Fear of Intimacy
You’ve met someone you like or find interesting. You’ve met up for a drink and for dinner. Suddenly, a slightly more intimate moment arises. You panic. What’s happening to you? You may be experiencing fear of intimacy.
This fear can make it difficult for you to establish deep emotional bonds with the people you like, the ones you want in your life, or simply those you want to get to know better. It can occur in friendships and family bonds, as well as romantic relationships.
In this article, we’ll help you discover what may be behind the kind of fear that’s preventing you from allowing others to come into your life and how to face it. Follow our advice and you’ll gradually find it’ll disappear and you’ll start enjoying a positive emotional life.
Intimacy in relationships
What exactly is intimacy? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it’s “the state of having a close personal relationship with someone”. It’s a concept that’s closely linked to the field of love and relationships, that can also be extrapolated to practically any personal relationship.
When you become intimate with another, you create a common space of love, affection, trust, and proximity with them.
Being intimate also means getting in touch with another person’s feelings, getting closer to each other, and opening yourself up emotionally.
“Perhaps there is no greater intimacy than that of two gazes meeting, firmly and determinedly, and simply refusing to part.”
How to generate intimacy with others
To generate intimacy with others, you need a familiar and pleasant environment so you can open up to the other person, start to trust them, let go of your fears, and have the courage to be yourself.
However, this isn’t always easy to achieve. Indeed, some people have a really hard time being intimate with others. So why does it happen and how can you start to let others into your life?
Fear of intimacy: why does it happen?
Fear of intimacy is quite common. It happens when you’re afraid of generating a common space with another person and letting go of your individuality for a few moments. Why does it happen? Why are you so afraid to be intimate with others?
Fears behind the fear of intimacy
Some of the most common causes are:
- Fear of losing control of your own independence.
- Being afraid of rejection or abandonment.
- Fear of being harmed. For example, being afraid that others will lie to you, use you take advantage of you, etc.
- Fear of exposing yourself. Being afraid that others will ‘discover’ your weaknesses.
- Fear of compromise.
- Fear of falling in love.
Fears, fears, fears. As you can see, behind the major fear of intimacy, hide many others which can paralyze you and interfere with what you really want. For example, creating quality relationships and opening yourself up to others, etc.
Many of these fears are fed by low self-esteem or by an internal voice that tells you that you don’t deserve to fall in love. In other words, a negative internal dialogue in the form of a self-boycott. It’s unconscious, but it’s there.
An insecure attachment
If you add an insecure attachment style to all of these factors (be it avoidant, ambivalent/anxious, or disorganized ), then you have the appropriate breeding ground for developing a fear of intimacy, of contact with another, and of opening yourself up emotionally. That’s because, in this case, as a child, you ‘understood’ that, by opening yourself up to others they could harm you or your emotional needs wouldn’t be met.
Attachment in childhood greatly influences the way we emotionally bond with others when we’re adults. If childhood attachment isn’t secure, we won’t feel safe enough to develop healthy and strong bonds, through spaces such as intimacy.
How to face the fear of intimacy
Can the fear of intimacy be overcome? What can you do about it? We give you four tips to help you start facing this situation:
1. Begin a process of introspection
If you want to know what’s happening to you and if it’s really a fear of intimacy that’s paralyzing you, perhaps it’s time to look inside yourself and ask what’s happening to you. How do you feel? Are you really scared? If so, of what?
This process of introspection will help you begin to locate your fears and your emotions. The second step will be to expose yourself and see what emotions arise when someone gets closer to you than usual.
2. Expose yourself progressively
To discover what lies behind these fears, it’s important that you gradually expose yourself to intimacy. Don’t force yourself. You can start with small steps, like asking someone you like for their number, asking them out for a drink, or telling them an intimate detail about yourself.
You might like to make a personal list of these steps and, every time you complete one, check it off.
3. Go to therapy
Although the previous recommendations can help, in reality, psychotherapy is the best way to get to know yourself and discover why you’re the way you are, what’s happening to you, and, above all, what you need emotionally.
A therapist can accompany you in this process of introspection that you’ve already started and get to the root of the conflict. They’ll help you discover the causes of your fear of intimacy and suggest actions and tools to help you recognize it and give you the space to face it.
4. Face your fear and listen to its message
Somewhat paradoxically, you need to give your fear space. You shouldn’t run away from it, or try to encapsulate it and send it to the furthest corner of your mind. Instead, listen to what it’s trying to tell you.
Perhaps there’s some wound in your past that hasn’t yet completely healed. Or, a situation, such as rejection, has scarred you and you can’t overcome it. Maybe you simply lack self-confidence.
Whatever lies behind your fears, it’s important to listen to the emotional messages that come from within you whenever you start to become intimate with someone. These will have meaning in the framework of your life. More specifically, in that of the relationship itself.
You deserve to bond in a healthy way
Remember that you deserve to enjoy healthy and intimate relationships. However, to do so, you may have to listen to your inner child. Maybe you need psychological therapy in order to analyze your past or understand your present, so you can begin to open yourself up to others. Look for reasons to trust others, open your heart and give opportunities to people who are worthwhile and who want to share a beautiful bond with you.
Only you can find these things out for yourself. Give yourself the opportunity and you’ll see how, gradually, you’ll be able to enjoy moments of intimacy with those with whom you feel you can be yourself. You deserve it. Remember that:
“You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.”
-Barbara de Angelis-
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Morfa, J.D (2003) Prevención de los conflictos de pareja. Bilbao: Desclée de Browner.