Part 4: The Power of Abandonment


This is what I’ve learned about abandonment / commitment issues and relationships. Open and honest communication is key, otherwise there is no hope. If there is communication and a roller coaster ride because one person suffers from abandonment syndrome and the other has commitment issues, it might be possible to learn from those roller coaster rides and heal what comes up, if both parties are ready to view those feelings as information.

Two people with abandonment issues could end up in a long term relationship because they fill each others’ abandonment needs. The situation may change if they heal and one or both realize, had they been healthier, they wouldn’t have chosen each other.

For those who have commitment issues or have power in the relationship, there is the potential for abuse because the one who is hooked will want to keep the relationship going. It can become a contest to see how little a person in power can give / how much abuse a person in power can dish out before the person who is hooked finally walks away.

I think what being healthier does is allows people to recognize what is or isn’t good for them so they have the strength and can make a conscious choice to stay or walk away, and hold out for what they know is possible instead of settling too soon. Being healthy allows you to be fine whether you are alone or with someone. This is difficult for those with severe abandonment syndrome to achieve.

If both parties become Alice Miller conscious survivors, are in a volatile relationship, and can’t figure out a process for building a connection where they don’t constantly trigger each other, I wonder if they would be able to build a healthy connection with anyone? They may appear to, but it's possible something will surface later for acknowledgment and review. If you’re a conscious survivor, there’s hope that you can channel those strong feelings into information that guides you. This is an opportunity to begin building emotional strength, so long as you can communicate.

Another powerful trick in life is to be able to put yourself into multiple viewpoints and hold often conflicting information in your head, to force yourself to enlarge your world to a greater expanse that produces a more encompassing and integrated solution. I’ve been in opposite situations, being with one person who likes me more than I like him, and being with another whose emotional distance triggers my abandonment, and it has given me both sides of the coin and also made painfully obvious to me my role in all of this as well.

What this does is put me in a challenging position to both safeguard my wellbeing by establishing healthy boundaries for me, as well as be cognizant of how to respect others’ boundaries. This is why I’ve spent considerable time practicing radical transparency, because while the truth hurts, it brings everyone to the same level where they can begin to make conscious decisions as to how they’ll establish healthy boundaries for themselves, and they can begin to act in consequence to my behaviors. We all end up learning from this.

Seeing multiple perspectives simultaneously allowed me to see what I was doing wrong in one situation, and flip it in the other situation. For example, if I’m with someone who likes me more and I feel claustrophobic, it’s because I can sense his need and his wanting to put his emotional wellbeing in my hands. That informs me as to what I’m doing to someone who had commitment issues which makes him feel overwhelmed to a point where he pulls away.

When my PTSD symptoms were painful enough and my sense of self-compassion led to my realizing the pain was no longer worth it, I was able to disconnect and I found I do have the power to walk away if the situation isn’t right for me, and then suddenly the person with commitment issues stopped pulling away.

Here is another interesting element. You may be with someone you don’t want to be with and feel stuck, but if that person suddenly decides to live his/her own life, it’s possible to experience abandonment symptoms. And yet, when you revisit the situation and ask if you would want to stay with this person, still the answer is no. That is the dysfunctional abandonment pattern talking. In my case, I think the unrelenting criticism as a child that turned into a pattern of I am unlovable if I don’t achieve not only influenced my achievements, but also applied to relationships as well. I’m unlovable if I’m abandoned. I’m unlovable if I don’t: have great sex with lots of people, find the perfect “one”, get married, etc. I am unlovable and no one could possibly love me as I am so I’ll keep you at a distance.

That made me realize that I really have no idea where the truth lies. What is love, attraction, this dysfunctional pattern? And it’s only because I’ve experienced both sides that I’m finally seeing the muddiness in all of this and I’m trying to tease it all out into greater clarity and a path towards becoming healthier.

Last but not least, while I personally have not had a partner who died suddenly in the middle of the night, I want to tell you what occurred to me about that. Before I say this, I want to emphasize I don’t intend to make light of the pain that survivors feel, and from what I’ve read it seems that pain is different and worse than the pain of a breakup, divorce, etc.

There are many ways to exit this mortal coil, many not pleasant. But if my last memory on this earth is snuggling up next to a loved one, I would feel like the luckiest person in the universe.

Eileen Sauer