Abandonment issues & experiencing love?

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    I will try to make this as short as I can.

    I won’t go into my childhood, but long story short, many things happened that have caused me to have developed abandonment issues that have plagued me for most of my life. I’m 22 now and though I’m aware of why I act the way I do in relationships, I can’t seem to stop myself from acting irrationally.

    Recently I have been talking to a guy who is in every way good. He’s talented, smart, loved by everyone (very popular, which I am not) and attractive. I can easily talk to him for hours on end (which we do all the time), and he actually identifies when I’m trying to hide that I’m upset and tries to resolve it. There’s more, but I don’t want to go on forever.

    He’s a wonderful person, and the fact that he likes me is beyond me, and sometimes I almost feel guilty that he likes me because I know my past and he doesn’t (at least all of it). Lately I have been feeling like this is too good to be true, and I have been very scared of having this fall apart like my other relationships (they weren’t nearly as good, but they still hurt me). I feel like I’m in fight or flight mode every time he takes a few hours to reply to me. I understand that he is busy because we’re both in university and have tons of work, but everything inside of me screams “delete his number and block him” “when he does reply, don’t reply back, ever again!” It’s so irrational, and yet I can’t fight the temptation to do it. Even if I don’t block his number I just shut off my phone so I’m not anxiously waiting for him to text me.

    I have a real problem with pulling away in relationships the moment I feel even slightly uncomfortable. I feel like I can’t function when this person takes a long time to reply, and I seriously cannot continue living like this. It’s taking a toll on my mental and physical health. I just want to be secure for once. I understand that he is most likely just busy, and isn’t “losing feelings for me with every passing minute” like my mind keeps telling me.

    If anyone has advice on what I can do, please let me know. It’s horrible to be aware of your own toxic coping mechanisms and have no clue how to change them.


    Dear A:

    When a young mammal is abandoned by its mother, it is a death sentence for the young: no food or shelter or protection from predators. A human child, when abandoned by her mother, or when perceiving she may be abandoned, feels the same fear that other young mammals feel, a fear that fits a death sentence.

    Fast forward, you feel attached to this young man and the fear awakens, even though you are an adult and him leaving you is in no way a death sentence. The fear though is the same.

    “It’s horrible to be aware of your own toxic coping mechanisms and have no clue how to change them”-  First thing to do is to lessen that original fear. With less fear you will think more clearly and be in more control of your behavior. Best place to do that is in quality psychotherapy. Outside of therapy, there are different practices that lessen fear: guided meditations available online, mindfulness exercises available online, in books and magazines, yoga, tai-chi, aerobic exercise, having a daily routine and more.

    But more insight into your original fear, and processing of those early emotions are necessary for the lessening of the fear, in addition to the practices above.

    There is more, but I will stop here and wait for your thoughts about what I wrote so far.



    This sounds so much like me in my twenties, and to a lesser extent it still happens. First of all, work on having compassion for yourself. You were hurt by your family relationships and that is not your fault. However, know it is possible to change these patterns but it will take much diligence and practice. I would start some sort of mindfulness practice. Every time you have these racing thoughts sit and close your eye and take deep breaths. I like to have some sort of mantra, the one I use is “you are not your thoughts.” This comes from buddhist philosophy, but choose something that works for you. Maybe it would be helpful to go for a walk and leave your phone at home. I also have a lot of anxiety about people texting back – I think cell phones have made this so much worse because we assume that people are available 24/7 and if they don’t text back it must mean something about us! Remind yourself this is not true – there are millions of reasons why people take their time to text back. If he is getting back to you eventually he is most likely busy as you say.

    It’s also so important to cultivate a strong sense of self outside your relationship. Clearly this person sees something of value in you that you don’t see yourself. Try to focus on what it is that makes you special and good. It is really critical that you bring as much awareness to your patterns as you can – that is the key to undoing them, which it sounds like you have begun to see this. Also recognize this person is NOT perfect. When we first enter into a relationship with someone, our neurobiology tricks us into seeing them as perfect because our drive to bond with our mates is so strong. It is only a matter of time before you will see that this person has flaws like everybody else. On that same note, if this person is as great as you say he is, then why don’t you share with him that you feel a little insecure? You don’t need to divulge every detail, but I think you could say something about how you tend to be insecure in relationships because of your past but you are committed to working on it. If he is a good and decent person he will be empathetic and understanding. If he isn’t understanding that tells you a lot about his character – and its good information because you don’t want to be with someone who can’t hold space for the issues you are working through.

    Also you are very young. Being aware of these issues and working on them will help calm these patterns in the future. There is a good chance this relationship will not last based on the fact that many relationships at your age don’t last. You should work on finding the confidence to know that you will be ok no matter what happens in this relationship, and if it doesn’t last you are making room for something better!!

    A lot of people have similar issues with attachment (read up on anxious attachment styles and how to manage them) – so you are not alone. Be kind to yourself and start putting in the work so you can have happy healthy relationships :).

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