If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.
There are many reasons people struggle with the fear of being left. If you’ve experienced it personally, you may be intimately aware with the impact it can have on your daily functioning.
Maybe you grew up experiencing emotional abuse, and secure relationship attachments weren’t part of your upbringing. Maybe you’ve lost someone important to you and are afraid of another loved one vanishing without warning. Maybe you have a mental illness like borderline personality disorder (BPD) or anxiety — and fear of abandonment is a very real aspect of living with it.
Whatever the reason may be, being afraid of people leaving is a real, debilitating fear that can impact our ability to recognize, form and maintain healthy relationships.
We wanted to know how this fear can impact daily functioning — or what it “looks” like. To find out, we asked members of our Mighty community to share with us what people don’t realize they are doing because they are afraid of being left.
Here’s what our community had to say:
1 – “I push people away and I run. I’d rather be the person leaving than the person being left. Both hurt, but at least I don’t have to suffer the pain of another person leaving me. Right now, I’m isolating myself completely, because I just can’t take any more rejection.” — Leanne J.
2 – “I cling really bad at times and need lots of reassurance, especially when I’m at my worst.” — Nikki R.
3 – “I frequently apologize and use apologetic language. I’ll say ‘I’m sorry’ about practically everything, and I’ll start conversations with things like, ‘I know you are probably busy and I’m super annoying, but could you…’ I know the constant apologies are probably worse than my neediness, but I can’t seem to turn them off.” — Megan G.
4 – “This is sort of contradictory, but I push people away. I’m so scared for them to leave that I push them away before they push me away. I also do this because I want to see if they want to stay themselves and see if they’re willing to stay in the first place.” — Lauren P.
5 – “I’ve also noticed I can be a little over-the-top when I worry about someone which has led to people thinking I’m ‘fake caring.’ This especially comes out when I see signs of any mental health issues. I hate that I do it because I know I can’t handle people being like that when I’m struggling with my mental health.” — Callum C.
6 – “Cutting myself. It’s not every day, but when I have five, six or seven bad days in a row, and I can’t calm down, all I wanna do is cut. But people think I do because I want attention. I don’t want attention at all. I just wanna be OK. I want control over something I can’t control. I’d give anything to be ‘normal.’” — Janal D.
7 – “I don’t do it so much anymore because I’ve found my one person who has worked through the abandonment issues with me, but I used to collect pictures, screenshots, songs and really anything that reminded me of the person. That way when they left, I had all these things to remind me of them so they wouldn’t truly be gone.” — Jayden R.
8 – “I wait until I feel like the ‘funny me.’ I just can’t imagine making them see me any way other than the way I used to be. They already know I am struggling when I stop coming around and avoid their calls and texts. ‘Funny Nicole’ makes them happy and happy people don’t leave.” — Nicole S.
9 – “Becoming distant if I think someone has lost interest in the conversation — kind of like a ‘leave before you get left’ mindset. Even if I want someone in my life, I’ll hold the door open for them if they want to leave. I’ve never been good at fighting for someone to stay.” — Vanessa B.
10 – “I don’t talk to them about my problems or when I’m feeling really bad, because I’m afraid I’m bothering them. Even when I’m at my lowest point, when I’m going to do stuff I really should not do, I don’t talk to them. Because I’m afraid I’m bothering them, I’m afraid they will stop listening to my problems after a while, I’m afraid they will think I’m annoying. So I always say ‘I’m fine’ and talk to them about happy stuff.” — Freya M.
11 – “I emotionally disconnect in a way that makes me seem cold. Guys tend to think it’s amazing in the beginning, but once they realize how deep the dissociation goes, they feel clingy. I’ve often been referred to as the ‘guy’ in the relationship because I don’t seem to want that closeness. But I do. I just don’t know how to get past that fear of abandonment.” — Katlyn S.
12 – “As someone with borderline and abandonment issues, it’s a constant fear for me. I’m almost always needing reassurance that they’re not going to leave me, and I always ask, ‘Are we OK?’ when that worry arises.” — Erika K.
13 – “I compromise a lot. And when I say this, I mean always. Doesn’t matter what a person did to me, if I want to keep that person I will always forgive and try hard to forget… And end up being hurt and left anyway because I seem too clingy.” — Brezoczki D.
14 – “I do a lot of strange things, but one really big one is that I start convincing myself they’re already leaving. I was once so afraid a boyfriend was going to leave me I convinced myself he was cheating on me with a girl from work. It was totally illogical — he was with me practically every minute of the day, there was no way he was cheating — but I was a mess. After letting it stew for a few days, I just exploded, yelling and crying and ‘I can’t take it if you hurt me!’ for hours. He did his best to reassure me, but the damage was done. He broke up with me about two weeks later (rightly so, I was a mess and obviously not emotionally stable enough for a relationship at the time).” — Megan M.
15 – “Self-sabotage. Just disappearing from thin air for days to weeks at a time. I sleep to sleep through the day, it’s easier to deal with. But when I do that, I call it going into hibernation — I dissociate heavily from everyone including unfortunately my own pets. Just numb.” — Danyelle A.
16 – “I don’t complain about how I’m treated or stand up for myself, I’ll let people get away with about anything just to keep them around.” — Caleb S.
17 – “Over-explaining or even explaining my motivations. I feel if they understand where my heart is, they’re less likely to leave. It directly relates to the primary trauma that brought on my first psychotic break.” — Joshua D.
18 – “I never say no. I feel like if I upset them, they will stop speaking to me. Even to the point of being used past my breaking point. I will literally just have a meltdown before I tell someone no.” — Marie V.
19 – “Trying really hard to please someone, to extremes. Like spending lots of money on someone or an event they are interested in, changing all my plans to suit them or literally doing (or not doing) anything they ask.” — Cora L.
20 – “Asking if they need any favor and I would do everything. But then I always end up feeling it wasn’t enough.” — Fithriyaani Y.
21 – “I refuse to be alone and always want to be around that person. I’ll avoid doing things I need to do, and going to visit family or friends knowing they will want it to be just me and not want me to have my boyfriend come.” — Lizzy L.
This article was originally published by our partners at The Mighty.