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5 Minutes Read

How Do I Get Over My Fear of Abandonment?

Do you have a pattern of being in relationships where you’d do just about anything to make it work? Take on your partner’s interests, neglect your own goals and plans, put up with bad behavior, find ways to feel commitment before it’s really time to take that step… essentially, whatever it takes to get them to stay.

You might be impacted by a fear of abandonment, keeping you in relationships way past their expiration date. Understanding your fear of abandonment and learning how to work through it can make a world of difference to the health of your interpersonal relationships and your overall mental wellbeing.

Understand why humans fear abandonment

When you hear the phrase “fear of abandonment” usually the next phrase you hear is “attachment style”. Attachment styles first develop in infancy, when, in order to survive, we need to form and maintain a profound bond with a caregiver who can meet our physiological and emotional needs.

Keeping this in mind, it’s important to remember that ultimately the fear of abandonment is completely normal. In fact, its presence in the human psyche is key to the survival of our species. It’s unrealistic to expect to never feel afraid that someone will reject you or that an important relationship will end. However, that fear may manifest differently depending on one’s attachment style.

For example, if you have an anxious attachment style, you might find yourself worrying excessively that a small conflict with your partner means the end of your relationship. If you have an avoidant attachment style, you might be reluctant to truly open up emotionally to other people, to try to protect yourself from the hurt you would feel if they left you.

Care for any related mental health concerns

If you struggle with fear of abandonment as part of or alongside certain mental health diagnoses, it’s important to get appropriate specialized treatment to put you in the best position possible to manage those fears.

Many people stereotype intense fear of abandonment must automatically mean a person has Borderline Personality Disorder. While that can be part of a person with Borderline Personality Disorder’s experience, challenges with fear of abandonment can also be related to adult Separation Anxiety or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Additionally, people with ADHD often experience a heightened amount of sensitivity to rejection, which in practice can look very similar to fear of abandonment.

Check for self sabotage

Some people get stuck in the habit of doing things that push others away or contribute to their decision to leave, which they then interpret as “confirmation” that other people will always abandon them. Breaking these cycles is really important, as it can improve your relationship success and may even lessen your abandonment fear (or at least stop making it worse).

Some examples of fear of abandonment self sabotage include:

  • Investing so much in your romantic relationships that you neglect your friendships. If your relationship ends and you and your friends have grown apart, you’ll feel like they “left” you too.
  • Trying to stay constantly connected to your partner. You might feel safer by spending a lot of time with your partner and flooding them with texts and calls when you’re apart, but this is likely to make them feel suffocated and resentful. and to push back or even end the relationship.
  • Starting a relationship with a partner knowing that they want very different things from you. It’s OK to have a relationship that you know won’t last forever, but if you just pretend those incompatibilities don’t exist and expect to have a permanent/long-term relationship anyway, you will have set yourself up for disappointment.
  • Picking a fight to feel the rush of making up. When you experience conflict or disconnection with a partner, the closeness and reassurance you feel when reconnecting can feel really good. However, getting your needs met that way will damage your relationship in the long run because of the frequent fighting.

Handle triggers as they come up

It’s normal to have insecurities come up in a relationship, and it’s often healthy to talk them through with your partner. However, if your discomfort in a relationship is not really specifically due to your partner and actually from struggling with fear of abandonment generally, own up to that — don’t make it your partner’s problem to fix it for you.

Practicing mindfulness can help you sort through thoughts that are really based in fear instead of reality. With mindfulness, you can realize that a thought like “if I really let them in and share who I am, they’ll just reject me” is simply a thought - one that, with practice, you do not have to internalize and allow to impact your behavior. 

Your inner monologue might also benefit from direct challenging, answering your fear-based thoughts with alternate assessments of your situation. For example, if you find yourself thinking “they’re getting together with friends again. They’re probably seeing somebody else and hiding it from me,” you can counter that message by reminding yourself of the thought “I trust my partner” or “there are no concrete reasons for me to think my partner is cheating on me”. 

You can also deal with triggers through practicing acceptance. Ultimately, you can never know for 100% certain that someone won’t abandon you. People change, relationships end. Acceptance frees you from always trying to figure out beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not your partner will leave you. This allows you to be more present in your relationship, which is more enjoyable and actually more useful if a relationship problem does arise.

Understanding why fear of abandonment comes up for you

Beyond the human reality that fear of abandonment exists, you might have reasons specific to your own life why this is a particular concern for you. Through therapy, you can reflect on experiences with people and relationships that may have impacted your fear of abandonment. Strategies such as Inner Child work can help you heal and start to approach relationships from a stronger place.

If you’re ready to get started, I can help you on your journey of discovery and your work to take back control from your fear. Click the button below to set up a free phone consultation. I'd love to share more with you about how therapy can help.


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