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Why You Feel Either Trapped Or Abandoned In Relationships

Last updated on October 27, 2020

Have you ever been in the type of relationship when one person moves forward while the other moves back? One partner desires closeness, while the other needs space? This push-pull pattern is enough to drive us mad! It's also very common.

I'm going to discuss why some of us feel trapped in relationships while others feel abandoned, and how to overcome this very frustrating dance of love. I'm a therapist, so I'll start where you'd expect: We all have emotional wounds from childhood. These wounds cause us to struggle with intimacy as adults.

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It's important to recognize that being wounded doesn't mean that's something's wrong with you. Nor does it mean that your parents really messed up. It actually just means that you're human (and your parents are, too). We all struggle with intimacy to a certain degree. Two of the most common struggles are: the fear of abandonment and the fear of entrapment (loss of freedom). Most of us will identify with one or the other.

Fear of abandonment

The fear of abandonment is a wound that stems from a lack of close, emotional contact. If there's too much space in the early parent-child relationship, it's likely that the child will grow up with an ingrained fear of being abandoned or rejected. This person will be prone to grasping or clinging in intimate relationships.

Fear of entrapment

The fear of entrapment stems from too much contact; not having enough space and feeling intruded upon. If there's not enough space provided in the parent-child relationship, it's likely that the child will grow up fearing close contact with others. This person will be prone to withdrawing from relationships.

In almost all cases, individuals who fear abandonment will partner with individuals who fear entrapment. Voila! The push-pull relationship. One person desperately tries to get closer while the other tries to get away. A painful predicament for both involved.

If you find yourself in this type of dynamic, what's important to remember is that it's common, and it's an opportunity for you to grow. Here's how—if you're prone to feeling abandoned, you have to learn to soothe yourself through this fear. Recognize that this is your core wound, and take responsibility for it.

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So, how can I do this?

The most effective way to do this is by making contact with the deep sense of love and connection within you. By relying on this inner resource, your need to cling to others will lift. Will it disappear? Probably not. But it will get much better. Hence, growth.

For those of you who fear entrapment, the same goes for you. If you want to experience deep intimacy in your life, then you have to face this fear head-on. Start by owning that this is your fear, and soothe through it, rather than run away.

The way to soothe through it similar to what I described above. Contact the love within you — feel into its expansive nature and space. Know that you cannot be taken over; know that you'll be okay. If you practice staying in a relationship while soothing through your fear, you will grow (and so will your relationship).

When it comes to love and intimacy, we have to be very compassionate with ourselves and with each other. If you're partnered with someone who fears abandonment, be empathic about this fear within them. And if you're partnered with someone who fears being trapped, be empathic about their fear, too.

Simply recognize that your partner's needs and fears are different than yours. This empathy will go a long way.

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Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT

Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to relationships. She has worked with thousands of clients on improving their relationships with others and themselves, and she's also the instructor of the popular mindbodygreen courses How To Become The Most Attractive Version Of Yourself and How To Attract A Partner.

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