How do I cope with my abandonment issues?

My father left me when I was a very young child. After recently reconnecting with that family I have discovered that my existence was treated as a ‘dirty little secret’. My sister was shushed on several occasions when the mere mention of her father’s other child was brought up. There was only one photograph of me hidden in our dad’s belongings. Feeling unwanted has affected every relationship I’ve had, like my partner is doing me a favour by being there.


The SI unit for friendship is pizza.

01-09-13-32-38 / 27


Hello Diner. Doing a favor is minor and superficial. Doing a favor is spending a weekend moving for you and then expecting pizza in return. People are in your life because the experience itself is just as meaningful for them as it is for you. They are neither there to be entertained nor to fulfil charity.

Of course there will be those who steal your time for selfish reasons. You can tell who they are by the energy they expend focusing on themselves. We discussed them in this Fortune. Regardless of how much you fear losing people, those people should have a very small, if any, part in your life. Keep looking for those who love you. Keep risking more trust. You overcome fear by stepping through it.

I can’t assure you that no one will ever leave you–that you won’t feel that pain ever again. But all relationships–like the living things they are–grow, age, and die. For you, a life is two handfuls of decades. For us Fortune Cookies, our first meal is our last. Both are lifetimes.

Success in relationships is not its longevity. Rather, success is choosing your fulfillment. Some marriages last whole decades without any enrichment to either person’s life. Is that successful? Success is deciding to be present in the moment, and letting that moment change you positively. Once that moment passes, it’s yours forever simply because time (as you see it) only goes forward.

Deciding to have you and then treating you like a dirty secret are two decisions that your father can never take back. Even if he found compassion now, you’ve lived with that indelible history, but that history doesn’t have to define you. Those are his failures, not yours.

Understand that your father made two decisions about you among the millions of decisions you’ve made in a lifetime. Those millions beyond your father’s two show who you are: your values and prejudices, your interests and sense of humor, your taste and passions, your empathy and hatreds, your curiosity, and your sense of responsibility. People fall in love with those things. People spend time with you to make social music with each of those notes.

If everyone met you only out of pity, those encounters wouldn’t have been filled with conversations, laughter, and compassion. True companions care about you as much as you would them. They love the very sight of you–in whatever condition you are. To say they’re doing you a favor ignores the whole range of emotions that you feel for them.

Feelings in relationships go both ways. The human connection happens because people are capable of compassion, trust, and love for each other. Keep looking, and share that connection. Be present, and don’t lament lost futures. Be changed, and don’t regret the past. Good luck on your search, Diner.