Do you ever wonder how your spouse seemed one way when you first met but then turned out to be a totally different person after a few years?? At first, you can’t imagine how this sweet, lovely person could ever be hurtful or angry. Then, after a few years, you’re painfully aware that you chose someone who blames you for everything that goes wrong. Or you carry so much resentment towards your loved one, you no longer feel they’re the same person you married. Do you find yourself feeling constantly disappointed and angry towards your spouse? Or do you constantly ask yourself, “Why is it all my fault?” Then you are in a relationship with someone who is suffering from abandonment issues.
SIGNS OF ABANDONMENT ISSUES:
- Blaming your spouse for things that go wrong
- Blaming others for your unhappiness
- Assuming that others have ill intentions towards you
- Perceiving judgment from others
- Feeling perfectionistic
- Feeling unable to help yourself
- Excessive neediness
- Unable to be alone
- Feeling overly trapped or the need to runaway
Abandonment issues are triggered by other people or situations. What is an abandonment trigger? An abandonment trigger is the brain’s function of perceiving a fight or flight circumstance. The body is on alert, sensing a potential harm to oneself. Survival becomes contingent upon either fighting back or running away from the perceived harm. During heated arguments, the brain automatically releases chemicals that alert the body to prepare for fight or flight. Even if the threat is emotional and not physically harmful. On a scale of 1-10, everything that is an issue goes from a 0-8, 9, 10 immediately, without a gradual fluctuation.
People have different triggers or beliefs about what feels threatening and what does not. For example, a parent can be overly anxious about her child’s food, care, and safety, to the point of irrationality. A person can become afraid of leaving the house, being alone, or of talking to people. Some people become perfectionistic about their appearance, their weight, or accomplishing a personal goal to the point of severity. Other times, a couple can get into frustrating arguments. There is no clarity, after hours of arguing. No one is a winner and both people feel fatalistic and helpless about the relationship. Helplessness is all consuming, where one spouse feels like a hostage to the other person’s emotional well being. This can sound like, “if you loved me, x, y, z….” or “You don’t love me because you don’t believe me, understand me, get me, back me up, etc.”
To get a sense of whether or not you’re dealing with someone who has heavy abandonment issues, notice how sane you felt before you began a conversation with the person. Notice how you begin to doubt yourself, question your reality and your judgment in order to appease the other person. Another characteristic is having to adopt the other person’s reality in place of your own. If you are being asked these things, then you are experiencing an overly needy, abandonment triggered person. If this is a cycle in your life that occurs repeatedly, then you are in a relationship with an overly needy, abandonment triggered person.
How does this happen? Why does this happen? For some people, this mechanism runs on overdrive, due to childhood abandonment, trauma, neglect, or mood disorders. Over time, once the brain has been trained to release chemicals in this fight or flight traumatizing way in childhood, the adult person is compelled to feel these alarming feelings as a function of the brain. It’s the brain’s normal position. Brain activity that remains in motion, almost constantly. The person’s brain begins to think like a hunter, looking for the “harm” that might be lurking around the corner. Even when there is no harm coming to them. Even when things are calm and quiet. Unfortunately, this way of being is damaging and has a ripple effect on loved ones and other people in their lives. This abandonment trigger runs on overdrive. Those who come into contact with the hyper vigilant person experiencing the fear and neediness can often feel helpless and hopeless. Failing to remain separate, a well-meaning spouse can mistakenly feel like the drowning, abandonment triggered spouse.
Remaining self-differentiated is a challenge. It can feel unloving and unkind to try to not help or to step back from the situation. But helping in an unhealthy way only enables the abandonment spiral. This confirms the need in the fearful person for the reactivity and anger, allowing the confirmation of irrational fears. This only perpetuates the vicious cycle. It is more loving to NOT take responsibility, to have healthy boundaries, and be a reflection of self-differentiation to your loved one. This requires adjusting your own reality and understanding true, unconditional love, while facing your own fears of acceptance and approval from your critical spouse. The change is a gift and a blessing to your spouse who is in pain. They don’t have to be in abandonment pain forever. That is the HOPE!