Fear of abandonment and relationships

A child’s early years are highly significant since children learn patterns of behaviour that could shape their adulthood. People who have a fear of abandonment generally have overwhelming anxiety or worry that people close to them may leave them. Having a fear of abandonment is a typical pattern within unhealthy relationships. 


Fear of abandonment usually affects people who have been abandoned or neglected by their parents/primary caregivers during childhood. This could be through the death of a parent, separation, divorce, or inadequate physical or emotional care. Trauma and negative experiences from past relationships and life experiences are all contributing factors to the fear of abandonment. As a result, a child who has experienced some form of loss in their early years is likely to have the following attachments when choosing their spouse:

Avoidant attachment

Children do not seek much contact or comfort from parents, and they often do not have much preference between parents and strangers. 

As adults, they have issues with closeness and intimacy and have difficulties sharing their thoughts and feelings with others. 

Ambivalent attachment

Children with this attachment style are often suspicious of strangers. Although they get highly distressed when the parent leaves, they also do not feel comforted when they return. 

As an adult, they doubt and worry about their partner’s love and get highly distressed when a relationship ends. 

Disorganised attachment

Children with this type of attachment often appear disoriented or confused. They generally tend to resist and avoid the parent because of the primary caregiver’s inconsistent behaviour, and they can be emotionally and physically abusive towards the parent. 

As adults, they are afraid of being vulnerable, lack empathy with others, and have difficulties with boundaries, and this often results in confrontation or threats with anger or rage. 

Ways to overcome the fear of abandonment

Courageously carve out alone time and face abandonment

Having time alone promotes growth and provides us with a more in-depth insight into who we are, helping us evaluate our lives and make the right choices. If we have made poor choices in the past that have affected our self-esteem, we cannot give our best to others until we give our best to ourselves. 

Start this process by creating a happy list that could include activities that you could do on your own:

  • workout class
  • spa day
  • meditation/breathing exercises
  • solo trip/hotel trip
  • dining alone
  • reading a book
  • listening/watching motivational videos or audiotapes
  • learning a new language
  • exploring the outdoors
  • cooking for yourself
  • learning to play an instrument
  • setting goals and interests
  • writing a book

Avoid trying to control your partner

When we are paralysed by fear within intimate relationships, we tend to want to control or manipulate our partners.

When we feel highly insecure within a relationship, we often want to control our partners, as we are afraid of losing them.

We do everything to please them, secretly hoping that they will not leave us. Consequently, we give too much and over compromise. It may seem that we have the power to control our partners. The truth is that it makes us powerless within the relationship, as we cannot control anyone. 

We need to learn how to understand or manage our insecurities rather than trying to control a spouse. For example, when a person is calling or texting their partner too much or asking them to spend their free time with them because they feel insecure, it only creates further anxiety and could influence their partner not to spend time with them.

Evaluate the type of partners that you attract

People with abandonment issues subconsciously attract spouses who have many emotional problems, and they go into these relationships to fix their partners from their brokenness.

The only one who can fix a broken person is God and the individual. When a person decides to seek professional help, they are likely to have reached a stage where they want to help themselves.

It is essential to evaluate the type of people we attract or are drawn to; for instance, if all our ex-partners have similar negative characteristics, then there is a pattern of attracting people that may mistreat us. The best way to choose quality partners is to work on our issues.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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East Croydon CR9 & Croydon CR0
Written by The Personal Growth And Development Centre, Bacp Accredited Couple & Adult Counsellors -Full & Low Cost
East Croydon CR9 & Croydon CR0

Kate Megase is a BACP accredited Psychotherapist, Couple Counsellor and the author of ‘Dump the Baggage; A Therapist’s Guide to Building Self-Esteem and Positive

For more tips on this and other topics, check out her new book on Amazon.

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