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Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Relationships: New Book Claims that We ALL Fear Abandonment and Reveals What We Can Do to Conquer It
by Scarlett Russell
Childhood trauma, bad break-ups and ‘negative core beliefs’ could be the reason you’re unlucky in love, according to a new book written by clinical psychologist Michelle Skeen, PsyD.
In the book, Love Me, Don’t Leave Me, Skeen describes how a single negative childhood memory or painful break-up in adolescence can lead to deep-rooted feelings of abandonment in later life. And that one single experience could be the one thing that is holding you back from having a loving, lasting relationship.
‘I’ve been working with couples for 12 years and abandonment issues arise again and again,’ Skeen explained to MailOnline. ‘They can surface anywhere from the earliest stages of dating right through to marriage and often go un-resolved. But if we pay attention we start to recognise patterns and themes.
‘We’re all born with the fear of abandonment; if we don’t get looked after, we die. It’s just the degree to which we have it.
The problem isn’t that you’re experiencing the painful emotions or negative thoughts, it’s that you are reacting with unhelpful behaviors.’
Here, Skeen explains some of the ways fear of abandonment may be sabotaging your relationships – and details how you can put a stop to them once and for all.
Trying to Force a Relationship that Isn’t There
‘There is so much uncertainty and ambiguity in dating,’ says Skeen. ‘Safety means predicting, and if we have a fear of being left or rejected, we would rather force an outcome.’
Love Me Don’t Leave Me offers exercises to help you spot the associations you have with these fears, pushing you to think back to times you have felt vulnerable. This enables you to identify all the feelings involved in that experience which will in turn explain your relationship ‘triggers’ – fear that is activated in certain situations.
‘People you meet will have their own set of core beliefs, but they may be less in tune with them and can pull back before the relationship has a chance to grow,’ Skeen adds. ‘Reassuring them will help, but you can only do so much.
‘See the ending of a relationship as a chance for increased awareness about yourself.’
Starting Fights to Push your Partner
‘People do this to test the relationship as their fear of being abandoned means they are expecting to be left anyway, so are almost seeing how far they can push their partner before breaking point,’ says Skeen.
‘Before you know it, you’ve pushed too far and they’ve left, as your expected, but who’s fault is that?’
Skeen suggests creating a ‘Snow Globe’ – focusing on a particularly painful memory and writing down all the details and emotions around it.
‘This makes you more aware of your issue. When it is activated – through an argument or certain behavior it’s shaken like a Snow Globe, but instead of reacting to that fear, you will be able to think and act rationally, communicating your fears.
The Pre-emptive Strike
Have you ever panicked and ended a perfectly good relationship?
‘When we fall for someone it can feel like a loss of control,’ says Skeen. ‘Your reaction may be to strike out altogether, rationalizing that you’re leaving that person before they leave you, even if they have no intention of leaving you. It’s destructive behavior.’
Skeen says you must exercise mindfulness in this situations, rather than automatically ‘freaking out’.
‘It’s the skill of staying in the present and not indulging in your initial, potentially damaging, reaction,’ she adds. ‘You must develop a careful and compassionate response to your current situation. Don’t freak out end it!’
When your issues are triggered, mentally repeat the words, ‘thought’ or ‘emotion.’ This will not only relax you, but make you realize that’s just what these feelings are: thoughts and emotions.
Getting Involved with Someone Unobtainable
Choosing a partner who is married, is known to be a womanizer or who has a demanding job that leaves no room for intimacy are all decisions which stem from fears of abandonment, according to Skeen.
‘If you are convinced no one is good enough, you will choose unsuitable partners who will leave you – as you expect,’ says Skeen. ‘People complain that it’s difficult to meet the right person, but ultimately we have to look at ourselves.’
The book lists common traits found in unsuitable partners, such as being controlling, possessive, flaky or judgmental – and teaches you to focus on values; not specific goals to achieve but the direction you want your life to go in.
‘Use your values to keep you on track, to help you make the proper decision when you’re at that moment of choice when you can choose your unhelpful coping behaviors,’ says Skeen.
‘When we fall for a guy, especially after we’ve slept with them and our hormones are in overdrive, it’s easy to let emotions rather than rationality, take the lead,’ says Skeen. ‘Pushing for that immediate outcome is always going to be really damaging.’
According to the book, the key is to avoiding irrational behavior is to distract yourself. Go for a run or call a friend you know is going through a tough time.
‘Most important is to be comfortable with feeling a little uncomfortable,’ she says. ‘Don’t react to this feeling of unease, just ride it out. Accept that it’s simply an uncomfortable feeling, and that’s all. It doesn’t need attention, or to be fixed.
‘Once you figure that out, the rest just isn’t important.’
Relying on Your Partner for Everything
Being in a relationship means being honest about your wants and needs, says Skeen, but it’s important to have realistic needs based on the present, not the past.
‘We often don’t get our needs met because we’re worried about appearing demanding,’ she explains. ‘But someone with abandonment issues may expect their partner to be all the things they’ve been missing, such as a parent, carer or even previous boyfriend.
‘You’re always going to be disappointed and make the other person feel like they’re a disappointment. You have to make that distinction and let go of that so you don’t overburden the current relationship.’
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