Do you find yourself consistently fearing that your loved ones will leave you? When you enter into a relationship, is it difficult to feel secure?

If so, trauma could be playing a role. Trauma impacts about 70 percent of people in the U.S. but it comes in many forms. If you’ve felt ignored or neglected in your life — especially during childhood — you could be struggling with what’s known as abandonment trauma.

While it’s not uncommon to worry sometimes about losing loved ones, abandonment trauma runs deeper than that. You never feel safe. Because of past experiences, you find it challenging to trust others now. Learning more about this issue can guide you to receive the help you need and deserve.

What Causes Abandonment Trauma and How Does It Develop?

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Events imposed upon you — at any point in your life — can create a mindset in which you stop yourself from connecting with others. Perhaps someone you love has left you, neglected you, or betrayed you. They were right there, but either they left or died or they just did not supply the support and love you craved. Examples of this dynamic include:

  • Divorce: If your parents got divorced during your childhood, it may have set you up to worry about future loss. If your partner divorces you in adulthood, you might feel abandoned and decide you never want to risk being rejected again.
  • Death of a Loved One: It could be a parent, a caregiver, a mentor, or your romantic partner. Regardless, it’s enough for you to internalize a deeply rooted fear.
  • Neglect: Quite often, abandonment trauma has its roots in a childhood in which you experienced abuse or neglect. Surviving this kind of treatment can leave you afraid to be vulnerable to anyone.
  • Certain Mental Health Disorders: Abandonment trauma can be an offshoot of conditions you are currently dealing with. You must talk with your therapist about this possibility.

Common Signs of Abandonment Issues

While everyone experiences mental health issues in their own way, some common threads exist and must be watched for. Someone struggling with abandonment trauma will often display behaviors like:

  • Being a people-pleaser in the hope it will keep people around
  • An inability to trust — even when it’s precisely what a relationship
  • Feeling numb and distant as a defense mechanism
  • Settling for whatever partner you can get if you believe they will stay
  • Avoiding conflict for fear of it driving your partner away
  • Seeking huge amounts of reassurance
  • Being clingy or keeping partners at arm’s distance
  • Feelings of shame that you just can’t let your guard down to fully connect

Re-read that list. It’s not very hard to grasp that symptoms like this can be damaging to any relationship. If your partner is dealing with abandonment trauma, sadly and ironically, it can leave you feeling confused, resentful, guilty, and, yes…abandoned.

What Can a Couple Do When One of You Has Abandonment Trauma?

Both the person with abandonment issues and their partner can slip into a tendency toward making assumptions. Words left unsaid can dramatically increase the impact of trauma. Couples must commit together to healthy, consistent communication. It’s not about forcing someone to talk. Rather, you must work together to create an environment in which open communication is the norm.

Resolving trauma is not an overnight process. Both of you must practice patience. How badly you want to reach a point where mutual trust emerges, but it can’t be rushed. Stay patient and stay honest. Get comfortable talking about your emotions in the meantime. Working with a therapist can often be the best place to make this happen. Reach out to learn more about trauma therapy.