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How My Fear of Abandonment Affects My Marriage

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My husband and I are nearing our second wedding anniversary. We are just as happy as when we first started dating, maybe even more so. Yet, I can’t help but fear in the deep recesses of my mind that one day he may leave me. I have no reason to feel this way. He has never given me any indication other than that he is here to stay, for the long haul. He is a constant support and an enduring encouragement. Yet…

I have a major fear of abandonment. It rivals my phobia of roaches. I couldn’t tell you where this fear originated. As a child I was always focused on people-pleasing, making the good grades, participating in all the activities, exceeding all expectations. Was my fear a part of all that? It may have been, or it may just have been my personality. There’s no point debating it. What is not up for debate is when this fear truly solidified. In my early 20s, I was abandoned by my then-fiancé. That is definitely when that fear sunk its hooks in.

But this is not that story. This doesn’t have anything to do with that story, except that I know what it feels like to be left behind and it is earth-shattering. When Carlos and I started dating, I struggled with really opening myself up. I pursued him (What? He’s really cute!), but when it came down to emotional intimacy, I held back. But he stuck with me. He knew we could be something special, and I am so thankful every day that he did take the risks he did to be with me.

Now, we are sickeningly happy. We go together everywhere, and we love talking for hours, arguing or just sitting together in silence. But in our relationship I am still the one who takes more. I give as much as I can, but sometimes for different reasons one partner has to lean on a little heavier than the other. If you ask him (and I have) Carlos will tell you I give him what he needs, and more than I realize. Sometimes I have a hard time believing that though.

I have assorted mental illnesses, and I also have physical chronic illnesses and pain. This means there are a lot of things I either can’t do, or are very difficult for me to do. Carlos does most of the cooking in our house, while I save my culinary magic for special occasions. He does the laundry, he checks the cats’ litter. While I’m in school to become a social worker so I can have a low-impact job, he is the only one working. I try to take care of him, but he succeeds in always taking care of me.

In lesser men, this weight would breed resentment. Resentment can easily kill a marriage. But how long would it take for this amazing man to start to hate a life where he bears so much burden? If it starts to happen, will I see it? Will I have time to prepare? And the scariest question, would I be able to pick myself back up again? It was impossible the first. It would be so much worse with him… words fail me at how broken that would leave me.

Let me be clear: there is no indication that Carlos would ever break my heart in this way. I know how much he loves me. I can see it in his eyes when he laughs with me, when he admires me, when he holds me after a panic attack, even when he rolls his eyes in frustration because my anxiety jumps because my food is prepared wrong. But my anxiety, my depression, my uncontrollable mood swings all try to tell me I do not deserve his treatment. I don’t deserve his patience, and I don’t deserve his devotion. In the quiet of the night, my imagination runs wild and my inner voice attacks every part of my relationship, every part of me.

What do I do? How do I get through those moments of intense solitude, fear and degradation? I don’t tell him. Not that I keep it from him, I let him know from time to time that I have doubts and fears. That’s what a husband and best friend is for, to tell my doubts and fears! I write. I pray. I escape.

No, I am not writing this in the dead of night, fueled by my erratic thoughts and restless mind. When I am filled with fear, I bust out my trusted journal. I scrawl in a harried fashion in the small spiral bound notebook my fears that don’t need to be legible or make any sense. I get the thoughts out of my head, and onto my page.

Next, I take what is left of my worry and speak it in faith to my Creator. For anyone else this could look as close to my prayer to silently meditating to listening to a favorite song and letting the melody wash over them. Whatever higher power brings you strength and fortitude, that is what you use to get you from one moment to the next.

Finally, I have to get out of my head. This can be really difficult to do. I used to like to read to do this, but as I’ve gotten older and my problems have become more significant, I find my thoughts are too intrusive to let me concentrate enough to get past the first sentence. I read the same one over and over without ever comprehending what it is trying to say. Now, I watch a TV show. I love TV shows and movies. I have favorites I follow every season, and since I don’t get cable I invest in season passes on my computer, so I watch “Speechless” (shameless plug. As a former CP aide, I love the show!) or another funny, lighthearted show. By the time my eyes have grown heavy again, the show is over and my mind is clear.

Maybe the next day when Carlos and I share a meal and a conversation, I’ll tell him I had a difficult night, and I’ll reiterate how lucky I feel that he’s stuck with me. Maybe I won’t say anything, except to tell him how much I love him and how glad I am that we’re together now. That I can’t wait for us to grow old together, and that I’m sure he’ll be the grumpy one and I’ll be the… more grumpy one.

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Originally published: October 12, 2017
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