Do You Have A Fear Of Intimacy?
Do you find it challenging to form close relationships with others romantically or platonically? Do you feel anxious or panicky in intimate situations or avoid physical or emotional closeness altogether? If so, you may be experiencing a fear of intimacy. Your fear of intimacy has very much to do with your growing up years. What did you experience growing up in your family of origin? What messages did you get to experience about feelings? Did you feel free to discuss feelings? Was there time for it? Did they have the skills to discuss feelings?
Intimacy is an essential component of human relationships, allowing us to connect with others on a deeper level, share our thoughts and feelings, and experience emotional closeness. No matter how much you love your partner or the person you are dating or considering getting married to, you must have important and difficult conversations about how you each handle feelings. Loving someone is not enough. You must discover what each of your attachment styles is. Jousline Savra, Licensed Marriage, and Family Therapist can help.
However, a fear of intimacy can make it challenging for individuals to form and maintain these relationships, leading to loneliness and isolation.
Let’s explore the fear of intimacy and its impact on relationships.
What is intimacy?
Intimacy is the feeling of being emotionally close to someone, where you can share personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a safe and trusting environment. Another way that Ms. Savra likes to say it, is, “in-to-me-you-see.” Is this something easy or difficult for you? Do you even know how to allow someone in a safe way to see inside of you? It involves being vulnerable with another person and feeling understood, accepted, and more.
Think of a couple sitting together on a couch, holding hands, and sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings about themselves and their relationship. They listen to each other attentively, without judgment or criticism, and support each other through both good and bad times. This level of emotional connection and understanding is an example of intimacy in a romantic relationship. All of this has to do with your love style. Do you know your love style? I am not talking about a love language.
You may not have known, but intimacy also exists in non-romantic relationships, such as between close friends or family members.
For example, two friends who have known each other for a long time and have shared many experiences may have an intimate relationship where they feel comfortable confiding in each other and providing emotional support.
Intimacy is essential in any relationship since it allows individuals to feel connected, supported, and fulfilled.
It can take many forms, such as:
⦁ Intellectual intimacy
This is a type of intimacy that involves the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and intellectual pursuits between individuals. It is characterized by deep conversations about topics of mutual interest, challenging each other’s perspectives, and expanding each other’s knowledge and understanding.
Two friends sharing a passion for literature may engage in intellectual intimacy by discussing their favorite authors, sharing their interpretations of a book, or recommending new titles to each other.
⦁ Emotional intimacy
It involves sharing emotions, thoughts, and feelings between individuals in a relationship. Such people have a deep sense of trust and vulnerability, where individuals feel safe to express themselves and be understood by their partners.
A romantic couple engaging in a conversation and sharing their fears, hopes, and dreams, can be emotional intimacy. They may express vulnerability by admitting their weaknesses and insecurities and providing support and comfort during times of stress or difficulty.
⦁ Spiritual intimacy
This type of intimacy involves sharing spiritual beliefs, values, and practices between individuals in a relationship. Such people have a deep sense of connection and understanding together and feel safe to express their beliefs and explore their spirituality.
A couple that attends religious services together engages in meditation or prayer practices, or has deep discussions about their spiritual beliefs and values could be said to have spiritual intimacy.
⦁ Experiential intimacy
This is where people share a deep sense of connection and bonding that can be created through shared experiences, such as traveling together, participating in sports or hobbies, or engaging in other enjoyable activities.
For example, consider a group of friends who share experiential intimacy. They may regularly participate in outdoor activities, such as hiking or camping, or attend cultural events, such as concerts or art exhibits.
Understanding the fear of intimacy
The fear of intimacy, also known as intimacy anxiety or intimacy avoidance, is a psychological condition characterized by an intense fear of emotional or physical closeness with others.
People who experience this fear may avoid intimate relationships altogether or sabotage existing relationships to prevent them from becoming too close or emotionally intimate.
Here are some signs that show you have intimacy anxiety:
1. You withdraw easily
One common sign of the fear of intimacy is withdrawing or pulling away from a relationship when the other person wants to get closer or become more intimate.
Ms. Savra says, “This may be because the fear of getting too close triggers feelings of anxiety or discomfort, and the individual responds by retreating emotionally or physically.”
For example, an individual who is afraid of intimacy may feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable when their partner expresses feelings of love or affection.
Instead of reciprocating, they may withdraw emotionally, become distant or aloof, or even end the relationship altogether. They may also avoid physical intimacy, such as hugging, kissing, or holding hands, as a way to maintain distance and protect themselves from the vulnerability that intimacy requires.
2. You are a perfectionist in life
People with this fear may place an excessive emphasis on personal achievements or goals, believing that their success or accomplishments are what defines them as a person.
They may also have high standards for themselves and others and may struggle with vulnerability or showing their imperfections or weaknesses.
Individuals afraid of intimacy may prioritize their work or career over relationships, as they feel more comfortable in a professional setting where they can showcase their skills and accomplishments.
They may also struggle with expressing their emotions or feelings, which could be perceived as a sign of weakness or vulnerability.
3. Do you think physical intimacy is safer?
The fear of intimacy can make someone feel more comfortable engaging in casual sexual encounters or one-night stands rather than pursuing deeper emotional connections with others. The person may find it easier to engage in sexual activity with someone they barely know, rather than develop a more emotionally intimate relationship.
They may believe that physical intimacy is safer because it doesn’t require vulnerability or emotional investment, and they may fear the potential pain or rejection that can come with emotional intimacy.
Have you sabotaged your relationship when all seems to be going well? Partners who fear intimacy unconsciously create problems or conflicts in their relationships when everything seems to be going smoothly.
Suppose you start an argument with your partner over a trivial matter or engage in behaviors that push the other person away, such as being overly critical or distant. In that case, it could be a sign that you fear intimacy.
This may occur because you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed by the growing emotional intimacy and may be trying to create distance to protect yourself from the vulnerability that intimacy requires.
5. You lack meaningful social ties
If you struggle to form deep and meaningful connections with others or have few close friends or family members, it could be a sign of intimacy anxiety.
Such an individual may avoid social situations or interactions that require emotional investment or vulnerability. They may also struggle to trust others or share their thoughts and feelings, creating a barrier to developing meaningful relationships.
How will this affect you?
The most significant effect of the fear of intimacy is the inability to form deep and meaningful connections with others. People who struggle with this fear may find it challenging to open up to others, trust others, and engage in emotional intimacy.
As a result, they may feel isolated and alone, even when surrounded by people. It can also lead to anxiety and depression as individuals struggle to find meaning and purpose
Fearing to be intimate can also impact an individual’s ability to pursue their goals and aspirations. It can create a sense of self-doubt and limit one’s ability to take risks and try new things.
And not only that, but it can also impact an individual’s physical health, as it can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse and overeating.
She can help
Yes, there is hope for someone struggling with the fear of intimacy. Working with Jousline Savra can help you address this fear and develop the skills needed to form deep and meaningful connections with others.
She can help you explore the root causes of your fears, and develop coping strategies to manage anxiety and discomfort. Schedule a marriage counseling session with Jousline to learn how she can help you build trust and communicate effectively to form stronger emotional bonds and feel more connected with your partner. If you are serious about doing this work and making true changes, then call her.