Do you think you are living with a fear of intimacy? If the thought of sharing everything makes you feel uneasy, or you notice that you push people way, you may be suffering with an intimacy disorder.
Individuals who fear intimacy still need others. Yet, they are more scared of getting hurt and rejected, which means despite their need for social interaction, they break off a connection before they can get hurt. This is why they distance themselves—as a precaution.
However, the fear of intimacy limits your life. It not only affects your relationships, but it can also affect how you feel and view yourself. If you have had enough of it, you can turn things around. It is within your reach to start enjoying healthy and fulfilling relationships.
This article will show you how to overcome intimacy issues for good with the following topics:
- What the fear of intimacy is and what are its signs
- Where the fear of intimacy comes from
- How fear of intimacy can impact your life
- How to overcome the fear of intimacy—in you or your partner
Let’s get started by finding out what exactly a fear of intimacy is.
What Is Fear of Intimacy?
In short, Intimacy is closeness. It can involve physical affection but is not limited to it. Being intimate with someone also means sharing interests, ideas, and experiences. This is called experiential and intellectual intimacy. Emotional intimacy happens when you have warm and caring emotions for the other person.
When you are close with someone, you let them into your world. You share your weaknesses and soft spots.
Intimacy comes with opening yourself to the risk of being hurt. This is where fear of closeness can take over.
All of us dislike, or are afraid of, being rejected. Nonetheless, for those suffering from intimacy issues, such fear holds the steering wheel of their lives.
Fear of intimacy is a very confusing state to be in. On the one hand, you might be feeling a need for others as you do care for those you’re close to. You could even be wishing for the perfect relationship. On the other hand, any sort of demand for closeness suffocates you.
You might recollect how you ended a friendship or a romantic relationship because you felt it occupied too much of your time. Accusations that you don’t care could be coming your way quite often. Alternatively, you might be a lone wolf of a sort, evading intimacy altogether. What ties all of these occurrences together is fear of intimacy.
What are the signs of intimacy issues?
Fear of intimacy comes in different intensities for different people. It can manifest itself merely as discomfort when someone demands your time and commitment. However, you usually manage to overcome the uneasiness. Even though the nagging voice is in there somewhere all the time, you do have friends, partners, and close family members.
On the other end of the spectrum is a full-blown intimacy disorder. With this disorder, you are unable to develop any profound relationship. You could be engaging in meaningless risky sex. You might act aggressively and dismissively. People with an intimacy disorder are pushing others away in any number of ways.
Signs of intimacy issues can be:
- You tend to hold back affection.
- When others give you warmth and recognition, you are indifferent or even become annoyed.
- You feel a strong aversion to becoming close to someone.
- You are overly critical and there’s no pleasing you. Even when someone changes, you find another flaw in them.
- You get paranoid in romantic relationships and believe that you are being cheated on.
- Your attitude toward sex is unhealthy. Or you might not be interested in it at all. On the other hand, you might be engaging in a series of short sexual encounters which never transform into a long-term relationship.
Fear of intimacy is often tricky to spot. To recognize if you truly are afraid of closeness, you could take the fear of intimacy test. There are some available online, such as the Fear Of Relationship Commitment Test. Alternatively, you could also consult a therapist who could administer you one. They could also help you interpret the results and make the necessary change.
Where Does Fear of Intimacy Come From?
Did anyone ever ask you why you act the way you do in relationships? If they did, you probably said: “That’s who I am.” It has most likely been that way for as long as you can remember.
This is because intimacy issues have roots in early childhood. If you feel that avoidance of closeness is your nature, then it might have been imprinted on you when you were very young. It is not something you choose for yourself. However, you can choose to leave it behind.
A framework through which fear of intimacy is best understood is the attachment theory. It was developed in the 1960s by psychologist John Bowlby. Bowlby demonstrated that children need emotional intimacy equally as much as they require physical safety and care. If not more so.
How our parents responded to us when we were babies and toddlers will inevitably affect how we relate to others as adults. The patterns we formed then will come forth in all our significant relationships.
How your childhood experiences made you who you are today
Think back to your attachment figure, which is the most significant of your carers? It is usually one’s mother. Was she dismissive of your neediness? Some parents punish or scold whining. They interpret normal signs of frustration as disrespect.
When you would cry and need comfort, your carers would not console you. On the contrary, they trained you to be “strong.” You were not to display weakness.
Your father might have, for example, showered you with “Don’t be a wuss” type of messages. Thus, this could lead to developing a fear of opening up and revealing your need for closeness.
In a way, it was a trauma that could have caused a chronic emotional wound. It predisposed you for emotional pain, which you chose to prevent by not opening yourself to love—ever.
Another possibility is that your carer was so emotionally fragile that any sort of distress would push them over the edge.
If you were fussy, cried, or had a tantrum, your attachment figure would crumble. As a result, as a young child, you learned to dismiss and suppress strong emotions. You ended up regulating your carer’s reactions—instead of them helping you regulate yours.
You concluded that “strong emotions = pain” when you were young. Those closest to you rejected you when you were open and vulnerable. Such experience got engraved deeply into your psychological profile.
Today, your intimacy issues hide in the subconscious. This makes it difficult to understand the fear of closeness and even more challenging to tackle it.
Using the tools that RTT® provides you can address your issues quickly and permanently.
How Fearing Intimacy Can Limit Your Life
Fear of intimacy is not a problem that has as narrow of an impact as one might think. You probably have a niggling feeling that it limits your development overall. Your intuition is correct. Intimacy issues can affect your life in unexpected ways.
Dysfunctional romantic relationships
One area in which fear of intimacy is most apparent is romance. People who are anxious about being close to others can hardly develop a deep connection with someone.
However, being in a meaningful relationship means being open to strong feelings—both positive and negative. This is not an option for someone who dismisses emotional display altogether.
As a result, there is a disbalance that causes friction. Your partner opens themselves up. The wall you put between you will naturally frustrate them.
Romantic relationships can take many dysfunctional forms if fear of intimacy supervises all your actions. Conflicts, lack of communication, affairs, even abuse—all of this can happen. This is why it is crucial that you address your intimacy anxiety.
Risky sexual behavior
Another way to eliminate closeness that scares you is to seek only brief sexual encounters. Sexual addiction or promiscuity can have roots in extreme fear of intimacy.
Numerous sexual partners with no real chances of intimacy is a method that seemingly serves its purpose. You will not, indeed, develop a relationship in which you reveal your vulnerability.
Nonetheless, such behavior bears risks on its own. The risks usually, by far, exceed those of a long-term relationship. You could be heading for STIs, social stigma, and potentially dangerous situations with people you know little or nothing about. Tackling your fear of intimacy will set you free from putting yourself in danger.
Self-imposed social isolation
When you are afraid of being hurt or rejected for your feelings, you could put yourself into voluntary social isolation. It is somewhat of an instinctual reaction. You cannot get hurt when there is no one to hurt you in the first place, right?
However, lonely people are more prone to depression, stress, addictions, and a myriad of psychological and medical disorders. Humans need someone to rely on. We need someone to love and to love us back. If you eliminate love from your life (romance, friends, family), you can begin to struggle to see the meaning of your life.
Addictions and unhealthy habits
People with intimacy issues tend to be prone to addictions and unhealthy habits. If you go out for a drink after a long work week, it is perfectly alright. However, excessive use of alcohol, smoking, drugs, junk food, or gambling can be considered an addiction. It could be the means of trying to fill the emotional gap within you.
Although your subconscious mind has managed to protect you from harm by others, it opened you up to self-harm. Nonetheless, you don’t need to live your life destroying yourself.
Self-destructive behavior comes from the underlying belief that you, in your core, are unworthy and not good enough. Marisa Peer developed an entire program dedicated to helping you love and respect yourself called I Am Enough. It will help you develop enough self-love and self-acceptance to be able to overcome your damaging habits.
Low emotional intelligence
People who grew up learning to deny and ignore their emotions ended up being unable to understand emotional cues. If you fear intimacy, you might also be emotionally color-blind. In other words, your emotional intelligence (EQ) may be low.
This means that you might not be able to emphasize with others or understand how they feel. Have you heard sentences like: “You have no idea how I’m feeling!”, “You don’t care!”, or “You’re completely cold!” often?
Emotional intelligence was scientifically confirmed to lead to greater success in various areas of life. It also correlates with higher life satisfaction and wellbeing. When your EQ is high, you are also more resilient to stress, anxiety, and depression.
One unexpected consequence of intimacy issues could be career failures. Many of those fearing closeness can be extremely successful professionally. Originally, achievements were a way of gaining parental acceptance—when being emotionally open, direct, and authentic was not. This need then became self-sufficient, autonomous motivation.
However, career success is usually inseparable from the quality of relationships. A leader particularly needs to be as much of an expert in the field as they need to be in interpersonal interaction. Because of this, your fear of intimacy might sabotage your chances of success.
Take this example—you worked hard to become a top expert. You compiled a superb CV and left your competition to bite the dust. However, no matter how knowledgeable you are in business, your new team does not seem to react to you well. Consequently, you severely underperform.
Your EQ did not match your expertise, and the team sensed it. You, on the other hand, remained blind to what was wrong and failed to deliver the results.
How to Overcome Intimacy Issues
If you are one of the many people who fear intimacy, rest assured—you can change this. Here are some of the evidence-based paths you can take to set yourself free to love and be loved.
Make your conscious and subconscious minds work together
Many of those who experience fear of intimacy rationalize it in some way. Consciously, you may sense that something might be off. You are not fulfilled. However, the subconscious, invisible part of you assures you that everything is alright. You are successfully avoiding getting hurt, are you not?
The subconscious part of your mind is not a villain. It merely tries to protect you. It does not, however, possess the power of rationality that your conscious mind does. Your subconscious acts under one of the rules of the mind, which Marisa Peer has spent decades decoding for you—“Your mind works to move you from pain to pleasure.“
You can now use Marisa’s work to make the most out of both your conscious and subconscious mind. For example, use another rule to your advantage—“What is expected tends to be realized.”
Decide to expect gratification from relationships.
Give way to your consciousness and analytical skills to reassure your subconscious.
Write down the arguments for the notion of a rewarding, meaningful relationship.
Write down the reasoning against fearing intimacy.
When you expect to develop a healthy attitude toward relationships, you will. Your mind will find a way.
Our habitual way of thinking does have a way of coming back, even if we don’t want it to. Irrational fears do, too. That is, until we acquire a new habit that will override the old one.
Therefore, to make this new mindset stick, come up with a positive sentence that you will be saying to yourself. Then, simply repeat this sentence in your head as often as you can remember. With time, your mind will rewire.
Boost your emotional intelligence
We said before that emotional intelligence might be compromised by fear of intimacy. Luckily, this connection works the other way round too. Therefore, if you boost your emotional intelligence, you will also gradually address your intimacy issues.
Daniel Goleman is one of the most significant researchers of emotional intelligence. He determined that it consists of five basic elements: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. The best thing is—all of them can be learned, re-learned, and improved!
- To increase self-awareness, you could try mindfulness practice.
Your attachment style resulted in unawareness of what you are experiencing at a given moment. Mindfulness will gradually allow you to tap into your experience. Simply start noticing what is going on within you with an open attitude. No judgment, just accept your emotions, whichever they may be.
- Self-regulation can be understood as a person’s ability to regulate their emotions healthily.
Therefore, no shutting down, no angry outbursts, and no numbing the emotions with alcohol or other substances. Try to practice deep breathing exercises to reduce the discomfort of emotion. Acceptance meditation could also help.
- Empathy is a weak spot for people with intimacy issues.
Try this: reflect on what you think people are feeling, and ask them if you were right. So, when someone expresses negative emotion toward you, try not to counterattack. Acknowledge the other person’s emotion and accept your part in it.
- Active listening can help improve your social skills
Ability to resolve conflict (not walk away and not attack, but find a compromise) is essential. One thing that may not come naturally to you is to learn to praise others. However, learn it and see your effort pay off.
Ask for support from a therapist
Tapping into your subconscious by yourself can be extremely hard. It is a field hidden from our conscious examination. All our stubborn problems hide in here. It is somewhat uncharted territory with many unknowns for which you need a guide. Pick the top expert in the field to be your guide—same as you would on a real journey.
With the help of an RTT® therapist, you can address the roots of your fear of intimacy in only 1-3 sessions. Rapid Transformational Therapy® (RTT®) harnesses the most powerful potential on the planet – the mind.
An RTT® specialist, trained and hand-picked by Marisa Peer, has proven expertise, exceptional skills, and outstanding levels of client satisfaction.
With the assistance of an RTT® specialist therapist, you can explore the meaning and interpretation of different events that feed your anxiety and need for avoiding intimacy.
You can book a call and start working toward a life free from intimacy anxiety right away.
How to help a partner who fears intimacy
Loving someone who pushes you away or runs off at the first sign of genuine closeness is undoubtedly painful. First, know that the problem is not in you. As you learned in this article, it is not your fault. It is not theirs either—your partner was raised to avoid strong feelings.
If you want to help your relationship grow, you need patience and understanding. Remember that, even though your partner denies it, they are afraid of painful emotions. Allow them the space to withdraw when they need to.
Do not chase after them. As contradictory as it may seem—reassurance looks threatful for a person with intimacy issues. Let them try and regulate their emotions and realize that they want to come back.
It is a difficult position to be in, but you can help your partner do what they never did before—love and be loved.
If your partner is ready to work on their intimacy anxiety, you can also propose that they reach out to an RTT® therapist. They can choose between online or in-person sessions. Support their determination to seek help and give them space to work out their issues with a professional.
Avoiding love might have sounded like a good plan at some point in your life. However, such an attitude robs you out of many fulfilling experiences. If you have had enough of emotional solitude, this article showed you how to change that. Call an RTT® therapist and change your relationship patterns.
You can also have a look at purchasing Marisa Peer’s popular self-hypnosis audio, “Attract Your Perfect Relationship”, which teaches you how to dispel negative thoughts, prepare yourself to accept the love you deserve, and maintain a healthy and happy relationship, free of pain and worry. Become free to experience your life to the fullest with Marisa Peer and RTT®.