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How Attachment Styles Relate To Fear Of Abandonment In Relationships

You may feel a fear of abandonment in your partnerships, friendships, and at work with your colleagues. Knowing your attachment style can help you to understand how you show up for yourself in relationships.

Depending on how you attach, you can help support yourself in the moment rather than letting unaddressed grief, trauma, and fear fester within you.

The type of relationship can also impact whether your attachment style inhibits you. Relationships can be tricky because they involve at least two people, and some dynamics and reactions will be out of your control.

If you are a person who identifies as needing control, a relationship can feel tenuous and fear of abandonment may be driving decisions that lessen intimacy and vulnerability.

Fear of abandonment and abandonment issues can arise from circumstances that happened in your past. You may have had a childhood that perpetuated the fear of abandonment and previous relationships that have cemented this notion in your life.

Unlearning patterns is possible, and you are not stuck living the same way even when you feel the most helpless. Helplessness can be a sign that you are ready to learn a new strategy.

You are powerless in several situations, and you are not helpless.

Helplessness can be a learned behavior so that you don’t have to stay accountable to your outcomes. There are ways to address this pattern, and a therapist can help you.

When you feel a fear of abandonment in relationships, growing intimacy and vulnerability can be difficult, especially when you identify as having an avoidant attachment, anxious attachment, insecure attachment, or disorganized attachment.

Image of two people holding each other smiling outside. Read More: “5 Secrets To Healthy Relationships”

Fear of abandonment in relationships can come from your attachment style, which include anxious, avoidant, secure, or a combination there of.

Attachment theory was developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth and helps explain the reasoning for how you attach to others in your relationships based on how you handled separation anxiety as an infant from your caregiver.

The book, Attached by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel Heller, M.A. can help you navigate which attachment style best fits your behavior, which is also described in our blog post about healthy relationships here.

A few key signs of each attachment style may include:

Anxious Attachment: pulling away when someone feels needy to you, independent to the point that you don’t need others, and you might have porous boundaries.

Avoidant Attachment: send mixed signals, steer clear from commitment, and have rigid boundaries.

Secure Attachment:seek comfort when you are upset, satisfied in close relationships, and set appropriate boundaries.

It is hard to allow closeness if you don’t have a template to do that or if you think it is not possible. It is possible.

Here are 3 important signs that you may have a fear of abandonment in relationships:

Image of couple dancing the tango. Read More: “What Is Codependency and What Does It Mean For Relationships?”

1. You dread wait time between texts.
When someone doesn’t immediately respond to you in a text message, it does not mean they are leaving you.

This is extreme thinking. Rather than texting the person several times, allow a pause.

You can acknowledge your feelings and still pause as the action step. This may feel like fear is bubbling up within you, which can indicate that it is time to take a walk or go outside so that you can switch your brain.

This dread can come from a history of the silent treatment.

Sometimes, people use a pause as a weapon, which can be scary when you are dealing with another person. Allow space, and if it has been a 24-hour period with no response, you can check up on the situation.

A good way to initiate the conversation is with Brene Brown’s sentence starter, “The story I am telling myself is…” The discomfort with the pause is about you, so ensure you are holding yourself accountable.

When you have a secure attachment style and presume positive intent, you are less likely to sabotage a romantic relationship. You may have to put extra effort into your relationship so that you can improve your mental health while in a partnership with a loved one.

2. You refuse to engage in relationships.
If you have had anxiety about relationships in the past, you may develop a fear of future relationships. This pattern is known as relationship anorexia in the rooms of recovery.

By not having a relationship, you are protecting yourself from the harm a potential relationship can cause.

This is often associated with an insecure attachment style, and there is hope to become more securely attached in your relationships.

When you participate in an adult relationship that is a healthy relationship for you, it may seem like a strange situation if you are accustomed to a close relationship that has many ups and downs.

This can be a result of childhood trauma and perpetuate fear of an intimate relationship. Humans are social and want a sense of belonging in the world.

Even though you don’t need a romantic partner to be happy and successful, there are benefits to being brave in new relationships that are healthy for you.

A therapist can help you navigate what healthy means to you and how to develop new patterns so that you can experience adult attachment.

3. You overshare when you meet a new person or potential partner. 
Quick connection or trauma bonding can be a sign that you fear abandonment in relationships. Self-disclosure is an important tool when it comes to boundaries.

Image of sneakers and business shoes face to face on asphalt with space between them. Read More: “What Are Boundaries And Why Are They Important? Learn To Set And Keep Boundaries”

Feeling the buzz of a connection can happen when you divulge details of your life quickly. It may bring you closer to a person in the moment, and it is not a way to sustain long-term relationships.

Anxious types or people who identify as having attachment insecurity may be more likely to engage in these conversations.

Boundaries are crucial when it comes to relationships, and it is okay to have different boundaries for various people in your life. You would not share the same information with your boss that you would a dear friend.

To build intimacy and self-protection, boundaries can be developed so that you can have successful relationships in your life. Everyone has different attachment styles, so it is your task to identify what feels most supportive for you.

You deserve healthy relationships that include the benefits of intimacy and vulnerability in your life. You need emotional intimacy to help you feel loved and love others.

When you fear abandonment in relationships, it can often mean that you have previously felt abandoned by both yourself and others.

The tools you need are already within you and a therapist can help you get curious and explore why you have the attachment style that you do. At Denver Metro Counseling, our therapists in Denver, Colorado specialize in helping people navigate attachment and healthy relationships.

Inner peace starts with you, and you are worth it.

Learn More About Denver Metro Counseling

Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC

Denver Metro Counseling is a group of Denver therapists who provide teen therapy, young adult therapy, adult therapy, family therapy and other counseling and therapy in Denver and throughout Colorado. We specialize in relationships, codependency, communication and boundaries and provide supportive therapy for people struggling with life transitions,  trauma, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, ADHD, negative body image, and more
Denver Metro Counseling

Our Clinician’s Bios:
Jessica Wright, MS, LPC, LPCC
Audrey Bristol, LSW
Molly Ward, LCSW
Karan Steuart, LCSW, LAC
Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACC, ACS

Follow Denver Metro Counseling on Facebook: Denver Metro Counseling and Instagram: @denvermetrocounseling for other helpful information.