When I was 12 years old my father abandoned our family. Mami didn’t kick him out. Although we had moved out of state, she welcomed his visits with his children, and he did visit for a while. Until one cold, November day when he said, “I’ll see you next weekend,” but he didn’t show up or call. Not that weekend or the weekend after that or the weekend after that. I shut down. I pretended I didn’t care. I was 12, after all. What I didn’t realize then is that this was a pivotal moment that changed me forever. My father leaving left me with a deep-seated fear of abandonment and abandonment issues.
Abandonment Issues Are a Dime A Dozen
My story isn’t unfamiliar. Unfortunately, abandonment issues are a dime a dozen. Just do a quick Google search and you will find thousands of articles on the topic and a Google search volume of over 13K hits. (That’s the SEO nerd in me, my apologies.) So, what do we do about it now? How can abandonment issues manifest in your romantic relationships? Does the fear of rejection ever go away? Do you turn into a werewolf? Are you damned for life?
As someone can confidently say that I’ve overcome these issues through therapy, reflection, and journaling, I’m going to shed some light.
How Abandonment Issues Manifest in Romantic Relationships
When a parent or another prominent figure in your life leaves unexpectedly, even in death, that rejection stays with you. And it affects all aspects of your life. In romantic relationships, you may:
- Seek out partners that are unattainable as a way to protect yourself. If they don’t commit because they can’t (see: married, in a relationship, disinterested in commitment, etc) then you don’t have to face rejection and abandonment. It feels safer to enter into a situationship than an actual relationship.
- Be super clingy when in relationships. You have codependency issues and always want to be with your bae. You struggle when they take vacations without you or don’t call back quick enough.
- Act out of fear of abandonment. You may break up with someone to protect yourself or even become super emotional, clingy, and impulsive if you fear they will leave you.
- Jump to conclusions that they are abandoning you. You think the worst when your paramour doesn’t call or text back immediately, when you feel them detaching, even if they just need space, or when they don’t make plans to see you. If you do not receive constant validation and/or reassurance, you may think they are going to break up with you. Any slight or “change” can feel like rejection, which leads you to spiral and assume they are leaving you.
These are just some of the few ways that a fear of abandonment can affect romance and how you engage and show up in relationships. Now, it’s time to explore how to overcome your abandonment issues.
How I Overcame My Abandonment Issues
My issues with abandonment were pretty deep-seated. My father’s abandonment also impacted my self-worth and self-esteem. I didn’t feel loveable enough or worthy enough just as I was because, if my own father left me, why would any man stay? I didn’t realize that I thought this way immediately. Most 12 year old’s aren’t this reflective. I just buried my feelings and pretended nor to care while feeling incredibly ugly and unlovable. I didn’t tie it all together until I was in college when my father reappeared. His call hit me like a ton of bricks and I realized then, at 19 years old while speaking on the phone with him for the first time in 12 years, that I was pretty fucked up.
So, how did I go from playing a great game of Fake the Funk Like You’re not a Broken Woman to Confident Sujeiry that Loves Herself? I went to therapy. I have rebuilt my relationship with my father and speak openly to him about the hurt. I’ve accepted the fact that my father’s abandonment had nothing to do with me and who I am as a person. He failed as a father because of his messed up childhood and his drinking problem.
I’ve also learned that my worth is not tied to any man. That being loved and chosen by a man doesn’t make me more or less worthy and loveable.
How I Cope With Those Feelings Today
Don’t get me wrong, that fear of rejection and abandonment still creeps up. But now that I know what it is and why certain situations trigger my feeling rejected, invalidated, and unseen and unheard, I put a kibosh on it.
“I see you,” I say to my abandonment issues, “and you’re ruining my day, this relationship, or my life.”
I breathe, I journal through the feelings, and I show myself grace. I remind myself that my dad’s mistakes aren’t mine to wallow in and live with. He made his choices. I choose not to take it on that burden anymore. It is no longer a reflection of who I am as a person or my worth as a woman. And every day, I remind myself how amazing I am despite my childhood circumstances. Because I didn’t ask for it, and neither did you. Because we can and will move past the trauma. Because we must stop living in the past.
Sujeiry Gonzalez (Love Sujeiry) is a professional writer, performer, and digital storyteller. Coined the Latina Carrie Bradshaw, she is the go-to chica for all things love and the Founder of LoveSujeiry.com, a digital platform sharing relationship advice and stories from a Latina perspective.