Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Abandonment issues getting in the way of my happiness

Carolyn Hax on

Dear Carolyn:

I have significant abandonment issues because of my childhood. Now that I'm 30, I've grown past the worst of it.

My long-term boyfriend recently asked me to marry him, and I said yes -- we are both extremely happy. However, I've been having irrational thoughts lately about his falling victim to a horrible accident and my losing him forever. I've never been particularly afraid of death or of losing anyone like this before.

How can I tell him I have these irrational ideations of his untimely death without scaring him away?

-- Abandonment Issues

I am so sorry the old monsters are still clawing at the edges your happiness.


I also hope you're not asking time and your (admirable) fortitude alone to fight them off. You say you've "grown past" the worst of it, which is great to hear -- but that's also the point in these letters where writers with heavy pasts tend to mention the counseling or guidance they've received toward their present happiness. If you've never felt the need for therapy yourself, then, again, that's great -- carry on.

But if you haven't sought treatment only out of a sense you "shouldn't" need it, because you've been trained to dismiss your emotional turmoil as irrational and be done with it, then please know: "Significant" fallout from trauma is all the permission you need to seek reputable, compassionate care -- especially during big life transitions. Happy changes can amplify anxiety, adding to a sense of how much we have to lose.

You also deserve to receive compassion from (and provide it to!) anyone asking to be your life partner.

The way to learn whether you can count on your boyfriend for that is to tell him the very truth you fear will drive him off -- because you need that confidence more than you need him.


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