The question is there even when you’re busy with other things, “Do I have abandonment issues?”
Maybe someone else has asked the question for you.
Or maybe you’ve wondered why your relationships end with painful break-ups.
Maybe the most disturbing thing about those endings is how little they surprise you.
Look up “how to know if you have abandonment issues” and you’ll find plenty of content because you’re not alone in this.
Let’s take a closer look.
What Does Emotional Abandonment Look Like?
Emotional abandonment issues in adults can manifest in a variety of ways.
You won’t necessarily exhibit all the signs described in the list further down, but many of them will probably sound familiar.
Emotional abandonment leaves an open wound. And you’re not likely to let anything get too close to that wound.
You don’t expect healing. You’re more likely to look for ways to numb the pain so you can convince yourself and everyone else that you’re fine.
But you don’t convince anyone for long.
What Are Abandonment Issues?
Abandonment issues are often the result of feeling abandoned, rejected or left behind by someone important to you. Any of the following events can contribute to this feeling:
- Death or incapacitation of a loved one;
- Abandonment by one or both parents (especially at a young age);
- Divorce that results in losing access to one or both parents;
- Unexpected and unwanted divorce or break-up with a partner;
- Abandonment by a sibling, grandparent, or other trusted relative;
- Emotional or physical neglect from parents or other trusted adults;
- Unexpected rejection from a relative, friend, or mentor.
Identifying the root causes of your abandonment issues can help you get closer to healing, moving on, and building stronger and more loving relationships.
What Can Abandonment Issues Lead To?
Abandonment issues are hard enough to live with without the painful situations they can lead to.
- Obsessive Behavior — spying and otherwise invading your partner’s privacy;
- Series of Unhealthy / Abusive Relationships — due to fear of being alone
- Break-Ups / Divorces — due to incompatibility, distrust, and other factors
- Self-Isolation — keeping people at a safe distance to avoid abandonment
- Addiction to Mood-Altering Substances — alcohol or anything that dulls the pain;
- Antisocial Behavior — possibly due to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD);
- Serial Monogamy — breaking up rather than risking hurt with vulnerability;
Abandonment issues in relationships very often lead to the end of those relationships.
Because until you acknowledge your behavior and the corrosive thinking behind it, you’re not likely to change anything for the better.
23 Signs of Abandonment Issues to Pay Attention To
Read carefully through the following signs of abandonment trauma. You’ll find it easier to picture the ones that stand out as familiar or relatable. Feel free to jot down any ideas or insights that come to mind.
1. Forming Attachments Too Quickly
Fear of abandonment can cause you to seize upon the first person who shows interest in you, even when your instincts are screaming, “Danger! Walk away!” You can be so afraid of being alone that you form attachments too quickly and with the wrong people.
2. Moving On Too Quickly
Not long after a break-up (even a messy one), you’re out there looking for your next mistake. Maybe you even pride yourself on getting back out there without “wallowing.” The root of this behavior, though, isn’t resilience but the fear of being alone with yourself.
3. Settling for Unhealthy Relationships
You’d rather stay in an unhappy relationship than risk being alone. So, even if your partner is neglectful, critical, or even abusive, you stay in the relationship because the alternative is being alone and showing the world that no one wants to be with you.
4. Focusing on Your Partner’s Flaws
You see every imperfection as a sign of impending doom for your relationship. This often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You criticize their smallest mistakes and flaws as if your entire self-concept depends on their being the perfect partner.
5. Being a People-Pleaser
You’re so afraid the people you love will leave you that you bend over backwards trying to keep them happy.
You’ll risk your own health and well-being to keep the peace and anticipate your partner’s every need and desire. Because if they leave, it all falls apart.
6. Needing Frequent (or Constant) Reassurance
Abandonment issues often come with a need for constant reassurance that the people important to you care about you and are happy with what you’re doing to keep the relationship going. You frequently check to make sure they’re still happy with you.
7. Reluctance to Fully Commit to a Relationship.
It just feels like you’re jinxing it if you commit to something long-term, especially something as long-term as marriage. Why not continue as you are when things are going so well. Committing to something that’s harder to get out of feels too risky.
8. Feeling Jealous of Happy Couples.
You want to (maybe) but you just can’t be 100% happy for them. Because why do they get that if you don’t? Any time you see a couple that looks happier than you are — with your partner or as a single person — you feel resentful.
9. Fear of Being Vulnerable
Vulnerability is especially terrifying to anyone struggling with abandonment issues because even when they’re keeping people at a safe distance from their wounded inner self, they feel raw and exposed on the inside.
After all, the abandonment happened when they were vulnerable.
10. Avoiding Emotional Intimacy
Since abandonment issues make it much harder to be vulnerable, you’re likely to avoid emotional intimacy in relationships. You keep your armor in place even with those who have earned your trust.
Emotional intimacy makes you vulnerable, which makes abandonment feel more likely.
11. Feeling Unworthy of Love
At the root of your abandonment issues in relationships is often a deep-seated feeling that you’re unworthy of love. Why give up an unhealthy (even abusive) relationship with someone if you believe you don’t deserve anything better?
Love is for fairy tales — or other people.
12. Low Self-Esteem
Deep down, you really don’t think much of yourself or your value. After all, someone you trusted to be there for you didn’t consider you worth the trouble.
So, why would anyone else? You settle for less than the love you crave because you don’t see yourself as lovable.
13. Lack of Self-Confidence / Self-Doubt
You’re constantly doubting yourself and your ability. Others are more competent, more experienced, more knowledgeable — and more of everything that matters. In your mind, you’re still a child playing dress-up, pretending to be more than you are.
And you can’t even convince yourself.
You’ve found someone whose company you enjoy and who seems to enjoy yours just as much, which feels like a beautiful dream you’ll wake up from any second. You’re head-over-heels in love.
Yet, for some reason, you keep doing or saying things to sabotage the relationship.
15. Jealousy or Suspicion Toward Your Partner
Your partner is a catch, and you know it. It seems unlikely they’d be happy with someone like you. So, you’re constantly on the lookout for signs of infidelity or waning interest in you. Everyone they associate with is a potential saboteur — or competition.
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16. Difficulty Trusting Others
You expect people to leave. Because even when things are going beautifully between you — or especially when they are — you don’t trust that what you have with them will last. You might even hurry things along by doing or saying something hurtful to “get it over with.”
17. Severe Separation Anxiety
Your abandonment anxiety manifests whenever you and your partner are separated for long periods. It feels all the more certain that your partner will find someone they like better (someone more accessible while you’re apart) and leave you for them.
18. Controlling Behavior
If you live in fear that the people important to you will abandon you, you might use controlling behavior to limit their ability to socialize with others. You might spy on or even stalk them to make sure they’re not getting “too friendly” with anyone else.
19. Tendency to Choose Emotionally Unavailable Partners
People with abandonment issues will often gravitate toward emotionally unavailable partners—especially if they want to avoid emotional entanglement themselves or if the person who abandoned them was also emotionally unavailable.
Even toxic routines can be comforting.
20. Tendency to Blame Yourself When a Relationship Ends
If you struggle with abandonment issues, it’s likely you blame yourself for the abandonment that started it all. And if you do, you’re more likely to blame yourself every time a relationship falls apart, even when the relationship was a mistake.
21. Hanging Around with Toxic People
You’re more likely to hang around with toxic people if they remind you of the people who abandoned you.
Maybe you want a “do-over” to see if you can make them stay or make them love you, even if they have the same tendencies.
22. Mistaking Protectiveness for Love
When you’re still hurting from an early abandonment, it’s easy to mistake protectiveness toward you as love. So, you might end up with someone who will protect and stay with you in exchange for your meeting their every expectation. Woe to you if you fail.
23. Overanalyzing Things
Every little thing is fodder for obsessive and often dark thinking. Your partner doesn’t notice your text asking them to pick up some bread on the way home, and you see signs of infidelity, disrespect, and diminishing love.
As with fault-finding, this can easily undermine and eventually destroy a relationship.
Now that you’ve looked through all 23 of these signs of abandonment issues in adults, we hope you found something that will help you or a loved one to get closer to healing and renewal. If the will to live is still there, even at a low ebb, there’s always reason for hope.
May you find all the support you need to become the whole and loving person you want to be.