How To Overcome the Fear of Abandonment - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 14, 2014

How To Overcome the Fear of Abandonment

# 1. Follow the guidelines below

Karla Downing

The fear of abandonment is very real and can negatively impact a relationship and even sabotage it, if you aren’t careful.  It stems from prior relationships, childhood and adult, in which the person wasn’t there for you. The emotional impact is still felt and the fear that someone will leave you in the present triggers all the old feelings of being abandoned unconsciously, subconsciously, and consciously. The problem is that the fear presents itself in the present even if the person you are with is not going to abandon you and it is a powerful and all-encompassing fear.  You then act on your fear and the other person may feel smothered, confused, accused, misunderstood, rejected, and threatened and as a result, may actually leave.

Here is how you overcome the fear of abandonment.

  • Recognize you have it. The signs are overreaction to being separated from a person, clinging then pushing away, imagined fears of the person cheating, extreme jealousy, possessiveness, and assuming the relationship is going to be over anyway.
  • Identify where it came from. Was it from your childhood or a prior relationship? What happened? How did it affect you? Why did you feel abandoned? Was it emotional and physical abandonment or just one of those two?
  • Identify how it is triggered in your current relationship. What does the other person do or not do that triggers it? Be specific so you will be able to recognize it when it comes up.
  • Identify how it manifests in your current relationship. What do you do when you feel abandoned? What are your thoughts? What are your emotions? How do you act on those thoughts and emotions? Do you push the person away, get clingy, imagine things, feel irritable, panic or anything else?
  • Talk to your partner about it. Own it as your problem. Express how it originated and how it is manifested. Express your desire to change your reaction and enlist the person’s help. It is not the other person’s responsibility to change this for you; however, if they are supportive and understanding when it occurs, it can really help you.
  • Detach from the feeling. Here is the most important step. When you feel abandoned, rather than acting on the feeling, you recognize it and then rationally decide whether it is real or not real. If your partner is abandoning you, then you need to make a decision about whether you want to continue the relationship. If your partner isn’t, then you need to identify the feelings as old feelings not connected to reality and then act on the reality rather than the old feelings. Eventually, the feelings will go away.

Karla Downing, MFT –

# 2. In order to keep the fear of abandonment a minor player in risking love, partners in relationships must make certain that they have more than one place that nurtures them

Dr. Randi Gunther

The fear of abandonment cannot be separated from the fear of losing someone upon whom you are totally dependent for emotional or physical survival. If you are so engrossed in a relationship that you have given the power to your partner to be responsible to keep you safe forever, you are bound to feel alone and desperate when he leaves. If you are aware that you’ve made that internal contract, you will be in constant fear that abandonment is a possibility. It is not possible to feel otherwise.

Everyone needs to matter, to be treasured, to belong, and to have some belief that those feelings of security will somehow continue. Though guaranteed safety in a relationship is an illusion, all partners in relationships count on some hope for that probability in order to trust their vulnerability and open to inter-dependence. They know, deep inside, that there are no real guarantees, but go on faith that there will be no unexpected disappointments.

In order to keep the fear of abandonment a minor player in risking love, partners in relationships must make certain that they have more than one place that nurtures them. Focusing on one person who is designated to keep you safe is a sure formula for potential disaster, especially if that person has a history of leaving relationships before his partner is ready to part. It is the part a child plays, fearful of dying if that nurturer disappears.

Many women are attracted to men who are a little out of reach, and that more challenging connection doesn’t come with obligatory devotion on their parts. Men who are needy are often less sexy or exciting, and end up more often being the ones abandoned. Loyalty, dependence, and fear of loss, though often equated with enduring commitment, are not necessarily drivers that guarantee transformation and genuine continuing interest in another. Fear of loss dampens the willingness to take risks, and risks are part of any deepening love.

Fear of abandonment also indicates that the person leaving does so with no warning and the person left is childlike and without the ability to survive without the other. Like a previously devoted parent who is tired of taking care of his child-like partner, the abandoner is then seen as a deserter, a traitor, a betrayer, and one who forsakes promises. That parent-child relationship often already exists before the abandonment happens, or the devastation would not be such a surprise.

The partners in mature relationships don’t use the word “abandoned,” when one partner leaves, nor are they unprepared or unaware that an ending may be coming. They’ve kept in touch with their partners throughout the relationship and are anticipating what may be in store. When the actual ending does arrive, they may feel grief and devastating loss, but not deserted. They already have a support network in readiness to help them, not as a replacement but as a haven in the emotional storm they must survive.

Genuine love is not possessive. Fears of abandonment will maintain the need for a woman to try to own her partner’s participation and fear the inability to maintain that control. The need to control a partner’s continued commitment is the way many women suppress their fears of abandonment. Better to know that love is fragile, transforming, fluid, and unpredictable. Women who can live in the blessing of when it exists, rather than worrying about whether it will stop, rarely are left behind.

Dr. Randi Gunther –

# 3. Let yourself be found


Remember playing hide-and-seek as a child?

If you were like me, your competitive side wanted to find the best hiding place EVER, somewhere no one would think to look, a place from which you could emerge triumphant after all the other kids had been found.

But another, softer, side of us thought the act of hiding was kind of boring and lonely, right? Scary, even. And so, in the middle of a game, we might start to panic a bit as the minutes went by and the other hiders were, one by one, discovered and released.

This softer side of us wanted desperately to be found.

Even today, though most of us are well past the age of neighborhood hide-and-seek, we find we still experience this same hiding tension. Because, truth be told, the competitive and fearful side of us still has a major interest in hiding from the rest of the rest of the world, even from our partners.

So, we often don’t say what we really think, for fear of looking stupid. Or we hesitate to reveal our true feelings, especially if they have the potential to offend or create distance. And when we am feeling most broken and alone, we are REALLY wary of revealing this, because we’re convinced no one, not even our partner, will understand.

Here’s the thing – a special kind of tragedy occurs when we’re too scared to share our unique perspective, our one-of-a-kind us-shaped puzzle piece, with the world.

As Anne Wilson Schaef so wisely observes, “When we change ourselves to fit into a situation, we may be depriving that situation of the very element it needs to become what it can become.” Yes. A partnership in which only one person speaks their true mind is only really a partnership of one, and is missing the richness of multiple perspectives.

Moreover, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that we feel bored, lonely, and even despairing, when we withhold who we really are, what we really believe and feel, from our most important relationships. Bored (and boring!) because we are so one-dimensional in this place. Lonely because we realize we have missed a chance to truly and authentically connect with our partner. Despairing because we don’t really want to remain hidden from this person, even if there is risk involved in revealing ourselves.

So don’t hold back. Reveal your true self. Let yourself be found.

Anne Barker, LCSW, LIMHP –

# 4. Realize that you are a worthy, special woman, who does not need a relationship, but rather wants a relationship that enhances the unique qualities you already have

Amy Sherman

The fear of abandonment is really an issue of developing more self-confidence and autonomy when you enter a relationship. It means you become a more secure, selective woman, resulting in the kind of “match” you want, feel good about and know is right for you. It means you feel empowered, a sense that you truly know how important you really are.

An empowered woman knows that it’s okay to look for what pleases her and to shy away from what doesn’t. Empowerment allows her to think independently and to live authentically, speaking and acting from her own convictions and values.

So, how do you overcome the fear of being abandoned, even if you consider yourself an empowered woman? Continue to work on yourself, as you are a work in progress. Continue following your daily routines, nurturing yourself by repeating how well you are doing and how you really do deserve to be happy and fulfilled.

Know that your partner is lucky to have you by his side and that your relationship is valuable because it enhances all that you both are. But remember, the most important relationship you have in your life is with yourself. To find someone you like is great, but to like yourself is even greater. To respect your partner with admiration and love is important, but is more vital to believe in yourself and all the good in life that you deserve.

Here are some things to consider to maintain your strong sense of self and value:

1. Depend on yourself and those you most trust to encourage, support and lighten up a situation when you are feeling down. It is empowering to know that you can decide how you feel, no matter what the circumstance.

2. Don’t be a martyr, sacrificing yourself on behalf of your new partner. Take care of yourself, above all else, to ensure you maintain your health and well-being.

3. You life is yours to control. Work on managing your challenges with skills that overcome obstacles and help you bounce back from adversity.

You will no longer fear being abandoned, when you know that you are a worthy, special woman, who does not need a relationship, but rather wants a relationship that enhances the unique qualities you already have.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC –

# 5. Follow the 5 tips listed below

Kristen Brown

Through experience, I’ve come to feel that abandonment is one of the most suppressing and sabotaging fears that a human being can carry. The fear of abandonment can show up in the most sneaky and unlikely of ways and can sabotage potentially great relationships. It is of vital importance to get radically real about your past experiences and understand that healing in this area is priority one.

Unfortunately, there is no quickie method that can or will heal your abandonment issues. Each issue is completely unique to each person as were the details surrounding the event(s). Additionally, we all process and react to situations as differently as each strand of our individual DNA. What I do know is that there are certain things we can do that can start us on our healing path. How quickly and how effectively it works is completely up to the individual depending on (a) how much time is spent focusing on healing (b) the person’s determination to heal and (c) the courage to keep going forward no matter what.

Being a person who has been abandoned in several different ways throughout my lifetime, I will share with you the work I did/do to heal the immobilizing fear of abandonment.

1. I learned and came to understand that their abandonment was not about me. What others do is about them. It has nothing to do with my worth.

2. I learned and understand that I cannot truly be abandoned unless I abandon myself. Others will do what they will, but if I always have me, I am safe.

3. I learned that through forgiveness of another’s dark behavior, I heal a massive piece of my heart which allows me to have a clearer vision of the past and of my future. I take my power back through forgiveness.

4. I understand that I have to be 100% open and vulnerable about my experience with my new person so that he has the opportunity to understand when/if I act from my fearful place.

5. I understand that the “right” person for me will be willing to see me through my fearful moments and love me back to center.

Yes, abandonment is tough, really tough, however, it is 100% heal-able. As with everything in life, we must be willing to step up with courage and do the work necessary to manifest our dream life. It all starts within.

Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor –

# 6. Take small bites from the elephant and tackle it gently, slowly and with compassion

Margie Ulbrick

As with any fear it helps to break it down. Fear of abandonment seems to me to be pretty universal, you might say it’s part of the human condition. That said, some struggle with it more than others. Maybe it helps to take small bites from the elephant and to tackle it gently, slowly and with compassion.

It helps to ask good questions.

Some of these include: what am I afraid of and how realistic is this? It could help to do some reality testing here. Will I really end up on the streets or a depressed alcoholic or whatever the fear might be? Maybe the fear is co-created. That is, if you are in a relationship with a person who is not committed, then abandonment issues will naturally be triggered. You feel vulnerable and exposed while not certain that you can trust this person to be there.

Sometimes it comes back to basic survival issues. Maybe you worry you won’t be able to support yourself emotionally or financially. Then, it might be wise to take steps to move in a direction that feels supportive of your development and growth. This might mean reaching out to increase your connectedness to others in a supportive way. It might mean that you take steps to become more skilled or more employable. Alternatively, it could mean that you learn to manage money better or to curtail your spending. It might look like developing skills in fostering resilience. All of these steps would be moves towards creating and fostering independence. When you can trust yourself to “be there” for yourself, to back yourself, then the fear diminishes. As trust grows so fear recedes.

It could be that you have never learnt to rely on yourself. What would it look like to be able to trust yourself to be there for yourself? In other words, to honor your needs and define what’s truly important for you. If you invest your energy in fear of abandonment you are also not investing your energy in what you need.

Another approach is to look at your past and face what needs to be healed. Maybe you feared losing an important person growing up or maybe you experienced trauma and loss at a young age. These are real issues that need to be processed in order to move through fear of loss and abandonment.

Perhaps you have abandonment issues that stem from your very early development. In this case you might like to have compassion for the small child that was not able to feel secure and safe in the world, not able to feel that there was a solid and reliable care-giver who could meets the needs of a very vulnerable child.

Meeting this child now with the compassion of your adult self can help to soothe the child within.

Have compassion for yourself and for others. We are all fragile human beings with various unmet needs and fears. Take it gently, one step at a time. Take a deep sustaining breath and face into those fears with an attitude of curiosity and love. Do it again and again.

Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI –

# 7. Embrace acceptance


  • Vulnerable
  • Afraid of loss
  • Feeling emotionally naked
  • Possibility of abandonment by those we love

These descriptors don’t sound too appealing, do they? But if we consider them, aren’t they exactly what we sign up for when we open ourselves to a romantic partner? While at face value they may sound like scary concepts, we can choose to look at them with a fresh eye. It takes courage and self-knowledge to allow ourselves to really be seen by another person, especially a person with whom we’ve enmeshed our lives, and our heart. Trusting that our partner will accept us, not just for our strengths but also with our imperfections…that’s a beautiful and worthwhile risk.

Humans are social beings and, with the exception of a small minority, most of us crave love and belonging. Perhaps the question isn’t so much “how to overcome the fear of abandonment” as how to cultivate a sense of acceptance of the ups and downs of life, relationships included. Having a flexible attitude and focusing on making sure that we are taking good care of ourselves can decrease our anxiety about losing what is precious to us.

And, isn’t it possible that our partner may be feeling the same way?

Marnee Reiley, M.A. –

# 8. The key to overcoming the fear of abandonment – as with any fear that we find disabling – is to look at it head-on and explore the deeper fears behind it

Yve Bowen

Abandonment is a strong word, with overly negative connotations. It denotes being unable to cope, not feeling secure, wondering who’s is going to look after, or take care of you, etc.

Yet the clue to your overcoming, is in the connotations. Are you really defenseless? Could you really not cope if you had to? Do you genuinely need someone to take care of you? Are you a helpless infant or a small child who needs watching over? If none of these statements are true, then what is it that you are really in fear of?

Exploring this last question, will lead to surprising answers that may have absolutely nothing to do with being abandoned, but everything to do with your levels of self-love and self-appreciation. Other helpful questions to ask yourself around this are: What do I believe is truly unlovable about me? What don’t I like about myself? What do I believe my partner, (or potential partner) could never love about me?

The answers that then come to you, are the solutions to your fear of abandonment. For within these answers is the key to where you are not loving yourself enough. Give yourself love in those areas most of all. Find something beautiful about that very thing, you most dislike about yourself. Appreciate your innate wonderfulness a little more every day, and you’ll soon change your tune.

Instead of worrying about being abandoned you’ll be saying: ‘My partner’s lucky to have me, would be crazy to leave me, and even if it comes to that, I will do more than survive, I’ll thrive! I’ll grow and gain new skills. I’ll surprise myself with how resourceful, I really am!’

Every day, find more things to love and appreciate about yourself, gain skills in the areas you feel are genuinely lacking in your day-to-day living experience, and let your growing self-belief allow you to love your partner confidently, authentically, and with an open heart. Who could ask for, or want, more than that?

Yve Bowen, Writer, Speaker and Spiritual coach –

# 9. Accept your fears, they are normal. Assess your strengths. Move forward in the world with the knowledge that you and all others hold the same anxieties

Ruth Gordon

First, it is helpful to understand that everyone, male and female, harbors within them the fear that they will be abandoned. This fear, which, of course, is not understood at the time, begins to grow when we are infants, dependent on our caregivers for our survival.

This apprehension is embedded in our psyche for the duration of our lives. In some cases it is more easily aroused than in others. Under a particular set of circumstances (the “perfect storm”) all of us are vulnerable to the provocation of these fears.

What to do? First, we must identify what it is that is making us so uncomfortable. It may feel like everything from the impending descent of eternal wrath to the suspicion that something has gone terribly wrong and that we are unsafe. The underlying cause of these feelings is our unconscious telling us that we are in danger of being deserted.

Once we have figured out the root cause of our unease, we might remind ourselves that we will never again be the helpless infants we once were. However inadequate we may believe ourselves to be, we actually have acquired some pretty good survival skills or we wouldn’t be around today. When we are feeling overwhelmed it is necessary to, literally, tally up our strengths so that we can calm down and decide what, if anything, we can do about the situation.

It is always a mistake to place all of our confidence in another in the belief that we need to be taken care of. A lot of what we call “love” is actually this imagined dependency. Our attachment to another may make life easier in many ways, but, it is not necessary for survival.

If you are accepting abusive treatment as the cost of receiving help, you are discarding your self-respect. If you believe this is the only person you will ever love, you are wrong. Your soulmate is not an acceptable choice if your soul is being destroyed in the process.

Accept your fears, they are normal. Assess your strengths. Move forward in the world with the knowledge that you and all others hold the same anxieties. It’s hard to be human, but you can do it.

Ruth Gordon, M.A., MSW, LICSW –

# 10. To overcome fear of abandonment, one must establish trust

Brett McDonald

We often look to our childhood experiences and the famed “daddy issues” to understand why we fear being abandoned by a partner. Although it is true that early experiences may create barriers to developing relationship security, I believe trust in a relationship comes from the everyday emotional interactions we have with our loved ones. Particularly, the exchange of attunement and nurturing that occurs between (and within) ourselves and another has a critical influence upon felt relationship security.

Childhood experiences can sometimes teach us that it is either unsafe, unrealistic or burdensome to ask others to understand and respond to our emotional needs. This creates a pattern of emotional suppression, lack of self-understanding, and a reluctance to allow others to accommodate the emotional needs we have. In order to feel safe in a relationship, to have trust and avoid fear of abandonment, we must feel “seen” by another and have faith that our partners can take the needed steps to nurture what they understand our needs to be. Without this sense of attunement and nurturing from another, it is virtually impossible to avoid the “irrational” fears and insecurities that manifest as “abandonment issues.”

To overcome fear of abandonment, one must establish trust. Trust comes not from the absence of bad experiences in a relationship, but rather from the presence of a strong relational exchange (a freely-flowing current of attunement and nurturing between yourself and your partner.)

To build emotional security in your relationship, start by identifying and challenging the underlying assumptions, labels, fears and self-stigmas that prevent you from giving yourself sufficient emotional attention.

Make your feelings a priority and allow others to make your feelings a priority too. Stop saying “nothing is wrong” when your partner asks you how you are feeling. Stop telling yourself you are burdensome or weak when you share emotional needs. Challenge the idea that you are creating undue strain on your partner by asking for and gratefully accepting emotional nurturing.

When you and your partner emphasize and attend to emotional needs in each other, you will see a reduction in fears of abandonment, an increase in emotional intimacy, and an overall improvement in relationship security. Further, when you find “irrational” insecurities getting the best of you, try resolving these fears through the redoubling of self-empathy, emotional communication and active nurturing from without as well as from within.

Brett McDonald, M.S., LMHC –

# 11. It takes courage and vulnerability to speak from that place hidden within us

Laura Pryor

The fear of abandonment resonates with us all, on some level or another. Whether by choice or by circumstance, many of us have suffered loss in our lives. From a child who survived a parents divorce to an adult who has had a partner be unfaithful, we have felt the grip of fear in losing a relationship. The problem then becomes how we play out these fears in our intimate relationships, repeating a cycle until we learn to do something different.

Talking about our fears is not an innate skill and feels uncomfortable for many people. It takes courage and vulnerability to speak from that place hidden within us. We must choose between saying nothing to our partner (making us feel more disconnected from them and pushing them away) or take the risk in verbalizing our fears (allowing your partner to listen to your concerns and open up dialogue between the two of you).

Often times it is not something our partners are doing, intentionally, that is bringing up fears of abandonment within us. They may have no awareness that their behaviors are creating emotional misery for us. Therefore, we need to find a way to let them know how their actions and words effect us. It’s not about placing blame or making someone out to be a bad guy. It is about each person owning their part in how the relationship is growing (or stagnating) and making a choice to do something different.

Laura Pryor, LIMHP, LPC, PLADC –

# 12. By healing the hurts, the wounds of the past, it gives us the strength and the freedom to deal with the present

Cynthia Pickett

First let me say that if you are in a relationship in which you don’t have a voice or are afraid to speak your truth, the relationship is probably not worth saving. This is a fundamental flaw in the relationship. However, if you already know this is not a healthy relationship and have decided to stay anyway, I would strongly encourage you to work on healing the past, on overcoming your fear of abandonment, or fear of being alone, so that you find more emotional freedom and more respectful relationships.

Fear on abandonment is actually a lack of self-esteem and/or neediness. Most of us have abandonment issues! Our issues (buttons) usually begin in our childhood. Abandonment by our parents could have been through emotional or physical withdrawal (death or divorce). By healing the hurts, the wounds of the past, it gives us the strength and the freedom to deal with the present.

In the meantime, say a mantra like “I am a person of value and my words are worthy of hearing”. Mantras can have such a powerful effect! When I am working on feeling worthy I have been known to say this hundreds of times per day. The mantra, along with healing the past abandonment issues, will open the door to a whole new way of living and being.

Cynthia Pickett, LCSW –

# 13. The key to letting go of that old fear is to recognize that it is old, that it is not about now, and that it is based on a lie

Wendy Dingee

Overcoming fear of abandonment is not a simple process of following a few easy steps. That tight, constricted feeling that grips your body and the irrational voice that tells you that you will be nothing without him comes from a very old place and has been with you for a long time.

The key to letting go of that old fear is to recognize that it is old, that it is not about now, and that it is based on a lie. The lie is that you are somehow not good enough just as you are and that you need to be completed by another person. The lie says that you have to hang on really tightly, or be lost. That is the feeling of a little child who really did have to look outside of herself to get her needs met. You are no longer that little child; when that fear of abandonment comes up, breathe and bring yourself back to the present.

The truth is that when you let go of that old fear, when you realize that you are whole already, that is when you create the space for true connection in your relationship. It is ironic that trying very hard to hold on tight keeps you in that fearful place. Relationships need room to breathe, and fear brings constriction and suffocation. Letting go creates room to breathe, and it begins with believing in your inherent wholeness. It takes practice and is not easy, but both you and your relationship will grow as a result.

Wendy Dingee, MS, LCPC, LCADC, BCC –

# 14. Acknowledge your desire for connectedness, get some of your needs met outside of the relationship and realize that it is your choice to move toward or away in your relationships, while respecting that choice of others

Dr. Bryce Taylor

The fear of abandonment often enters into relationships. The loss of a relationship is one of the most emotionally painful things we experience. It makes sense, then, that we would want to avoid this. And there is a tendency, when afraid, to try to gain more control. A sense of control does combat fear. But there are many ways to gain a sense of control. Trying to control or manipulate the actions of our partner does not lead to a healthy, gratifying relationship. But what does increase a sense of control and can help the relationship grow is getting some of our needs for friendship, affiliation, and acknowledgement met outside of our romantic relationship. I am not suggesting promiscuity here, but friendship and acknowledgement of our worth as a person. This can be done through our work, creative endeavors, clubs, friendships, etc. In a sense, it is not putting “all of our eggs in one basket” but it also is a means of gaining a broader sense of control of various aspects of our lives.

It should also be said that it is natural to want to hold onto something that we value. As we invest more in relationships…blood, sweat, and tears… we value it more highly and the tendency is to hold on tighter. But relationships dominated by fear, even the fear of losing the other can stifle growth and the honest sharing of thoughts and emotion. When interactions become calculated to decrease the likelihood that the other will leave or abandon us, we risk losing ourselves and the positive energy or love in the relationship.

Kahlil Gibran wrote in On Marriage, “…And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart,…And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Fear of abandonment is real and natural. The fear, itself, is not the problem. We can choose to deal with it in ways that help the relationship grow, or in ways that are potentially damaging. I believe that some of the more healthy ways of responding to this fear are acknowledging our desire for connectedness, getting some of our needs met outside of the relationship, and realizing that it is our choice to move toward or away in our relationships, while respecting that choice of others.

Dr. Bryce Taylor –

# 15. Work at growing your independent self

Sally Leboy

Fear of abandonment is one of our most primitive fears. It is linked to our survival instinct. Human babies are helpless; we cannot survive without a constant caretaker. Because humans develop slowly, we are dependent for a long time, longer than almost all other animals including primates, our closest relatives. This is all to say that the fear of abandonment is hard-wired for survival. It’s not an easy fear to manage.

As we get older and more independent this fear should recede, although like our other instincts it will never disappear entirely. Obviously, the more self-sufficient you become, the less this fear will impact you. If, by and large, you can take care of yourself, the loss of significant people, while painful, will probably not impact your long-term ability to function. I don’t want to minimize the emotional pain of being abandoned. It hurts; but if you are emotionally and/or physically dependent, it can feel terrifying.

Loss is a part of life. We all die; there’s no getting around that one. Although logically we understand that our loved ones don’t want to die, we can still feel hurt, anger and abandonment when they do. People move away, get married, have children, all life events that can trigger the fear of abandonment. However, this is a fear that must be managed if we are to live fully and experience the joy of intimacy. The more intimate the relationship, the more vulnerable we are to its loss. But people who protect themselves from loss at the expense of intimacy are paying a very steep price. Whoever said “No pain, no gain” was addressing this very issue. Whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain, it’s the people who take the risk who reap the greatest rewards.

So to overcome the fear of abandonment, you need to work at growing your independent self. Taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually makes you less dependent on other people. Know and like who you are. Never mistake fusion for love. If you are an independent person, you will want to share your life with someone equally independent. These are the strongest couples. Because each partner has a strong sense of self, they have the courage to really love. They know that if and when loss occurs they will grieve, but they will survive.

Sally Leboy, MS, MFT –

# 16. Follow the tips below

Laurel Fray

An important thing to remember as you try to address your fear of abandonment is that at some level, every human being has this same fear. The need for connection is hardwired into us, and so it only makes sense that we fear the opposite: that the one we most want to connect with will leave us.

Having said that, there are reasons why one person might have a stronger fear of abandonment than others. When have you experienced rejection before? Has someone you really counted on let you down, and abandoned you emotionally? If you’ve had a difficult experience in the past with being left – either physically or emotionally – by someone important to you, the fear of abandonment will understandably be strong, as you seek to prevent being left again. It’s vital to understand what’s behind your fear, because then you have more power to address it and make lasting change.

When you find yourself in the grips of your fear, the first thing to do is take deep breaths to calm yourself. Research has shown that once triggered into “fight or flight”, it takes us about 20-30 minutes to calm ourselves down to the point where we can once again think clearly. You might need to excuse yourself from the situation in order to do this – please let your partner know what you are doing, so you don’t unknowingly trigger the fear of abandonment in them!

When you are physiologically calmer, ask yourself these questions:

  • What was it that triggered my fear of abandonment in that situation?

This could be a phrase or even a look. Try to pinpoint exactly when you began to feel afraid, and what immediately preceded it.

  • Was there an actual risk that the other person was going to permanently leave me at that moment?

Oftentimes the answer to this question will be no, with obvious exceptions. If you can realize that the other person was probably not going to imminently leave you, you can further calm yourself and own what part of the interaction was yours.

  • What do I need to communicate clearly to my partner in order to resolve or at least move this situation forward?

Once you’ve recognized that your fear has been triggered, you can move it to the side and focus on the interaction at hand. Chances are your fears cloud whatever the true issue is, and when you’re calm you can go back and ask your partner what they need, what you said to upset them, and communicate your needs of the situation clearly as well.

Remember that if you’ve had traumatic experiences of loss and abandonment in your life, particularly as a child, you may always have an underlying fear of abandonment. However, you absolutely can learn to manage it and not let it influence every interaction you have with your partner.

Laurel Fay, M.S., LCMFT –

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