The Impact of Abandonment Fears on Self-Esteem

For those of us who struggle with abandonment fears, we might notice that it negatively affects our self-esteem.

Who am I kidding, really? Might?

It definitely affects our self-esteem.

Deep-seated abandonment fears are quite serious. The seed for these crippling fears is planted when we are just children, usually because of an emotionally absent or physically absent parent. It could be something as seemingly harmless as a work-a-holic father who is too exhausted to do anything but sleep once he comes home. That can plant the seed of abandonment fears. Another example is when a younger sibling is born and suddenly you are no longer your mother’s world. You’ve been replaced, or at least that’s what it feels like.

Once the abandonment fear seed is planted, it doesn’t take too much for it to grow. The slightest slight. A forgotten phone call. Unanswered text. Your sweetie falling asleep during a romantic movie. These seemingly benign things and so much more can trigger the abandonment fears and reinforce the feelings of worthlessness that comes with them.

I was talking with someone recently who told me a story about a misunderstanding with his girlfriend and how she subsequently felt abandoned. She was very upset, and he couldn’t understand why. After all, it was just a misunderstanding. It’s not like he left her alone in the dark wilderness without any sign of hope or comfort.

He and so many people who are lucky enough to have avoided abandonment anxieties don’t understand that was exactly how it feels. No matter how insignificant the “abandonment” might seem, for the person who struggles with deep abandonment fears, it feels like we are left in the dark wilderness without any sign of hope or comfort.


Now, of course, our fears are ultimately our own responsibility. However, if you are in a loving, romantic relationship with someone who struggles with abandonment issues, some extra care and understanding are called for.

Not only do we have to deal with this crippling fear, but we also have to live with the embarrassment of knowing full well we’re “overreacting.” Just think what that does to our self-esteem. In our minds, everything we were taught about ourselves from that initial abandonment from a child is reinforced…

Feelings of worthlessness

Not good enough…or just not enough somehow

Terrified of the day when the abandonment will be for real, not just a little taste like a forgotten phone call

These anxieties are real and quite damaging to one’s self esteem.

If you love someone who struggles with abandonment fears and other types of insecurities and anxieties around relationships, have some patience and understanding. Be kind. Acknowledge their fears, no matter how silly they may seem. Because, let me assure you, they are *very real* to the person experiencing them. Validate those fears and then remind them, gently, that it’s their brain playing tricks on them.

Help them out of their heads.

A dear, dear friend did this for me a few weeks back, and I’m ever so grateful to him for it. What he did worked wonders, so try this with your beloved the next time.

Sit cross-legged in front of each other. Put your palm flat against their breast bone and ask them to feel their heartbeat against your palm. Then tell them to feel it all through their body. Anywhere they can’t feel it, put your hand there until they can. Breathe with them. Have them match their breath to yours and then gradually slow down.

Remind them with words and with your actions that you aren’t going anywhere.


~ by omgrey on February 8, 2012.

42 Responses to “The Impact of Abandonment Fears on Self-Esteem”

  1. “If you love someone who struggles with abandonment fears and other types of insecurities and anxieties around relationships, have some patience and understanding. Be kind. Acknowledge their fears, no matter how silly they may seem. Because, let me assure you, they are *very real* to the person experiencing them. Validate those fears and then remind them, gently, that it’s their brain playing tricks on them.

    Help them out of their heads.”

    My favorite part of this article. 🙂

  2. This post struck a chord with me because I think a lot of my anxieties and jealousies have to do with a fear of abandonment. When I was little, I would cry if my parents were more than 15 minutes late to pick me up from school. I still get panic attacks when I’m left waiting for a friend. I’m late to things too, but a lot of people don’t get that I don’t consider this when my fear takes over. They also assume that because I can’t have a fear of abandonment when I like being on my own so much. Being alone is very different from being left alone.

    • It sounds like you’ve got deep-seated abandonment fears just like I do. I’m so sorry to hear, as I know how hard it is to deal with them. The smallest thing can feel huge. Being alone is very VERY different than being left alone.

  3. I’ve never considered myself as having abandonment issues. I’ve always been very self-reliant. I’ve had to be, as I’ve never had people I could depend on in my life. Oh, I have friends and family, but all too often “out of sight, out of mind” seems to be the rule of the day.

    What does this do with abandonment issues? Well, what is the opposite of abandonment? Belonging. That has been an unfilled need for most of my life. Like those suffering from abandonment, what I really want is that feeling of family and community that assures me that I will be looked after and cared for.

    It seems to me that when dealing with someone who has abandonment issues, it isn’t enough to treat the fear. One also has to create the feeling of belonging.

    I hear people talk about their tribe, their pod, or their family.There is a closeness in these terms. A depth of intimacy. That is what is needed to assuage the feelings of abandonment. That bone-deep knowledge that there are people who love you, and care for you, and no matter what may get in the way, they are coming to help.


    • Agreed. It’s about feeling a part of something solid. Unshakable. No matter what comes, they won’t leave. They’ll stay and help fix it. Unfortunately, that is not what happened with my beloved. It’s over.

  4. Abandonment fears effect our self esteem but our self esteem also effects our abandonment fears. Actually our lack of self esteem effects it.
    But knowing that fact doesn’t seem to help a lot of people. The fear is the fear. It has its reasons and until it is discharged, let go, resolved it effect us in a bad way.

    • Agreed. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, unfortunately. Unless that cycle can be broken, the results can be devastating. And…heart breaking.

  5. […] The Impact of Abandonment Fears on Self-Esteem ( […]

  6. […] The Impact of Abandonment Fears on Self-Esteem […]

  7. I struggle every day.

    I’m a successful, intelligent, decently attractive young woman. But when I love, I love so much and I’m so scared he will leave. Of course, it normally happens.

    I’m dating an amazing guy, but even he will grow tired at some point. At some point, he will give up on me just like everyone else has.

    At this point in my life, I’ve began to look for clues and after reading this, I think I try to drive people away by looking for clues they are leaving.

    I just don’t know what to do.

    • I’ve been there so many times. I’m sorry you’re feeling so frightened. It’s understandable.

      Often times people with opposing attachment styles get together, and then the one who needs to talk and be close in times of insecurity and fear gets blamed for being “clingy” by the one who needs to be alone during times of insecurity and fear.

      The best thing to do is to start finding ways to soothe yourself and find strength and balance from somewhere other than your partner, or at least, not only your partner.

      I know how it feels that everyone will leave, as they usually do. Hopefully it will be as the relationship naturally evokes rather than a shock/cut-and-run.

      If the two of you are able to share your fears and be present with one another in your insecurities, if you’re both able to approach the relationship with honesty and integrity, you’ll be just fine.

      May you find peace.

    • this website helped me immensely – it helped me see the process that was going on with me and then I was able to see that there was no need to beat myself up and to get more information on how to break the cycle.

  8. Thanks so much for this article, O.M. Grey. It really resonated with me, a person who has struggled with a lfielong fear of abandonment. It is worse now that I’m over 60 and my parents and most of my older relatives have died. My lomgtime boyfriend is now 82 years old and I am in a daily panic about being “abandoned” by him too, because at his age, how much longer can it be? He’s in good health, active and still working full time, but I go into a panic every time he doesn’t return my phone calls promptly. As you said, I am “terrified of the day when the abandonment will be for real, not just a little taste like a forgotten phone call.” Then it will be “a descent into the dark wilderness without any sign of hope or comfort,” as you so eloquently put it. I saw a therapist a few years back, and his excellent advice was “Do not cultivate anxiety — the more you cultivate it, the worse it gets.” I have tried to follow his advice and turn my mind to other things when I feel the anxiety coming on, but still feel the fear of abandonment intensely. I sympathize with all of you who feel this way, and I hope we can learn to overcome it and enjoy our lives and relationships.

  9. I have been dating an incredible woman for the past two years, and we are both very much in love. However, she has a deep seated fear of abandonment that is rooted in her mother leaving her for over a year when she was young, and even left a note telling my girlfriend all the things she had done to cause her to want to leave. Unbelievable, huh!? This fear was further complicated by her ex-husband who was emotionally absent and also left her for a time in a manner that was very hurtful. It’s manifesting itself through severe sense of loneliness when I have to travel for my work, which can be as much as 7-12 days per month. She builds up walls to protect herself from hurting, and those same walls have become obstacles to reconnecting with me, and have built up to the point that she is not sure if she can trust me. She is deathly afraid of being hurt. She has asked for space to think this through, which I lovingly agreed to give her, while reassuring her that I am committed to her and will not abandon her. I’m also earnestly pursuing a job change so that my work will not require travel. So, now I’m in a waiting game to see what she decides, and it’s killing me. I told her that I don’t want my lack of contact to be interpreted as not caring or of abandoning her, and she knows. She has also said that I should not take the “time out” as a sign that she doesn’t care either.

    Am I doing the right thing? How can I help her deal with this fear, and how can I reassure her that I’m there for her no matter what?

    • Thank you so much for your message. I can understand the walls she’s built, and I can understand your frustration. What kind of “space” has she asked for? No contact whatsoever or just not seeing each other?

      This is a tricky position, as you want to respect her wishes for space and not force yourself on her while she’s processing all this. As for helping her deal with the fear and reassuring her, it’s something that will have to be done over and over and over again for the rest of your lives. The selfishness and cruelty of some people, especially in your GF’s case with her mother (!!) — the very person meant to protect you, leaves an irreparable gash in one’s heart and soul. It takes a lifetime to heal, if ever.

      She’s deathly afraid of being hurt because death is the preferable alternative to being abandoned again. The pain is so debilitating that it’s quite literally a miracle to recover from it and not die. There’s a reason the lowest ring of hell (Dante’s Inferno) is reserved for the traitor.

      Here’s how you reassure her: Tell her. Tell her you’ll never leave and you’ll always be there for her, no matter what, but you have to mean it with every fiber of your being. You can’t say those words and then give up when it gets too tough. Tell her that over and over and over again. I’ve been with my amazing husband for 14 years, and I still ask for that reassurance. After 14 years, he gives it over and over, freely and with love as if it were the first time every time.

      When you travel for work, take extra time to text her in the middle of the day for no other reason than to tell her she is the love of your life, that she’s beautiful, that you’re thinking of her, or whatever else. Never just leave a text unanswered. If you have to work, say “I have to get back to work now, but know I’m thinking about you and I’ll text again soon. I love you.” Then do that, even if you have a few minutes: “Only have a moment in between meetings, and I thought about your amazing smile. Talk soon!”

      Skype or FaceTime in the evenings when you’re away.

      Here’s how you help her deal with the fear: Listen to her. Validate her fears and feelings. Never say that she’s overreacting or blowing things out of proportion or in any way isn’t feeling what she’s feeling, or any other form of gaslighting. Whatever she’s feeling, it’s very, very real for her in that moment. If anything, reminder gently and lovingly that the fear will pass and she’ll be happy again, and you’re there for her to comfort her when she’s afraid and laugh with her when she’s happy. You’re there no matter what. Even when you’re away, you’re right there.

      The thing with people with such severe abandonment fears is that they have been abused and/or abandoned by the people they loved and trusted the most…usually on the turn of a dime. They know it can happen anytime without warning, and that’s terrifying. They need that reassurance. They need to know the connection is still there. They need to reach out and ensure the connection is still there.

      After 14 years, I don’t need such constant reassurance from my husband anymore. I know he’s there and he’ll always be there no matter what. I know that because he has told me over and over and has SHOWN me by being there no matter what over 14 years. No. Matter. What. Even in the aftermath of rape where I haven’t been able to be physically intimate for over year. Even during a midlife crisis and the loss of those most dear to us. Even through debilitating illness and panic attacks as I processed the traumas.

      When you say “no matter what” you have to mean NO. MATTER. WHAT.

  10. Wow- I can relate to all of these posts, esp. to the woman who is deathly afraid of being hurt and the young woman who feels like the men will eventually grow tired of her. I feel the same way. Is it possible to recover from intense fear of abandonment and the depression that comes with someone abandoning me? I say this because I am 42 and this fear is crippling me. My father, I guess my model for men, cheated on my mom, lied to us, left the family when I was 13, then moved to CA from the east coast, and died soon after from a brain tumor. I felt like I had multiple abandonments in stages. Now, this experience has really messed me up with relationships, and I want so desperately to have a partner and family. I do have a lot of friends, and make friends easily, do well at jobs, and well-liked by supervisors…but I struggle SO SO much with men. I get attracted intensely to certain men, and the attraction is always strongest with guys who end up later cheating on me (I’ve had about 5-6 of them), or breaking up in some way. There are some really nice guys that stay by my side, it’s just that they seem clingy or too passive and I have to call all the shots, be the assertive, take-charge on and that’s hard. Any thoughts on this? Thanks so much for the posts! L

    • Hi Leslie,

      Your predicament is all too familiar, I’m afraid. I once read that the “spark” of attraction or “chemistry” to another person is really your deep brain telling you to RUN AWAY FAST! It’s triggering some unresolved issues from your past. In your case, your cheating, lying father. You learned about relationships from a womanizing misogynist, and now that’s who you’re most attracted to.

      As for the men who seem “clingy,” they’re likely much more of what you need. Their “clinginess” is much more likely a healthy investment in a relationship, but when you see it in comparison to the aloof, can’t-be-bothered womanizer, it seems “clingy.” You see these men as too passive, but the likely reality is their lack of overt aggression and misogynistic disrespect. They’re treating you as an equal, wanting your input in decision making. You should be assertive, and so should they. Assertiveness means taking care of your heart and their heart, taking all needs into consideration, as opposed to an aggressive man who does what he wants when he wants…to hell with any one else’s needs, much like the habitual cheater.

      Your challenge will be to take a chance on the nice guy. In the end, 14 yrs ago, that’s what I did. Our relationship hasn’t been as sexually passionate as others I’ve had, but remember that the word “passion” comes from the Greek pathos, meaning to suffer. The most sexually passionate and emotionally intense relationship I’ve ever had ended in rape followed by abandonment. Whereas my husband and I have been together, deepening intimacy and becoming closer and more supportive of each other through all this for 14 years now.

      You must do some work and make some hard choices to break your pattern. There are good people, but they are few and far between. When you find one, nurture that relationship, invest in it, all while working on your own issues gifted to you by your douchbag dad.

      Hope this helps.

  11. Hello omgrey,
    First, I’d like to thank you for sharing all this part of your lije. I’m sure it’s not easy. It’s definitely reassuring to know we are not alone in this. I’m in a relationship with a beautiful person that I think has abandonment issues. It’s funny how life works, but it made me realize that I probably have the same issues. Our background is different, but I think we struggle with the same things. I just started therapy because I want things to change for myself. I want to understand my life patterns and work on myself to be happier. Not easy, but I definitely see the light at the end. I am not depressed and mostly a positive person that enjoys life a lot. The man I love seems deeply hurt. It kills me sometimes because I understand part of his pain, I sometimes experience the same. I want him to know that I don’t want to leave. I want to be with him, by his side, have a life, plan a future, move in together at some point, have kids. But rationnaly, not matter what I could say, he knows that one cannot make that promise because we don’t know what the future holds. The way he talks clearly indicates that at some point, we’ll be over (he says it’s a way of talking…) I don’t believe that. We both love each other and enjoys each other a lot. It took me time to realize all of this but I’m pretty sure I’m correct with this theory. I would like him to seek help but I know I can’t force that. I wish I could tell him all I think, but I know I’m not his therapist. I am learning what his triggers are and trying to be extra carefull not to active them. I also have to take care of myself too. The other day, after a fight, he told me he didn’t want to get married, to have a family, a wife, kids. I didn’t believe him. Since then, I decided to go day by day and enjoy each moment. But I know eventually I will have to face the truth and have a conversation about that. I want kids. His actions, however, show that he cares and he’s investing, more and more. I feel like he lost his trust last time we had a fight. It might grow back, but since then, it’s going pretty well. My question is: should I believe him when he says he doesn’t want to have a family? Could it be his insecurities? Should I take what he’s saying for granted and leave the relationship now and prove his self-fufilling profecy? Or give it some time and see where it brings us. We’ve been together for a year. I tought we were getting somewhere. I am a bit lost and confuse right now but I know I don’t want to let him go.

    • I’m so sorry to read about your situation. It sounds like it’s a very hard place to be.

      First, I think you should tell him everything you feel. You aren’t his therapist, no, but you are his partner. The harder it is to tell him something, the more important it is to say just that. Tell him those things. Of course no one knows what the future holds, but by saying you’ll never leave means just that. You’re not going to dart off with some exciting handsome stranger because this guy’s too much trouble. It means you’re not going to leave because things get difficult. If both of your lives drastically change and you naturally evolve away from each other, that’s different. That’s not abandonment.

      Second, if he says he doesn’t want a family, believe him. Or, at least, clarify what he means when you’re not in a fight. It could be his insecurities, but it could be what he really wants, too. After a year, you two should have a very serious conversation about the future and what each of you wants. I would’ve had this conversation after a few months at the latest. If you want kids and he doesn’t, that might be a deal-breaker. That’s a huge HUGE important decision. If you’re not on the same page with that and one forces the other (or compromises/sacrifices for the other) on such an important topic it could lead to serious resentment.

      Clarify. Ask him why he doesn’t want kids. Explore why you do want kids.
      Ask him why he doesn’t want to get married. Explore why you do want to get married?
      Do you desire these things because society expects it of you? Is he avoiding them out of commitment fear?

      If he’s using words like “we’ll be over,” that sounds much more like commitmentphobia than abandonment issues. Then again, at the very core of so many commitment issues are abandonment issues. You can’t force him to get help, but you can suggest it. You can support him. You can invite him into couples counseling and workshops on relationship skills.

      As for his triggers, sure be mindful of them, but don’t let it turn into you being too afraid to discuss what’s important in the relationship. Just keep them in mind as you form your words. Be kind, compassionate, and loving.

      I don’t know how old you both are, but if you’re near or past thirty, it’s time to get serious about your relationship future. You will have to have some very serious discussions in the near future.

      I know you love each other, and I really hope it works out for you. Unfortunately, despite all the romanticized bullshit in books and films, love is not enough to make a relationship work. It takes significant investment, effort, and compromise. It takes a willingness to have difficult conversations, to be introspective, and to care for the other’s heart.

      Definitely live IN the moment, but don’t live FOR the moment. Big difference.
      Also, you are responsible TO the relationship, and so is he, but not FOR the relationship. Another big difference. It takes two people giving their all to make a long-term relationship thrive.

  12. Bless you for sharing this article.
    It’s become crippling for me when I realized I have this intense gripping fear which I thought I was over. It’s not. But staying busy does help. Thanks again for sharing. Peace

  13. God, these abandonment issues have and are ruling my entire life. I’ve been in therapy with a great therapist for nearly 7 years now and basically all my issues seem to relate back to being left here there and everywhere by my Mother who was never emotionally available even today. My Father was very volatile and classified as a Schizophrenic, so when we did live together as a family it wasn’t happy as my Mother was always going to leave him. However when she eventually did (i was 15) she left us with him??? I have been in only 2 long term relationships, the current one being married to him before but leaving him for another man in between. Not a very nice thing to do and i totally regret it. However second time around with him is not proving very fruitful. I don’t know if our problems are me or our relationship and when i do open up, he seems to do the exact oppositie of what i want. So i’m struggling. I came off anti depressants about 6 months ago thinking i was OK, but god this is so hard. I so want to sort myself out, but how much pain do i have to go through? Life is so scarey without a significant other! I can do almost anything when i’m in a relationship, but on my own i know i’d have difficulty even going out the door, ergh! Your article does help, i just want a magic wand to fix myself. Any suggestions to a therapist/hypnotherpist who specialises in this field in the UK would be very gratefully received.

    • Look for a therapist who specializes in Somatic Experiencing and Complex PTSD recovery from developmental trauma. You can find a list on the Somatic Experiencing website.

      Read these three books:
      – Healing Developmental Trauma by Lawrence Heller
      – Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine
      – The Mood Cure by Julia Ross

      Between my amazing somatic therapist and dietary changes, I feel better than as long as I can remember. Maybe ever!

      Go to Holland & Barrett and get some 5-HTP today. Start taking one at noon and one at bedtime.

      That won’t make your abandonment issues go away, but it will likely help you get to a brighter place where you can cope with the fear better. The somatic therapy & understanding how it was a survival style will start the healing.

      May you find peace.

  14. I can’t tell you how much your post and all the commenters’ stories made an impact on me. First of all, it is a relief and even a surprise that I am not alone in my feelings and anxieties. Now I know that what I have been suffering for close to 20 years is fear of abandonment. Because I have been abandoned as child. And right now, I am going out of my mind, on the verge of depression, if not already depressed. I need some help. I had an absent father who was was a womanizer; he kept several mistresses when I was in my teens and despite my open pleas for him to not pursue them and spend more time with me and my mother, he also has openly refused. I remember when I was 14 or 15, and I wanted to be with him. I begged him to stay home and be with me, but he told me he had to go; his newborn son (and my half-brother) from another woman was sick and he had to check up on him. I remember he left me in tears. There were many incidents where I have asked him to please stop his womanizing, but he just says yes, but continues. Anyway. Now I have a boyfriend, a long distance relationships with a Vietnamese man. He is 33, I am 39. I am a Filipina living and working in Singapore. Our relationship seems stable, as I travel to Vietnam every month to see him. The problem is me. I have a debilitating fear that he will leave me. There are no signs or even evidence that he is cheating on me—but I feel that he is. I know him as a loyal, hardworking, and patient man. He ‘courted’ me for 2 years before I said yes and started a relationship with him. Now, we have been together for a year. But more and more, I feel panic and fear. I want to know where he is and what he is doing all the time. When he fails to call me, I go ballistic. He texts me everyday, but when there is a rare morning when I don’t get his message, I panic and I feel that he has forgotten me or doesn’t love me anymore. When I learn from his friend that they went drinking, I feel panic. To be honest, I just can’t trust him. But to any other person, there seems to be no reason for me not to trust him. My boyfriend is ‘normal.’ He trusts me. He is secure, calm, logical, and steady. He thinks I’m crazy and now he’s confused because I ask him all these questions, and now I am scared that I am driving him away with my insecurities and the pressure for him to answer. Do I even make sense? All in all, I can only attribute this to a fear of abandonment. But everyday, I feel pain. I feel that he is going to meet someone new and leave me anytime. How do I keep all these negative thoughts from consuming me? And how to handle this huge fear? I wake up scared everyday. Please help. I’m desperate.

  15. My wife of 10 years and committed relationship of 17, has this fear of abandonment condition. She describes at her core she believes she is worthless and a bad person, and must put up a show to make people, including me, believe she is a good person and won’t leave her. That at specific times, either when things are going really well or really bad, an unstoppable voice inside her reminds her that she is bad and worthless. Specifically in our relationship this also means that she often feels that she can never live up to what I need or want. This unfortunately then manifested in self sabotaging (her words) behavior, infidelity… several times. Once after 2.5 years of dating and just before moving in with me after college, Second time 2 years later while we were engaged (after which she started therapy), and Third 4 years after marriage, shortly after a miscarriage and six years ago for which I just recently found out because she was occasionally ‘platonically’ chatting with him for the past 6 years. We have two kids, 5 and 2, she is back in therapy and now I am too – I have essentially lost my mind, not able to work, sleep, or enjoy anything. I didn’t really know or understand the deep seeded abandonment issues were the cause of the early flings – we suppressed and tried not discuss it back then, she was extremely remorseful. This time she is also remorseful but also wide open, has explained that she struggles with this issue every day, though clearly some days were worse than others. She now says she desperately wants to rid herself of the lies that she hears inside herself, and that she desperately wants me to be there when she has successfully done. I am so struggling to understand how courting and engaging in sex with another guy can stem from this issue – she appeared, from the emails I saw, to have no intention of creating a lasting real relationship with those other guys, she says she just desperately needed someone, anyone to validate her, but also says it was not my fault for not validating her enough. Except for this infidelity behavior, which is a big deal, she is a great person and one that I don’t desire to find in someone else. I also have to great kids. Last, I have my own self-esteem issues, which present themselves in similar ways as her self-esteem issues, minus the infidelity part.. ugh.

    • I’m so sorry you’re going through this!!

      I’m glad you’re both in therapy. Both of you look into somatic experiencing and the works of Peter Levine and Lawrence Heller, especially Heller’s book Healing Developmental Trauma.

      These deep abandonment issues usually stem from childhood trauma and abuse. She’s continuously looking for external validation. It’s seems so impossible, but she must find a way to get that validation from herself. That’s where the books will help her understand.

      I understand self-esteem issues all too well, and it’s understandable that you’re struggling even more now because of the infidelity.

      You’re likely also in a betrayal bond with her because of the way she’s treated you. You’ve become a victim of her fears as well. I’m so sorry.

      May you find peace.

    • Hypnotism might be an avenue to explore.

      Truth, Love and Healing

  16. Hello, I loved this post, and could relate to it entirely. I have been married to an emotionally unavailable man for 13 years, and he doesn’t know to care about me, or his narcissistic ways do not care about me. It is a feeling that I feel. He does not put priorities of us together, with the expect ion that as long as I work 18 hours a day so he can do nothing, he is fine. I haven’t left because of abandonment, and am truly embarrassed. It is not for me about finding another person, because that is not the deal. I know my husband tolerates me, and is married to me because he lost his job. I always thought I would be cared for i life, and now, that I have equity in his house, as he has yet to put my name on the loan, that is all I have to live on, so I need to either decide to fight to get that, or truly I have done an interesting thing with my abandonment. I stopped feeling. I act as if I don’t care. A cover up for my anxiety. We rarely do anything together. He lost his great job. Now collects SS: Way too early, is very smart, gave up on himself, has no self esteem, and I am the one making all the money, sure why not, when he doesn’t care if I am dead by working too hard. This is the bardest road, yet I have been there when they evicted me when I lost my job, the abandonment feeling, with two young boys was so strong, it has kept me in a very unhealthy 13 year marriage. I hate it.

    • I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It sounds like you feel trapped, alone, and terrified.

      You are not alone.

      Your situation is not ideal, as you’ve stated, but you have a lot of control here. You make the money.

      Time to fight back.

      Sure, his name is on the lease, but you pay the bills. You can choose to walk away from him and the house.

      Sit down and write everything you are afraid of and three of the worst things and best things that could happen if those fears were realized. Then rate the likelihood of those things happening.

      It’s not clear whether or not you have kids living with you at the moment…

      A few options off the top of my head:
      1. leave and rent a single room in a house while you get away from the narcissistic, abusive leech
      – if kids, rent an apt and take the kids
      – leave the jerk with the mortgage/rent *in his name* — won’t hurt you in the least if it’s his name on the lease/mortgage/loan

      2. If you’re truly stuck in the house for some other reason, tell the jerk to get off his ass and get a job/therapy because you’re not supporting him anymore. He’s got to do *something* all day: clean house, make dinner, plan special times together for you two if he wants to save the marriage…

      3. Open an account in your name only, and put your paychecks in there.

      4. Cancel his credit cards

      5. If he watches TV or plays video or watches porn/plays online all day, cancel that service. Tell him you can no longer afford it with a single income.

      You’ll be leaving a lot of stuff behind, but ask yourself what you would rather have, all the stuff in that house or to have a chance at happiness?

      May you find peace .

  17. This was an insightful article, thank you. One suggestion I might make is to replace the bloody handprint with a more compassionate image.

  18. I’m really glad I found your blog. I’m dealing with a reawakening of abandonment issues. My husband of 21 years approached me about opening our marriage about 5 months ago. Divorce isn’t an option, but I’m just about destroyed. My trust in him, my faith in our relationship, are in tatters (he came to me confessing an emotional/physical desire for a co-worker that has been building). My self-esteem is destroyed (I’m a 47-year-old stay-at-home mom, she’s a 36-year-old professional), and I know in my heart that if I say “no”, he’ll eventually leave, and if I say “yes”, he’ll definitely leave. It’s just a matter of time, and how long I want to prolong it.

    I really thought we had a great marriage, I thought we were happy. I thought, after 21 years and weathering a bunch of storms that sink other relationships, we were going to make the long haul. But abandonment issues that were quieted when, year after year, our relationship stood are roaring back and I can’t stop them.

    We’re in counseling, he’s still adamant about polyamory, I’m just trying not to fall apart. You’re technique of pulling out of the mental demon gallery is something I’ll keep in mind.

    • I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this.

      He’s not asking for polyamory. He’s asking permission to fuck someone else. Read my post on Poly vs. Amory.

      If he thinks one relationship is hard, two is even harder. More time. More commitment. More honesty. More investment.

      He can’t even handle that with one relationship. How could he with two?

      Although opening a rocky marriage could potentially save it, it usually ends it.

      If he’s forcing you into it, then it’s already doomed. He’s bullying you by threatening you with abandonment to get his own selfish way.

      I’m so sorry about this.

      Although, here’s a potentially happy thought…women have far far far more options than men do in a poly lifestyle. There are many men looking for new women, and not so many women looking for new men.

      It could be good for your self esteem and give him a dose of reality when he sees you dating again.

      What your inconsiderate husband wants is to eat his cake at work and keep his cake at home, too.

      Fuck that and fuck him.

      You will have far more opportunity than he will. Sign up in OKCupid, and you’ll see. Just beware of the predators, as there are many. Read my post on Emotional & Sexual Predators & several on sociopaths.

      Bottom line: it’s understandable your trust in him is in tatters, as he’s proven wholeheartedly untrustworthy.

  19. I feel my boyfriend does not love as much as I love him. I find he’s ok but suddenly he hides things from me. We talk everyday but suddenly he will take off on something and won’t call me all day. I often grapple trying to figure out if he really loves me or she he is hanging on to me. The fear of has set in as he suddenly takes off or is not in contact. I feel that I check the phone all the time trying to see if he has called and wait for him to call. Obviously e does not feel the same. This fear has set in and I’m unable to focus or concentrate and keep thinking of the worst of him leaving me.
    I’m lost and reading this blog helped me understand a few things. How do I overcome this fear –

    • There is a great book called From Abandonment to Healing, and the author talks a lot about abandonment issues. It’s a long road, as these fears are so deeply ingrained.


      In my experience and in everything I’ve read, these fears are exacerbated by abusive people. Your boyfriend’s behavior is quite abusive. In fact, it’s a very Jekyll/Hyde type behavior frequent in commitmentphobes and/or narcissists. Keeping you teetering on the edge like this, especially if he’s aware of your fears, is highly abusive. Not okay.

      Get away from him if you can. He’s not a nice, compassionate person, at the very least, and he might be a dangerous one.

      There is no easy way to get through abandonment fears or to cut ties with someone with whom you have a betrayal bond, and I’m sure you do with this person. I have an article on this blog about betrayal bonds, and there is more information on the internet. The betrayal bond is what makes it impossible to leave, but it’s also what’s triggering your fears at such a deep level. Betrayal bonds are formed through abuse.

      I’m so sorry you’re in this position, Fairy. I’m here if you need to talk more.

      May you find peace.

  20. […] […]

  21. I never knew that I had abandonment issues until a few months ago when I was explained what they were. The root to mine was my father, and I think mine is affecting me too much. If my friends do plans without me, Im sure they will abandon me, if they get mad, I over react. I tried talking to my friend about it and she didn’t pay attention and got mad at me for being so panicky about being left alone. I want more people to understand abandonment issues. I really do

    • I’m so sorry to hear you struggle with this as well. The root is often (if not usually) ones caregivers, and usually a male one.

      May you find peace.


    • You and me both. So many of us have them.

      Also, I apologize that it took me this long to answer. Something went wrong with WordPress, and I wasn’t being notified of new comments.

      May you find peace

  22. Thank you for this. You put into words what I am struggling to understand about myself. After a lifetime of relationships that reinforced my abandonment issues, someone finally found value in me and the mirror she holds up for me is helping me to overcome all of it. I hope that she can read this and have a better understanding of all the crazy running and in my head.

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