Everything I knew and believed about men and love exploded and fell apart when I was only six years old. The beliefs that men were safe, would love me, protect me from harm, and never abandon me all ceased to exist. I developed the fear of abandonment in relationships and the belief that men are not trustworthy, or dependable and will always leave. After that, my life was never the same.
I remember my mom and dad sitting my brother and me down on our living room couch and saying they had something important to tell us. I remember my body tensing, staring at their faces and instinctually knowing things were about to change forever. I had NO idea how right I was. I still remember their words as if it was yesterday – “divorce”, “we still love you,” “nothing to do with how we feel about you kids,” “dad will live somewhere else but will still be in your life,” etc.
I’m sure they meant every word of it but the truth is, dad ended up falling in love with someone else a year later and moved across the country. I almost never saw him. This was the start of my belief system of “men will always leave me” and “I will always be abandoned by those I trust.”
This pattern often repeated throughout my life. It seemed like a fluke the first time it happened after my dad moved away. I met a guy when I was a junior in high school and fell madly in love. I quickly abandoned all my pursuits and started spending all my time with him. After school was spent with him and weekends we did fun things together. I fell hard as teenagers do and was devastated that summer when I had to go away for a month.
I constantly thought about him and wondered why he wasn’t reaching out to me as much. I couldn’t wait to get back home to be with him, but upon my return, I quickly discovered he was dating my BEST FRIEND. I was in shock and horrified. They just laughed at me and thought it was funny. It took me months to recover.
The next time I fell hard for a guy who was a bit rebellious. He was different, artistic and fun to be around. We connected, had a lot of common interests, and spent hours talking about how we felt about each other. It was obvious we were experiencing serious feelings so we decided to exclusively see each other and be in a committed relationship. I spent a year with him and fell deeper and deeper.
Every day was like unraveling an onion. He was creative, inspiring and delicious. One weekend I left town and randomly met a stranger who happened to be from our same city and knew my boyfriend! I was in shock and thought it was so cool until he told me all about the woman my boyfriend had been seeing for months behind my back. Once again, I was devastated.
After him, I met another seemingly amazing man. We started with friendship first and built amazing chemistry. I convinced myself it would be different this time. If we had a strong foundation built on friendship, then surely it would all turn out differently my brain reasoned.
After months of dating and taking our time getting to know each other, I knew this guy was it for me. I adored him and was sure he felt the same way about me. One night I was lying in bed thinking of him and scrolling through Facebook, missing him, and decided to look at his profile. I still remember the way my heart stopped and ran cold as I looked at the picture of him with another woman when he was supposed to be with me.
Why was this continuing to happen to me? I stopped dating for a long period and spent time thinking about what would cure my problem with men. I was on a mission to figure out why I was attracting the same type of men into my life over and over again, only to be left with me feeling pain, heartache, and rejection. Here is what I discovered and helped cure my problem with men:
I learned that our brain has a system called the “Reticular Activating System.” Basically, our brains take in SO much information on a daily basis, and a part of the brain filters out some of the information we receive, otherwise, we’d be totally overwhelmed and shut down. So, the way the RAS works is it filters out information while actively looking for information that ALREADY supports the information you believe. It basically makes sure you see what you are looking for and believe will happen.
The way that this can hurt us around love, dating and men is that we can get to a point where we ONLY see what we already believe. So, in my case, since I believed that men leave, fall in love with other women and abandon me, my RAS was scanning the world at large making sure that was ALL I was seeing and ALL I was experiencing.
The higher your emotional charge to the issue, the harder the RAS works. So, I had to change what my RAS was scanning for and I want to share with you some ways you can as well.
Here are four Ways to Heal from a Fear of Abandonment in Relationships that worked for me:
1. I allowed myself to work through my anger with my dad instead of denying it existed
I wrote my dad a very angry letter. I listed all the reasons I was angry with him and how much he hurt me as a child. I did NOT hold back at all and I didn’t stop until I felt a release. I wrote how much I blamed him and how much he had ruined my life around men. I then chose to do what’s called an empty chair exercise by Gestalt where I imagined my dad sitting in a chair across from me. I told him all of the things I was so mad at him about and imagined him apologizing to me and saying healing things I needed to hear.
2. I then wrote my dad a forgiveness letter forgiving him for all of the things I was angry about
I visualized myself truly forgiving him and us healing our relationship. I forgave him for everything. I then decided to write a forgiveness letter to all the men after him who had hurt me as well. I burned all of the letters and released our connections to one another and saw peace between all of us.
3. I took responsibility for my beliefs
I wrote out all of my beliefs that I saw, heard and felt growing up with love, men and relationships and really started to ask myself some serious questions. Are these beliefs really true? Can I choose to see this differently? Can I tell a new story around this? Am I willing to? How might my life look if I simply stepped out of my comfort zone and saw the other wonderful possibilities? What would the version of me be like once I had the perfect marriage? What would I be thinking, feeling and experiencing around this belief?
I pushed myself to expand. Each time a limiting belief came up, I honored it. I explored it. I got curious about it and I challenged myself to see it differently. Changing the way my brain saw things became my number one job.
4. I started looking for evidence everywhere of GREAT men
Men who loved their partners. Men who were committed to their partners, who stayed faithful and didn’t leave. I made vision boards devoted to this and worked through my jealousy for other women having achieved this before me. I honored my emotions and FELT them. Each time an emotion came up around this, I felt it and didn’t suppress it. Honoring myself like one of these amazing men would honor me became one of the most important jobs I’ve ever done. Training my RAS to see new and amazing partners for me was something I became obsessed with in a VERY healthy way.
Changing my love life before these steps seemed impossible but I was amazed at how quickly things started changing once I got committed to POWERFULLY shifting how I saw things. Part of my personal love story is that once I got committed to changing my story around what was possible for me in love, I met my husband three months later. I have complete faith that you too can learn to see things differently if you take massive action towards your dream and stay committed! After all, he’s waiting…