Do you constantly worry that your partner will leave you?
- Do you become clingy and desperate when your partner pulls away from you?
- Do you overact to minor things they say or do, and interpret them as signs that they don’t want to be with you?
- Can you be excessively jealous and possessive?
- Do you get angry and accuse your partner of not being loyal or faithful?
- Do you struggle to be away from your partner, even for a few days?
- Do you sometimes detach, leave or withdraw to punish them for leaving you alone?
- Are you never fully convinced that your partner will stay with you?
- Do you get so obsessed with the idea that they will leave you, that you end up driving them away?
- Do you keep falling in love with people who won’t commit to you? For instance, they are married or involved in another relationship; they are not consistently available for you to spent time together (e.g. they travel or work a lot); they are emotionally unstable (e.g. they drink, use drugs, are depressed) and can’t be there for you emotionally; they insist on having the freedom to come and go, don’t want to settle down, or want the freedom to have many lovers); they are ambivalent about you, one moment acting deeply in love with you and the next moment acting as if you don’t exist.
- Have you started to avoid relationships altogether because you are afraid of losing the person or getting too close and being hurt?
- Do you worry about ending up alone?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to most of these questions, you probably have difficulties with abandonment.
Where do these abandonment fears come from? Here are a few ideas:
- A parent died or left home when you were young
- A parent was hospitalised or separated from you for a prolonged period of time when you were a child
- You were raised by nannies or in a care home or you were sent to boarding school at a young age.
- A parent was unstable, became depressed, angry, drank or in some other way withdrew from you on a regular basis.
- Your parents divorced when you were young or fought so much that you worried your family would fall apart.
- You lost the attention of a parent in a significant way e.g. your brother or sister was born, a sibling was ill for a prolonged time or your parent remarried.
- Your family was excessively close and you were overprotected. You never learnt the tools to deal with life’s challenges as a child because they did it for you.
Here are some steps to overcome these abandonment fears.
1. Work with your therapist at the British CBT and counselling service to understand the situations in your childhood that have contributed to your fear of abandonment.
2. Monitor your feelings of abandonment. Learn to identify when your fears are triggered, for instance, when you are being hypersensitive to losing someone or feel the need to cling to them.
3. Review past relationships, and clarify the patterns that occur. Make a list of all the romantic relationships you have had. What went wrong with each one? Was the person unstable? Did you leave each person because you were too afraid they would leave you? Do you keep picking people who are likely to leave you? Were you so jealous and possessive that you pushed them away? What are the pitfalls for you to avoid?
4. Learn to be alone for extended periods of time, without having to reach out immediately and connect to somebody.
5. Avoid or walk away from uncommitted, unstable, or ambivalent partners even though they generate high chemistry. Try to form relationships with stable people. Avoid people who are going to take you on a roller coaster ride even though they are the exact people to whom you are most attracted.
6. When you find a partner who is stable and capable of making a commitment, trust them. Believe they are there for you forever, and will not leave. After so much experience of abandonment, it hard to learn to trust. But this is the only way to finally step out of these unhelpful patterns and find fulfilment in love. Get off the roller coaster. Give up the wild, unstable love in favour of the strong and steady.
7. Do not cling, become jealous, or overreact to the normal separations of a healthy relationship. Accept that other people have the right to set limits and establish separate space. If you are in a good relationship with a stable, committed partner, learn to control your tendency to overact to small things.