Nobody likes to feel abandonment or rejection. But many people have been hurt in the past. Many types of trauma and loss can lead to fear of abandonment. Emotional and physical neglect, loss of a loved one, relationship loss, abuse, poverty and betrayal can cause trust issues and a scarcity mindset. When you’re worried that everyone is going to leave you, you might have trouble getting close to people. Someone with abandonment issues can be especially difficult to deal with in a relationship.
1. Cultivate Open Communication
Secrets don’t go over well when you’re dealing with someone who has abandonment issues. Someone who fears abandonment usually has trouble trusting people. If they’re unsure of the way that you feel, they may assume that you want to leave them, and they might take off or sabotage the relationship before (in their mind) you have a chance to hurt them.
Therefore, it helps if you’re absolutely clear about how you feel. Setting up open communication from the beginning of the relationship will allow you to create a connection that’s based on honesty instead of the insecurity that plagues people with abandonment issues.
2. Don’t Pressure Them
Sometimes, people who have experienced trauma don’t feel comfortable talking openly to others. They may not feel safe being vulnerable in front of someone else because they’ve been hurt in the past. You should let your partner with abandonment issues know that you’re available to talk and willing to listen.
But don’t push them to open up if they’re not ready. If they get too uncomfortable, they might pull away. You might just want to ask them what you can do to help.
3. Don’t Engage in Faulty Arguments
Because someone with fear of abandonment may have so many false beliefs about their worth and their role in a relationship, they may try to manipulate you when you’re having an intense discussion or argument.
Someone with abandonment issues often wants to know that they’re not going to be left behind. They may try to sway the conversation so that you’re constantly affirming and comforting them. For example, they may say things like, “I know that you’re not really that into me” or “I can tell that you pity me.”
They don’t do this on purpose. It’s a reflex that they’ve learned from experience. If they can get continual engagement from you, they don’t feel the abandonment. The problem is that if you play into these games, the moment you stop engaging, your partner experiences abandonment again.
The best way to deal with abandonment issues in a relationship is to state clearly that you’re ready to listen when your partner is ready to say what they’re really feeling and thinking. Doing this prevents you from continually goading them to get them to express themselves. But it shows them that they’re important to you even if you’re not giving them constant attention.
It’s also important to avoid telling your partner that they’re wrong. Instead, validate their feelings before trying to get them to see things from a different perspective.
4. Understand That It’s About Them
Partners with abandonment issues may act withdrawn or jealous. This could make you feel as though you’re doing something to hurt them. They may even try to blame you outright.
But people with abandonment issues aren’t reacting to anything that you did. They are following patterns that were established when they experienced their trauma. They’re remembering what it felt like to be hurt, and they’re trying to avoid getting in that situation again.
After they blow up or act irrationally, people with abandonment issues will often feel ashamed of their behavior. That’s a great time to talk about it and reassure them that you’re there for them when they’re experiencing those intense emotions.
5. Don’t Enable Unhealthy Behaviors
If you allow your partner to engage in the unhealthy behaviors that they’re used to, such as manipulation, blame, and isolation, you reinforce their abandonment issues. Setting your own boundaries makes it easier for the other person to learn to respect themselves. Being independent and firm in what you need from the relationship will make it more difficult for your partner to cling to you out of codependency.
This is easier said than done. When you care about someone, you want to coddle and comfort them. But that constant input bolsters their abandonment issues. They feel good when they’re getting your attention, but they disintegrate when you’re off doing your own thing, and the cycle repeats.
Standing your ground and knowing what you want from the relationship will help you ask for what you want without hurting your partner. It also sets a good example for your partner. They can learn to set boundaries and be independent too.
6. Understand Why They’re Pulling Away
When you’re with someone who has abandonment issues, one of the hardest things to deal with is their instinct to sabotage the relationship. Someone with abandonment issues is so afraid of being rejected that they often damage the connection on purpose.
They don’t want to be alone, but it’s better to be rejected for a reason than to be left just because they’re not good enough. If they exhibit negative behavior or damage the relationship, their partner has a reason to leave. If their partner abandons them, at least it’s for a reason and not just a reflection of the individual’s worth.
Because of this, your partner may pull away from you for no reason. They may try to pick fights. If they abandon you first, they’ll avoid the pain of being abandoned.
Be prepared to prove yourself. You’ll need to consistently show your partner that even though other people have hurt them in the past, you aren’t going to.
7. Remember That You Don’t Need to Fix Them
You are not responsible for fixing your partner’s abandonment issues. You could certainly promise that you’ll never leave them. However, you don’t want to make promises that you can’t keep, and you never know what the future holds.
You can promise that you will always be willing to listen or that your partner can always come to you with their problems. But someone with abandonment issues believes that everyone will eventually leave them. They may never believe you no matter how many promises you make.
In fact, making promises might drive your partner away. When they have a high expectation of a secure future, there’s more to lose. Your partner with abandonment issues might pull away to avoid getting close altogether. If you don’t get attached, you can’t get hurt, right?
You don’t have to stay with someone who has abandonment issues. But if you care about them and want to make the relationship work, it helps to understand where they’re coming from. Remind them why you love them, but don’t indulge or overprotect them. By setting your own boundaries and living your life, you’ll show them that they can do the same.
Therapy for Abandonment Issues
Therapy can help people with abandonment issues process their traumas and relieve anxiety. Individual psychotherapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and EMDR are effective. Couples counseling may also be valuable for learning how to interact with your partner and helping you understand each other better.
If you are struggling with your own abandonment issues or think your partner is, reach out to a therapist in Beverly Hills. At the Beverly Hills Therapy Group, you and your partner can work through the challenges of the past and move toward a happy and healthy future.