Every day there are people who feel as if life itself has left them on a doorstep or thrown them away. – Susan Anderson
Whether you are a child or an adult, being emotionally abandoned by your primary caregiver or spouse can be a devastating experience. You feel disconnected from the most important person in your life.You thought this person loved you and was there for you to depend on, but he seems to have stopped loving and caring for you and is not there for you when you most need him or her to be. You feel neglected, rejected, unwanted, unheard, less than, and that your feelings do not matter.
Emotional abandonment is a subtle, ongoing traumatic experience that may be difficult to spot because it has nothing to do with physical proximity. Your parent or partner may be physically present, but is emotionally checked out and unavailable to you.
He is dismissive of you, withholds approval and affection, is unresponsive to your attempts to connect, lacks empathy or interest in understanding you in any way, and consistently disregards or ignores your emotional needs.
Signs of emotional abandonment in a relationship.
Lack of communication. Your partner is not interested in sitting down and having a conversation with you. He only talks about routine, impersonal things, and does so in a hurried, superficial manner.
Lack of physical intimacy. Your partner shows no interest in physical intimacy and does not respond to your expressions of affection.
Lack of empathy. Your partner is not interested in what you think or feel, or in knowing what is going on in your life. He is dismissive of your feelings and experiences and does not show any empathy towards you.
Lack of engagement. Your partner is unwilling to share his thoughts and feelings with you. He shuts down when you try to get him to open up, and you can’t seem to reach him with anything you say or do.
Lack of emotional support. Your partner acts indifferent and dismissive toward you and seems not to care about you. He does not validate your feelings or respond to your emotional needs, and you can never count on him for emotional support when you are going through a challenging time.
Lack of companionship. Your partner constantly disregards you and withholds his or her attention from you. When you get together with other people, he talks to them but ignores you.
Emotional abandonment does not always indicate a lack of love or that your partner is involved with someone else. Sometimes it may be the result of things such as external stressors, lack of mutual interests, conflicting work schedules, self-centeredness, unresolved hurts or resentments, or dysfunctional patterns of communication. Often, however, there are psychological factors involved that are a result of unprocessed childhood traumas or low self-esteem.
Consider adults whose emotional needs were unmet during their early childhood years and who never experienced the nurturing care needed to support healthy emotional development. They can have deep attachment wounds that affect their adult relationships and make it difficult for them to form healthy emotional bonds with another person.
They don’t want to get too attached out of fear of getting hurt or abandoned, so they build barriers as a defense mechanism and display maladaptive coping behaviors such as pushing people away, and not being open and honest with loved ones.
Coping with emotional abandonment.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. – Psalm 27:10, NIV
Recognize the problem.
We were all created with basic emotional needs such as the need to feel loved, understood, nurtured, listened to, cared for, accepted, respected, valued, appreciated, and to experience companionship.
If you are in a relationship where these needs are consistently unmet, and your partner regularly dismisses your feelings and ignores your attempts to connect, there is a problem. Refusing to accept the fact, or trying to rationalize that it’s not that bad, won’t fix anything. It may only cause your relationship to deteriorate even further.
Look for possible underlying causes for your partner’s behavior.
Has your partner’s emotionally neglectful behavior consistently been this way throughout your relationship, or does it seem to have been triggered by a specific situation?
Agree to talk.
Set aside a time to talk about your issues. Make sure you are calm, and give your partner uninterrupted time to share his or her perspective. Listen to what he has to say without trying to justify, minimize, finger-point, or deny.
Communicate your needs.
Let your partner know how you feel. Express your hurts openly, honestly, and clearly, using “I” statements instead of casting blame or assuming he should know what you feel or need. Set boundaries, and be specific about what you would like him to do differently.
Regardless of how your partner responds, choose to treat him with kindness and unconditional love. Ask God to help you and guide you, and empower you to live in a way that honors Him. Pray that God would soften your partner’s heart towards you and help you win him over by your conduct.
Remember who you are.
Your value is not diminished by your emotionally detached partner’s inability to recognize it. It is rooted in your identity as a child of God, created in His image, and special in His sight. Your partner’s emotional abandonment cannot diminish that in any way.
Avoid acting like a victim.
Do not keep rehashing the past or focusing on the minutia of it. Accept the way you feel and be compassionate towards yourself. Validate your needs and avoid blaming or berating yourself for why your partner is not meeting them.
Study God’s word.God is always present and cares for every detail of your life. He loves you unconditionally, and will never let you down or abandon you. Meditate on scriptures that show you how special you are to God and how much He loves you.
Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:39, NIV
Make taking good care of yourself a priority. Engage in healthful activities such as regular exercise, eating a nutritious diet, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, getting enough sleep, creating inner calm by engaging in something relaxing, doing things you enjoy, and spending time with friends and family.
Join a support group.
A support group is a safe space where you can get together with other people dealing with similar situations as you are, and with whom you can share your feelings and circumstances without being judged or criticized.
A trained mental health professional can help you gain insight into the underlying causes of emotional abandonment, work your way through your pain and confusion, and equip you to cope in healthy ways. In addition, couples counseling can help you and your partner learn how to communicate more effectively with each other and rebuild connection and trust.
Christian counseling for emotional abandonment.
Christian counseling involves a combination of Biblical principles and clinical intervention. If you are struggling with emotional abandonment issues, there is help. To set up an appointment to meet with a faith-based counselor to discuss how they can help you manage the challenges you are facing and walk you through the healing process, please give us a call today.
Darlene Lancer. “Are You Being Emotionally Abandoned?” Psychology Today. October 29, 2017. psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toxic-relationships/201710/are-you-being-emotionally-abandoned.
Margarita Tartakovsky. “Emotional Abandonment: Exploring the Causes and How to Cope.” PsychCentral. Updated on October 14, 2021. psychcentral.com/lib/emotional-abandonment-coping.
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