A Muddled Attempt to Work Through Abandonment Issues

I was scrolling through Twitter and saw a familiar avatar go by. My heart rolled and then sank a bit. I miss being friends, I thought. More than that, I wish I knew why we weren’t really friends anymore.

Maybe it’s normal, I thought to myself. Relationships change, they ebb and flow. People grow together and grow apart. Remember when you and Faiqa went through this back when you were both dealing with a lot of change? And you love each other still.

This has happened before, the voice said.

It keeps happening to you.

They all leave.

Everyone leaves.

Images from the past hit me like a flashback scene from a movie. I was crying to my stepdad after he’d asked me if I wanted him to be my dad. “Everyone leaves,” I was telling him. I was 12 years old and this would be the third man I’d call dad. “They say they love me and then they get tired of being my dad. They get tired of me.”

“I promise I will always love you,”

And he did. Of course, he didn’t always stick around to be my dad, but somehow I always knew that was about him and not about me. He always loved me, at least.

But so many others changed their mind. Their faces rolled through my mind. The boyfriend, the girlfriends, the ones who just stopped calling, and the ones who hate me now.

The common denominator is you, the voice said.

This is my go-to don’t-be-oblivious test. I’m terrified of being oblivious, and so I’m quick to look to myself for reasons for other people’s behavior. Because if everyone leaves, it has to be you.

I’m unlovable, I conclude.

But I’ve been through enough therapy to recognize that statement as completely and totally wrong. None of us is unlovable or unworthy of love. That’s bullshit, and always a cover for something else.

I’m connecting the dots, I tell myself. I’m linking people and places that don’t go together, and only because of that very old button that’s been hit.

Maybe there is a pattern. Maybe I do or say things that push people away or make people get tired of me. But even if that’s true, that doesn’t make me unlovable.

I remember Emma crying on the sidewalk after she’d come home too late to attend a play date. I’d told her that her irresponsible choice had left her friend at home wondering where she was, and I’d asked her to imagine how she would have felt.

“I’m a horrible person,” Emma wailed.

“No, you’re not a horrible person,” I told her. “You made a poor choice that hurt someone’s feelings, but you are not a bad person.”

I’m trying to tell myself that, that maybe I’ve made poor choices, but that doesn’t equate to being a bad person.

Of course that doesn’t quite fit right either, because I don’t even know exactly what choices I’ve made in each case, and in the early stories I was a child. A child cannot behave a parent away.

I’m trying to disconnect the dots, but I’m afraid of missing important patterns. I’m afraid of being oblivious.

And I’m hurt. I’m little girl hurt about not being enough to love forever. The button’s been tripped, and it’s harder to unlink the heart than it is to mentally untie the knots that bind the stories together.

Self-help books and therapy lovers like to say that how someone treats you is a reflection of them and not you. It’s sound advice for someone who is being bullied or abused. But the same mouths will testify that we teach people how to treat us, which suggests that we do carry at least some of the responsibility for other people’s actions.

Finding the balance is tricky. I suppose it can only be figured out on a case by case basis. I suspect that carrying thirty-year-old abandonment issues into the room will make it impossible to see where their reflection stops and my responsibility begins.

I don’t have any wisdom to offer here, except to know that seeing the string makes it a little bit easier to untangle it. Recognizing why the hurt is so big helps me temper my response to it. And knowing the lie helps me remember the truth. I am lovable, at least.

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  1. Nanna says:

    Darling, I want you to remember that people, all of us, are always different places in their lives, with different things that we can’t really know about, that beings new things to their priority list. You’re right – sometimes it IS about us, but whatever that is, it’s something that can be learned and examined and considered.

    I love you with every cell in my body, cold. I always have. I always will.
    Nanna’s most recent post: Pop Some Tags With Me!

    • Miss Britt says:

      I want you to know that I texted you because I do know that you love me. You and Jared have both continued to love me no matter what, and that has made all the difference. xo

  2. Megan says:

    OK, this is scary, but have you considered asking said person why? Do you really want to know? It may be a misunderstanding, a misinterpretation or maybe life just happened.

    I would offer that the “you” part of this simply may be that you are looking for something which that particular person is not willing to give. People can have romantic patterns like that too – choosing people who are exactly wrong for them.

    I had a best friend from the time I was 13 until the time I went to college. She didn’t go to college and when I left we drifted apart. There was no fight, no thing. In fact we are Facebook friends, our mothers see each other on occasion and we are happy to see each other when we run into each other at the ice cream place. We just grew in different directions. I was gone and she had to make a life for herself, and so did I.

    On the other hand, one of my oldest friends is still best friends with her middle school best friend. It’s about 30 years now. Why them and not us? Who knows.

    It’s very, very hard not to take things personally. People have issues. They can be intimidated by success or even change. (Did the drift happen when you changed everything? Started showing more confidence and less self-deprecation?)

    People leave. Sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity and sometimes by God. It’s one of the shitty parts of life. (although sometimes it’s not shitty at all)

    I see you moving past so many of your insecurities and hate to see you still struggling with any of them. XO
    Megan’s most recent post: When We Were Innocent

    • Miss Britt says:

      I do try to make a point of asking. I don’t always trust the answer I get, which maybe I should work on. :-)

  3. Hockeymandad says:

    Sometimes though, the separation is just a delay. One of my best friends and I grew apart for several years. We were inseparable in college and even worked together for several years. Then life kind of happened to both of us. I was married, starting a family and his life was in a much different place. We still hung out once in a while but hardly ever. Then after a few years life brought our paths back together and I honestly think we’re better friends now than perhaps we were before. We never had any animosity so it’s not like we had to make up for anything, but we just reconnected and started new. The past cannot be changed, and if you do miss your old friend drop a little line to just say hello and how are you. What happens from there is up to you.

    • Miss Britt says:

      This is a good point. Also, this is a good example of how people process the same situation differently, depending on what triggers they may or may not have.

  4. daniel says:

    “But I’ve been through enough therapy to recognize that statement as completely and totally wrong. ”

    There is a difference between knowing and KNOWING. Intellectually we know certain truths we learn along the way but at times our heart forgets them.
    daniel’s most recent post: Phamily Foto Phriday 4-5-13 Spring Break Edition

  5. Ryan says:

    This posts fell into my lap at the most perfect time :) A group of my close friends just had one of the women pull away from the group. No reason, she just stopped doing things with us, completely unlike her. We asked her if something is wrong, she says she’s fine. But she doesn’t attend anything we ask her to go to anymore and she is a very social outgoing person. We have an ongoing list of why she dropped us. We are all hurt in our own ways about it. Wish we knew why, because we all see each other in church regularly. We miss our friend!!!
    Ryan’s most recent post: The Calculator Debate

    • Miss Britt says:

      That’s the hard part, I think, when you try to get clarity and are told everything is fine. Always leaves me wondering if I’m crazy!

  6. Carly says:

    Sigh. I have this going on with a very close friend right now. Just grew apart, and are in different seasons of our lives right now. But she helped carry me through some of the most difficult days of my life, and it hurts that we’re not closer. Last year I asked if we could meet up some time during the year and we just never found the time. We’ve said the same thing again this year, so I’m holding my breath again.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Even if separation and growing apart is natural, it’s also natural to hurt, I think. Especially when, as you said, it’s someone who has been a part of important moments in our past.

  7. jodifur says:

    I’m the girl that is still bffs with fer middle school bff, and my other best friend I’ve known for 20 years, even though we have lived apart for most of it. That being said, I have walked away from other friendships, for various reasons. Relationships are hard, hey, life is hard. That doesn’t make you wrong, or a bad person, it just makes you human.
    jodifur’s most recent post: Stolen Moments

    • Miss Britt says:

      I’m actually still friends with my high school and middle school BFFs too, which I have to remind myself of when I start to run down the “everyone leaves!” tunnel.

  8. Cornel says:

    Hi, Britt! First time here :)

    A lot of people hide the abandonment pain even from themselves, as it can be so intense…I believe that acknowledging the pain and allowing yourself to feel it are actually the first steps in becoming stronger. I think this enables us to deal with it and recover, given enough time…
    Cornel’s most recent post: How To Deal With Interruptions And Take Control Of Your Time

    • Miss Britt says:

      Welcome. :-) And yes, I agree. In almost every case, the best thing we can do is acknowledge and let ourselves feel whatever the heck it is we need to feel. And sometimes that’s also the hardest part.

  9. Unfollow that person then!

  10. natalie says:

    OMG, I absolutely love your blog and so glad I stumbled onto it.

    This post certainly strikes a cord with me as well. I have had several friends leave and I still struggle with Why? On most occasions I reached out to them and asked why they don’t want to continue being friends? And each and every one of them chose not to respond to me. So sad and frustrating.

    One of the friends I have known since I was a tween and she told me that our values, goals, and commitments were not in line with one another. Huh? I asked to her explain and she never emailed me back. She also said that our journeys are no longer on the same path…this coming from someone I have known almost my entire life and was maid of honor at my wedding and the godmother of my firstborn.

    The pattern continued with other friends, some I have known for a few years, some longer. Whenever they “leave” I always try and talk openly and no one seems to want to.

    Thanks for a post that makes me feel like I’m not the only one who seems to have friends leave!
    natalie’s most recent post: Eastertime

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