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Managing Abandonment Issues – 7 Effective Steps In Taming The Fire Breathing Dragon
Written By: Mark Smith


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If you have done a Google search about Abandonment Issues you already know full well what they are and you are doing some research to get some much needed help. They are brutal, explosive, damaging and standing ready to ruin otherwise happy and peaceful events. They are an angry bull in an emotional china shop. They are an irritating bee buzzing around your head just waiting to sting. They are a scary fire breathing dragon fully committed at times to directing their furry towards you. Let me offer a disclaimer here – I’m not saying that people with abandonment issues ARE fire breathing dragons. They are wounded people who need help. They are the people that we have chosen to have in our lives because we love them. They are wonderful but they are unsafe. The fire breathing dragon is the abandonment issues themselves, NOT the person.

Simply put, Abandonment Issues are a consistent hypersensitivity to any and all perceived or actual distancing in a relationship. You can’t fix it. It is way too deeply embedded in the personalities of those who suffer from it. You can’t even manage it…unless as the significant other you first see it, understand it, name it, and handle it…non-reactively, wisely and healthily. Abandonment issues are tricky. They can be subtle at time. You have to know what is really afoot to not ‘step in it’ royally. The person suffering from abandonment issues becomes instantaneously drunk without taking in a drop of alcohol. Once the abandonment issue is triggered, the sufferer then makes all around them suffer too. They get really goofy and irrational. They do not see reality. They are driven by a very young and very sad and a very needy abandoned little child at the core of their being. Trying to argue with a person under the influence of abandonment is very much like trying to argue with a person under the influence of a great deal of alcohol. It is not advised and it is certainly not productive.

So here you go…7 very effective and practical steps to aid you in battling your fire breathing dragon of abandonment issues…

1. Name It – Understanding the truth about your loved one’s condition is an absolute Godsend. If you don’t know what is going on and they don’t know what is going on then you get sucked into their crazy dance. The reason that happens (sorry) is that you are actually as crazy as they are. That isn’t good news is it? It is the truth though. This is not a situation with one sick person and one together one who has to suffer and help the sick one. There are two unhealthy people here. If your sweetie doesn’t own their abandonment issues then you need to walk. They can’t and won’t get better until they first own their stuff. That means understanding that abandonment is rooted in their childhood and specifically how it gets expressed in the relationship. If you stay in a relationship with someone who denies the call about their abandonment issues, you evidently still have the psychological need to dance with someone who occasionally is a very mean and dangerous fire-breathing dragon. I am not judging that. You will be done when you are done and not a minute before. Your dragon is a gift and they are your therapy. They probably won’t get better until and unless you do.

2. You Both Have to Go to Therapy – Sorry, this is non-negotiable. If your loved one had diabetes, and if they refused to go to the doctor and do exactly what the doctor says, then they are being extremely self-destructive and unwise. As I said in another one of my articles, abandonment issues are the King Kong of all issues. They are HUGE! They MUST be addressed. A relationship can barely survive at times even with both partners actively involved in therapy and recovery. It certainly won’t survive for long without some very insightful, aggressive and effective therapy. You are fooling yourself if you think that the two of you can untangle your crazy dance without the very active and spirited instruction of a very talented therapist. A great therapist can break down your abandonment dance like a football play. They are objective and hopefully quite insightful and powerful. They can drop a flag like a referee does when they see an infraction of the rules in a football game. You know the credit card commercial that says such and such costs $50.00, such and such costs $100.00 but such and such is priceless? A sharp therapist who cuts like a surgical laser through the BS of your abandonment denial, reactivity and insanity is absolutely priceless. You both need a great deal of help and support.

3. Read ‘The Journey from Abandonment to Healing' by Susan Anderson- This is the best material that we have come across on abandonment. As someone who suffers from abandonment issues you really need to adopt this book as your personal bible or manufacturer’s manual about you. As a significant other of someone suffering from abandonment issues you must become a solid expert in all things abandonment issue related. Reading the book together will give you a common healthy language that you both can use to try to see and hear each other with. The more you know the better off you both will be. It won’t fix things but the insight and enlightenment will certainly be a refreshing relief from banging around in the dark while bloodying your emotional shins. We hand them out by the caseload. It will help you both a lot.

4. Don’t Get Suckered In – If you react to each and every abandonment reaction by your sweetie you will be riding the roller coaster of your life every day. Try to detach. Try to not take things so personally. Most often it really isn’t about you at all. Try to see beyond the bluster and the blasts of fire to see the terrified little girl or boy inside. Calmly name what you see going on and then share what feelings are coming up for you related to the abandonment outburst. Stay calm and business like. Search yourself to make sure that you don’t have a hidden need for the constant drama yourself. Take a few deep breaths. Do not let them control or steal your peace and tranquility. You are in control of your own space.

5. Eradicate Victimy Thinking – I love the word eradicate used here. Victimy thinking has got to go completely. I am talking about YOUR victimy thinking Sparky, not theirs. Everything that they have ever done to you is fair. You picked them. No one made you do that. You are continuing to pick them every day that you are in a relationship with them. In your therapy you will be exploring whatever in your family background molded you into someone who needed to dance with your particular dragon. You are not a victim! They have never victimized you – not even once. You are the architect of your destiny. You will not be able to reach a non-reactive detached place of assertive power and effective boundaries if you are rooted in a victimy stance. You are with the right person to make you face the work that you need to do. It is all good if you make use of your opportunity to heal and grow.

Certainly your abandonment-filled significant other would benefit tremendously if they’d be blessed enough to have the epiphany that they aren’t a victim either. Unfortunately you can’t control their insight level. All you can do is require good therapy, require that they read the book, and calmly but assertively name what you see and share how it makes you feel. Then back away and give them some space to process it all.

6. Get Some Space – I know, I know, “If I leave the room they flip out and it only makes it worse.” None the less you must employ this powerful strategy. If they follow you, grab you, lock you in a room, or get violent with you in any way then you are going to have to separate. They are not capable of honoring your personal boundaries. They can’t see the line between them and you. On some levels they think that they own you. If you can’t back away and the craziness follows you everywhere you go, then you will lose sleep and you will not have the control to have peace. They don’t know it but they need some down time to process their stuff. They need to realize how childish and out of control they have been acting and to feel sorry for intruding on you. They need some time to settle down and go back to being sober and sane again. You need some time to sleep and think and feel and decide what boundaries need to be employed. I know that the fire breathing dragon is a bit of a dramatic metaphor but you know that it is pretty accurate. As long as they are in their dragon personality, you are not safe being very close to them. I came across a brilliant quote from the author of the very interesting book ‘Why Men Love Bitches’ by Sherry Argov. She wrote ‘Truly powerful people do not explain why they need respect, they simply do not engage with people who do not give it to them.’ That is what I’m talking about! Step away and stay away as long as the dragon is in possession of your sweetheart. Do not negotiate with a terrorist. Wait until they become sane again.

7. Require Accountability By Being Congruent – Generally spouses of people who have abandonment issues kiss and make up way too quickly and easily. They have their own addictions, like work, busyness, rescuing, alcohol or food that medicate their feelings so that they don’t have to feel them. Feelings can be messy. There is already so much conflict and so much drama that the spouse many times feels the need to lay low with their critiquing so as not to rock the boat. After an evening has been ruined by an irrational abandonment fit that turned ugly, I’m simply saying that it is really healthy to stay connected to the pain caused by how you were treated. It is not ok to be treated that way regardless of the fact that your partner acts this way due to childhood wounds. They need to get better. They need to be working hard and making progress. They need to be humble, apologetic and remorseful after their incidents. I’m not encouraging you to be difficult, but rather to be respectful of yourself and congruent with your feelings. Most people don’t change unless they are first keenly and painfully aware of how their unhealthy behavior hurt their loved ones. If you are hurting, step back. Have a hurtful partner spend a week sleeping on the couch, or if necessary, consider a separation. Certainly don’t jump back into an intimate connection if you are still hurting from a dragon attack. You are important. By treating yourself with respect and dignity you can teach your partner to do the same.

While these 7 steps won’t heal your spouse’s abandonment issues or your relationship, they can and will help you to defuse your dragon’s destructive behavior as it pertains to you. While it is a lot of hard work, it will pay off soon in terms of safety, conflict resolution, intimacy, and meeting your mutual goals of developing a healthier and more fulfilling relationship.




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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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