There are many reasons why people may struggle with fear of abandonment. If you’ve experienced it personally, you may be intimately aware with the impact it can have on daily functioning.
Maybe you grew up experiencing emotional abuse, and secure relationship attachments weren’t part of your upbringing. Maybe you’ve lost someone important to you and are still mourning the loss of that person in your life. Maybe you have a mental illness like borderline personality disorder (BPD) or anxiety — and fear of abandonment is a very real aspect of living with your mental illness.
Whatever the reason may be, experiencing fear of abandonment is a real, debilitating fear that can impact our ability to recognize, form and maintain healthy relationships.
We wanted to know how fear of abandonment can impact daily functioning — or what it “looks” like. To find out, we asked members of our mental health community who experience this fear to share with us what people don’t realize they are doing because they fear abandonment.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “I automatically assume I’ll always become ‘too much’ for the people I’m close to. So I’m always trying to stop them from realizing that and abandoning me. Usually I distance myself a lot when I feel like I’ve let someone in, because if I ‘leave’ them first, it’s better than them getting the chance to leave me.” — Courtney K.
2. “Constantly apologizing or texting almost every day, even when they don’t answer because I need that reassurance they’re still in my life.” — Yaritza P.
3. “Honestly I won’t talk to people because I’ve been told I talk too much and I fear it makes people want to walk away from me. So instead I stay quiet and hope when I do have something to say, they’ll still be there.” — Liz T.
4. “Constantly asking, ‘Are you mad at me?’ ‘Are you sure?’ and apologizing all the time even if I didn’t do anything wrong. I constantly fear the person will leave me if I say the wrong thing.” — Erica R.
5. “I try to be super reliable, helpful and hardworking. I figure, if I am not ‘worth’ their time, they won’t have any reason to want me in their life.” — Jill A.
6. “[I] sabotage all friendships/relationships and then tell myself, I told you so… It’s easier to keep going on the belief that nothing will be long-term.” — Eowyn T.
7. “I always compromise. It never matters if I was wrong or right, I always let the other person win.” — Brooke P.
8. “I am constantly picking a fight and finding reasons to be mad at people. I do that because in my mind, if I beat them to it, I’m saving myself.” — Morgan A.
9. “I try really hard not to show how little changes to someone else’s mood affect me. I constantly question whether I’m good enough for the relationship and do everything I can think of to please the other person. I get really quiet and withdraw until someone asks, then I go back to the bubbly person they all expect.” — Kaitlyn F.
10. “[I] downplay when someone has hurt me. I act like it isn’t a big deal even if it is causing me a lot of pain.” — Danielle B.
11. “After my father’s sudden death by suicide, I automatically assume everyone will leave me at some point. So I try not to get too invested, in fear of losing someone else I love.” — Whitney R.
12. “Avoiding people, avoiding phones, avoiding noise… Avoiding responsibilities necessary to prosper. Avoiding my thoughts, avoiding my feelings, avoiding existence…” — Davina S.
13. “I tend to try to be like the person, changing my style for theirs, attitudes, etc. so we will have a lot in common and the person will find me more appealing. I lose myself in trying to fit in with someone I want in my life. [This is] something I’ve just recently learned about myself and am trying to overcome.” — Jennifer K.
14. “[I] hide my feelings most of all. There is a lot I keep to myself because I don’t want to be clingy. I always compromise to keep people happy so they won’t leave me. I will never tell anyone if I am angry at them.” — Landi S.
15. “I tend to push people away when I’m feeling low, because I don’t want to involve them in my lows and hurt. I actually warn them it is a tendency of mine, but they all seem to forget after some time and then in the back of my mind, I hope this time the friendship will last. I ask people to tell me things straight out, because the psychology of soft speaking doesn’t appeal to me, but I’d rather keep quiet than speak up when something is bothering me.” — Menita R.
16. “When I tell him ‘I love you’ and he says ‘I love you too,’ as much as I try to fight it and not say it, I have to say ‘Are you sure?’ or ‘Promise?’ I need reassurance for so much and I hate it.” — Jessica L.
17. “[I’m] upset when you break plans, like my mom always did to me as a child with divorced parents.” — Summer E.
18. “I don’t enter relationships because of it. I’m afraid they’re just playing with me and just wanna use me for sex or something else. I was used and abused pretty badly in my last relationship and yet I still want that.” — Kelsey S.
19. “I’m clingy [with] my husband. When we’re in an argument, I don’t know how to just leave him alone to think about it, so I press and press because I’m afraid the longer I let him to himself, the more he’ll realize how much better off he is without someone like me.” — Bree N.
20. “I allow myself to be a doormat.” — Sandy S.
21. “If someone ever asks me to do anything, I never answer ‘no,’ because I fear if I say no, they will leave me too.” — Jemma G.
22. “When I meet new people — which isn’t very often — I appear standoffish. I stand back and let others lead the conversation. I don’t say much at all and even less about myself.” — Paula C.
23. “I always fake a good smile, most don’t expect anything.” — Eric K.
24. “I go above and beyond doing anything and everything for the person to make sure they are happy and can’t find fault with me.” — Chrissy Q.
25. “I leave them before they can leave me.” — Samantha H.