How fear of abandonment affects relationships

A man stands alone in a window, looking out over an empty seaFear of abandonment usually affects people that have been abandoned or neglected by their parents during their childhood either due to the death of a parent, a divorce, or inadequate physical or emotional care. These individuals often attract spouses that may reinforce the negative emotions that are associated with this fear, which can often leave a person feeling insecure and anxious within intimate relationships.

When a person has a fear of abandonment, they never feel safe within relationships, and always have thoughts at the back of their mind about their spouse leaving them, or assume that their partner is having an affair, without any objective evidence. This can lead to self-sabotaging behaviour and can make an individual feel on edge or anxious.

As a result of this fear, individuals work hard for love so they are not abandoned, like their parent(s) did when they were growing up.

When confronted with challenges within a relationship and their emotions get triggered, a person may feel like ending the relationship, or hurting the other person before they get hurt. Even within a healthy relationship, you can still think that one day the person will leave you, based on the rejection from your childhood, or if you have had unfaithful partners in your previous relationships. 

Women often give too much, by spoiling and trying to prove to their spouse that they are perfect, so that a person can appreciate them. This behaviour does not work, as it is a form of manipulation. Learn to give your self-unconditional love and what you look for from others. 

How can counselling help with fear of abandonment?

Acknowledge the fear - it is impossible to resolve any issue if you are unaware of it. In order to overcome fear of abandonment, it is very important to acknowledge, accept and understand the root cause. Whether it is through a loss of a family member who you may not have had a chance to say goodbye or rekindle the relationship; or through a separation from a parent who may have left when you were growing up.

In such circumstances, it is possible to have suppressed anger towards that person, which can be unconsciously expressed or triggered within other relationships. In addition, if fear of abandonment is a result of rejection from your parent(s), then counselling can help you to understand the emotional pain that may be associated with your self-esteem.

Recognise the emotions that are associated with the fear of abandonment - when you have been deeply hurt by abandonment, you may become very needy, constantly seeking attention or needing regular reassurance from others. Consequently, you don’t enjoy your own company and often finds ways to distract yourself from your pain. This could involve the use of alcohol, drugs, sex or excessive time spent watching TV.

Counselling can help you to understand emotions that you find overwhelming and difficult to cope with on your own. This process will help you to have a deeper understanding of yourself and recognise your own inner resources, rather than being dependent on others to make you happy. 

Take action - with the help of a counsellor, you can begin to establish the trust, firstly within yourself and others. It will also allow you to have an understanding of emotional triggers, which may be associated with fear of abandonment.

Keeping a journal will help you have deeper insights of your thoughts and emotions, which your counsellor will support you to manage. With time, the fear will minimise and counselling will help you to learn to separate the fear from the past that may be linked to the present.

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Written by Kate Megase MBACP accredited, registered Psychotherapist & Clinical Supervisor

I am a counsellor, coach and motivational speaker. I specialise in issues associated with relationships, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.… Read more

Written by Kate Megase MBACP accredited, registered Psychotherapist & Clinical Supervisor

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