7 Things I Want You to Know About Fear of Abandonment
I was recently told by my therapist that I struggle with a fear of abandonment. While this was nothing new to me, it opened my eyes up to the different ways this fear can manifest in my behavior throughout my relationships. It can be hard to explain to partners and friends how exactly it can affect us. Being the one afraid of being abandoned is hard, but it can also be difficult and confusing to the people around us who might not understand what we are going through or how to help. While this list does not speak for every single person who struggles with a fear of abandonment, these are things I would want my loved ones to know about how it impacts me.
1. I overanalyze everything.
I really do mean everything. Tone of voice, body language, the tone of text messages, emoji use (or lack of). I filter everything through this lens of expecting people to leave, and even the smallest changes cause me to feel anxious and upset. A blunt text message could cause me to question our entire relationship and believe you are bored of me and are losing interest. I pick apart every interaction and can misinterpret these to mean you don’t like me or are going to leave. A forgotten invitation to something can lead me to believe I am being cut out. These things can seem small to other people, and you might not even notice, but to me, they are things I find hard not to pick up on and analyze. Please try not to get angry with me when I ask a lot of questions or reassurance, or read into something you say or do too much because I can’t help it. I am as frustrated by it as you are.
2. I need a lot of reassurance.
Because of the way I overanalyze and misinterpret things, I often need reassurance that these things I pick up on do not mean you are going to leave me. I often ask my partner if they are OK to the point of annoyance because I will misread her neutral tone/facial expression as negative. I might ask you if you love me often, because I really do forget. Sometimes this might come across to you like fishing for compliments or attention seeking, but please understand it’s because my brain is telling me you don’t love me and you are going to leave. This is my way of trying to soothe that fear.
3. I assume your bad moods are because of me.
I tend to be able to pick up on people’s moods very easily, and when I am prone to fear of abandonment, it’s easy for me to misread the situation and create reasons why your bad mood could be my fault. Even if you tell me the reason you are upset or angry, I might still think you are lying and it’s secretly something I did. If you say you are acting distant or different because you’re in a bad mood, I might think you are actually just losing interest in me and don’t want to hurt my feelings. Sometimes, I think if I can “fix” your bad mood or cheer you up, you might not leave me. This also comes back to me overanalyzing things.
4. I can be either very clingy or very distant.
How someone deals with this fear of abandonment really depends on the individual person. For some, they try to prevent you from leaving by clinging to you, constantly asking for reassurance, acting jealous or possessive. They may text you more than is necessary and freak out if you don’t respond quickly. We will read too much into things you say and get upset, and more upset when you are confused because you don’t understand what’s wrong. And it’s so hard to explain.
Other people might deal with it by cutting people off prematurely, ending relationships at the first sign of trouble, before they think someone else will leave them first. They might keep people at a distance to prevent themselves from being hurt.
5. My fear of abandonment is my issue to work on, but you can help.
While reassurance and understanding mean the world to me, ultimately this is something I need to work on myself to overcome. No amount of reassurance and loving words will fix the root cause of my fear of abandonment, because I will always forget after a while and then need your reassurance again. It’s an exhausting cycle for all of us, and it’s not fair to expect you to keep that up. I understand I need to work on dealing with these fears when they come up and addressing the reasons we have these fears. The pressure should not be on you to fix us or make these fears go away, because only we can do that.
6. It’s not your fault.
Partners or friends of someone who struggles with abandonment issues might feel they are doing something wrong when they are constantly being asked to prove their love and reassure the person they aren’t about to leave them. Please remember I see the world differently from you. I sometimes think of my abandonment issues as a “lens” I see the world through, that distorts things and makes things look different to me. It’s just how my brain interprets certain things, that leads me to believe I am about to be or in the process of being abandoned, but please believe you are not doing anything wrong; it is just how I interpret your behavior.
7. It’s not going to go away overnight.
You might think, if you reassure me once, that will be enough to soothe my fears, but the thing is: I will forget what you said once something else happens, triggering the fear to come up again, and the cycle will continue. My psychologist gave me some information about “schemas,” and fear of abandonment was one of them. It explained that schemas are hard to challenge and overcome because they are not stored in the logic part of the brain, but in the part that processes emotions. So, even if we know it’s illogical, our emotions don’t; it is difficult to override that. We need professional therapy to overcome this, and that takes time; it’s not going to get better right away.
Photo by Lorenzo Di Cristina on Unsplash