Fear Of Intimacy: Signs, Causes & Ways To Overcome It

fear of intimacy
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Intimacy can be elaborated as the physical or emotional closeness that one shares with another person. Intimacy could be of various types and takes different forms with different people around us. Some of us are comforted by the same physical touch that raises a sense of fear in others. These are the signs of fear of intimacy. Whether you’re thinking about your intimacy issues with a friend, lover or parent, it is important to identify the causes and take corrective measures.

When comfortable, intimacy acts as a binding glue in a relationship and strengthens it further. To be intimate with someone is to open up to them – both physically and emotionally. In order to do that, one must completely trust the person they’re with and must not feel judged. Therefore, if you have a partner who has a fear of intimacy, you must broaden the horizon of your thoughts and attempt to be impartial and non-judgmental in your approach.

People can choose to get intimate with their loved ones at different paces in a relationship. When someone is assured of their position in someone else’s life, they might become ready to talk about their feelings and be vulnerable. It is to note that just because you are ready to be intimate does not mean that you can rush someone else’s pace. Let them ease in, we’re sure they’re going to come around.

What Is Fear Of Intimacy?

Let’s assume you’ve spent a month or so knowing your latest romantic interest and you are ready to take your relationship to the next level. Maybe you’re ready to talk about your deepest fears and wildest fantasies. As you do so, you realize that your partner only nods and listens to what you say but does not contribute to the conversation with his own sets of issues.

You feel insulted and you immediately second guess the foundation of your relationship. You blatantly declare that your efforts have been wasted. But wait. Maybe you’re just not seeing it right. Let’s assume you were with someone who took only fifteen days to open up emotionally whereas you needed to take a month. What would you have done? Listened to your partner carefully and hoped for patience, right?

It is possible that your partner wouldn’t open up to you even after a month, physically or emotionally. Maybe he takes longer, maybe he doesn’t open up at all. Maybe the signs of fear of intimacy disappear, maybe they wouldn’t.

A lot of times, people are afraid to get intimate and open about themselves. This mostly arises from a sense of relationship insecurity. They might undergo a range of emotions – from an inferiority complex to much more. Fear of intimacy restricts them to be their true selves in front of someone else. Imagine how hard it must be to never be able to let loose in front of the people you love. Instead of taking it as an insult and scaring them even more, one must handle this extremely delicately.

Some of the signs of fear of intimacy are evident while others might not be so obvious. Even if you are not able to eliminate these completely, reducing them is also a great first step.  How to overcome the fear of intimacy? What are the causes of it? What are its various types? Let’s answer all these questions and more. Read on to find out!

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Related Reading: Lack Of Affection And Intimacy In A Relationship — 9 Ways It Affects You

Fear Of Intimacy Causes

The leading cause of one’s fear of intimacy usually takes birth from a deep rooted self- esteem issue that might be connected to a past trauma, abuse, etc. It is not a secret that people who have been told to keep their issues to themselves as children, often end up having a hard time dealing with their feelings, as adults.  Let’s talk a little more about the reasons that people develop a fear of intimacy:

1. Childhood trauma

When children have grown up around adults who choose to be very private, it teaches them to be quiet about their problems as well. When physical affection towards your partner or family isn’t displayed enough around the household, children grow up thinking that it need not be expressed at all.

Trauma can also refer to children being subjected to mockery when they state their wishes, explicitly.  This causes them to shut off for an indefinite period. Sometimes, this wears off as they grow up and are surrounded by very affectionate people. Others take time to tap into their desires and realize what they want.

Some households do not encourage loving hugs and reassuring touches which leaves a void in the hearts of young children. When their partners attempt to reassure them with a gentle touch, they get defensive and walk away from a confrontation. These are some of the subtle signs of fear of intimacy that might be exhibited by your partner.

2. Physical/ emotional abuse

Each one of us has a story in the past that has shaped our present. Some of us have the privilege of having a beautiful past and others, not so much. Our choices and habits are a direct reflection of all those things we have gone through in the past. If you’re dealing with a partner who exhibits certain signs of fear of intimacy or if you’re the one struggling with it, remember to be kind and patient.

Sometimes we choose partners that prove to be detrimental to our mental and physical well-being. They take away our fairy tale ideas of love and replace them with a cynical outlook towards life. Years later, when we find ourselves in the company of those who actually love us and care for us, we become exhausted because of the walls we have surrounded ourselves with.

We become so scared of intimacy that we try to avoid being alone with our partners or confronting them about an uncomfortable topic. All these are intimacy issues that need to be dealt with, carefully and slowly. We must remind ourselves that although we have gone through toxic relationships in the past, our present is only here to make life easier for us. If we open up, overcoming fear of intimacy will prove to be much easier than we thought.

Related Reading: 5 Reasons Why Intimacy Among Couples Fades And How You Can Prevent It

3. Insecurity and self- esteem issues

Although external factors might be a cause for this as well, sometimes people develop insecurities and other psychological issues around intimacy without an external reason. This is a tricky situation because there is no evident reason as to why they behave the way they do- but there is nothing that cannot be fixed with love.

Avoidance of closeness, being scared of intimacy and deflecting confrontations are all signals of an insecurity that might be developing without an obvious tell. If you have been much more sexually active than your partner, he/ she might feel insecure of getting physical with you. Their inexperience is the reason they feel inferior to you and are afraid to disappoint you. Open conversations about this might make them feel more comfortable.

4. A natural dislike for intimacy

We cannot eliminate the possibility of there being an inherent dislike or distaste towards physical/ emotional intimacy in some people’s lives. Maybe they have tried to learn and adjust but just cannot. Maybe physical intimacy does not scare them but when it comes to emotionally intimate conversations, they do not care for it. One cannot force another to feel something they don’t.

If you’re the one who does not feel the need or see the point of being intimate, let your partner know that you are not scared of intimacy. It is not that you have a fear of intimacy, it is just that you would not dwell into your physical or emotional needs as much as they would like you to. Your avoidance of closeness does not reflect your lack of empathy or love, it just means that you can love a person even without touching them.

If your partner has a tendency of walking away from vulnerability, it is possible that he’s just not into it. Maybe he has nothing to be vulnerable about – either way, you’ve got to make peace with it. Troubling yourself and your partner about something that does not exist, hardly makes sense, doesn’t it?

Overcoming fear of intimacy

Types Of Intimacy

Intimacy comes in different forms during the course of a relationship – not all can be clubbed under the same name. It is important to expand and be as intimate with your partner or friend as you can for a healthy relationship.

Read on to find out the three broad types of intimacy that you might need to work on, in your relationship:

1. Emotional intimacy

Emotional intimacy is when your partner feels comfortable to talk about his/ her emotions without fearing any judgment. Women tend to exhibit more emotional intimacy than men due to the societal perception of how men should handle their emotions. They are not taught to be open and accepting of everything that they feel and it results in the development of intimacy issues. 

If your or your partner have been experiencing increased signs of fear of intimacy, avoiding sentimental conversations would be an unmissable trait. They would spend time alone until they are back to being normal. Intimacy problems heighten when the two of you are not ready to talk about these things with an equally open mind.

One way of overcoming intimacy issues is to respect the need for their time alone and a simultaneous effort to open up a little more. When both work in tandem, there would hardly arise a moment of conflict. Intimacy problems soon fizzle out of a relationship when it ages and there is more trust and confidence in each other than before. When you spend a lot of time getting to know each other, the obvious signs of fear of intimacy vanish due to a reduced fear of being judged.

2. Physical intimacy

Physical intimacy is often misunderstood and placed in the same bracket as sexual intimacy. While that is a part of it, physical intimacy goes beyond the comfort of being intimate with someone, just sexually.

Physical intimacy is being okay when people touch you to reassure you of their affection. It might be a simple hug when you come back home or a soft kiss to remind you that you are loved. It could be a pat on the back or a gentle squeeze of the hand. These gestures are important in any relationship and must not be left out. 

When you are uncomfortable with or scared of intimacy, sexual or non-sexual touches seem to startle you and you prefer to sit a little out of everyone’s physical reach. While this is detrimental to your own mental well-being, it also has a negative impact on the relationship. If your partner has a tendency to show their love through physical gestures, there would be a lot of conflicts and misunderstandings. Therefore, necessary steps need to be taken to overcome the fear of intimacy.

While every physical touch must and should be consensual, you could try easing into it by allowing the people you trust to gently pat your back when they wish to show their amusement. Small steps can result in big changes and you would be overcoming the fear of intimacy in no time.

Related Reading: 8 Ways A Physical Relationship Before Marriage Affects Your Relationship

3. Mental intimacy

Someone rightly said – it is sexy when someone lets you enter their mind and see all the crazy things within. The sexiness is in the confidence that one shows in the people around them while being mentally intimate with their loved ones. To share your ideas, thoughts, beliefs is being mentally intimate with your partner or family members. It is one of the toughest forms of intimacy to ease into.

Mental intimacy is also the leading reason that couples stay together for a long number of years. If you do not let your partner know what you are thinking or what you want to do, it is only a matter of time that your relationship starts to fall apart. It is necessary to be open and willing to let your close ones know what goes on in your mind so that they can connect with you over those things.

If you ask me how to overcome the fear of intimacy without implementing any drastic measures, it could be as simple as telling them what you plan to do the next day or what you would want to be in the future. It is about the right questions to ask your partner and a vision to share a future together.

Common Signs Of Fear Of Intimacy 

If you’ve started noticing that you back off from situations that require you to be vulnerable with your partner then it’s time for you to assess yourself. Do you have a fear of intimacy? Do you often feel uncomfortable when you have to talk about your feelings or be physically close with someone?

Let’s look at some of the most common signs of fear of intimacy so you can perform a self- diagnosis and learn more about yourself:

1. Self- sabotaging your relationships

While things seem to be going absolutely well, you start second guessing everything and create a problem where there wasn’t one to begin with. You’re scared of intimacy and hence, you’re ready to do whatever it takes to push away your love without having to bear the guilt.

NEWS FLASH : Nobody is perfect. Do not expect people to love you exactly like you want them to. There would always have to be some compromises because life never comes in a complete package. You must stop looking for perfection outside and focus your energies on overcoming the fear of intimacy that’s been bugging you.

2. Saying “No” to emotional conversations

Has your partner recently been wanting to talk to you about his/her personal issues but you avoided them all week? Does the thought of opening up about how you feel scare you?

If your answers were yes, you probably have a fear of intimacy. Do not worry because it’s completely manageable!

You can take out time to have conversations that you normally wouldn’t, starting with the people you trust the most. Talking about your feelings every day would ease you into it and open you up eventually. It is difficult, but it is not impossible.

Relatable Reading: 10 Signs You Have An Emotional Connection With Someone

3. Avoiding most forms of physical contact

If you find yourself distancing yourself from people who like to display their affection by means of physical contact, you might want to introspect. Do reassuring touches bother you? Would you rather be absent at a party than attend one because of the crowd? Is your attitude towards physical contact harming your relationship?

Avoidance of closeness with a particular someone is a classic sign of fear of physical intimacy. Wanting to run away from a social situation where people are emotional and bidding each other goodbye with a hug might be an indicator that you have a fear of intimacy.

Although there is nothing that you should do if you are not comfortable, wanting to revive your old relationships which had been a prey to this trait of yours is the first step of overcoming fear of intimacy. Be verbal about your fear rather than awkwardly escaping. This would make people aware of your condition and not make them feel like you’re just a jerk.

how to express your feelings to your boyfriend

 Overcoming Fear Of Intimacy

Overcoming fear of Intimacy is necessary in order to enjoy the little moments in life. That first fight, the first kiss and all your other firsts are only beautiful if you’re comfortable while they happen! We know, it’s easier said than done, right? While we cannot get into the specifics, let’s look at some of the most common ways of overcoming fear of intimacy. However, let’s first try to understand why it is important to do so.

Say you’re in a situation that demands you to open up and speak about the one you love – but you’re scared of intimacy. This might be your own wedding, a family get together or worse, a friends’ getaway. These are the people you love and cherish, how far are you going to run? While it is okay to neglect our problems for a while, it becomes imperative to face the music too.

Having said that, do not worry. Overcoming fear of intimacy isn’t that tough. It needs patience, composure and an awful lot of trust in the people you love. Only with enough confidence and faith can you climb the highest of the mountains.

Let’s dive into all the ways you can help yourself and answer the most important question of all: how to overcome the fear of intimacy?

1. Your daily dose of a self pep-talk

It might sound silly, but it works! Why wouldn’t it? Who would understand you more than yourself? It is important to converse with yourself every once in a while. You don’t know how much you need it unless you begin doing it. It cleanses your aura and boosts your confidence levels exponentially.

Tell yourself how much you matter to everyone present in your life. Address your insecurities in a relationship, ask yourself all the right questions and give the right advice. We are sure there is no remedy like self- introspection. If you look well enough, you will find the reason for your fear of intimacy. This will help you overcome it.

2. Compassion for yourself

After you’ve got the answers to all the important questions, do not be harsh. You deserve a lot of love and compassion and you’re the only one who can give you that, unconditionally. Although it’s a little depressing, there isn’t anyone capable of loving us more than we could love ourselves. Self- love is the first step to acceptance and recovery.

Once you’ve told yourself that it’s okay to have the reasons you have to be scared of intimacy, keep reminding yourself that these intimacy problems will go away.

3. Time heals everything

There is nothing that remains broken in the course of time. Everything eventually connects and falls into place. Such is the power of time. Trust us, whatever trauma it is that you’re dealing with, whatever makes you doubt and second guess the people around, it will heal. Eventually, you’ll learn to trust everyone again. Until then, hold on.

Give yourself and the people around you some time. People take time to understand each other’s issues. Do not rush your healing, it will remain incomplete. Relax and enjoy the process. You will surely never regret it.

Related Reading: How To Trust Someone Again After They Hurt You – Expert Advice

4. Accept the flow of universe

Even if something does not make sense to you now – it will, in the future. Although uncertainty and ambiguity in relationships scare you, accept that they are a part of it. You’re afraid to get close to your partner in fear of driving them away. However, if you continue to fuel your fear of intimacy, you will create a wall between the two of you, anyway.

Learn to accept the ways of this Cosmos and know that everything happens for a reason. If there were people in your life who left because you were too vulnerable, it isn’t your fault. People who are not meant to be in your life, will walk away. Let those who want to stay, stay. You’ve got this.

Having said everything that we did, remember – those who love you, would stick around no matter what. Exhibiting the signs of fear of intimacy might make you feel awkward in public situations and we understand that you want to rectify.

So if it is you has a fear of intimacy or your partner who has intimacy issues, we hope this article provided you with the help you need. It is difficult to not be able to open up completely. We must be patient towards those who are trying, whether it be ourselves or the ones around us.

Even if you’re struggling with intimacy issues and are not very confident of a change right now, just make sure you let your close ones know that you love them and appreciate them in your life. We’re sure you’ll find a way!

FAQs

1. How to get close to someone with intimacy issues?

There is no correct answer to this question, but our best guess would be to do it cautiously. If you’ve already figured that they have a fear of intimacy, let them be aware of your fondness but do not try to cozy up to them too much. Although you’re trying to make them feel loved and comfortable, it might work in the opposite manner and drive them away, further.

2. How do you date someone who is afraid of intimacy?

Dating someone who is scared of intimacy is tricky and challenging. It comes with its shares of lows and sometimes, you might be left feeling alone. What you have to remember is, they’re not doing it intentionally. If intimacy scares your partner, make sure to remind them everyday that you love them without expecting it in return. When you want to cuddle, make sure you ask them for their permission before you touch them.
Do not startle them with over-emotional conversations and sudden physical contacts. Treat them with respect and do not go about talking of their fear with people they are not comfortable with.

3. What does lack of intimacy do to a person?

Lack of emotional intimacy tends to make a person’s life duller and cynical over the course of time. They would not be able to figure out their emotions nor be able to tell anything about others’. Reduced physical intimacy might have complications in a person’s life. They would not be able to resonate with people who like quick hugs of reassurance or small pats on the back. Respect their needs and do not push it on them unnecessarily. Although their fear of intimacy would drive them away from the ones who love them, lack of physical intimacy could leave them with a void that they cannot fill.

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