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Chapter 6 Of Managing Abandonment Issues Through Recovery
Written By: Mark Smith


Healing Toxic Shame Through Recovery
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Managing Abandonment  Issues Through Recovery
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Chapter Six - Crazy Is As Crazy Does!


“Love is no respecter of age or practicality
  
Neither morality: unabashed

  She enters where she will
 
Unheeding that her immortal fires

  Burn up human hearts...”

~Phillip
Pulfrey, from Beyond Me, www.originals.net



Okay, there’s a pattern here. My juiciest examples of abandonment issue destruction thus far have all been men. Trust me when I tell you that women can be world-class experts in abandonment acting out, as well!


Let's talk about Joe, 37, an entrepreneur, and Marlene, 35, a manager in state government. They, too, understood the importance of working hard in therapy before the wedding. The chemistry between Joe and Marlene was unusually strong, which turned out to be both good and bad. When the initial intensity or enmeshment is off the charts, then both partners
are little on the inside, and both have abandonment issues. Marlene's abandonment issues were particularly nasty. If Joe was 10 minutes late to an event, Marlene was known to get highly reactive and ruin the event for all concerned. She’d humiliated Joe in front of his kids and his family many times. Abandonment issues don't have to necessarily deal with massive actual abandonments such as affairs. Most often, they’re tiny, almost imperceptible distancings that seem huge to the
partner who suffers from abandonment.



Marlene was wickedly jealous of Joe's relationship with his two kids from his previous marriage. She competed for Joe's attention like a third child. Joe and Marlene had horrible, ugly, reactive fights. They brought the evil out in each other. 


 Marlene was teachable, though. She was a real trouper; she came to couple's sessions every other week and to group weekly for three years. When her abandonment issues were activated, Marlene acted like a spoiled two-year-old who had just had her favorite toy snatched out of her hands. Her anger, rage, and meanness caused a lot of damage in her relationship with Joe and his kids. Joe had grown up with self-centered, abandoning parents, so he was used to not truly being seen, heard, or valued.


Joe and Marlene were able to hammer out a workable relationship. While it was workable, it was punctuated by windows of heaven and more windows of hell. It was grueling work. There was little bliss and many dark moments. Marlene had two children of her own, and the marriage hung in due to the constraints of Marlene's “no divorce” Catholic family, the couple's strenuous work in therapy, Mike's determination to not be twice divorced, and the deep, primitive bond between the little people inside the big reactive people. 


Joe and Marlene called me their “angel.” I don't get called that often. (I sometimes get called another word that starts with “A” when I strongly confront folks who aren't used to being confronted.)  I got called something in group last week that I can't repeat here. My ability to name the abandonment and break it down like a football play on the whiteboard each session gave them both the insight to step back and more objectively relate to each other. The therapy room was a safe
place. It could contain and tame the fire-breathing dragon. It helped cooler heads prevail. A week before the wedding, Mike asked me with fear and trembling in his voice if he was doing the right thing. There was a beaten, sad look in his eyes. He knew what he was getting into; it wasn’t going to be easy. I said yes, I thought it was the right thing for him, and it was.



Joe's psychological heritage had made it so that this was about as good as it got for him. For him, marriage meant a great deal of suffering. It was also that way in his first marriage, and it’ll be that way if he divorces Marlene and then remarries. It’s his way of being in relationships. "There are no victims in marriage," I hammered away at him each and every week. I’m sorry if you’re looking for a victory-dancing story that ends in bliss and eternal happiness—that’s not in the cards for you. You’re too little on the inside. I know this because of who you married. We always pick someone equally as unhealthy and undifferentiated as we are. Having insight, some stability, frequent apologies and forgiveness, and staying married while still having fierce chemistry is about as good as it gets.


After seeing a portion of this book discussed in my weekly blog, Joe dropped me an email and suggested that we meet for lunch. When we got together I discovered that Joe and Marlene are still married, they’re still in therapy, and they’re still experiencing windows of heaven and windows
of hell. They’d been separated, but through recovery, hard work, and a great deal of determination, they’re back together, and the marriage looks like it might have the stuff to make it to the finish line. 


Life is hard. If your childhood had been healthier, then your marital and love destiny would be more attractive and pleasant. The bad news is that you will only be attracted to someone who basically has the very worst (disguised) qualities of your abandoning parents. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. At your core,  you’re utterly and completely terrified that your spouse will abandon you, then they eventually do in some way, shape, or form because it is their nature to do so; then you spend the rest of the relationship unintentionally but quite obnoxiously chasing them away due to your out-of-control insecurities. It’s a vicious circle that can easily continue to replay until it completely destroys the relationship. It is what it is. A tamer dragon is still a dragon.

Overall, life is good for Joe. He’d marry Marlene all over again. That decision isn't a slam dunk but more of a coin flip, but I believe he’d do it. When it’s good, it’s great, but when it is bad, it's a freaking nightmare. Not everyone is created equal. When you have extremely reactive and/or extremely abandoning parents, then life and particularly relationships are a lot more difficult! If you were severely abandoned as a child, then a great deal of volatility and pain will be your cross to bear in this life. Anyone who tells you differently is selling you a bill of goods.


Nature will always attempt to heal, and in relationships, that means that you’ll be strongly attracted only to people who have the very same psychological DNA as your parents. Plan on it. There IS NO perfect special someone out there who will love you in the way you deserve to be loved. That’s a myth--a fairy tale. If you subscribe to it and build your love life on it, you’re most certainly in for a major ass kicking emotionally. There are only people out there who know your particular crazy dance very well. They are your people. You’ll date, fall in love with, and marry one of those. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. With insight and hard work on your own recovery process, you can have a workable marriage—one that’s light-years safer than when the abandonment issues ran wild, without consequences or understanding. That growth is worth the hard work. 




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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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