Do you fear intimacy?
Why am I alone?
I want so much to be in an intimate relationship, so why it doesn’t work for me?
I feel stuck …
When someone is already looking for my closeness… I get away, find excuses, suddenly I’m not interested anymore…
How is it that others succeed, and I do not?
What am I doing wrong? Or is something wrong with me?
These are a few sentences I used to say, all of them share the fear of intimacy.
What is Fear of Intimacy?
Fear of intimacy often manifests as a difficulty or reluctance to expose our true selves to others. Often a trait of those experiencing social anxiety or social phobia, fear of intimacy makes it difficult to have close, lasting relationships with others. It is often challenging to start a new relationship. Those with a fear of intimacy strive to avoid rejection, criticism, or abandonment. Fear of intimacy is caused by past traumas.
What does fear of intimacy look like?
Humans are social creatures. The encouragement from others often helps us succeed in life. We need connection, intimacy, warmth and love. Fear of intimacy leads to the avoidance of open social and romantic relationships. It can cause feelings of loneliness and lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
Fear of intimacy will typically manifest as either aggression or seclusion. Those who experience it might push the people closest to them away. If they are unable to push them away, they might respond with anger or frustration, further damaging the relationship (and their self esteem).
Fear of intimacy in romantic relationships
In romantic relationships, those with a fear of intimacy might have agonizing thoughts about how to please their partners. They tend to worry about disappointing their partners, or repressing certain traits or behaviors which they fear might lead to abandonment. Those with fear of intimacy may believe that love is conditional, or that they are not worthy of love. Sometimes they might prefer being in a romantic relationship with a partner that they do not love, to minimize the chance of getting hurt.
Sometimes in relationships, we are afraid to express certain opinions to avoid conflicts and arguments. In doing so, we give up essential parts of ourselves. It works for a while to keep the peace, but as time passes, we can feel tension, frustration, insecurity and a decline in self-esteem. The relationship will suffer in the long-term. Communication is important for a strong relationship; however, fear of intimacy can get in the way of that vital component.
What Causes Fear of Intimacy?
Our experiences as children can lead to fear of intimacy as adults. Although it can certainly manifest as a result of adult bullying or abuse, fear of intimacy typically develops during our formative years.
If you experienced isolation or bullying as a child, you might have felt as if there was something wrong with you; that others might not accept you as you were. Maybe you started changing yourself or acting differently around others. Learning this as a child is something significant and traumatizing. You may have developed anxiety, insecurity, or suspicion of others as a result. All of this happened unconsciously, but manifests in a very tangible way that is evident in our social relationships as adults.
“If someone loves me, then they probably want to take something from me, change me, hurt me somehow, or abandon me”
Such suspicious and distrustful thoughts were always second nature for me.
Patterns of behavior
When as children we learn that we should please others to receive love and acceptance, we accept conditional love as the norm. If as children we received criticism for expressing ourselves individually, we learned to fear intimacy. The lesson we learn is that we can’t feel love or acceptance unless we act accordingly to what is expected of us. Adults with fear of intimacy might have even instilled those thoughts within us, so you see, fear of intimacy is a vicious cycle.
Beyond childhood, these thoughts become integrated into our patterns of behavior. Therefore, as adults we continue to endeavor to please our friends, bosses, and partners in order to feel valid.
Sometimes we might distance ourselves from relationships and respond aggressively, or feel threatened, when someone gets too close.
This can cause constant anxiety and self doubt. As adults we are seeking love and security, but a fear of intimacy can cause our logical thoughts to hold back. It is as if the soul is in conflict with the mind.
How can I Heal My Fear of Intimacy?
The first step to healing is to identify the behavioral patterns of fear of intimacy. When you identify these patterns, you can learn to react differently to these situations. Read through the following social patterns and see if any of them resonates with you:
- If you feel someone isn’t interested in you or paying attention to you, you might blame yourself. For example, you might think things like “I must be boring” or “I wonder what I did wrong.”
- You tend to avoid new situations or being social with new people. Maybe you are distrustful of a new person in your friends group.
- You tend to find social situations exhausting, or that you “just don’t feel like going out.”
- If someone hurts your feelings, you are afraid of bringing it up. You might think things like “why spoil our relationship by complaining?” or “s/he might feel bad, or like me less.” In such situations, you may be critical of yourself or blame yourself for your feelings.
If one or more of these statements sounds like you, fear of intimacy might be holding you back. It is a difficulty that prevents those who suffer from it from enjoying intimate connection with others.
Healing as a couple
In relationships, many couples feel as though they are ‘stuck’. Additionally, they might blame frustration with the other person (“They just don’t understand!”) or long hours at work (“I’m just too tired!”). In reality, we can make time for intimacy even if we are busy because it’s not something that really takes time out of the day. In other words, intimacy is just how we coexist openly within our relationships. You can experience intimacy on a romantic night out or in the few minutes you have before leaving for work. Couples can work together to recognize and become aware of these patterns of behavior, and in open dialogue, get past the fear of intimacy.
Can online life coaching help?
Relationships take risk. When you start a new relationship, you risk getting hurt. But when you fear intimacy, you’re risking something even greater: missing out on a vital human need, closeness and community. When we become brave enough to expose ourselves and our pain to others, we connect with the hurt inner child within ourselves. Opening up to others can encourage a process of self-healing, and in relationships, a mutual healing. That type of closeness and connection is incredibly powerful, and can be a tremendous help in your healing process.
Life coaching can help you help yourself and your relationships recover fear of intimacy. The healing process is carried out in a safe, empathetic and open environment. You will learn the tools for bolstering emotional communication based on openness and trust. You will learn to love yourself and connect with your partner.
Online life coaching provides a safe space in which you can begin to enjoy the ability to share in a safe and open environment. You will learn to accept yourself and allow vulnerability to be present. You will be able to develop a more secure sense of intimacy within yourself and within your relationships. This benefits not just you, but all of the people in your life: Your partner, your family and your friends will each benefit from an open atmosphere, and become the people they want to be because of your acceptance of who they are.