There are some people that will have affairs because of their fear of abandonment. That may make zero sense to you, but here is why — they have such a deep fear of abandonment in their current relationship that they pursue outside relationships simultaneously, so that they have a back up relationship in case something happens with their current marriage or relationship.
In this article, I will look deeper into the cause and consequence of having the fear of abandonment and how to overcome this fear to lead healthy relationships again.
What is fear of abandonment
Bustle.com examined research on the topic of fear of abandonment and infidelity and stated the following:
People with abandonment issues and lower self-confidence are more likely to cheat.
This is obviously not a healthy way of dealing with fear of abandonment. It is harmful to the person who is being cheated on and also is mental torment for the person trying to manage and keep both relationships afloat. They are putting their relationship at stake, living a lie and obviously not dealing with their fear of abandonment in a healthy manner.
Signs of fear of abandonment
People with fear of abandonment can exhibit a variety of behaviors. Many of these behaviors are destructive to relationships, so the fear of abandonment should be recognized and dealt with appropriately for the sake of the relationship and both individuals involved in the relationship.
Below are some signs that someone has the fear of abandonment:
- Feel jealous often.
- Perceive others of the opposite sex as a threat to their relationship.
- Give too much or go overboard in the relationship.
- Have thoughts about their partner or spouse leaving them.
- Demand unrealistic amounts of time with their significant other.
- Have difficulty in completely trusting their partner or spouse.
- Look more at the faults in their spouse or partner than positive attributes (again this is about pushing away the person or failing to trust them completely).
- Have a hard time being alone if a relationship ends. Always look out for the next relationship or significant other to replace the one most recently lost.
- Have feelings of resentment if their significant other does an activity without them such as going out with friends.
- Feel unworthy, less than or unworthy of love.
- Have lower self-esteem/ self-confidence.
- End relationships before the other person can so that they have control over the potential abandonment.
- Move too quickly in relationships because they are fearful the person will leave the relationship if things don’t move to the next level fast enough.
- Stay in unhealthy or abusive relationships because of the fear of being abandoned or alone.
- Feel jealous of platonic relationships that their spouse or partner has, such as with work colleagues.
- Are controlling of their significant other, especially when it comes to their time and interaction with others.
- Overanalyze the relationship on a regular basis, often nit picking on the negatives or problems rather than focusing on the positive qualities within their partner and relationship.
- Will pursue relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable.
- Cheat on their spouse or partner.
An individual does not need to have all of these behaviors to have fear of abandonment issues. Some people with fear of abandonment issues possess only a few of these behaviors. However, having even a few of these behaviors is unhealthy and detrimental to their life and relationships.
There are also some people who will sabotage their own relationships by pushing away their partner or spouse. They may have undesirable behavior in order to test their partner. The result in these situations where the behavior escalates enough is that they were right, their partner left them. Unfortunately their spouse or partner leaving them was of their own doing because they were pushing things too far and subsequently pushing away the other person.
How to handle the fear of abandonment
Many people have fear of abandonment issues because they were abandoned earlier in life. It could have been a previous relationship, but likely the source is from childhood. Abandonment in childhood, for example, such as having a parent or both parents not participating in the childhood rearing, can cause deep seated psychological issues.
The key is recognizing that the fear of abandonment exists. Below are some tips on how to handle your fear of abandonment issues so that you can lead more healthy and fulfilling relationships.
1. Recognize that you are worthy of love
The underlying emotional battle with almost all who have fear of abandonment is their feeling that they are not worthy of being love. Their fear of abandonment likely stems from abandonment that happened sometime during childhood.
Because someone they were attached to left them (for whatever reason) and they subsequently were left feeling that they were not fully loved. The brain of a child thinks something along these lines “if he/she loved me then he (or she) wouldn’t leave me”. Leaving in the mind of a child means they were not fully loved. Even though this is likely not the truth, it is how the more simplistic mind of a child works.
As time goes on, they begin to wonder what it was that made them unlovable. Were they not pretty enough? Were they not smart enough? Were they not good enough? These thoughts can take root and carry into adulthood. The result is an adult who still feels that there is something about them that makes them not worthy of being loved completely and truly.
They often believe (subconsciously) that once in a relationship they need to control things so that the person doesn’t leave them. They will try to control their relationships and their significant other based on their fear of abandonment.
The first step in overcoming the fear of abandonment is to recognize that they are worthy of love.
Accept that you are worthy of love.
Everyone is worthy of love. There is no such thing as a perfect person. We all want to love and to feel loved. We all have flaws. Therefore love involves two flawed individuals. Each is worthy of love and being in a relationship.
You are worthy of love, flaws and all. It doesn’t mean that everyone needs to love you because that is unrealistic. However, there is someone out there for everyone. When you find that someone, remind yourself that you are worthy of the love and attention you receive. Reciprocate and care for the relationship. However, don’t allow it to become your identity or the center of your worth.
Become emotionally self reliant.
Your identity should never be solely tied to a relationship. It is part of who you are but it is does not define you. Make sure you can embrace these thoughts and know that you can be okay if you were to become single or alone. You do not base your worthiness on being in the relationship. Instead you are worthy because you are YOU and nobody else can be a better you.
Becoming emotionally self reliant may not come easy if you have been emotionally dependent in your current or past relationships. Therapy can be helpful if you are having difficulty in being emotionally self reliant. Becoming emotionally self reliant does not happen instantly, so be gentle with yourself in the process. One day at a time, and keep reminding yourself that you are responsible for your emotions and you are still an individual even if you are in a relationship.
Remind yourself as often as you need that it is not another person’s job to make you feel emotionally secure. Your emotional security comes first from you. You are an individual first and a partner second. Take ownership of your emotions and feelings. When fear starts to surface address those feelings rather than turning them into the unhealthy behaviors mentioned above such as jealousy, giving too much in the relationship or being preoccupied with thoughts of your significant other leaving you.
Being emotionally self reliant in a nut shell is taking responsibility for your emotions and doing so in a healthy way. It is no longer looking to your spouse or significant other to make you feel secure in the relationship. It is not their job to make you feel secure in the relationship. They cannot take away your fear.
You must deal with your fears in order to be emotionally self reliant. Handling the fear often involves understanding where your fear is rooted.
2. Understand your fear to handle your fear
Where did your fear of abandonment begin? What happened in your life that has made you feel this way? Were your fears at that time warranted? Are those fears carrying into your current life and relationships? Questions like these can help you understand where and when your fear began and how they are currently affecting you.
If you have an understanding of where and how they began, you can also begin to understand that they are not helping you at this time. These fears in some instances can never be fully erased, but dealing with them by uncovering the source and development of the fear can help you better dispel the fear when it arises. When you know the root of this fear is the cause, the fear is no longer helpful to your life.
Journal about your abandonment
Journaling about your abandonment is one way of uncovering all your feelings, emotions, and thoughts on this issue. If you are able to get them out on paper, you are helping your mind process through these fears and emotions. If you get emotionally stuck in this process or find that it is not helping enough, then find a therapist who can help you. One way or another you need to uncover and process these emotions in order to understand the root of your fear.
Understanding the root helps you recognize that it is no longer needed or helpful in the functioning of your current relationships, because it has caused unhealthy fearful actions. Here are some questions you can address while journaling.
- When did you first recognize the issue that caused your fear of abandonment?
- Have there been multiple times you have felt abandoned in life? If so, what were those experiences and how did you deal with them?
- Did you feel that your abandonment was your fault?
- What messages, false or not, did you tell yourself about the abandonment (particularly about the cause)?
- How has the abandonment earlier in life affected your relationships, both currently and in the past?
- What behaviors can you recognize that were caused by your fear of abandonment?
- What behaviors would you like to make yourself more conscious of in order to change them in regard to acting out of fear of abandonment in your current relationship?
- What things can you do today to stop unwanted behaviors that are based in fear of abandonment (for example: instead of demanding time with your partner when they want to be with their friends, you call friend to hang out)?
You can address one question or several during an single journaling session.
3. Accept that some level of fear may always exist.
To have fear is to be human. You may never fully eliminate your fear of abandonment, but you can have control over your reactions to the fear.
It is important to recognize when you are having those fearful moments in your relationship. For example, those moments of fear that cause you to want to control who your spouse is looking at, where they are going or what they are doing without you by their side. You have to recognize the unhealthy patterns of thought and understand where the root of that fear is based. Doing so can help you recognize that the fears and the subsequent thoughts to control your spouse or significant other are not healthy for the relationship.
Channel the thoughts into positive self talk. Tell yourself you are worthy of love. Also remind yourself that your worth is not based on a relationship. You can be okay in a relationship and you can be okay alone. Acknowledge the root cause of the fear and tell yourself it is no longer needed because it is not helping you function in a healthy manner in your relationships.
You may always have some level of fear because the fear of abandonment is so deep rooted and fear is a natural human reaction. But you can help yourself minimize its toll by not allowing it to control your thought patterns and behaviors any longer.
4. Stop looking to your significant other for help in squelching your fears.
In order to deal with your fear of abandonment, you need to stop looking to your significant other as your solution. If you are having fears of abandonment, you are not to place the responsibility on them to make you feel secure. You must stop the controlling behaviors that are based in fear and place the onus of your fear of abandonment back upon yourself.
Again, you circle back to reminding yourself of the cause of those fears and how they are no longer needed for your emotional health. In fact, holding onto those fears only hinders you.
Let go of the feelings that you are not worthy. Start by telling yourself you are worthy. Self talk can help you re-establish new ways of thinking when these thoughts of unworthiness based on fear pop into your mind.
5. Use self talk to replace fear with positive thoughts.
Self talk is incredibly powerful. It helps shape the way you think about yourself. Are you allowing your self talk to wallow in your fears, doubts, and negativity about yourself? If you are, it’s time to replace any of those thoughts with positive self talk.
Your goal with positive self talk is not to focus on the relationship because that is not the cause of your fear of abandonment. Your fear of abandonment is based on feelings of unworthiness which came about because of an abandonment earlier in life. You need to replace your negative and fearful thoughts with positive self talk regarding yourself and your worthiness.
Remind yourself that you are a person of worth. Look for positive attributes in yourself that are worthy of praise that you can refocus on when you have emotions about fear of abandonment settling upon you. Dispel the ugly feelings for abandonment and fear by replacing them with positive thoughts about yourself being a person of worth and value.
6. Accept the idea of being alone.
It is okay to be alone. You do not need another person in your life in order to be a person of value. You are worthy because you are you. It is okay to be single and it is okay to be in a relationship.
If you have a relationship that ends, then look for opportunity to embrace your season of being single and what that may look like for you. Find the positive in both single and involved relationship statuses, so that you can be okay either way. Your worth is not based on your relationship status.
7. Stop pursuing the emotionally unavailable.
Some people with fear of abandonment issues tend to seek relationships repeatedly with people who are emotionally unavailable.
Instead of seeking the emotionally unavailable, it’s time to break the cycle and seek out partners who are ready, willing and emotionally able to hold a relationship with you. If you have a long pattern of these unhealthy, emotionally unavailable relationships, then therapy can be quite helpful.
8. Create a network of support.
For some individual with fear of abandonment issues, they become highly entrenched in their romantic relationships because of their habit to give too much and their demand for their spouse or significant other’s time. This causes other relationships to fall by the wayside.
It’s hard to maintain friendships with others when you are obsessed with one person to the exclusion of others. Do you talk insensately about your significant other when you are with friends? Do you think non stop about your significant other when you are out with friends? These behaviors do not help you create meaningful relationships with others.
In order to have a balanced life, you need friends outside of one singular person. You need a network of people who can be your support system. That way if your romantic relationship fails, you have the encouragement, love and support from friends and family around you.
Make yourself open to other friendships by participating in activities that interest you. If you enjoy running, then join a running club that meets once a week. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or singing group. If you like to help others, then join a volunteerism organization such as the rotary or Junior League. These are just a few examples.
Don’t spend your time so involved with only one person that you fail to develop friendships during this season of your life because you need friends for every season of life. Your fear of abandonment causes you to fixate on your significant other and you want to spend all your time with this person. Loosen the reins and allow yourself to have time to foster friendships with others so that you and your significant other are not your only support network.
You need more people in life because you are not an island in this world. It is healthy to have friendships with others while you still maintain your romantic relationship.
9. Be mindful of behaviors that feed off of fear.
There are behaviors caused by fear of abandonment, as discussed previously. It is important to not only recognize that these behaviors have happened in the past, but to also become aware of them in the present.
Practice mindful awareness to catch yourself when you begin with these behaviors so you can stop them in their tracks. Remind yourself that you are acting based on your fear of abandonment issues and these behaviors haven’t helped you with your relationships in the past, nor will they help you in the future.
Talk to your fears and tell them you are taking control by changing you behavior today.
Summing it up
The fear of abandonment may be inside of you for a long time but by recognizing your self worth and understanding the root of the fear, you will be able to get over it and lead healthy relationships again.
Anyone who feels insecure will always be insecure if they only rely on others for security. Take control of your fear today by following my advice and you will see your relationships change.
Having high self-esteem is important if you are aiming for personal or professional success. Interestingly, most people will high levels of self-esteem act in similar ways. That’s why it’s often easy to pick them out in a crowd. There’s something about the way they hold themselves and speak, isn’t there?
We all have different hopes, dreams, experiences, and paths, but confidence has its own universal language. This list will present some of the things you won’t find yourself doing if you have high self-esteem.
1. Compare Yourself to Others
People with low self-esteem are constantly comparing their situation to others. On the other hand, people with higher self-esteem show empathy and compassion while also protecting their own sanity. They know how much they can handle and when they can offer a helping hand.
In the age of social media, however, social comparisons are nearly ubiquitous. One study found that “participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media”. Basically, you will feel worse about yourself if you are constantly getting glimpses into lives that you consider to be better than yours.
Try to limit your time on social media. Also, when you do start scrolling, keep in mind that each profile is carefully crafted to create the appearance of a perfect life. Check yourself when you find yourself wishing for greener grass.
2. Be Mean-Spirited
People with low self-esteem bully others. They take pleasure in putting other people down. People with positive self-esteem see no need to down other people, choosing instead to encourage and celebrate successes.
If you find that you feel the need to put others down, analyze where that’s coming from. If they’ve had success in life, help them feel good about that achievement. They may do the same for you one day.
3. Let Imperfection Ruin Your Day
Perfectionism isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but obsessing over making everything perfect is a sign that you have low self-esteem and can lead to never-ending negative thoughts. This can turn into an inability to solve problems creatively, which will only make self-esteem issues worse.
Those with high self-esteem disconnect from the results and do their best without expecting perfection.
People with that kind of confidence understand that messing up is a part of life and that each time they aim and miss success, they’ll at least learn something along the way.
If you miss the mark, or if your plan doesn’t work out exactly as you would have liked, take a deep breath and see if you can pivot in order to do better next time.
4. Dwell on Failure
It’s common to hear people dwelling on all the ways things will go wrong. They are positive that their every failure signals an impossible task or an innate inability to do something. People with healthy self-esteem discover why they failed and try again.
People with higher levels of confidence also tend to adopt a growth mindset. This type of thinking supports the idea that most of your abilities can be improved and altered, as opposed to being fixed.
For example, instead of saying, “I’m just not good at math; that’s why I did bad on the test,” someone with a growth mindset would say, “Math is difficult for me, so I’ll have to put in some more practice to improve next time.”
Next time you experience a failure, check out this video to help you believe in yourself again:
5. Devalue Your Self-Esteem
People with high self-esteem value their own perception of themselves – they understand that they come first and don’t feel guilty about taking care of themselves. They believe charity starts within, and if they don’t believe that, they’ll never have a healthy self-image.
Self-care is often top of the priority list for people with self-esteem. For some ways to practice self-care, check out this article.
6. Try to Please Others
They can’t please all the people all the time, so confident people first focus on doing what will make them feel fulfilled and happy. While they will politely listen to others’ thoughts and advice, they know that their goals and dreams have to be completed on their own terms.
7. Close Yourself off
Confident people have the ability to be vulnerable. It’s those with poor self-esteem that hide all the best parts of themselves behind an emotional wall. Instead of keeping the real you a secret, be open and honest in all your dealings.
As Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, points out, “Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen”. When you embrace each facet of who you are and allow others to see them as well, it will create deeper, more meaningful connections in your life. When that happens, you’ll realize that perfection doesn’t lead to people liking you more.
You can learn more about the power of vulnerability in this TED talk with Brené Brown:
8. Follow and Avoiding Leading
People with low self-esteem don’t believe they can lead, so they end up following others, sometimes into unhealthy situations. Rather than seeking a sense of belonging, people with high self-esteem walk their own paths and create social circles that build them up.
9. Fish for Compliments
If you’re constantly seeking compliments, you’re not confident. People with high self-esteem always do their best (and go out of their way to do good deeds) because it’s what they want to do, not because they’re seeking recognition. If you need to hear compliments, say them to yourself in the mirror.
You can even try some positive affirmations if you need a confidence boost. Check out these affirmations to get started.
10. Be Lazy
People work harder when they have high self-esteem because they’re not bogged down by doubts and complaints. Those with low self-esteem end up procrastinating and wasting their energy thinking about all the work they have to do rather than rolling up their sleeves and just getting it done.
This may also bounce off perfectionism. Perfectionists often feel intimidated by certain projects if they fear that they won’t be able to complete them perfectly. Tap into your confidence and simply do your best without worrying about a perfect outcome.
11. Shy Away from Risks
When you trust yourself, you’ll be willing to participate more in life. People with low self-esteem are always on the sidelines, waiting for the perfect moment to jump in. Instead of letting life pass you by, have confidence in your success and take the risks necessary to succeed.
People with low self-esteem are always in other peoples’ business – they’re more interested in what everyone else is doing than themselves. People with high self-esteem are more interested in their own life and stay out of others’ affairs.
Instead of participating in idle gossip, talk about some positive news you heard recently, or that fascinating book you just finished. There’s plenty to talk about beyond what this or that person did wrong in their life.
The Bottom Line
Self-esteem is to success in life. People who maintain a healthy level of self-esteem believe in themselves and push themselves to succeed, while those with low confidence feel a sense of entitlement.
If you need a boost in your self-image and mental health, avoid negative self-talk and the other mistakes of people with low self-esteem. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.