Do You Fear Abandonment?


We all fear abandonment at some level because it’s a primal human fear. People are social creatures, and we need to be among others to feel safe and secure.

Sometimes that fear of abandonment moves beyond what’s normal and becomes a problem in social and intimate relationships. At its worst, it keeps us from connecting with others because we’d rather be alone than take the risk of being abandoned. Even if we do get close to someone, we live in a constant state of stress when we fear abandonment because we think they might cut us off at any moment.

If you fear abandonment to the point where it’s keeping you from forming and maintaining healthy relationships with others, here’s how to break the cycle:

Don’t look to other people to “fix” you

According to a PBS column by Suzanne Phillips, PsyD, people sometimes look to others to fix them. They don’t feel complete unless they have a partner who they feel can repair everything that’s bad in their lives. Things might look positive right at the start, but relying on someone else for your happiness is a recipe for disaster. if you cling to another person and bombard him or her continually with your needs, that person is likely to abandon you when the demands get too overwhelming. If you take responsibility for fixing things up in your own life and look to your partner for healthy support, you reduce the chance of scaring the other person away.

Maintain a wide variety of social connections

If you live an isolated life, with only a small number of people to whom you’re close, you feel the impact more strongly when one of those people pulls away. Build a wide variety of social connections and a strong support system. That includes family, friends, and acquaintances. Look for opportunities to socialize and connect with others, like joining clubs and organizations centered on your interests, taking a class, going to a house of worship, or volunteering for a cause about which you’re passionate. As you link up with more people, it will hurt less if someone bows out of your life. When you have a strong social network, you have others to support you while you work through the loss.

Get comfortable with yourself

We need others in our lives, but we also need to be comfortable with alone time. Part of the fear of abandonment is potentially being all by yourself and seeing that as a bad thing. The fear lessens when you build up a strong sense of self and a comfort level with being alone. Schedule periods of alone time and do fun activities, like getting take-out food and watching funny movies or relaxing in a hot bath. Indulge in a solitary hobby or do some journaling about your feelings. It might feel strange at first, but keep it up until you start to look forward to having some time to unwind on your own. Once you know that not only will you survive if you’re all by yourself, but that it can also be enjoyable, your fear of abandonment won’t be so powerful.

Get to the root cause

If your fear of abandonment is severe, you might need to talk to a therapist to find out what’s at its root. It could be linked to something that happened to you in the past. A good counselor will help you discover what’s fueling your fear and teach you strategies to overcome it.