Fear of Abandonment
“The lover says, I cannot love anyone else, I cannot give up loving, I cannot give up this love, for it would be the death of me and I would die of love.” Soren Kierkegaard in Works of Love
Many people have a fear of abandonment, but people who have been wounded as a child are terrified of it. They also fear rejection and the feeling that they will be deprived of romantic love. Love surrounds them, but they have their heart set on romantic love to make them happy. What they may not realize, is that unconsciously they feel romantic love will make up for the love they did not get at a child. Unfortunately, it will not. It is a “short term solution to a long term problem.” [AA Slogan]
When such a person is rejected or abandoned they panic. They experience age regression. In their mind, they go back in time and feel all of their previous losses all at once. If they can’t handle the pain of withdrawal, they try to take control. They over text; they email too often; they plead; they sometimes drive by their ex's house in the middle of the night.
Before they are abandoned, wounded people may develop personality traits in an attempt to avoid it altogether. For instance, they might develop a very high tolerance for chronic dishonesty, neglect, and abuse because they can't stand the pain of breaking up (separation anxiety or withdrawal).
Or they may use the following controlling techniques to hold on to someone.
Image management: Trying to control someone's impressions of them through what amounts to deceit and dishonesty, or just hiding who they really are.
Jealousy: Stimulating jealousy in an attempt to hold on to someone who is drifting away.
People Pleasing: Being overly attentive. Letting their partner make all the decisions. Supressing their own needs to please their partner.
Sex: This has historically been a powerful way to keep somone hooked or under control. There are names for this sort of control—seduction, bedroom politics, or pillow talk.
Negative Caretaking: Negative caretaking means doing for others what they should be doing for themselves; giving more than you are receiving; and taking on more than your share of the responsibility for the survival of a relationship. This can mean taking care of people's material needs, organizing their life, covering up for them, doing their work, finding them a job, bailing them out of jail, stealing money for them . . . ad infinitum.
What to do . . .
If you are in a dysfunctional relationship and can’t get out because you are terrified of being alone or feeling abandoned, try to open your eyes to the truth and get out. Face your fears. Create a support network of people who really care about you. Consider treatment with a therapist. Make plans. Put yourself first. Make a decision and don’t look back. Look forward to learning about healthy relationship and finding someone who will make you happy.
At the same time, seek treatment for your abandonment issues. Process your feelings about your childhood in therapy or treatment program. Learn to love yourself more. Find healthy love to compensate for the past. Healthy love is one in which you are compatible and love is going in both directions. No insecurity. No misery. Just healthy disagreements and a lot of happiness.
These suggestions were created for her own recovery. Susan Peabody is a wounded healer. She has been in recovery for 37 years.