Abandonment Issues

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If you have abandonment issues as an adult it probably means you were abandoned by one or both of your primary caregivers in childhood. Therefore the most important thing to realize is that your issues didn’t just spring up out of nowhere, they are the logical outcome of your circumstances. As Viktor Frankl was fond of saying, an abnormal reaction in an abnormal situation is normal behavior. What we mean is, don’t feel weird about having abandonment issues if you were abandoned. Actually it would be weird if you didn’t have them.

You’ve probably noticed that relationships with increasing intimacy, especially romantic relationships, are where that existential anxiety caused by the threat of abandonment starts to flit at the edge of your conscious awareness, making you think and act in ways that you wouldn’t otherwise. This is because if intimacy is one side of the coin then abandonment is the other side. The more intimate a relationship the more it hurts when it dissolves. You rightly want to protect yourself from the pain of that dissolution, especially because you know how poignantly it hurt you as a child.

The unfortunate reality is that many of the behaviors meant to safeguard your adult relationships are the very behaviors that end up pushing these people away. This is why the route that makes more sense is to be upfront and honest about your abandonment issues, to make it clear that while they are the logical outcome of what happened to you, you don’t want them to interfere with your healthy adult relationships anymore.

Transferring abandonment issues from primary caregivers to other adults is expected from a psychological point of view but increasing your awareness can help you stop this transference in its tracks. You’re in a much different position now than you were as a child. You don’t depend on relationships for sustenance and survival now like you did then. Your sense of Self doesn’t have to be tied up in the Other, be it a parent, lover, friend, child, or whoever else, and this frees you up to love people freely instead of needing something vital from them in return, in your case a sense of security against the existential anxiety caused by the threat of abandonment.

Like we said above, the sad reality is that behaviors meant to keep people from leaving are often the behaviors that push them away. As a general psychological rule, when people feel trapped their response is to flee and when they feel free their response is to stay. Being honest about your fears of abandonment and where they come while making the conscious decision to no longer let your behaviors be ruled by these fears is the first and most important step in creating adult relationships that feel nourishing to you and everybody else.