How to Love Freely When You Fear Abandonment

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Sometimes people leave & none of it is under our control.

Aver Stu
Today is my father’s birthday. For me, my father’s birthday used to be what Father’s Day tends to be for girls with estranged fathers—a day that is a reminder of our painful loss or how unwanted we are. The one-sided relationship that I had with my father growing up set in motion for me how I would later show up in my adult relationships with the opposite sex.
My fear of abandonment had made the experience of loving people a very heavy and chaotic experience for me. My efforts at love have almost always been an attempt at possessing those I love so that they may never leave. From micro-managing their loyalty to throwing “tantrums” whenever it felt like their affections were being drawn away from me to someone else. 
I had often wondered, why as a great lover of love my relationships often felt like a burden that I couldn’t wait to unburden myself from. That’s because I always tried too hard. I remember when I was 13 years old and I went on a defining trip to go see my dad. On that trip, I had intentionally packed in my suitcase an almost-full Flip File. Which was filled with all the top achiever certificates that I managed to rack up in the first two terms of my high school career. I wanted to show my dad how brilliant his daughter is. I wanted to see him, but subconsciously I wanted the end of that trip to be where my dad finally sees me. And I gave him proof why he needed to see me, why I was worthy of his love.
I guess because of my trauma with abandonment, love has been where I tried to get someone to choose me (forever), to make up for the way my own deadbeat father failed to choose me. I carried with me the idea that I will always have to go the extra mile for anyone to ever love me.

…you can never make anyone choose you

However, with the work of healing in me, things would take a much-needed change for me and my approach to relationships.
It was the time the trauma of my father’s abandonment had reached its peak. I had a suicide attempt fall through the cracks, as detailed in my post, Chronicles of a Daddyless Daughter. It was after this incident my sweet grandmother attempted a reconciliatory process between my dad, his family and I. However, as the process was set in motion, I spoke these words to myself:
“I don’t want a relationship with this man. I don’t want a “love” that is borne out of obligation. Even if it’s from the man whose love I’ve desperately yearned for the most.” 
Today, I am grateful that my attitude to relationships has been exactly that. A love that I have to try hard for? I throw it away. A love that feels like it is doing me a favour in choosing me? I wave goodbye at it without hesitating. And looking in hindsight, I think my dad’s abandonment is also a lesson in the truth that you can never make anyone choose you. (After the trip, my dad just left me with a R100 note. I never heard from him ever since). You can bring out all the receipts in the world to show how incredible you are and why you are worth choosing. But people will always love who they want to love and it has nothing to do with us. And I think that’s one of the hardest truths that I’ve had to grapple with and come to terms with when it comes to love. That love can never be inspired. That when you pour out your love there will always be the risk of it not being poured back into you.

…to love freely when you fear abandonment is to always remember that people’s abandonment does not equate to our value…

It is thus probably futile to ever try and stoke the love out of anyone because loving someone will always be a personal thing. It cannot be coerced. Or even be summoned with the darkest of magic.
And perhaps, leaving our lovers to be abandoned to their own will is how we will get to love in a way that not only sets our lovers free. But also sets us free to enjoy them in the time that the universe has granted us to be with them. Because issues of fate and destiny and what will happen tomorrow were never matters to be of the concern of mere mortals like us. All we have is the present moment, and love is always a present thing. We can never love people today if we are constantly worried if they will still be there tomorrow. 
I will probably figure out practically in my next relationship what loving freely means. But this is the outline I got so far. 
Now I see that a love that leaves out of its free will, will always be so much better than a love that has to be convinced to stay. A love that we have to trick into choosing us is one we will always be far better off without. 
So now, just like with my dad, I’m going to intentionally leave people to their own devices. I will give them the space to NOT choose me, if they wish. And perhaps this is where my peace in relationships lies: to allow myself to fully enjoy the love of those who choose me today, but should they wake up one day and change their minds, to be okay with that too. Because truth is, people can decide to leave but it should not change how we feel inside. Neither should we lose our peace going above and beyond to ensure that people never leave us because people will always leave when they want to. Above all, to love freely when you fear abandonment is to always remember that people’s abandonment does not equate to our value, even if the people who abandon us are our parents. People abandon us because of their happiness, not because of our worthiness. 
A love that we need to perform for is not for us. 
A love that we need to prove our brilliance for before it chooses us is one that’s not worth our time. 
A love that we need to coerce to stick around is a short-change of what we are worthy of as God’s beloved daughters.
What does loving freely look like in your world?

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  • Sanele
    May 5, 2021

    Wow Katlego, this is a great article. Thank you so much for sharing your life experiences with us. I am learning so much. I like the point you make about giving people the choice to love you or to reject you but you also highlight that when they do reject you it’s not about your unworthiness, it’s about their happiness. You explain it so well. May you heal and be loved as you desire.

    • Katlego Llale
      May 9, 2021

      Thank you so much for your comment Sanele and affirming words <3

      It has only been a great delight to share parts of my journey here and also brings me great joy to see you find something of value to take away for yourself.

      Appreciate it and may you also have all that your heart desires. 🙂

For Adults Who Learnt How to Hide Their Big Feelings
How to Love Freely When You Fear Abandonment