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Is Your Fear of Abandonment Sabotaging Your Dating & Relationship Goals?

Is Your Fear of Abandonment Sabotaging Your Dating & Relationship Goals?

Is Your Fear of Abandonment Sabotaging Your Dating & Relationship Goals?

Think about the last time you had a good dating prospect that didn’t work out. Was it really just bad luck? It could have been. But often, it’s something much deeper: Your fear of abandonment.

Stay with me here, because if you get this concept, your dating life could change permanently for the better. A subconscious fear of abandonment can ruin your best chances at a fulfilling relationship. But once you can see how it works and start to heal, you’ll be able to attract (and keep!) the woman who is truly right for you.

Below, we’ll discuss signs that you have a fear of abandonment and look at ways it may be showing up. I’ll provide a link to a quiz you can take to assess your own fear of abandonment. That way, you can better understand why you may be doing what you’re doing. We’ll also talk about how to recognize what triggers your fear of abandonment and to turn those moments into opportunities for healing and growth, rather than self-destruction.

What Is Fear of Abandonment?

Healthline says it best: “Fear of abandonment is the overwhelming worry that people close to you will leave.”

Problem is, this fear can wreak havoc on your relationships (or any potential ones). It can cause you to constantly overreact, misconstrue things, or unconsciously treat your partner in ways that push them away.

Fear of abandonment comes from having a traumatic experience of losing someone. Often it’s in childhood (losing a parent through death or divorce, for example). You could have also “lost” someone emotionally, such as having a parent who ignored your feelings and neglected your needs.

As kids, we decide to cope with this type of loss in different ways. You may have been the type to cling to your parents or you may have written them off, almost becoming emotionally unavailable yourself. These were extreme behaviors that probably worked at the time, but that we unfortunately still hang onto as adults. The “adult version” of these behaviors become our attachment styles (more on that here).

So you may be an adult who is still clingy with people, just like you were with Mom and Dad. This would be called an anxious attachment style. Or, you might be someone who avoids committing to anyone — i.e., you give up on people the same way you gave up on your parents’ love. This would be considered an avoidant attachment style.

Regardless, you now relate to people in a skewed way. Enter, the romantic relationship.

How Fear of Abandonment Shows Up in Dating

Your fear of abandonment might be showing up in your dating life or early relationships as a feeling of anxiety when:

  • You don’t get a response on a dating app
  • The woman you’re dating doesn’t initiate conversation, respond to a text message you sent, communicate, or give you words of affirmation as often as you’d like
  • She’s wishy-washy about meeting up for a date or finding a good time that works with her schedule to see you

All of these anxieties are signs of a fear of abandonment. When unmonitored, they can cause turmoil in your mental state or all kinds of verbal diarrhea that compromise the trajectory of the early relationship you’re building.

Here are some more ways your fear of abandonment can affect your relationships if you have an anxious attachment style:

  • People pleasing, or giving too much in the relationship
  • A need to control the other person
  • Feeling insecure/constant need for reassurance from your partner
  • Staying in an unhealthy relationship

And here are some ways it shows up in your relationships if you with avoidant attachment:

  • Lack of emotional intimacy
  • Inability to trust your partner
  • Hopping from one relationship to another
  • Sabotaging relationships
  • Pushing others away first to avoid rejection
  • Inability to keep a relationship going

The Deep Down (What You’re Really Scared Of)

Once you notice that you have a fear of abandonment, then you can begin to examine the fears underlying those anxieties.

Often, you’ll find that you’re afraid the woman you’re dating has lost interest. Perhaps you fear that you’re somehow “not doing enough.” Or, to put it more accurately, you’re afraid of surrendering control. This happens when we believe we have more control than we actually do. Ultimately, the only thing we have control over is our own reaction to things.

Diving deeper, you may notice that you have an insatiable craving for constant validation from your partner. For example, you might constantly look for some sort of verbal confirmation that she still likes you (even though last time you spoke she told you that she did). Why? Because deep down, you want someone to tell you that you’re enough. Otherwise, you feel inadequate.

Where does this feeling of inadequacy come from? When we’re young, we don’t know why painful things happen. We make up stories, telling ourselves that it’s because we “aren’t good enough,” when really, nothing could be further from the truth. For instance, maybe we had to move away from a primary caregiver and were too young to understand why they couldn’t come with us. (Keep in mind, this is just one of many possible examples that could cause a fear of abandonment.)

These old wounds show up in our dating lives and we reconstruct past beliefs because we get triggered into feeling the same way we did back then with this new romantic interest. It can lead to sabotage, mental instability, and feelings of hopelessness around the possibility of ever finding a happy, healthy, fulfilling romantic relationship.

Abandonment Quiz

If any of this strikes a chord with you, you can take the Romantic Attachment Quiz at Psych Central. It helped me to pinpoint areas for improvement in my current relationship, ways I may sabotage that relationship or others, and my strengths that help to support my romantic connections.

I was surprised to learn that even though I scored “secure and happy,” I still had issues with being closed-off and withholding my feelings from my partner. Left unchecked, this could make him feel neglected, like I’m not letting him in emotionally. My fear of intimacy could also make me feel as though my partner doesn’t know the real me.

Additionally, I notice a pattern that continuously repeats where my relationships start off happy and loving and then deteriorate because I don’t take risks to go deeper emotionally with my partner. The quiz showed that I may have a fear of commitment, which rang true for me, given my fear of divorce and loss of love from what I observed in my parents during childhood.

If you’re curious to see if the fear of abandonment or your attachment style may be at play in your dating life, I’d recommend taking the quiz.

How to Heal Your Fear of Abandonment

Now that you’ve increased your awareness around the actions that trigger your fears and the source of where those are coming from in your past, finally, we’ve come to the point of healing those fears. Let’s use an example to illustrate.

Example: You Fear That She’s Lost Interest

Let’s say your fear of abandonment gets triggered when the woman you’re dating doesn’t initiate calls or texts. This makes you feel as though she’s not interested or has lost interest in you, which makes you feel compelled to play games like telling yourself, “I’m not going to call or text her until she reaches out first.”

So, you wait and wait and wait … and finally, your urge to reach out gets too strong. You send a text that’s been so overthought that it either comes across as mean, desperate, confusing, or annoying.

She then responds in a way that validates your fear that she’s “over it” even if she doesn’t explicitly state it in words. You just “know” she’s done — because a woman who really liked you wouldn’t wait so long to respond/wouldn’t say what she said, right?

So now, you send a defensive message that begins to sabotage the connection you’ve built. She responds with confusion or with her own defense mechanism because your insecurity triggered hers.

This can lead to a destructive cycle that ends in the dissolution of a budding relationship. Now if you tried something new here instead, you could save the relationship — so listen closely. Instead of getting too “in your head” when your fears are triggered, spend time in introspection.

Take Note of the Evidence

While you’re in introspection, take note of when your fears get triggered and ask yourself why. What are you afraid might happen? You might meditate beforehand to clear your mind and release your mental attachment to the emotion.

Using the example above, you might note that you get triggered when she doesn’t initiate conversation because you fear that she’s lost interest. Now you have the trigger and the fear on paper.

Next, look for evidence that supports the claim that she’s lost interest. I’m talking about objective, explicit evidence here, not what your subjective mind assumes. Reread previous text messages and see if you can find explicit evidence that shows without a doubt that she has lost interest. Chances are, you won’t find it.

See It From Her Point of View

Have you considered that she might be going through something on her end which prevents her from reaching out? Did you just jump straight into self-blame and fear without considering that she may be battling her own demons?

In fact, that’s something to look at too. Is there any evidence that she’s going through a difficult time? Perhaps she, herself has a fear of abandonment and also doesn’t want to be perceived as “clingy.” Maybe she’s just more traditional and assumes the guy will always be the one to reach out. She might even be sad that she hasn’t heard from you.

If you struggle with a fear of abandonment, chances are, she does too. All you can do is practice releasing your ego, which is the part of you that wants to protect you from danger. Release the fear of danger and embrace the possibility that she cares for you deeply, wants to talk to you, and is excited about the relationship. Don’t let your fear sabotage your success.

Consider the Extreme Opposite

Imagine if you knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she loved you unconditionally. How would that shift your perspective? Would it change your reaction to her not reaching out? If you had no fear of losing her, how might that eliminate your insecurities?

Get Help

If you can, run through the above exercise above with a coach. A neutral third party can help you see your limiting beliefs and behaviors. Because of your childhood experiences, you have already conditioned yourself not to see certain things or entertain certain points of view.

As with all inner work, growth starts with awareness. Knowing that you have a fear of abandonment is the first step toward eliminating its grip on your dating life. We all had troubled childhoods in one way or another. But as adults, we have a responsibility to step up and choose whether we let those childhood wounds affect how we treat people.

That being said, it’s not always easy to see how we trip ourselves up. We might obsess over certain situations, wondering why things don’t work out in our favor. All the while, we may just need to change something that we’re doing.

As a coach, I can help you identify what that is. Once we get on a call together, we can go through your most painful dating experiences to see how a fear of abandonment might hold you back.

If you continue to work with me in my three-month Signature program, I can be there every step of the way as you find your way back to a healthy perspective. Are you ready to start the journey? Reach out to me today for an intro call so we can get started.

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