Home > abandonment, Outer Child > PROFILE OF AN ABANDONER


I usually don’t like to stereotype, but I cannot help but wonder if “abandoners” can be identified, stamped, and catalogued. Someone suffering through an abandonment – after being left by someone s/he loves – spends a great deal of time analyzing the abandoner. It’s called obsession. It’s the mind’s attempt to “understand” what has caused the dense tissues of one’s love-attachment to rip apart. So we “study” the abandoner’s putative “pathologies” and character traits – searching for clues is an effort to feel sane again.

So, based upon hundreds of emails filled with such obsessive analysis, not to mention my own personal experiences, I have tried to come up with a profile of an abandoner.

Abandoners come in every possible size, shape, shade, age, social form, and disposition. Parents, friends, employers, and lovers can become abandoners, usually without realizing the pain they cause.

People out there looking for new relationships might not be able to tell who is safe to attach to and who is liable to abandon you. Even those who are incapable of being emotionally responsible, look like ideal partners in the beginning when they are trying to win you over with their charms. Unless you know their M.O. (that they’ve dumped a lot of people before), it’s impossible to know for sure just who is trustworthy and who is an abandoner.

What complicates the picture even more is that one person’s abandoner is another’s permanent partner. Also, many abandonment victims go on to become abandoners themselves. The circumstances surrounding relationships are so complex, that no one of us is really in a position to point the finger. Most of us can swing back and forth – sometimes we’re abandonees and sometimes abandoners.

But everyone knows that are serial abandoners – you know, the ones who get off on inflicting emotional pain on the other person. They create devastation to show their power and sometimes, to express their anger – anger pent up from some dark corner of own abandonment history, perhaps.

But even abandoners who are not power-driven, can get a swelled head as an unintentional by-product of hurting you. They might feel badly about it, but they can’t help but go on an ego trip as they witness the intensity of your agonized desire for them. They’re not, however, about to openly admit to feelings of triumph. This would make them seem like cads. Instead they try to show their humble feelings of regret over having caused you “disappointment” or “inconvenience” (note the understatements!). They are usually easily distracted from their guilt, because they get caught up in their new lives (and new loves).

Yes, many abandoners seem oblivious to the emotional crisis they have caused by leaving you. This obliviousness seems callous and self centered to the one who was thrust into the torment of abandonment.

Ironically, this somehow puts them in a one-up position to you, and what do you do? You idealize THEM. This makes it that much harder to let go. The more they hurt you, the deeper their hook sunk into your heart.

Many abandoners attempt to BLAME the one they left behind – for the break up. “It’s because you were too needy and dependent” or “angry,” they might say.

Meanwhile, yeah, okay, you became “needy” “dependent” “angry”, but not because you ARE these things, but because you were REACTING to their gradually pulling away. None-the-less, you will beat yourself up anyway.

The reason abandoners blame the other person is to justify their actions and avoid feeling guilty. They want to keep their positive self- image at all costs – at your expense. They take as little responsibility as possible, and this just adds insult to injury. Now, as the abandonee, you’re left to grapple with the pieces of a broken relationship, feeling rejected and “kicked while your down” by their blame, criticism, betrayal, and rejection.

Then, of course, you turn the rage over being rejected against yourself, and you blame yourself, causing your self-esteem to plummet and your spirit to sink into a major depression.

Not that you don’t have some of your own soul searching to do. It’s really important to take personal responsibility for your side of the difficulties in the relationship. This self-evaluation process is painful and necessary. If you do it constructively, you’ll grow. But during the soul-searching, you’re even more vulnerable (and gullible) to your abandoner’s blame than usual. Instead of getting honest feedback, what you usually get is your abandoners’ “excuses” for his/her own commitment problem.

But wait a minute, let’s be honest. Most abandoners (don’t forget, we have all been abandoners at one time or other) do not set out to abandon. They aren’t tying to hurt you. Most are just human beings struggling to find the answers to life’s difficult challenges along with everyone else.

  1. Sarah England-Rocca
    May 11, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    When ones mother abandons it hurts, but one mixes the hurt with confusion because as children we don’t know about feelings… but we know it feels bad. This ‘bad feeling’ comes flooding back in adult relationships and it throws one, (me), back to the exact time/s when mother left or was just absent.
    As a result I clung onto relationships that I knew were wrong because I just didn’t want that ‘bad feeling’ again…
    Susan’s books have really helped me understand myself and how my childhood programming has made who I am today. I cant change the past but now I notice my patterns of behavior and stop my ‘flight’ for example. Thanks Susan

  2. David Harrison
    May 11, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Dear Susan,

    Thank you for clearly describing a painful reality in which we live. I am concerned about a decrease in being accountable, responsible and inter-dependent within community because of the self-deceptive illusions of individual satisfaction. People hurt others without being corrected by the community. It used to be a church would not permit such disregard of others.

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