Fear of Intimacy
To overcome the fear of intimacy you must first understand what intimacy is and the surrounding fear.
Does it seem like every time you’re starting to get close to someone they find a way to prevent you from connecting on a deeper level? Of perhaps you even prevent yourself without realizing. Maybe you are a master at deflection when asked a deep question.
Intimacy is a close familiarity or friendship, a private cozy atmosphere, and also a physical act. The intimacy we are talking about today is not about who you let touch your body, that’s sex.
True intimacy goes far deeper than mere physicality. A fear of intimacy is often characterized by a lack of trust, whether mistrust or distrust, as well as an aversion to someone getting to close to you.
Trust is an important part of an intimate relationship. Without trust you can not create an environment of emotional connection. Read more about trust here.
Barriers to Intimacy
Challenges with intimacy often stem from patterns of mistrust and distrust that were often established as early as childhood. When someone has lost a parent early in life whether to death or separation, suffered trauma or abuse of some kind, had an aloof parent or a parent with overly strict boundaries they learn coping skills that are perhaps less than healthy. These unhealthy coping skills can lead to self created barriers to intimacy.
Barriers to intimacy are a bit different than fears of intimacy.
A barrier to intimacy is often a traumatic event or history that is creating the fear itself. In not dealing with the traumatic event you create ineffective and unhealthy strategies for coping. An example of a barrier is mistrust or distrust as well as
Fear of intimacy, in these cases, is a result of the traumatic event.
As an example: a woman who suffered physical abuse in a relationship. You can argue that she could possibly have a barrier to intimacy in the form of mistrust and distrust. This could result in a fear of getting close enough to someone to create an emotional connection thus a fear of intimacy.
Overcoming Barriers to Intimacy
So how do you overcome the barriers to intimacy? It’s a two fold process.
A safe space is a must for overcoming barriers to intimacy. Now, this space is not just a physical location it can also be holding space within the relationship that is a safe zone. You see, when someone has a fear of intimacy, and you get too close for comfort, that person might start acting out. The behaviors that are acted out are designed to keep them safe and to push you away. So try to understand where the fear is coming from and that it is the root cause of some of these behaviors. Take the time to talk and understand the reasoning behind these behaviors. Hold a space within the relationship that is non-judgemental, supportive, and patient as well as kind.
Confront fears together. When challenges with intimacy have become an issue let your partner know that you want to understand what is preventing the two of you from connecting and that you want to work through these challenges together. Don’t try to rehash the past or push your partner to share, simply be there with a non-judgemental ear when they are ready to share. Then, when your partner is ready to actively work on these challenges follow their lead.
Overcoming the Fear of Intimacy
In most cases people truly desire an intimate connection with another person; however, many individuals consciously or unconsciously sabotage their relationships. Fully exposing your self emotionally and becoming vulnerable involves risk and risk creates anxiety. Fear of intimacy is hiding behind emotional walls. Overcoming the fear of intimacy allows for real, deep emotional and deep physical connections to develop.
Take time for self-examination: Become aware of how you act out or sabotage your close relationships. How do you build your emotional walls? Is there anything you need to change?
Set Boundaries: Are there any boundaries you need to set with yourself or others? You can read more about boundaries here. Maybe you need to set limits on how close someone gets how soon.
Be honest: With both yourself and your partner be honest when you want to hide, when they feel too close, when you feel the need to pull back. Intimacy means sharing the uncomfortable as well as the comfortable.
Communicate: Honest to goodness communication, done in a positive manner, can often make the negative more manageable and can make fear and hurt diminish.
Educate yourself: Learn more about the fear of intimacy and where yours is coming from.
Be mindful: Observe what is going on in your relationships in the here and now. What belongs in the present and what is a trigger from the past?
Work on self-worth: When your sense of worth is lacking you will go through life with the misconception that you don’t deserve good things so you will be pushing them away.
Baby Steps: Take small steps one at a time in revealing yourself. Practice sharing one thought or one emotion at a time. Soon you will develop a habit and you will be developing a comfort level with trust and vulnerability.
Patterns: Take a good long look at your relational patterns. If you think your fears might be causing challenges you’ll see the effects within the patterns unfolding in your relationships.
Practice Vulnerability: Read more here.
Develop Trust: Read more here.
Consider Relationship Coaching.
Consider individual therapy if your fear of intimacy has begun to negatively affect your health or mental health.
Creating a healthy relationship takes time and effort. Focus on what you can do now to create the relationship you desire and don’t let the hurts from the past reach forward in to your present relationships.
JoyWork Suggestion: Make a plan from the above actionable steps for the next thirty days and journal your progress. It’s okay to take three steps forward and two steps back so long as you keep taking steps forward.
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