Synopsis: In this mini-love-lesson the painful and bewildering issue of sudden, unexpected and unexplained ending of love relationships is explored. Included are common and uncommon reasons and six important things to do about it if it happens to you.
Suddenly Gone"I thought we were good until the day I came home to an empty house and a note that explained nothing". I can't count how many times I've heard a bewildered and very hurting client tell me that story or something very like it as to why they had come to see me. Some of those had been married for decades, some not long back from their honeymoon or what they thought had been a great vacation. Often their children also had gone with their exiting spouse which, of course, greatly increased the trauma, hurt and anxiety. Quite a few times a departing note had not even been left or they only found divorce papers. Startled, stunned, confused, profoundly hurt, panicked, anxious, angry and totally bewildered were the responses time and time again.
Why does this happen? How can it be prevented? How does one get over it and go forward? How can one make sure it never happens again? Can there ever be trust and love again? These are among the agonizing questions that victims of sudden, love relationship abandonment often struggle with as their feelings of betrayal, self-doubt, loneliness and depression grows (see “The Huge, Hidden Reason So Many Fail at Love?” and “Trust Recovery and Love”).
Other sudden love relationship abandonment situations occur. A young, adult child suddenly breaks off all contact with parents and family offering no explanation. A long-term friend does the same thing. Once in a while, the person doing the abandoning completely disappears from their regular life leaving no forwarding address or way of contacting them. In those situations, there is no way to figure out what occurred or went wrong and no chance to fix it or reconnect. Chances for relationship reconnection, repair, obtaining closure, learning from mistakes, explaining misunderstandings, healing relational wounds, understanding divergent perceptions or doing anything else that is jointly constructive are hopelessly blocked. This can be like having a wound that never completely heals. The person left is left to individually try to recover on their own or with the help of others. The good news is that can be done especially with the right assistance.
Why? The Common and Uncommon ReasonsComing to understand something of what leads a lot of people to suddenly and surprisingly abandon another without sufficient explanation, in many instances can help a lot. Such an understanding provides a groundwork from which to work toward recovery and reduce the bewilderment factor and its damaging effects. Bewilderment helps keep people stuck and gives them little or nothing constructive to work with. That usually leads to a lot of circular thinking going nowhere and quite a bit of emotional fatigue which ends up growing a sense of hopelessness.
Where possible, I frequently have requested contact with those who have done the sudden leaving and often they have come in for at least one session. Here is what I have seen are the most helpful and useful things to understand about why people will suddenly and shockingly abandon a love relationship.
Secret fear is the most common reason people suddenly and surprisingly leave a love relationship. This can involve a fear of physical violence, psychological conflict, pressure and debasement, being guilt tripped, demeaned, shamed, controlled, dominated, harassed, teamed up on by family and/or friends, blocked and prevented from their own actualization, not being really or healthfully loved , wasting life with the wrong person and a great host of other similar things. Usually involved is a great fear of communicating the fear and expecting one kind or another of a very negative outcome if they did try to communicate their fear. Likewise, they also usually fear trying to explain why they feel the need to leave and they see attempting to do so successfully as impossible, and/or dangerous or likely to be more destructive than constructive.
Secret anger is another common reason many people plan and carry out a sudden revenge-filled attack/escape from what they usually secretly see as having to live a phony, pseudo-love relationship life where they are repeatedly maltreated one way or another. Neglect, demeaning treatment, control, suppression, inadequate love expression, toxic mistreatment, mistrust, misuse and being misperceived are issues often involved also are not getting emotional needs met, repetitious unfair treatment, sex problems, growing hopelessness, psychological, behavioral and physical abuse. Incompatibility, deficient emotional intimacy, excessive criticism, destructive addictions, lack of affirmation and fulfillment, repeated and frequent frustration, high and repeated stressful living, and fidelity issues also are commonly involved in helping resentment, anger and secret desires for vengeful retaliation grow and finally erupt.
Often in talking with the abandoning spouse or love mate, I have heard things like "He, or she, never listened to me before so why should I try to explain myself now". Then there is the "I'm not proud of my reasons so why would I reveal them now". And "They would just try to use what I said against me anyway", “They would try to talk me out of it and my mind is made up”. "It would be useless", and "I refuse to go through any more grief than I already have". "He, or she, knows, I can't believe they don't know, they must be aware of why I left. I think they have known all along and just don't care", and once in a while "I didn't know they didn't know, how could they not know?"
The truth was they usually did not know because the couple’s or family’s communication system was so poor, so phony and so lacking in honest self-disclosure that no one in the system could know the truth about what anyone was feeling, thinking or privately doing. Also, there were statements like "it's just too hard to talk to them about anything personal, I'm lousy at explaining myself, no one ever understands me, it's all my fault because I secretly knew it couldn't ever work". And "I can't tell him, or her, I never really loved them in the first place, that would hurt them too much".
Is There Someone Else?Secret affairs, both falsely and rightly suspected, are another common reason for the bewildering, sudden, love relationship abandonment occurrence. Also, sometimes it is a desire to go looking for someone else or just for a new and different life. Those often are the hardest reasons to accept. Lots of healthy, self-love action can help the one abandoned (see “Love Affairs: Bad?, Good? And Otherwise” and “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”).
Uncommon Reasons and What They Can Teach UsSometimes the reasons are entirely different from what anyone would have guessed or deduced. Here are some examples. "I was surprised to find out I was pregnant and decided to get a secret abortion. That would never have been accepted where I lived. Instead, I found out I actually wanted to be a mother. I decided to have and raise the baby on my own. I'm quite certain the father would've been a terrible parent and I didn't want his corrupting interference ruining my child, so I just left".
Here is another, "I had done a good job of making sure no one knew that secretly I was a serious addict beginning to deteriorate. I knew that I would never recover if I stayed and especially if they learned of my addiction, so I left suddenly. I'm sure I would relapse if I went back and probably overdose and die soon after they learned of my addiction. And another "I finally accepted that I'm bisexual and I believe my spouse, family, old friends, church and boss never could or would let it alone. They all would just keep trying to condemn and convert me, no matter what. They might even try to have me committed like they did my uncle. So, I decided to save everybody from the hell we all would have gone through, over and over again. Alone I got it all together and disappeared. Now I'm happy with a couple of him and hers in my life and think I'm going to keep it that way."
Here is one more, "If my spouse or his family learned of my coming inheritance, I really believe they would find a way to drag me back to his country where all the laws give husbands all the power over everything a wife owns. So, I’m gone and hiding out until the divorce goes through. So far, I hear they all are glad to be rid of me except for my husband but he is too damned controlling and I was crazy to marry him in the first place. My feelings for him started changing right after the honeymoon so I guess it wasn't real love after all." So remember, the truth can be very different than you, or anyone else, suspects.
What to Do If Sudden, Unexpected Abandonment Happens to YouFirst, I heartily recommend finding yourself a good, hopefully love-knowledgeable therapist well-versed in relationship issues and especially divorce and break up recovery and/or couple and family reconciliation work, if that is your hope and aim. Therapists who hold advanced credentials in couples, marriage and family therapy are usually best.
Second, with the therapist’s help, decide if you want to have contact with the one who left to at least get some further information about why you were left, but understand, some people give phony reasons (see “Re-Sparking Your Love”, “Dealing with Love Hurts: A Dozen Love Hurts to Know and Grow From”, “Dealing With Love Hurts: First Aid Tips”, “Dealing With Love Hurts: Pain's Crucial Guidance”, “Dealing With Love Hurts: Shared And Unshared Pain”, and“Returning to a Bad Lover? - A Blocking Technique ”).
Third, join a support group or even better a therapy group for divorce recovery or break-up healing and repair. It is amazing how a good group can help with relationship issues.
Fourth, start learning all you can, every way you can about healthy, real, love relating and how it is done (see my book, Recovering Love: Codependency to Co-Recovery and The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman).
Fifth, start a love-relating learnings Journal. Record and review, repeatedly, everything you think, talk and read concerning love-relating for a year. Especially concentrate on the behaviors of love and practicing them (see “Love Is a Performance Art”).
Sixth, get active with others but keep it light at first. Don't isolate, don't center in, or on, just one possible romantic interest for quite a while and don't try to do it all on your own. Others can care, help with healing, offered distraction and useful input that you, on your own, might take forever to get to.
One More Thing: It is advisable to talk all this over with others because doing so helps you use other parts of your brain than when you just think silently, it gives you fresh input, helps embed and discover new ideas, knowledge, etc. And often it gives needed, empowering, human contact. When you do this, we would so much like it if you would tell others about this site and all our mini-love-lessons helping people around the world with their love-relating issues.
As always – Go and Grow with Love.
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Quotable Question: Is it not true that trying to solve love problems all on your own is a lot like trying to reinvent the wheel, the lever and the lightbulb simultaneously, when you could just learn and use what is already known and working for others?