Dating Someone with Abandonment Issues: What to Expect

Published on: 22 Sep 2022
Clinically Reviewed by Karmen Smith LCSW, DD 
woman lying on bed with hand on boyfriend's head

While it’s not unusual to be afraid of losing the people you love, people with abandonment issues might struggle with an intense fear of intimacy, afraid that they’ll be deserted or rejected by people in their lives. These fears can make it difficult for them to trust others or believe that a partner’s feelings are sincere. Some people with abandonment issues are afraid of being alone, which keeps them from leaving an unhealthy relationship. 

People can develop abandonment issues for several reasons. Sometimes, the anxiety stems from childhood trauma, while others might have gone through traumatic events in their adult lives. 

Learning more about it can teach you how to help someone with abandonment issues so you can provide them with the support they need such as communication, honesty, online therapy, and more. Providing them with your support will help them establish and maintain a healthy relationship.

Understand Why They Feel This Way

Fear of abandonment can lead to unhealthy behaviors. It’s not unusual for someone with abandonment issues to struggle with jealousy, ask for constant reassurance, or push their partner away in an attempt to avoid rejection. These feelings can make it difficult for them to feel secure in a relationship or trust their partner.

“It can feel like the burden is on you when you’re dating someone with abandonment issues, but once recognized, it can be easier to depersonalize. Having some patience and taking the time to be clear in communicating can help both of you realize that honesty and understanding are necessary to minimize any anxiety, mistrust, or shame often associated with fear of abandonment.”

Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW  

Once you understand that this is where they’re coming from, it’ll be easier to realize that it really isn’t about you. You’ll likely begin having more compassion for your partner. 

Thus, part of learning how to love someone with abandonment issues is accepting that you’re not the cause of your partner’s fears. Research shows that many people with severe abandonment issues have experienced severe trauma, such as emotional or physical neglect. Try to keep in mind that your partner’s behaviors might be a reaction to past hurt, not to anything you’re doing in the present.

Abandonment issues can be hard to overcome, even with a supportive partner. Don’t take your partner’s fears personally, and try to refrain from telling them they’re being irrational. Instead, gently encourage them to open up about their fears so that you can both work to build a healthier relationship.

Practice Communication and Patience

Communication is vital to any relationship, but it’s especially important when you’re dating someone with abandonment issues. When you’re open and honest with your partner, you can build trust and help them feel more secure. Not only can consistent communication strengthen your relationship, but it can improve your emotional well-being.

Although communication is a two-way street, try not to pressure your partner to discuss their feelings with you. Many people with a fear of abandonment are guarded, and it can take time to tear down the walls they’ve built up. Focus on sharing your own feelings, and let your partner know that you’re always there to listen if they want or need to talk. 

Whether you’re trying to support a boyfriend or want to learn how to love a woman with abandonment issues, patience is key. Communication won’t transform your relationship overnight, but it can have a positive impact over time. Continue to be open and honest with your partner and show them that it’s okay to trust you. 

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Be Honest 

Lying to a romantic partner actually isn’t all that uncommon. A 2017 YouGov survey found that 79% of respondents had lied to their significant other at least once. If you’re trying to learn how to help someone with abandonment issues, though, try to buck the trends and stick with the truth. 

Lies aren’t always about deceiving someone. At times, you may be tempted to lie to your partner to protect their feelings. Remind yourself that little white lies might seem harmless, but to someone who has abandonment issues, even a small fib can feel like confirmation of their deepest fears and lead to bigger trust issues. 

You should also try to avoid lies of omission. If you bottle up your emotions, your partner might become anxious about what you’re not telling them. Being honest about positive and negative feelings can help you build a secure relationship.

Be Prepared to Prove Yourself 

It can be hard for someone with abandonment issues to work past their fear of rejection, even when they’re in a supportive and loving relationship. At times, it may feel like your partner is constantly doubting your feelings or looking for proof that you don’t really care. This can be frustrating and hurtful, especially when you’ve invested so much time and energy into the relationship. 

You may have learned how to love someone with abandonment issues, but that doesn’t always mean your partner can truly believe that your feelings are sincere. Fears of abandonment are often rooted in past hurt, and your partner’s experiences may have given them trust issues. Your partner may even feel the need to pull away from you to try and protect themselves. 

Working through each abandonment fear will require you to prove yourself. You’ll have to consistently show your partner that you’re different from their past relationship or other people in the past who have hurt them. Try not to take it personally when your partner questions your feelings, and remind yourself that their fears aren’t a reflection of you.

Avoid Unhealthy Behavior & Don’t Try to Fix Them

When you’re dating someone with abandonment issues, it’s easy to feel like you’re responsible for their relationship anxiety. Your partner may be afraid of losing you, but that doesn’t mean you’ll cure them if you stick around. Instead of trying to fix your partner, you should focus on building a healthy relationship. 

“Fear of loss is often at the core of fear of abandonment. So, it’s important not to enable this. When possible, validate positive reframed thoughts while practicing an openness towards your partner who may have been hurt in the past. All relationships require effort, and at times it can often feel like you need to fix your partner. Instead, it’s best to take the pressure off both of you by offering space for understanding and clear communication.”

Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW 

Even though it can be difficult, it’s important to set healthy relationship boundaries. Don’t be afraid to spend time on your own or with friends, even if it makes your partner anxious or upset. Enabling someone might make them feel better in the short term, but it can hurt you both in the long run. 

It’s normal to want to help the people you care about, but even if you know how to love a woman with abandonment issues or a man who struggles with abandonment fear, your love won’t make their fears disappear. The best thing you can do for your partner is support them in a healthy way.

Consider Therapy 

No, you can’t take away your partner’s issues, but you can encourage them to get the help they need. Therapy can help people with abandonment issues begin to process their abandonment trauma, reframe negative thought patterns, and develop healthy coping strategies. 

If you really want to build a healthier relationship or change enabling behaviors, you may also want to consider individual or couples counseling. A counselor can help you and your partner work through your relationship issues while providing guidance and support. 

Get connected with online couples counseling or individual counseling at Talkspace today.

Sources:

1. Cohen J, Menon S, Shorey R, Le V, Temple J. The distal consequences of physical and emotional neglect in emerging adults: A person-centered, multi-wave, longitudinal study. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2017;63:151-161. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2016.11.030. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5282706/. Accessed August 13, 2022.

2. De Netto P, Quek K, Golden K. Communication, the Heart of a Relationship: Examining Capitalization, Accommodation, and Self-Construal on Relationship Satisfaction. Front Psychol. 2021;12. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.767908. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8710473/. Accessed August 13, 2022.

3. McCarriston G. Is it normal to lie to your significant other? 49% of Americans have more than once | YouGov. Today.yougov.com. https://today.yougov.com/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2017/10/17/49-americans-have-lied-their-significant-others-mo. Published 2017. Accessed August 13, 2022.

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

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