Are you breaking up with someone with abandonment issues? Here are some practical tips on how to navigate the difficult transition with sensitivity and dignity.
Breaking up is especially tough when the person you’re ending things with is afraid of being left alone. Their fears of abandonment can make them react in intense ways, turning the break-up process complex and emotionally charged.
You need to handle these intricate break-ups with sympathy and kindness, so that things are easier for both of you.
How To Break Up With Someone With Abandonment Issues?
The trauma of being abandoned early in life can have a lasting emotional impact on a person’s future behavior around relationships.
They can panic at the thought of being left alone, and feel overwhelmed with feelings of fear, anxiety, insecurity, and worthlessness when someone says they’re going away.
Here are 12 tips for breaking up with someone with abandonment issues:
1. Prepare For The Breakup.
Be prepared for a reaction. People with abandonment issues may react to a breakup with anger, sadness, or even threats.
Go prepared to handle these reactions calmly and respectfully. If you feel insecure, take a friend or family member along (they may stay in the background).
Choose the right time and place to break up so that you will not be interrupted.
A private, comfortable setting allows for open communication and minimal distractions. Choose a time when emotions are not running high due to external factors like work stress or exhaustion.
Before discussing the breakup, take some time to analyze the sensitivity of the issue.
Learn more about abandonment issues in relationships. Use your new education to assess the emotional pain your declaration could cause your partner.
Here is a great book on abandonment fears:
- Love Me, Don’t Leave Me: Overcoming Fear of Abandonment and Building Lasting, Loving Relationships by Michelle Skeen, PsyD
2. Discuss The Breakup In An Open, Direct, & Honest Way.
Avoid breaking up over the phone or text messages. Talk to them face to face.
Write down your reasons for ending the relationship. Writing lets you organize your thoughts, memories, and reactions.
Be open, direct, and honest with your communication.
- “Open” communication means you’re willing to discuss even uncomfortable and difficult things, thus fostering a trusting and understanding environment.
- “Direct” means you say what you mean without hesitation or ambiguity, avoiding vague statements that could be misunderstood.
- “Honest” means you speak the truth, not lies or half-truths, and are transparent about your feelings, thoughts, or future intentions.
Be honest about why you’re breaking up. If you can’t find a reason, say so. It’s okay to say,
“I cannot explain exactly why I’m breaking up with you, but I am sure about my decision.”
Be ready to patiently answer any questions your partner may have.
Let them know if you will be available to explain your breakup decision for a few days or a week. If you don’t want them to contact you after that day, say so.
3. Help Them Understand The Relationship Is Not Working.
Explain your decision and reasons for breaking up, but make it clear that the relationship is incompatible and cannot be fixed.
Own your decision to break up.
Tell them it is your decision and your choice, not what your partner deserves. It does not decrease their value as a person.
Here is an example of how you might tell them you’re breaking up:
“I feel like our relationship is not working for me anymore. I’m taking a decision to break up our relationship. I think it’s best for us to go our separate ways.
I know that this may be difficult for you to hear, and I’m sorry for that, but there is nothing we can do to make our relationship work.
I want you to know that I’m not leaving you because I don’t love you or because you don’t love me. I’m leaving because I think it’s the best thing for both of us.
My decision has nothing to do with you as a person, and I will continue to respect you and treasure the good times we spent together.
I care about your well-being and I want you to be happy in life.
I wish you all the best.”
4. Don’t Make Promises You Don’t Mean To Keep.
Abandonment wounds are deep emotional scars that come from early life when someone left a person. These wounds can open up with breakups.
Handling these reopened wounds with utmost care is critical. Be gentle with them when you break up with them.
Do not make promises just to lift their spirits or to make the pain of heartbreak bearable. They might hang on to your false promises and get depressed when they lose hope that you raised.
Do not offer assurances you cannot or do not intend to fulfill, like remaining close friends forever or implying a potential reunion in the future.
If you think you might stay available for them in the future, clear up the uncertainty. Or, if the break is final, tell them to be sure that there won’t be any future contact.
5. Don’t Make Faulty or Retaliatory Arguments.
Faulty arguments are based on false or misleading information. Retaliatory arguments are intended to hurt or punish the other person.
Engaging in either can make the breakup process more difficult and painful for both of you, even leading to high conflict and resentment.
- Keep discussions fair, peaceful, and respectful.
- Avoid name-calling, fault-finding, and personal attacks.
- Do not go for emotional outbursts to win an argument.
Keep focus on your reasons for wanting to end the relationship and express your wish for a peaceful breakup.
Listen actively to their point of view, even if you don’t agree with it, and acknowledge their perspective.
End the conversation if it becomes heated without escalating the conflict.
6. Don’t Blame Them or Shame Them.
Remember, the situation is delicate for them, and they are already feeling too hurt and confused by your decision.
Don’t try to make the other person feel guilty. This will only make them feel worse. They may feel like they wasted their time with you, or you exploited them, and may harbor resentment against you.
Make sure they know you’re not ending the relationship because of their past issues but because of what transpired in the relationship.
Tell them you recognize their inherent value as helpful people, independent of the relationship.
7. Empathize With Their Breakup and Abandonment Issues.
Here’s how to empathize with them around the breakup:
- Acknowledge their feelings. Tell them you understand how they feel, even if you don’t agree with it.
- Be patient. They may take time to process their emotions; be patient with them as they handle it all.
- Validate their experience. Let them know that their feelings are valid and you support their points.
- Offer conditional support. If you may, tell them you’re there for them if they keep your boundaries.
- Encourage them to seek therapy. If their abandonment issues are severe, they may need professional help to cope.
You could say these:
- “I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.”
- “It’s okay to be sad, angry, or scared.”
- “I know this is hard for you.”
- “You’re not alone in this.”
- “I’m here for you.”
Do not say things like:
- “You’ll get over it.”
- “You’re overreacting.”
- “You’ll find someone else.”
- “You’re better off without me.”
8. Reassure Them It’s Not Their Fault.
Breaking up with someone is never easy, but it can be especially difficult if the person you’re breaking up with has abandonment issues.
You may need to assure them it’s not their fault, they didn’t make it happen, and they don’t deserve it.
Gently but clearly emphasize that sometimes relationships just don’t work out, despite everyone’s best efforts.
Highlight their positive aspects and the growth they brought to the relationship. Let them know it’s about compatibility and personal growth, not personal failing.
Reinforce that the end of the relationship isn’t a reflection of their self-worth or an outcome based solely on their issues.
Remember, they might need to hear your assurance more than once to fully understand and accept it.
9. Don’t Enable Unhealthy Coping Behaviors.
Be firm about not supporting actions or behaviors that won’t help them heal in the long run, such as excessive reliance on substances or detrimental thought patterns.
After a breakup, it is common for people to engage in unhealthy coping behaviors, harmful to both their physical and mental health. Some of these include:
- Overeating, undereating, or eating unhealthy is common after breakups.
- Leaning on substances, drugs, or alcohol abuse to numb the pain of a breakup.
- Gambling or spending money excessively to try to fill the void left by the breakup.
- Isolating themselves from friends and family to get through their difficult time alone.
- Ruminating and constantly thinking about the breakup and the things that went wrong.
- Engaging in risky behaviors like reckless driving, unprotected intimacy, or getting into fights.
Do not enable such behaviors.
10. Realize You Cannot & Do Not Need To Fix Them.
Remind yourself that they are responsible for their own healing and happiness post-breakup.
You are not supposed to fix them. Most of all, you cannot fix them because you are not their therapist.
You will do better to encourage them to join support groups, explore healthy coping strategies, and reach out to psychological counselors.
Remind them that you expect them to maintain boundaries with you, whether they are undergoing therapy or not.
11. Suggest Therapy For Handling Breakup & Abandonment Issues.
Encourage them to seek professional help.
If their abandonment issues are severe, they may need therapy. A therapist can address the origins of their abandonment issues and provide support and coping strategies tailored to their needs.
Remember, you are not responsible for your partner’s happiness. You cannot control how they react to the breakup.
If they are struggling to cope with the breakup, you may offer them conditional support.
It means you tell them that you are there for them but they will have to follow your boundary rules. They cannot drop in at your place unannounced or stalk you.
12. Maintain Respectful Distance Post-Breakup.
The more important thing post-breakup is self-care and self-growth.
After the breakup, both of you need time and space to heal and adjust to the new situation.
Tell them you will limit contact initially to process the change and allow adequate healing.
Later, you may allow them occasional contact before finally moving away.
Understanding Abandonment Issues
Abandonment issues or fears are when someone feels like they have been, or are about to be, abandoned or rejected by a loved one.
Signs of Abandonment Issues
Abandonment issues can manifest as fear, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, difficulty trusting others, and difficulty forming close relationships.
It may also show up as insecurity, clinginess, and jealousy in relationships.
They may show an intense fear of abandonment, have severe separation anxiety, and have difficulty letting their trusted ones go out of sight.
These individuals often display an anxious attachment style, resulting in a constant need for reassurance and attention from their partners.
Causes of Abandonment Issues
The roots of abandonment issues often stem from childhood experiences, such as loss, trauma, and neglect.
A person may develop these issues if their parents or caregivers were unavailable or inconsistent in meeting their emotional needs.
Childhood trauma can also play a role, especially if the person experienced physical or emotional abandonment.
Also, certain personality and mental health conditions might predispose individuals to a fear of abandonment.
Impact of Abandonment On A Person
Dealing with abandonment issues can significantly affect a person’s mental health and relationships. They might struggle with:
- Insecure attachment styles: People with abandonment issues often have difficulty forming healthy, secure attachments, which can lead to unstable relationships.
- Anxiety and depression: Fear of abandonment can cause heightened anxiety and depressive symptoms.
- Trust issues: The fear that loved ones will leave may lead to a lack of trust in relationships.
- Low self-esteem: Due to the constant fear of rejection, individuals with abandonment issues might suffer from low self-esteem and self-worth.
- Self-sabotage: In an attempt to avoid the pain of abandonment, these individuals might unintentionally push loved ones away, reinforcing their fears.
Understanding abandonment issues helps provide a foundation for healing and improved relationships. By being aware of the signs, causes, and impacts, one can better empathize with and support those struggling with abandonment issues.
How can you support your ex-partner after a breakup?
Helping your ex-partner cope with abandonment issues after a breakup requires a delicate balance of establishing boundaries while maintaining an open and supportive dialog. Here are some tips:
1. Respect their emotions and maintain empathy. This means listening to them without judgment and trying to understand their perspective. It also means being there for them for a set amount of time and offering conditional support.
2. Be aware of their emotional availability. Some people are less emotionally available than others after a breakup. Don’t pressure them to talk about their feelings. Respect their need for space, letting them work things out on their own.
3. Offer a sense of a platonic relationship. This could mean spending time together as friends, going for walks, or watching movies. But make sure your ex doesn’t think you’re interested in getting back together by setting clear boundaries.
4. Encourage them to seek professional help. If your ex-partner is struggling to cope with the breakup, encourage them to seek professional help. A therapist can help them to understand their feelings and develop coping mechanisms.
- Do keep in mind that people with abandonment issues are not trying to be difficult or manipulative. They are reacting to the past trauma of being deserted in the only way they have learned to.
- Make it clear that your supporting them doesn’t mean you want to get back together. If they get clingy, tell them you don’t want that and distance yourself.
- Prioritize your well-being over supporting them. Give yourself space, time, and self-care to heal post-breakup.
If you date another person with abandonment issues, be patient and understanding. They may take time to allow closeness as they need to learn to trust you and to feel secure in the relationship.
As a therapist, I’ve seen many of them struggle to trust others again and form healthy relationships.
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Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy. His expertise is in mental well-being, positive psychology, narcissism, and Stoic philosophy.
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