Fear of abandonment affects many people. Whether they had a bad past relationship or had a rough childhood, the results are the same. Unfortunately, these past experiences can cause problems for future relationships, whether romantic, friendly, or familial.
Acknowledging your fear and working to make it right can make your future brighter and your relationships deeper. This article covers some of the common signs of fear of abandonment, and the seven ways you can work on fixing that fear.
What Is Fear of Abandonment?
Fear of abandonment is when you are constantly worried that people you care about are going to leave you. This is often most seen in romantic partners but can happen with friendships or mentorships as well.
The fear of abandonment is the same, but people may react differently. They may grow angry, shut themselves off, or become so desperate for love that they get with people that may not be good for them.
Additionally, abandonment anxiety can come in the form of emotional and physical abandonment. Even if your partner doesn’t leave you, you may be worried that they will stay with you but you will be distant from your partner and disconnected.
While these feelings may be heightened in some people, it is a perfectly normal reaction. Studies have shown that babies often undergo separation anxiety. However, if those fears are proven true, then those fears don’t go away.
Most of the time, babies will learn that they will always be loved and cared for around the age of three, and these feelings fade. But if you were often abandoned or left with emotionally distant parents at a young age, those fears will often grow.
Being abandoned or betrayed in a relationship later on in life can also bring those fears back to light and make them distrust future partners and friends.
What Causes Fear of Abandonment?
There are a few situations and problems that can cause fear of abandonment. Having problems with your family is a common one. Perhaps a parent left your family, and then the other one became emotionally distant. Or maybe your one stable parent has had a string of bad relationships.
Most of the time, it is the experiences that occur when we are young that influence us the most. If you had a very traumatic relationship with a friend or partner, you may also experience some fear of abandonment, but it isn’t as common.
Additionally, some personality disorders can cause fear of abandonment. Having an avoidant personality can lead to you often being afraid everyone will leave you, even if you have never experienced or seen problems like that before.
Avoidant personality disorder only affects about one percent of the population. They usually have low self-esteem, tend to self-isolate, and avoid social, work, or school situations because they believe themselves to be below others and are very reactive to criticism.
Another common one is borderline personality disorder. This is when people have a hard time regulating their emotions. Often, they think poorly of themselves, and this leads to problems in their relationships. They are often also impulsive and participate in risky behaviors.
14 Signs of Fear of Abandonment
1. Problems Opening Up to Anyone
When you are afraid of opening up to anyone, you may find that you are so closed off that you aren’t willing to talk or open up to people. This makes it harder to get friends and close acquaintances because it involves opening up on both sides.
2. Avoiding Rejection and Separation
Those with a fear of abandonment usually don’t have many friends or even close acquaintances. This is because they are afraid of being rejected. If they do get close to someone, they often don’t want to leave them alone and are constantly texting or trying to hang out with them.
3. Frequent Bad Relationships
Those that don’t want to be abandoned are often willing to do anything to get a relationship and find someone that loves them or is at least willing to be with them. Most other people have standards that can help them stay out of bad relationships and see the warning signs, but those with fear of being left often overlook these signs until it is too late.
4. Connecting and Disconnecting From People Quickly
Many people afraid of being abandoned will often have problems forming attachments. They don’t want to be vulnerable and set themselves up to be hurt again, so they will often leave whenever they sense that they could get hurt.
Or, if you are afraid they will leave, you will often leave first to prevent problems or try to hurt them before they hurt you.
5. Blaming Yourself for Every Mistake
When things go wrong, you may be quick to blame yourself, even if no blame is there. This is often to try and prevent a fight. By taking the blame, you believe your partner and you won’t get into an argument.
6. Staying in Unhealthy Relationships
Sometimes, those afraid of being abandoned will stay in relationships that aren’t good for them because they are desperate to be loved. They may believe that they won’t ever find a better relationship, or that the abuse is worth it for love.
Jealousy is a common problem. You may be jealous of your partner when they have good relationships with friends and family. You may also be jealous when other people come and talk to your partner or they make a new friend.
Often this is due to your problems forming relationships, in addition to your belief that your partner will leave you or abandon you at some point.
8. Going Above and Beyond in Relationships
When you are getting into a relationship, you may feel like you have to do everything right. You have to be the perfect partner, working hard, cooking, cleaning, and having no problems like fights and arguments.
Eventually, this can lead you to feel burned out. You may start arguing with your partner about how you are doing everything, or they may come to expect that level of work from you all the time and grow distant if you don’t keep up the work.
9. Demand to Spend a Lot of Time With Their Partner
Those that constantly feel like they are being abandoned will often want to spend an exorbitant amount of time with their partner. If they don’t spend as much time as possible with you, you may feel like they are drifting away and purposefully being distant.
A lot of this probably has to do with the fact that you assume that they are leaving you at some point, and want to enjoy as much time as you can together. Or do you think the closeness will help you to stay together?
10. May Imagine or Exaggerate Problems in a Relationship to Push Away Partner
Sometimes, you will find yourself creating problems where there weren’t any previously, or taking small problems and exaggerating them into bigger problems. This is done for multiple reasons. Often, it causes problems in the relationship, so that you and your partner fight, or it gives you an excuse to leave the relationship.
11. Move Quickly Through Relationships
Those that are afraid of being abandoned will often move through relationships quickly. This is because they don’t want to feel vulnerable or trust anyone and risk getting hurt again. To prevent this, they will often leave whenever a relationship gets too deep, and quickly move on to another one to ignore their feelings.
12. Controlling Their Partner
Being jealous or resentful of your partner may cause you to become controlling. Perhaps you don’t let them do anything on their own or make them respond to you at certain times of the day. Limiting their ability to go out is common, including who they hang out with, where they go, and when they have to be back.
13. Don’t Feel Worthy of Love
One of the reasons those with a fear of abandonment tend to get into quick or bad relationships is that they don’t feel worthy of love. They feel that their parents never loved them and they don’t even love themselves, so having someone else love them is impossible.
This can lead to them waiting for their partner to figure it out and leave them. Or they may cause problems unintentionally so their partner gets angry and leaves them.
14. Resents Their Partner Doing Things Without Them
Some people with a fear of abandonment will feel resentment for their partner doing things without them, even if it is just hanging out, or going to dinner with their work team. They may also have the same problem in reverse, where they struggle to do things without their partner, or feel guilty even if the partner didn’t want to go.
How Does It Impact Relationships?
Fear of abandonment can cause serious problems in a relationship. Often, it creates a cycle, where you go overboard as you are afraid of being left, and it makes people leave you that otherwise wouldn’t. This then confirms in your mind that even when you do your best, you are incapable of being loved, and the cycle repeats.
You may often find yourself having imposter syndrome in your relationships. You may feel that you are somehow tricking your partner and one day they will realize the truth about you and leave.
Fear comes in waves. So sometimes, your relationship will be normal and happy, but then, you will get bursts of emotions like panic, anxiety, depression, anger, and mood swings.
You may also have codependency, which is when you struggle to trust yourself, and become dependent on the other person in a relationship, to the point you are staying in unhealthy relationships just to feel a little love.
Lack of trust is also a big one in a relationship. Even if your partner hasn’t done anything to make you distrust them, you may find yourself questioning every action and behavior. You may get angry if they are gone longer than they said, or if they are texting someone, or even hanging out with coworkers after work.
This can lead to fights, anger, and distrust in a relationship which often leads to a relationship no longer working out. Unless your partner is incredibly understanding and patient, most relationships won’t be able to handle continuous fights, especially when they don’t understand the reason.
7 Ways to Help Fix Your Fear
1. Open Up to Your Partner
The first step to fixing your fear is to be honest about it. By opening up and being vulnerable with your partner, you affirm your connection with them and allow them to realize that there are problems.
While you should never expect your partner to accept all parts of your personality, especially when you are being ridiculous, telling them about the issue can make them aware of what might be causing random fights or anger on your part.
They can also be more understanding and willing to remind you that they love you and aren’t going anywhere. However, the important part is that it is a good first step for you. By acknowledging a problem, you are more ready to face it head-on instead of avoiding it. You are also saying that you are willing to be vulnerable and open.
2. Learn to Love Yourself
This saying is everywhere. People often say you can’t be loved until you are willing to love yourself. This isn’t necessarily true, but learning to love yourself is important. Having someone who does love you, especially unconditionally, is a great first step to showing yourself you can be loved.
It is important to note that this doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship. Having someone you can trust and rely on is very important, whether they be a mentor, parental figure, friend, or partner makes little difference.
Learning to forgive yourself, prioritizing your needs over others, and accepting your emotions are all important steps.
3. Rely on Yourself to Influence Your Emotions
Codependency can often mean that people are influenced easily by their partner’s emotions and behaviors. Working on being in charge of your own emotions, and not letting other people change your behavior is important. Otherwise, you will always be moved by their emotions and follow their desires over your own.
When you start to feel a strong emotion, especially a negative one, determine what has caused you to have this emotion. Was it something that happened directly to you? Or was it because something happened to your partner?
Learning to differentiate your emotions is very important and will allow you to rely on yourself for both your good and bad emotions, as well as learn when you are happy.
Journaling helps you get your thoughts on paper. You can write down how you are feeling, what you are thinking, and your deepest and darkest fears without judgment or vulnerability.
You can also practice changing your thoughts and mindset. Write a list of good things that happened that day, what you are grateful for, and “I am” statements to focus on the positives instead of the negatives.
5. Understand Where Your Problems Began
If you want to fix your fear of abandonment, you have to understand what caused it in the first place. Was it your mother leaving you, or your father never wanting to spend time with you?
Finding out the root cause or causes can allow you to reflect on the moment, realize that not every situation is the same, and maybe see it from your parent’s point of view instead of just your own.
All of these are vital to healing and making a difference in your future relationships. With practice, you may even be willing to forgive yourself.
6. Learn to Let the Past Go
Even if you have had a string of bad relationships in the past, that doesn’t mean you are doomed to failure. However, if you can’t let go of the past, and keep blaming or accusing your current partner of mistakes your previous partners made, you may not be able to heal and grow.
Understanding that every person is different and that the past is over with is a crucial step to healing.
If you are struggling with any of the steps above, it may be a good idea to visit a therapist. They can help you work through problems, practice healthy behaviors, and maybe even be willing to walk through issues with both you and your partner to make sure your relationship stays strong.