Do you constantly feel like the people you date are always making unnecessary demands of you? Always intruding in your personal space or persistently trying to talk about their emotions and how they feel about you?
They love you so much it nauseates and scares you. You might be thinking, “What does this person possibly want from me again?” Or maybe you are just a lone wolf and the idea of a relationship and commitment fills you with a sense of dread…
Well, if you relate to any of these mentioned above. Then this article is for you and you might just be suffering from the fear of intimacy.
But really, what exactly is the fear of intimacy?
What is fear of intimacy?
The word intimacy has its root in the Latin language “intimus” which translates to “innermost”. And this means to be intimately involved with someone, you have to share your innermost self with that person.
The fear of intimacy or the dread of closeness also referred to as intimacy avoidance or avoidance anxiety. It is described as the often subconscious fear of sharing a serious emotional or physical bond.
Individuals who experience this fear do not typically wish to avoid closeness. They may even crave for said closeness, but frequently push others away or even sabotage relationships when it comes knocking.
Fear of intimacy then is a deep-seated fear of getting emotionally and sometimes physically connected to a person.
This fear typically has the effect of making a person pull away. Every time a relationship gets serious and commitment is needed or just when people get too close for comfort.
Being afraid of intimacy can be caused by several factors. Including certain traumatic childhood experiences such as abuse or neglect but many other experiences and factors may contribute to this fear as well.
One of the biggest issues is that this fear can be quite difficult to spot in oneself.
This is because blocking emotions becomes primary to us. And it is very difficult to identify something we do not know is there- zero experience.
It typically takes tons and a series of unstable, temporary non-committal relationships before you become aware of your fear.
You may have to lose an important person due to your attitude. Or be dragged into therapy by a partner who understands, to understand that there is something up.
Where does the fear of intimacy come from
So again, what causes the fear of intimacy? It is important to understand that dreading love and intimacy is not something anyone chooses.
So, you shouldn’t be blaming yourself or your partner (if you are lucky to recognize the problem).
As humans, we were built to connect on a deep level. We want to be known and (i.e mean closely known by others).
We want to share our deepest desires, goals, and wants with people or someone we tag as special.
A Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, said in his famous ‘hierarchy of needs, “love and belonging is third only to basic needs like food and then safety”.
As this fear only happens when we are being shown positive and not negative affections, we can safely say the fear of intimacy stems from childhood abuse, abandonment, and rejection.
It could also be from the deterioration of a relationship or feelings of affection that wasn’t returned by a special person.
Signs to show you suffer from the fear of intimacy
You are never still
Behind every fear, is the fear of facing up to yourself and combating what you know is your weakness.
You stay away and avoid any form of relationship that will lead to commitments. You seem busy all the time, and your life is constantly packed with activities.
You constantly seek and crave new adventures. When you are down, you start looking for new ways and activities to stay alive.
You avoid being extremely close to people and keeping long-term friends because they would then see these obvious flaws.
You are tagged as “cool”
To people, you are the chilled one who never gets upset. You come across as someone who is always in a great state of mind mainly because you are always forcefully cheerful.
At times, this fake attitude is often a tactic to hide and cloak parts of yourself and avoid deep connection.
A very smart person once said, “humans don’t bond over strength but over weakness”.
So, you can go to all the parties, date anyone, get really high, play games and adventures with people so you do not let your guard down.
Truth is, we only truly form lasting bonds when we are vulnerable.
You have a history of unhealthy partners and strings of toxic relationships in your past
Have you had break-ups, abusive partners, or basically cheating?
Were you subconsciously going out with people who were unavailable, and treating you poorly?
Or do you just have zero experience, and a lack of history when it comes to the dating game?
Some people choose serial dating or unhealthy relationships and partners like this. Or they just avoid choosing altogether because it helps them avoid intimacy.
You have a fear of abandonment or rejection as a result of your past experiences, and this protects you from that.
You are sexually immature
In this category, there are two different kinds of people.
‘The kind who loves sex but may also have an addiction to pornography or just their own self-pleasure. Instead of making love and focusing on their partner in that moment.
‘Then the other kind who avoids sex altogether completely’.
Both of these kinds of people show the inability to connect intimately and to emotionally let go of their fears.
If you will allow yourself to be emotionally naked and vulnerable in the relationship. Talk about your fears and insecurities honestly and openly and just letting the other person see you locked in a closet—you’ll be able to do this sexually, too.
You constantly talk to third parties about your problems
Have you noticed how easy it is to talk to your friends or family about your problems instead of going to your partner?
This can be super damaging to your partner, they might see the person you are talking to as a potential sexual partner. Because then your partner might be afraid you are cheating on them.
If you are discussing things that you wouldn’t talk about. If they (your partner) were standing there with you, then this counts as a real emotional affair.
A lot of people habitually lean on others for validation and support like this when they have a fear of intimacy.
If this is currently happening, then you are afraid of intimacy.
Be honest with your partners. Talk to them about what this external connection means to you and how it affects them and what your fears are when it comes to sharing things with them.
How to overcome the fear of intimacy?
Being afraid of intimacy is common for us humans. Only aliens or maybe lower animals would say they are good and perfect with just any partner.
It is a strong part of the way we were wired.
But talking about it and working through this fear is totally real as long as you are willing to commit to it.
Try things like counseling, practicing meditation, and mindfulness. And just opening up with your partner. All of these are sure proven ways to help you become more self-aware and in control of your emotions.
Be up close and personal with your emotions
This is definitely going to feel French foreign and uncomfortable. Just like your first day in high school at first but start by tagging your emotions when they come up.
Instead of saying “I am fine” and instead of bottling them up. You can say something like “I’m actually feeling down and anxious today”.
Stay emotionally present as much as possible
It might be great to remind yourself that the more you distance yourself from your partner. The more likely they are to get worried, super anxious, and clingy.
It is better you practice staying in your emotions. And talking about them openly, freely, and clearly will help you feel more secure.
If for the most part of your adulthood you’ve been suffering from the fear of intimacy. You’ll have probably invested a large mass of your energy into your personal activities or work.
For most people, it actually forms part of their adult identity (they get tagged as workaholics).
Relationships are an essential element of what it means to have a happy, well-balanced life. Try focusing your energy in that aspect as much as you can.
Identify the patterns (Basically for people whose partners have the fear of intimacy).
When people feel intimate, they react. Sometimes these reactions can be positive or sometimes there are just negative.
The reasons for these are complex and beyond our normal lay understanding. I mean! Who knows why we love some people and cannot stand some?
Well, psychologists believe it has a lot to do with how we have over time learned to see ourselves and the world around us.
We may respond awkwardly to positive treatment because it conflicts with the negatives we’ve always been used to and can relate to.
Whenever or wherever these encounters come from. We can begin to overcome them by first identifying the destructive patterns and undercurrents in our relationships.
For example, when your partner pulls back, how do you who claim to care and love them respond?
Perhaps, their actions create some amount of frustration and desperation within us. And this leaves you acting clingier or dependent towards them.
Your anxious behaviors may make your partner perceive you as weak or clingy and they may then start pulling back further.
Apparently, an emotionally distant partner may leave you angry or hardened against him or her.
You may step back and withdraw in response and become colder in your own actions towards them.
Unsurprisingly, this too will leave you estranged and emotionally distant from each other.
The best way to avoid all this drama is to read and identify the patterns of fear (if you are lucky enough to notice one) and work about helping them get over their intimacy issues.
The beautiful news is that your past experiences do not have to direct your present. It doesn’t have to be this way forever.
With some serious effort, you can overcome the fear of intimacy. We all can condition ourselves to stop being afraid of intimacy and love by letting people in.
We can spot the behaviors that motivate our fear of intimacy and tackle these protective reactions that impede love.
We can allow ourselves to remain vulnerable in our intimate relationship by resisting the subconscious urge to retreat into a love-filled with pretense or engaging in withholding and distancing behaviors.
We can maintain our honesty, learn to “sweat through” the unease of creating a bond without pulling away, and steadily increase our acceptance for being loved.
By taking all the actions essential to tackle our dread of intimacy, we can increase our capability for both accepting and giving love.