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.
I don’t remember the exact quote, but I recall this sentiment from one of the diaries of Anaïs Nin I read as a teen:
‘Every human being is treacherous to every other human being because they must be true to their own soul.’
I don’t remember anything else from her diaries, but this one thought burned itself into my heart. Perhaps, I read it as a warning. Perhaps, it amplified an already existing deep-seated fear of abandonment.
I believe in healthy relationships. I believe in sweet friendships. I believe in supporting one another and depending upon each other in a non-sticky way. We need each other’s love, care, and support in this complex, topsy-turvy world. And simply because we’re human.
“Love is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”—the Dalai Lama
But, I know everything changes as well.
The person you love one day may be unavailable or gone the next. People move, they drop off the internet, they get involved in a different flow of life. From a Buddhist perspective, when the karma between you and another person completes, the attraction or connection can dissolve in an instant. And like the saying, “This ship has sailed,” there’s no getting it back.
Spiritual traditions offer different explanations as to what happens after death, but no one knows for certain. I imagine I will be alone after death as my mental body travels the in-between states. Isn’t it imperative that I learn to be there for myself now? Wholly. Fully.
Undoubtedly, this fear of abandonment will arise again whenever the opportunity for a genuine friendship, caring partnership, or loving relationship appears. Or, when someone speaks in a suspect way, and my ever vigilant antennae flash a warning.
But, I won’t turn away from the fear or push it aside. I’ll welcome it like an old friend, I’ve known for a very long time.
Because, I now have my simple, single anti-abandonment strategy, the only one I’ll ever need. I put my hands over my heart and whisper sweetly to myself: “I will never abandon you. I will never abandon you.” And as I do, the fear of abandonment melts away.
People may come and go in my life, but I will never abandon myself. Will you make that promise to yourself too?