Katara's abandonment issues when it came to Aang REALLY should have been focused on at some point in time in their relationship. Just re-watching The Winter Solstice and the scene where Aang sees Katara and watching her look so forlorn and defeated at he and Sokka's disappearance REALLY set that in. We know, and she probably knew, they were going to come back, but simply the fact of them being in a place where they couldn't reach each other disheartened her to the core. Dammit Aang.
I cannot emphasize enough how a girl with severe abandonment issues does not belong in a relationship with a character who has “abandoned the world” as his fatal character flaw.
Katara’s sensitivity to family members’ abandonment of her is well documented. Look at how distraught Katara is when Aαng is leaving her behind to go on Zuko’s ship, even though she just met him:
Aαng’s comforting words don’t help at all, considering her mom’s last words to her of false reassurance: “Go and find your dad, Sweetie. I’ll handle this.”
Then there’s her difficulty accepting the reality that her father had to leave her to join the war:
Katara: (crying) I understand why you left. I really do, and I know that you had to go, so why do I still feel this way? I was so sad and angry, and hurt.
So if that forced separation in Episode 2, which was not in any way Aαng’s fault, deeply affected Katara, just imagine what it feels like when he actually does walk away from her.
Aαng abandoning people who need him is an ongoing problem that he has to struggle with throughout the show. And that’s fine from an individual character standpoint; it gives him three-dimensionality and room to develop. But there’s no denying that this character flaw hurts Katara, not once, but on several occasions. From Aαng literally leaving Katara holding the bag to go after the shiniest new friends on Kyoshi:
Katara: Oh, good! Can you help me carry this back to the room? It’s a little heavy.
Aαng: Actually, I can’t right now.
Katara: What do you mean you can’t?
Aαng: I promised the girls that I’d give them a ride on Appa. Why don’t
you come with us? It’ll be fun!
Katara: Watching you show off for a bunch of girls does not sound like fun.
Aαng: Well, neither does carrying your basket.
Katara: It’s not my basket. These supplies are for our trip. I told you, we have to leave Kyoshi soon.
Aαng: I don’t want to leave Kyoshi yet. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something I really like about this place.
To proving Katara wrong after she’d tried to defend him:
Katara: Aαng is the bravest person I know! He has done nothing but help people and save lives since I met him. It’s not his fault he disappeared, right Aαng? Aαng? What’s wrong?
(Aαng has been backing up while Katara has been telling off the old man. When she is finished, he flees, opening his glider and taking off towards the mountains.)
To leaving the GAαng stranded in the desert, forcing Katara to shoulder the burden of everyone else’s survival:
Aαng: That’s all any of you guys care about: yourselves! You don’t care whether Appa is okay or not! (Aαng stalks off, sulking angrily.)
Katara: We’re all concerned, but we can’t afford to be fighting now.
Aαng: I’m going after Appa.
(Aαng flies off. Katara calls after him, running towards the spot from which he took off.)
Katara: Aαng, wait!
To exacerbating Katara’s parental abandonment:
Hakoda: What’s wrong Katara?
Katara: He left.
Katara: Aαng. He just took his glider and disappeared. He has this ridiculous notion that he has to save the world alone. That it’s all his responsibility.
Hakoda: Maybe that’s his way of being brave.
Katara: It’s not brave. It’s selfish and stupid. We could be helping him. And I know the world needs him, but doesn’t he know how much that we need him too? How could he just leave us behind?
To failing to support his friends when they were desperate to salvage the war effort after the Day of Black Sun:
Katara: Aαng, can we talk about you learning firebending now?
Aαng: (Cut to a close up of Aαng as he feigns deaf) What? The wind is too loud in my ears. Check out this loop.
(Cut to an overhead shot of the mist as Aαng maneuvers his glider into a loop and Momo mimics his actions in perfect sync.)
Sokka: Aαng, I think we should be making some plans about our future.
Aαng: Ok, we can do that while I show you the giant Pai Sho table. Oh, you’re gonna love the all-day echo chamber.
To worrying her on the day of Sozin’s Comet, when she had quite enough on her plate:
Aαng: Then when you figure out a way for me to beat the Fire Lord without taking his life, I love to hear it! (storms off)
Katara: Aαng, don’t walk away from this.
Katara: Zuko, don’t worry, we can take Azula.
Zuko: I’m not worried about her, I’m worried about Aαng. What if he doesn’t have the guts to take out my Father? What if he loses?
Katara: Aαng won’t lose. He’s gonna come back. He has to.
[Keep in mind, although Aαng swam to the lion turtle in a trance, once he was lucid, it never even occurred to him that people might be worrying about him, or that he should try and let his friends know where he was.]
This is worse for a relationship than something like Zuko’s betrayal, where Zuko never committed to being on Katara’s side to begin with, and once he was committed, he never looked back. It was also a weakness that Zuko eradicated through a desire to change himself. But this flaw of Aαng’s never resolves itself in a way that keeps Katara safe from a fear of abandonment. Even after Aαng has gone through his entire development arc, Katara feeling abandoned by him is still a problem:
And worse, it extends to how he treated her children:
Tenzin: Yes, he has. It’s so nice to get to spend more time with my family. Isn’t that right, my little Rohan? (Rohan smiles and coos) And I’ve really enjoyed having you two around. Reminds me of all those great vacations we took as kids with Dad.
Kya: Uh, I think your memory is a little foggy. Bumi and I weren’t on those great vacations. It was always just you and Dad.
Tenzin: No, that can’t be right. What about the time he took us to Kyoshi Island to ride the elephant-koi?
Kya: Nope. We weren’t there.
Tenzin: Hmm. Oh, remember Ember Island? Those amazing sand palaces we built on the beach?
Bumi: You mean you built. We never saw the place.
If Katara were a solitary type who enjoyed being alone and wouldn’t take Aαng’s disappearances so much to heart, this wouldn’t be as big of an issue. But Katara, while she is independent, is also very community-oriented and depends on her family to be there for her. When they aren’t, as Bato says of all Water Tribe, the pain of separation is worse than a battle wound. How many wounds did this flaw of Aαng’s give Katara over the course of a lifetime of marriage? He already couldn’t be there for her all the time due to his responsibilities as Avatar, and to add to that a tendency to take off at a moment’s notice without telling people when he’ll return…let’s just say it does not bode well for Kαtααng and their marital bliss. It makes me wonder why this is the so-called fluff pairing of A:TLA while Zutara is supposedly “all about the angst.” It also leads me to postulate that Katara’s gentle, non-confrontational approach with Aαng (as opposed to her bossy mom attitude toward Sokka and Toph) is due to her faith in Aαng as a symbol of hope mixed with her fear of abandonment—and a deep-seated worry that if she ever gave Aαng more than a gentle nudge, he might just nudge himself out of her life forever.