functionality when triggered. Symptoms of abandonment issues vary a great deal.
I still struggle to this day with my fear of abandonment. But because of my awareness and ability to communicate my vulnerabilities (both to myself and if need be, to others), there’s space around my trigger. I’ve quit shaping my identity around my fear. I’ve forgiven my past “abandoners,” and also, I’ve forgiven myself for revisiting the scene of the emotional crime time and time again through toxic relationships in the past.
As a result, I’m no longer ruled by my past or fearful of my future. When triggered, I no longer regress back to the emotional paralysis of the age in which I had my first taste of abandonment. I no longer look for lovers and friends to give to me what was withheld at some point in my childhood and I no longer give to others what was withheld from me, in hope of reciprocation that never comes.
I am my own soulmate; my own best friend and there isn’t a person out there who could ever understand or take care of me better than I do myself. And to the right lovers and friends, this is an attractive trait because they possess the very same.
YES – I still struggle with an intense fear of abandonment but my triggers are no longer my truth. And it has deactivated these 10 symptoms of abandonment issues that I used to embody.
Here are 10 signs of abandonment issues and how to get out of the self-imposed prison for good.
Before I get into these 10 symptoms of abandonment issues, I want you to keep this in mind:
You’re never going to be able to make complete sense of or fully understand your abandonment issues – why they occurred, why you’re triggered to the extent that you are, and what the other person was thinking.
By choosing to surrender to this realization, you can now focus more on deactivation as opposed to unrealistic eradication.
How do you know if you have abandonment issues?
Here are 10 signs of abandonment issues in adults:
- Stage 5 clinger. Whether you’re a full-blown cling-on or you’re like I used to be and have clingy relational tendencies, you’re always the one who’s making the effort, bending, and empathizing/excusing at the expense of your sanity (and then, getting blamed for being insane because… well, you’re acting that way). You feel like no one ever tries as hard as you do. Everyone ends up thinking you’re desperate, too intense, and a convenient ignore as far as texts, calls, and invites go. If you have abandonment issues, you’ll attach way too soon, think way too much, and take everything way too personally.
- Codependency is a common theme in your relationships. Just like a magnet, you attract lovers and friends who seem to exploit your fear of abandonment with psychic ability and emotionally blackmail you with it through triangulation, inciting jealousy, and/or deception. This breeds codependency – they are dependent on having a doormat (you), and you’re dependent on the dirt from their emotional boots (so that you can feel useful).
- You reject people (and yourself) before they can reject you.
- Cheating as an insurance policy. Whether it’s emotional or physical cheating, you’ll take out a sh*tty insurance policy on pain and try to outsmart abandonment through infidelity. You’ll justify it by saying to yourself, “If they hurt or leave me, at least I have THIS on them,” thinking it won’t hurt as badly. It always does, it’s karmically corrupt and cheating/”keeping your options open,” is just an all-around, bad idea. It’s also one of the most popular ways to cope with low self-esteem, issues with control, loss, and fear of abandonment. There is no judgment here – we have ALL either been on the doing or receiving end at one point or another.
- The fear of being cheated on. You’re paranoid that your partner is cheating on you. In friendships, you want to be the number-one-best-friend and are always worried that someone is going to take your place.
- Extreme jealousy and private investigator behavior. These two things are the quickest way to kill any joy in your life. We all do a little “due diligence,” here and there, but if your investigation skills are starting to one-up the FBI and you’re constantly comparing, competing, and crippled by jealousy more than you are enjoying emotional and sexual connection… Your fear of abandonment is outweighing trust – of your instinct and your partner. You feel the need to control your partner and always want to question what they’re doing and who they’re talking to.
- Social anxiety, insecurity, and feeling like you’re always walking on eggshells.
- It’s difficult to be vulnerable. You feel like you can’t truly express yourself to anyone. They’d just judge, discard, and forget about you like everyone else has. Your standby mode is: “patiently waiting to see what the other person wants to do with/thinks of me.” And because of the constant under-the-rug brushing, anger starts to build. You don’t ever feel comfortable enough to fully express yourself, so you just wade in the kiddy pool of avoidance and denial.
- You engage in relational self-sabotage and throw grenades in the way of your happiness before any other person or force can. I used to do this without even being conscious of it.
- Disease to please, perfection, and a magnifying glass. You suffer from the disease to please. And because you bend so much for everyone else, you have unrealistic expectations for your partner. You expect perfection from your partner and assume that they’re a mind reader. You internalized everything the day that abandonment occurred when you were a child and as a result, feel guilty for EVERYTHING. If you’re not in a relationship and are just dating around, you pick apart and find (inconsequential/superficial) flaws in the other person so that you can pedestal yourself (yet another insurance policy taken out on potential abandonment).
What to do if you have abandonment issues:
As a child, it’s impossible to rationalize and make logical sense of loss and abandonment – especially if it can’t be seen with the eyes (emotional abandonment). It’s also impossible, when we are kids, to realize that our parents are fallible, human, sexual beings that could possibly be emotionally unavailable, narcissistic and have made a slew of mistakes with a sh*tload of baggage BEFORE they had us.
No one had the perfect parents and no one will be the perfect parent. We will all inevitably fail our parents at some point and they will fail us.
Forgive your parents and forgive yourself for not having the emotional tool belt of an adult when you were a voiceless, impressionable and innocent child.
As children, we don’t have the emotional tools to process abandonment. Because of this, we personalize the loss and start to believe that we are unlovable and defective.
Even as adults, we strive for the validation that we are “enough.” We tie our value to partners (versions of our parents) NOT abandoning us so that we can, for once and for all, invalidate Mom, Dad or whoever made us feel easy to walk away from and hard to love.
I’ve learned that no matter how much I’ve tried to revisit the past through my romantic relationships and friendships, I can never change the past. I can only change the narration; the way I choose to view it.
The waves won’t ever stop coming. One wave, no matter how small it is, may remind us of a much bigger wave in the past and trigger us into feeling like we can’t make it; that we won’t survive this time around. But we will because we HAVE.
It’s not your fault. You were and always will be, no matter how old you are, your parent’s CHILD.
You don’t need to emotionally parent your parents and you don’t need to psychoanalyze them either – it won’t bring you the closure that you’re looking for, it won’t give them a personality or empathetic transplant, and it won’t be a time machine. Your parents cannot give you the closure that you’re looking for – only YOU can decide to do that NOW.
The majority of my life has been plagued with abandonment issues. The last few years have been dedicated to emotionally defibrillating that little girl; separating her from a narrative that she never asked nor had a choice to be a part of.
And because I’ve gone back and parented my younger self to the extent that I have (and continue to do), I no longer look for the world to notice her, understand her needs, and supply them. I’ve got her back. I never let anyone f*ck with her and because of that, I’ve also been able to make peace with a past that was very hard on this little one.
I make my own emotional money these days.
And as I always say… if I can do it, so can YOU.
Cheers to emotional billions.
+ If you need further and more personalized help with your relationship, please look into working with me here.