How to Manage the Fear of Being Abandoned
It’s not unusual to hear the term ‘abandonment issues’ used as a shameful stamp in today’s society. “Fear of abandonment” often implies there’s something wrong with a person. But how rare and abnormal is it really? Who isn’t afraid of being abandoned by someone they care deeply for and have been vulnerable with? We, as a society, participate in a dating culture that has played with an entire generation’s trust. Singles are regularly insecure that someone they see potential in or feel attracted to may ghost them. Apps have made it very easy to just stop talking to someone, unmatch, and never explain why. You can go on a date that you felt went well then never hear from them again.
As Aziz Ansari explained in his book, Modern Love: we now have too many options with dating apps. While that can make it difficult to find someone, it also can create a struggle to feel secure with someone who also has endless swipes available.
So how do we handle these fears?
Be kind to yourself
This fear is human and probably has roots in your past experiences. You didn’t ask for it, but it is here now and there are ways to manage and accept it.
In owning this fear, it is your responsibility to make an attempt at understanding and managing it. This fear is yours and your partner can support you but they don’t have to fix it. Owning it also requires not denying when it is there.
Be open about what you’re feeling
Your partner needs to know that these fears are there. Have conversations about what triggers you have and ask for support. Learn what can be done to make you feel less threatened; sometimes it is as simple as using certain language that is more comforting for you. Your reaction to a small slight and the appearance of this fear may look to your partner to come out of nowhere; this requires clear communication to them. Do not expect them to read your mind.
Try to find patterns around what triggers these feelings.
Anxiety does not come out of nowhere; something happens before it appears. Sometimes it is not obvious so begin to track whenever this fear appears and log what happened immediately before; patterns will start to appear.
Agree to avoid being blindsided.
A large amount of the fear is nurtured by the idea that out of nowhere, some large issue will be put on the table that ends a relationship without the fearful individual having no opportunity to right what had always been wronged. Speaking with your partner about finding a way to communicate before the issue is something worth ending the relationship over. While there will always be issues that are unavoidable, to never hear the term “I have been thinking about this for quite some time now-” is what we want to prevent. This will not avoid the end of a relationship, but it will aid you in feeling more secure that you won’t be blindsided by an issue that was kept from you.
Read and write
Read up on this sort of insecurity, find workbooks, and journal when you start to feel these anxieties building.
Connect with others in your support system
According to Esther Perel, LMFT and relationship therapist, relationships and marriages last longer for those who have more social resources. This allows for more people to talk to about issues in your life and allows you to not bring every stressor to the relationship. It also allows you to know that if you do lose this relationship, you have friends to support you.
Work on feeling secure and self-reliant
When you feel secure, there is no fear of loss. Security feels like trust and knowing that your partner doesn’t have eyes or feelings for anyone else. There is no doubt that they want to be with you and desire a future with you. This is developed by communication, vulnerability, and exploration of what makes you feel secure and connected. However feeling secure also comes with work on yourself. Speak to a professional, find workbooks, or read self help books to start working on your security so that if this relationship were to end, it will hurt but you will be okay.
Resolve this fear and panic without the aid of your partner
This is a hard skill that develops very slowly over time. Self-soothing and grounding are important and learning to do so will take time. Things like mindfulness or exercising are two activities that could help, but need to be practiced before you are in crisis. This is also a good time to focus on friends and staying connected with them when you feel you are in crisis.
This isn’t taking risks alone, it is taking them with your partner and it is designed to build trust. Esther Perel explains in her own blog that trust is not believing that someone will never hurt you, but it is putting faith in them that if they do, they will still be there to heal with you. Being with a new partner is a risk and it is trusting that this person is not the same as those in your past who have hurt you before.