For the Woman With Abandonment Issues
I had an imaginary frenemy well into adulthood. She wasn’t a figment of my imagination created to keep me company; hers was the company I did not want to keep. She emerged as a byproduct of growing up without my dad.
With access to my most private thoughts she manipulated me into believing I was not enough. My intelligence, appearance, and value, all left something to be desired. “After all, why else would my father leave?”
Consequently, I began to accept the lie that in order to keep relationships I needed to perform. Perfect performance became my anecdote for abandonment. I did my best to walk the tightrope of precision: dotting i’s and crossing t’s.
I was the embodiment of what Robert S. McGee calls the approval addict in his book, The Search for Significance. Strung out on the opinions of others, I desperately needed you to be okay with me so I could be okay. Intermingled in this unhealthy and codependent cocktail was a facade of control; if you approved of me then maybe it would be enough to make you stay.
So every time I smiled though I was hurting, kept silent when I wanted to speak, or lied to keep the peace, I was subliminally saying, “Stay!”
Don’t go, walk away or leave the room.
Resist the urge to hang up the phone.
Choose to lean in when you want to run.
Speak when you’d rather be quiet.
Make eye contact when you want to look the other way.
Don’t abandon me.
Because if your actions hint at the possibility of you leaving it will trigger the return of my frenemy; her name is abandonment issues.
Like clockwork, she would sashay into my life stirring up anxiety like a pot of gumbo: causing me to fear the prospect of anyone ever leaving me. I can trace her presence all the way back to my childhood. And then as I navigated the murky and dangerous waters of adolescence she was there too. She even joined me at the altar when I said, “I do”.
Ashamedly, she operated in my life undetected and unrestrained. In fact, it wasn’t until my thirties that I began to bulldoze skyscrapers of fear she erected in my life. And as I began to put in the laborious work of becoming healthy I discovered my frenemy had friended others. In her book, “Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely” Lysa Terkeurst describes the inner thoughts of a woman abandoned by her father.
“A girl without a daddy felt to me like a girl without a place in this world. After all, if he couldn’t love me, who would ever love me?” . . . She went on to say, “Rejection settled deep into my heart, And I came to one earth-shattering conclusion: ‘I don’t matter. I am worth nothing to my dad.’ And even more disturbing, ‘I fear I am worth nothing to God.’ The sum of these feelings became my new identity. Who is Lysa? The unwanted one.”
These words, laced with poison, spoke of the intoxicating influence abandonment issues play in the life of a girl and a woman. The damage inflicted is not a one time occurrence but can be hauntingly relived in every subsequent relationship with the opposite sex. With every boyfriend, fiance and husband the question of whether he will leave too has the potential to linger like an unwanted house guest.
Which is why I cringed at the announcement Lysa Terkeurst made just 3 weeks ago. In her honest and hope saturated post, she told the world she was getting a divorce. Pulling back the covers on an already public life she placed her most intimate scars on display, revealing her husband’s affair and his unwillingness to leave his mistress.
Immediately, my mind went back to Lysa’s words in the Uninvited book. “Who is Lysa? The unwanted one.” I imagined the presence of my frenemy lurking in the silence, waiting for the optimum moment to say, “I told you so. You are unwanted.”
I thought about Lysa.
I thought about me.
I thought about you.
And then I prayed because reoccurring abandonment hits women who’ve been abandoned like a 1-2 punch: forcing us to face compounding pain. And as I prayed I found encouragement in the brave truth Lysa recounted in her blog post.
“I’m Lysa, a beloved child of the one true God. My true identity doesn’t shift or fall apart under life’s strains, failures, my own imperfections, setbacks or heartaches. While people—even God’s people—change, I’m so glad I serve a God who doesn’t.”
In the midst of her agony she demonstrated how to combat the lies of our relentless frenemy with the truth of God’s word. God’s love for us is constant. Others may come and go but His love will remain forever.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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: 38 – 39 (NIV)
We do not have to live in fear: second guessing the commitment of the men in our lives. Nor do we have to perform to keep them. We are free to be the women God has created us to be, resting in the fact that we are already loved, wanted and completely accepted by our Father in Heaven. His love never changes.