Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
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.
– Natasha Adamo
Are you done with toxic relationships and ready to attract (and be attracted to) healthy relationships? Do you want to connect with others on a deeper level than the comments below? Click here to become an Emotional Mastery Member and learn more. If you’re looking for more personalized, one-on-one help, you can work directly with Natasha Adamo here.
Natasha, I have read countless posts on your blog. This one brought me to tears. I could actually FEEL the wave of pain but now I also feel a sense of relief that I hope will nudge (or, preferably propel) me towards truly accepting past emotional traumas and healing myself. I am a blubbering mess now but grateful this post allowed me to feel and own my pain. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. <3
Hi Amy! Thank YOU. Truly. I’m so honored to have helped and happy that the post resonated with you. You are loved <3 and never, ever alone. xx
This post also brought me to tears. I think I have been trying to heal for years. After my engagement and relationship ended after 11 years I have crumbled. I am still struggling each day to get up. But, I find I can relate to your articles so much. They are helpful to know I am not alone. Here’s to the tribe. Thank you all.
You are loved, understood, empathized with, supported, backed, believed in and never, EVER alone <3
Thank you for being a part of this tribe. Sending you so much love. xoxo
I used something that you said here several months ago, and though I still have to work on it, I felt very proud when I said it, and, I think, gave the guy just the right mojo I was wanting to leave. Our relationship didn’t work out, though I’d been madly in love with him. He said, “I feel like I was the one who let you down in the relationship.” I replied to him, “It’s okay, I find that there is a lot of freedom in not taking things personally.” And I meant it!! I refused to waste another minute stewing over what’s done and won’t cheat myself on my own future. That statement tells him that I am past Who Did What, Who’s to “blame” for what, and the freedom word tells him that I’m free of the chains of the past and am embracing my present and future. I believe he was hoping for a different kind of reaction, but ultimately, it also frees him to just move on. Here’s to taking control of our own lives and hopefully, move quickly past low-effort guys.
YES! So proud of you Jeanette 🙂 You go girl.
Thanks for sharing, for being such an inspiration, for being a part of this tribe and for just.being.YOU.
You’re incredible. xx
Wow. Well that describes me to a T.
It’s always hard to see your issues in the light, but also relieving to know that you are not the only one.
Thank you for this post.
Thank you for ending it with hope.
Thank you for showing that you don’t have to drowned in the waves when they come, but can learn to ride them to the peaceful shore.
Thank you <3
Hi Kristen! Thank YOU for allowing me to see that I was never alone in experiences, thoughts, emotions and feelings that I felt so alone in for such a long time. You can get past this <3
You are loved, believed in and supported 🙂 XO
Such a beautiful strong soul you are! Another lovely piece just what the Dr ordered ? I really needed this Natasha
Love you Liv! Thank you! Happy it helped 🙂 xxxx
This post also made me cry – I could feel the pain of the little girl in the picture and it also resonates so much with me because I have struggled with the same issues (but feel I am overcoming them more and more). It’s a big wound to try to heal but I trust it can and must be healed – xo
Hi Lindsay! It can and WILL be healed. You are understood, supported, loved and believed in beyond measure. If I can get through it, there’s no reason why you can’t. You GOT THIS 🙂 Sending you big love and hugs. xxx
Natasha, I’ve read your blog since February and so far it helped a lot. But this time I really got the feeling: Yes, this is the place I belong to! Because you know how it is to feel empty, guilty, hopeless and full of fear.
And reading the comments below is so helpful and I want to thank everyone who shares their story!
But Natasha HOW did you learn to accept your past mistakes without GUILT and FEAR hold you back from healing? I really want to let go, to become a stronger me. But everytime I try fear and guilt (not knowing my issues before) kick in and I find myself back on the floor crying.
Please don’t stop blogging.
All the best for everyone here.
Hi Joy! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing and for being a part of this tribe 🙂 I wish that I had the time to answer because I have SO MUCH to say. I’ll try to write a post about this soon. I basically got to a point where I became more fearful of staying where I was at, than I was of making a change. I promise to never stop. Thank you for being YOU. xx
Love you Natasha. This one was very good. They always are.. So perfect with my 5am coffee. I don’t know what I’d do without your writing! You are what I would classify as a hero.
Love you too sister! We have to meet up one of these days for some early morning coffee/tea by the sea 🙂 You’re my hero. Truly. xxxx
Thank you for this
I am working on rebuilding my emotional house out of brick so that it cannot be blown down. This post brought me to tears. Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone in my journey, and for giving voice to the waves that have pulled me into their undertow. I must swim….swim for my life…..XO Ellen
Hi Ellen! I’m so happy and honored to help 🙂 Thank you for being a part of this tribe. Big love to you soul sister. xx
Natasha, thank you again for posting this. You slap me hard on my face. I have been having this issue. I am in my early 30’s and have been failing all of my love relationships, mainly might be because of this.
I often fear of being abandoned by my partner and it often comes to my mind the fear of being cheated on. The fear was never be true until my latest relationship. I just broke up because I was being cheated on. My instinct and fear of being cheated on led me to investigate his actions when he was not being available to me. At the end of the day, I found out that he was even dating another woman at the same time he was dating me.
The abandonment issues have drained my energy. I haven’t been able to cope with it. Recently, there’s a guy approaching me, but I always feel that I am walking on the eggshells. The worst was I denied my feeling of liking him as I was scared if I would be abandoned or cheated on once I started a new relationship with him. I projected my past relationship to him. Any thought to deal with it?
I will try to write about this soon Aya (thank you so much for your kindness and understanding; I wish I had the time to answer/advise in the comments). You are not alone in this. xox
THANK YOU Natasha.
Last December I started seeing a psychotherapist, and I discovered that my insecurity, the belief that I am not worthy of love and never feel enough comes from my fear of abandonment, which was generated when I was very young because of the difficult situation I was living at home with my parents.
This is a journey as important as it is difficult and it takes time to get out of it. Maybe that’s what I still can’t accept, that you can’t heal wounds like that in a day, a week, a month, especially if you lived like that for 30 years.
Thank YOU so much for sharing and for being a part of this tribe.
Thank you for affirming that I was never/am never alone in my feelings, experiences, and issues. I believe in and appreciate you, sister. xox
Idk if you ever gonna get to see this and read. I barely leave comment on a Blog but I had to!! I loved it! Felt like you were talking to me. Absolutely loved it! Thank you so much!
I’m so happy it helped! THANK YOU for taking the time to reach out and for being a part of this tribe. All my love to you. xox
I feel like my whole life was summed up in this article. I just turned 40 this year and my life has been a lot of painful episodes and tears and fears. I’m still learning how to be my best friend and lately been going to the gym and getting in shape. I still struggle from insecurity and jealousy from my partner but I’m trying to get through this too (watch relationship theory on youtube helps a bit about this). I would like to see a therapist near me hopefully they can help too. I get triggered when I’m alone and I feel like nobody wants to hang out or spend time with me. When I was a kid my parents left me alone most times and I thought when I get older I can fix that issue but I’ve never managed to keep a partner due to my fears and anxieties. I’m still lonely and still waiting to the right partner but till then I’m going to be working on myself. I hope I get better soon .
I’m so happy that the article helped, Af. I live to give everything that I wish I had.
I think seeking out a therapist/mental health professional will help tremendously. You are not alone, my friend.
Thank you for being you and for being a part of this tribe.
All my love to you, Af.
This post is really insightful for me, thank you so much.
I’m interested in what you mention briefly in this post about how we might find fault in others when dating in order to pedestal ourselves as I feel I’ve made this mistake early in relationships, hurting others and sabotaging the relationship. Do you have any other posts on this topic?
I’m so glad that the post helped! 🙂
I will try to write more about this soon. Thank you so much for the topic recommendation and for being a part of this tribe/community. Xx
This article was incredible, I’ve only just started to become aware of my abandonment issues and I feel like that awareness is leading to me to take actions which are going to change my life (there are days when I don’t feel I am going to be able to change but I think that’s OK to feel like that). Almost all of what you said resonated with me personally. Thank you for being brave enough to put the details of your journey out there to help encourage me and others.
It is totally OKAY to feel like that <3 You are not alone, my friend. And I'm so glad that this post helped.
Thank you for being a part of this community/tribe.
Thank you for you.
You got this!
Hi Natasha! I loved this article, this is all the stuff I have been working through with my mentor. Abandonment, fear, anxiety in my relationships This all stems back to my childhood. Parents not being there and leaving, alcoholic father. Just tonight my son approached me in tears to talk with me about his relationship with a girl. He expressed anger, fear and abandonment as well. My son was adopted into our family at age 12. He was put in an orphanage and left there by his family. Talk about a tough childhood. I was grateful to share with him some of our similar backgrounds and what I’m learning about abandonment. I am hopeful I was able to help him understand he is not alone and he is loved!
What an unbelievably *incredible* Mother, person, and all-around inspiration you are, Jess. I am so happy and honored that this post helped.
Thank you for your love, connection, and support. Thank you for being my chosen family and a part of this community. Isn’t it nice to know that we are never alone? All my love to you, Soul Sister. Xx