How To Deal With Fear Of Abandonment And Rejection

I’m sure you remember one of the first times it happened — when your fear of abandonment and rejection got hard wired in your brain. It started with an argument, a fight, then phone calls were missed and text messages were left on seen. There came the endless silence.

Just like that — someone you cared deeply about blocked you. They stopped acknowledging your existence. There was no chance to reconcile since you couldn’t reach them at all. It was loud and clear to you that you didn’t matter to them anymore. You asked yourself again and again what was wrong with you. You wished you hadn’t freaked out on them. You wished you hadn’t been so emotional. You wished you hadn’t been you. You wished you had been easier to love.

Their blocking hurt. The thought that they didn’t want anything to do with you hurt. Noticing their WhatsApp picture had disappeared and there was only one tick at the end of your sent text hurt more than it should and more than you could have ever imagined. You felt ashamed, you felt like a limb had been cut off your body, you felt hated. They didn’t want anything to do with you. What would this mean for you as a person? It meant you were ugly, you were unlovable, nothing you did was right, nothing you did would be loved by anyone, or so you thought.

The experience traumatised you. At the time, no one explained to you that your thoughts were irrational. No one pulled your parents aside and told them a long time ago that when you were under distress, they should have been more attentive to your needs and soothe you instead of ignoring or punishing you. No one helped walk you through your difficult feelings and reminded you that you weren’t a vulnerable child anymore.

So you believed that you were abandoned and it was your fault. At least it felt that way. The pain was deep and haunting and became part of your identity. Your expectations of love were changed forever. You no longer enter a relationship and anticipate a happy ending. You get into one and sabotage yourself before anyone can blindside you and leave you behind.

If you experience an intense fear of abandonment and rejection in your love life, I understand your pain. I understand you want to feel in control of your dating situation but never seem to get it right. I understand you have so much to give but you’ve turned cautious and painfully anxious. I understand you want people to stay but you keep attracting those who are bound to reject you. I have both bad news and good news for you.

The bad news is you can’t stop people from leaving you and cutting off communication with you. People will do what they want to do and they will do things that are hurtful to you, intentionally or not. The good news is that they cannot abandon you. They’re not your parents or caregivers. You do not need them or their care to survive. I repeat: Your romantic partners cannot abandon you. You were fine before them and you will be fine after them.  

When someone abruptly stops the communication or the relationship with you, it might feel like something has been done to you and it is all about you. But it is more about them than about you and you’re in control of your own decisions and reactions regarding this event. The concept of abandonment might be relatable in this situation, but telling yourself you have been abandoned can unnecessarily evoke shame and fear and helplessness.

You’re not helpless. You’re perfectly capable of taking care of yourself and meeting your own needs as a full-grown adult. The moment someone chooses to exit your life, their opinions of you cease to matter. Their exit does not define you as a person and does not speak for anyone but themselves at that point in time, which you don’t have to care about anymore. So don’t tell yourself you have been abandoned; tell yourself you respect people’s choices. And what’s more, you deserve a relationship that makes you feel safe and you only have time for people who choose to be in your life.

Now, to internalise this message and enable it to manifest in your reality, you need therapy. Reading articles will help — there are many great resources out there — but you need a safe space to consistently work through your issues. You have to prioritise your mental wellbeing whether you’re currently with a romantic partner or not. Rewrite the narrative of your past hurt. Redefine yourself. Tend to your own needs. Be there for yourself. Build a life you love. Don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there.

You’ll be meeting new people and, with the help of therapy, you will start choosing better people. Even then, when your anxiety tells you that one of them might soon be cutting off contact with you, relax. Watch it happen. And when it happens, it will hurt and it might hurt like the first time, but let it pass. It will pass and you will calm down. Then you will remember this: A person who makes you feel like you’ve been abandoned isn’t one that will ever make you feel better. It wouldn’t have worked out anyway. So you let them go. You look for answers elsewhere.

I hope you know that there are good people out there who will love you right. As long as you don’t abandon yourself, no one can make you feel abandoned. Fear is powerful but only if you keep feeding it. Step into your fear. Meditate on it. Let it help you embrace your light — your deep values placed on security and care and respect — and navigate towards the people who are similar to you and are capable of giving you the love you want. I understand when someone shows you they don’t need you and stops all contact with you, it can be heartbreaking. But one day you will see it’s the best they could’ve done for you.

As long as you don’t abandon yourself, no one can make you feel abandoned.

— Ellen Nguyen

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