We are magnetised to people who see and do life differently to how we do. This is why we feel more alive when we travel to places we’ve never been before. It’s the ‘in crowd’ is constantly in search of a new sound or the latest look. It is innovation that excites us. In the landscape of relationships, when we meet someone with a fresh energy, they ignite our enthusiasm. If we love their vibe, we will want to be near them. If they stimulate our mind with a new perspective, we are curious to know them more deeply.
It can be hard to meet someone who is truly different, unique and special if we’re hanging out in places where everyone shares our values. For example, when surveying potential partners, if we value material wealth, we’ll seek out someone who is wealthy as a partner to fulfil what we perceive as our ultimate potential – financial security. If we value family, we’ll seek out someone with good genes and temperament, and who is also good with children to fulfil what we perceive as our ultimate potential, a happy family. If we most value fame, we’ll seek out someone who can further our career ambitions. If we prize status above all else, we’ll seek out someone in a position of external power.
The funny thing is, these personal ambitions do not represent our ultimate potential. Our ultimate potential is our growth and expansion. Focusing on becoming self-realised, knowing all aspects of ourselves in self-acceptance is what holds the key to our personal fulfilment. If we seek wealth, status, fame or expect relationships to fulfil us, we become needy, greedy and repel that which we seek to attract. Whereas, when we make personal growth our highest priority, we are more likely to attract those who truly see and value who we truly are. This is what forms the basis for a soul mate union…one where the needs of both souls are understood and honoured. When relationships that are based on personal ambitions fall apart, as they inevitably do, the greatest gift we can give to ourselves is to pursue our self-growth. If we don’t seek personal growth after a break-up, we repeat the same lesson with a new partner, often with a greater cost as a wake-up call to our authentic self.
“In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth
or to step back into safety.”
— Abraham Maslow
That Four Letter F-Word
Many people have a subconscious fear of closeness that frequently affects their personal connections. This fear of physical and/or emotional intimacy tends to show up in our closest and most meaningful relationships. Intimacy is more than being physically close to someone. It is about exchanging personal information, energy and feelings with each other and responding to them with attentiveness, understanding, and validation. When we fear intimacy, we find it challenging to be physically or emotionally close to others. It leads to complicated relationships with lovers, friends, family, and colleagues.
At first glance, we may anticipate the reason for feeling apprehensive and distrusting of love is due to fears about potentially negative outcomes: rejection, the deterioration of a relationship or feelings of affection that aren’t reciprocated. However, fear of intimacy is triggered more often by positive emotions than negative ones. In fact, being chosen by someone we truly care for and experiencing their loving feelings can trigger deep-seated fears of intimacy and make it difficult to maintain a close relationship.
Fear of intimacy is a very real and damaging thing. Being unable to get close to people can wreck your relationships and wreak havoc on your personal and professional life. It’s especially dangerous when it comes to your wellbeing and self-esteem. Humans are social creatures and socialising must come with a certain level of connection and intimacy. For some of us, it takes getting close to find true happiness, but this takes letting people in and doing it the right way. There is also the fear of being vulnerable, which is a slightly different thing than having a fear of intimacy. This is precisely why a person may have no problem flirting and being mindlessly romantic, but still never trust anyone enough to connect deeply and confide in them. They prefer being in control and entertaining people as long as they don’t have to be vulnerable. Nothing too real.
“Intimacy is the capacity to be rather weird with someone – and finding that that’s ok with them.”
4 Types of Intimacy
A fear of intimacy is actually more complex than we might first think. There are different facets to intimacy, including intellectual, emotional, sexual, and experiential. We can’t all be intimate, especially with people who we don’t connect with or understand very well.
Bonding through deep, personal discussions and an exchange of ideas. To truly share your rawest, purest ideas with another person requires bravery and a willingness to face judgment of your world view and beliefs. That isn’t something we simply give to any old random person. Typically, that person is someone we are close to, want to be close to, or respect enough to have that discussion with. To come to a new understanding together, we must each admit to not knowing.
Emotional intimacy is what people tend to envision when they think of intimacy. It is having a close, emotional connection with another person where you allow yourself to be vulnerable and simply be you. This includes people who feel they have a spiritual connection.
Sexual is self-explanatory. Physical intimacy is a common way for people to think about intimacy. In essence, then, to be intimate with another person is to be vulnerable to them, even if it’s not in the context of a deeply personal relationship.
People may bond through shared activities, interests, or experiences. This can include something like a support group, where people have a shared experience. It can be a project team you’re involved in at work, or it could even be a hobby or sports club where people share a passion.
“The opposite of loneliness is not togetherness , it’s intimacy”
8 Signs You’re Avoiding What You Actually Want the Most.
A fear of intimacy is a mirror to the real self. When we’ve built up defences around ourselves, it shows that we’re not comfortable with who we truly are. We can’t be vulnerable with others because we struggle to understand and accept ourselves. The fear of intimacy has nothing to do with not wanting love. Yet, the moment we feel someone getting closer to us and offering us love, we feel extremely uncomfortable. Something inside us refuses to trust this love and we push it away. People who experience this fear do not usually wish to avoid intimacy, and may even long for closeness, but frequently push others away or even sabotage relationships.
1. You are waiting for an unrealistic “perfect partner”.
Why settle for disappointment when you can create arbitrary, ridiculously high standards that no one could ever really live up to? While it’s good practice to create standards and look for them, exaggerating a person’s must-have accomplishments (whether it’s fame, fortune, or perfection in personality) is just another way of avoiding a real relationship. On the flip side – perfectionism may be a method of overcompensation for a person who feels they are unworthy of love, support, and respect. They may overwork or keep an immaculate home to demonstrate that they are worthy. Real relationships are never perfect. Learning how to compromise and where to give and take is half the fun in getting to know each other, if you approach it from a learning perspective.
2. You act different around different people.
If you seem to be a different personality around your friends and family members, then it’s likely you’ve spent too much time learning and pleasing other people and not enough time being yourself. Learning other people is a great way to make friends but, at the end of the day, are you really being your authentic self? Can you express yourself honestly and naturally? Or are you trying to be the person they want you to be?
3. You are a serial player.
It’s easy to skate on the surface of a new person’s personality and mimic their behaviour. Keeping it superficial means you don’t really have to be yourself and be honest about what you want. While learning about other people leads to a good time, it rarely turns into anything long-term. Be honest – you haven’t really revealed anything about yourself and your emotional investment is minimal. You take on a facade of who you think you should be, or who the other person wants you to be but you never communicate honestly. Players tend to be avoidant and desperately lonely in all other intimacy areas, even while being a sexual wildcat.
4. You don’t really know what your needs are or how to communicate them.
It’s not only that you find it difficult to meet someone you like – you literally don’t know what you need, what you want, or even what makes you happy in a relationship. If you have never stopped to consider your own needs, then you’re relating to others, personally and professionally, while blindfolded. When you depend on another person to define your happiness, you literally hand your power over to them, so they are in control. You let yourself down when you allow someone else to figure out your needs, rather than thinking them through and having the confidence to state them clearly. Letting another person decide who you should be is a toxic recipe for disaster.
A person who feels unworthy may not communicate their needs to their partner, so their needs start to go unfulfilled. They don’t communicate their needs because they don’t want to cause disruption and potentially cause their partner to leave them. That causes resentment and conflict that escalates because the relationship is one-sided when one partner’s needs are not being met. The person with a fear of intimacy resents their partner, telling themselves that they must be unworthy of love and support if their partner is not trying to meet these needs, even though they haven’t made their partner aware of such needs.
5. You sabotage your good relationships.
A person afraid of intimacy may suddenly make a personal breakthrough and figure out what they want. However, a short time later, they will lose everything and wonder what happened. Typically, the problem is that they didn’t follow through on their personal breakthrough moment and instead followed the same negative repetitive patterns. They self-sabotage the connection by creating problems that do not actually exist to contaminate their happiness. This helps to keep some emotional distance between you so you don’t have to risk being vulnerable and close.
6. You fear abandonment.
It’s totally normal to fear losing someone you love, but when that fear comes from feeling as though you are not good enough and undeserving of the love they have to give, then there are bigger issues at play. If your struggle with intimacy comes from deep inside yourself, and you don’t really feel that you are worth loving, it can lead you to avoid close connections altogether. In this way, you don’t have to face rejection because you never get that deeply involved to begin with.
7. You have a history of picking unhealthy partners.
If you’re totally honest, do you already know you don’t have a future with that person you got involved with? Maybe you don’t even know why you keep picking these people. The appeal of these kinds of partners is that they allow you to avoid intimacy. This can manifest in a handful of different ways: you either have no deep and meaningful encounters or you engage in a long series of indiscriminate hookups that leave you feeling empty…but safe. This can happen in all types of settings – not just romantic. When you keep allowing the wrong people into your life, they will have a pattern of rejecting you. This is likely to enforce a self-fulfilling prophecy that you are going to be abandoned.
8. You push people away when they start to get close.
Reflexively pushing people away when they start getting close is a huge red flag that you struggle with intimacy. One way of doing this is by ghosting people. Ghosting is a clear indicator that someone is afraid of intimacy.
“This is my skin. This is not your skin, yet you are still under it.”
Where Does our Fear of Intimacy Come From?
Thanks to past heartbreaks or childhood traumas, many of us live our life in constant fear of rejection, loss or grief. We perpetually wait for the other shoe to drop; counting down the minutes until someone lets us down or disappoints our expectations. These four experiences are at the core of our intimacy issues.
The failure of our role models
If you grew up in a home with parents who avoided being intimate with one another, you might struggle getting close to the people you love as well. The failure of our parents or caregivers to model healthy, respectful intimacy is one of the main reasons we fail to master intimacy ourselves. So, if one, or both parents were absent emotionally or physically it is highly likely you will need to overcome a fear of intimacy.
Having your heart broken a time or two will make you hesitant when it comes to getting close, even if it was something you once excelled at. Consciously or unconsciously, we protect ourselves by avoiding intimacy when we’ve experienced rejection and heartbreak in the past.
Low sense of self-worth
When we don’t value ourselves, it’s impossible to see what value we could offer to other people. Feeling inadequate or like we aren’t good enough can make us run for the hills when it’s time to go deeper. This is because intimacy requires being seen — really seen — on a primal and soul-bearing level. Even when we can’t accept certain aspects of our inner-self, true intimacy requires us to expose those parts to the ones we seek a meaningful connection with.
Not having a secure attachment
The first three years of life are a critical period for children’s brain development. Whenever we expressed discontent, discomfort, or hurt, a parent most likely came in to soothe us, and let us know that what we were feeling was normal. They validated our feelings and they comforted us which is how we form a secure attachment. Deprivation over those years will result in persistent deficits in cognitive, emotional and even physical health. An insecure attachment – avoidant or anxious – is when we cried or expressed discontent and a parent didn’t show up. They either weren’t around or said things like, “oh, he’ll cry it out.” On the other hand, if we had smothering parents, they might have worried too much about how we felt and we might have picked up on their anxiety. We are all here to learn lessons. Simply accept that no childhood is perfect – or you wouldn’t be here. Welcome to Earth School.
When we grow up with an insecure attachment, we think that our emotions are not okay. We end up with thoughts like:
“No one is going to come to my rescue. Maybe I’m making this up? Maybe I don’t have the right to feel this way“
“I’m going to burden my parents so much. It’s going to be so stressful if I express what’s actually happening”
In both cases, the child’s belief is that the only safe way to exist is not to feel any of these emotions. So, we bury our feelings deep within ourselves and hope they go away. By the time we’re adults, we’ve never had a good experience with feelings and it becomes waaaaay too scary to let these emotions out. There are other factors that damage the ability to trust others as adults, regardless of a child’s secure attachment style. Sexual, physical, or emotional trauma or personality disorder absolutely increases fear of intimacy. Most people who struggle with a fear of intimacy are not even aware that they do. It only tends to come out through work or romantic relationships and it usually takes a while to even recognise this is something they struggle with.
“We want ourselves to be seen and to have been seen as we are; and we want just as much to veil ourselves and remain unknown, for behind every determination of our being lies dormant the unspoken possibility of being different.”
6 Hidden Clues you Might Have a Fear of Intimacy
- You must maintain your independence and freedom at all costs. Maybe you say things such as “I need a lot of space” or “I could never be with someone who isn’t completely self-sufficient.”
- You feel uncomfortable with too much closeness, even though you want to be close to others. You use distancing strategies such as sleeping in a different bed as your partner, travelling a lot, or living in a separate household for years.
- You tend not to open up. You have difficulties talking about what’s going on and certain topics are completely off-limits.
- During a disagreement, you seek to get away or you explode. You may remain distant and have difficulty understanding your partner’s views or feelings. You might say things like, “You know what, forget it. I don’t want to talk about it.”
- You describe yourself as a free spirit who has short relationships and multiple conquests. When you are in a relationship, you tend not to worry about your partner’s feelings or commitment toward you.
- You’re often on high alert for any signs of control or impingement on your territory by your partner.
Your emotions are like a compass. They are always telling you about what’s going on within you. If you’re thinking a thought, your emotions will always be reflecting the way you feel. They’ll let you know exactly where you stand at all times. It doesn’t matter if the feelings are reflective of a thought or perception that is accurate or not. Pay attention.
“There’s a rare and beautiful kind of intimacy that sparks when someone understands your mind.”
6 Elements of Intimacy
These facets also comprise the foundations of a deep connection and lasting relationship. Without these columns of meaningful connection, it is hard to maintain affection and even harder to hold on tight to your counterpart or the people you care for most when the going gets tough.
Knowledge of Each Other
A deep and intimate emotional connection centres around a raw and unflinching knowledge of one another. When we are truly close to someone, we share a vast amount of personal information that we wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing with others.
Trust in Each Other
We feel comfortable sharing ourselves with the people we love because we trust them. Trust is an integral part in any relationship, and it’s especially important in our most intimate connections. Trust is looking at who a person is (rather than who you wished them to be) and knowing that they have the integrity to do what they say they will. It’s not just believing the best of someone because that’s what you want to see, it’s seeing the reality and still feeling secure.
Honouring Each Other
Honour, like trust, is based around who our partner is in the moment, rather than who we wished they were. It is treating the people we love with respect, rather than dissing them, no matter where our emotions might take us. When you honour your partner, you respect them and their life path. You do not try to change them even when it’s in their best interest.
Gratitude for Each Other
While our stereotypical idea of love can often lead us down a path of judgement, gratitude is the main means by which we see past the flaws of our counterparts. Gratitude and judgement cannot coexist; when you’re grateful for someone (truly grateful) you are accepting of them in a way that is pure and unconditional.
Acceptance of Each Other
Accepting your partner for who they are entirely, but with a certain awareness. You cannot accept someone, truly, without knowing who they are – warts and all. This is not saying, “I make allowances for you,” it is saying, “I see your flaws, and I love you anyway…unconditionally.”
Vulnerability with Each Other
When we are vulnerable with someone, we open ourselves up to them and reveal wounds that are still bleeding and painful. Vulnerability is showing your whole heart and placing it into the keeping of another. It is one of the most beautiful and rewarding parts of any intimate partnership, but it is often one of the most fearsome factors to master. Vulnerability requires allowing yourself to be truly known by another person. If you’re someone who’s been hurt by the world, it is being known that makes intimacy hard.
“There is a secret about human love that is commonly overlooked: Receiving it is much more scary and threatening than giving it. How many times in your life have you been unable to let in someone’s love or even pushed it away? Much as we proclaim the wish to be truly loved, we are often afraid of that, and so find it difficult to open to love or let it all the way in.”
10 Techniques to Overcome Your Fear of Intimacy.
If you’re looking for a better way to get up-close-and-personal with someone you care about, then there are some solid techniques and exercises that can help you overcome this hurdle.
1. Stop letting your inner critic rule the day
Our inner critic is that harsh voice that tells us we aren’t good enough, or that we’ll never be able to make someone else happy. While it might be right about making other people happy (after all, happiness is an inside job), it’s usually not right when it comes to the overly-critical analysis of our choices and feelings. Those with loud inner critics often find themselves battling with feelings of low self-worth. This makes it hard for them to get close to others and even harder to get close to their own authentic self. The first step in managing your inner critic is self-awareness. Notice what triggers the most vicious outbursts and become a pro when it comes to shutting them down. Use positive self-talk to reframe the negative thoughts. Only when you become aware of your feelings and beliefs can you start to take charge of them and reframe them in a way that better suits you.
2. Cultivate self-confidence and let go of your insecurities
If you want to overcome your fears and insecurities, you have to spend time with them. Having an intimacy disorder is often a sign of low self-worth. Because of this, it’s vital for you to increase your confidence and start feeling good about yourself so that you can start feeling good about your relationships with others. Boosting your value in your own eyes will make all the difference.
3. Reflect over the past, but don’t linger
Looking back at the things that have come before is a great way to remember important life lessons. Dwelling in the past, however, is toxic to the present and it’s especially corrosive when it comes to our relationships. Consider the deepest, darkest parts of your past but consider how you have learned and grown from them as well. What is it about your current relationships and experiences that reaffirms your belief that intimacy is unsafe? Often, when we take a few brief moments to review recent events, we can come to some even more revealing conclusions. The trick is learning how to give it a glance, rather than dwelling and making yourself feel even worse. Negative repetitive thinking (rumination) is not healthy, and overcoming it is a process that takes conscious awareness and a committed effort. Negative or unwanted thoughts undermine your self confidence and leave you plagued with insecurities. Rather than allowing yourself to be distracted by what isn’t, you have to learn to focus on what is.
4. Decide what you want from life and love
You’ve probably heard that old adage that you can’t lead if you don’t know where you’re going. The same is true when it comes to leading the charge on personal change. Hesitation when it comes to intimacy can sometimes be linked to our general confusion over the whole concept. Take some time to imagine your ideal life circumstances and then imagine your ideal relationship. Consider the traits you want in a partner and the things you are not willing to tolerate. Think about hobbies and the general direction you want your life to take. Figuring out what you want from your entanglements (and your life) will allow you to make sense of your own desires and get to the root of what intimacy looks like for you. Reflective activities like this are great for helping us solve conflicts – especially the internal kind.
6. Take a look at your history
The brutal fact of the matter is that we aren’t born fearing intimacy. We learn that fear from our experiences and, over time, those experiences compound to form our beliefs. Figuring out what went wrong in your past can go a long way in helping you view your relationships from an entirely different perspective. By pinpointing the origins of your fear, you can start to consciously reply to these doubts and replace them with more positive viewpoints that allow you to embrace a new kind of closeness.
7. Dip your toe into vulnerability
It might seem counterintuitive, but practicing vulnerability is one of the best ways to overcome your fear of intimacy and rejection. Deliberately making yourself vulnerable is hard, but it’s one of the best ways to teach yourself that getting close to others isn’t always scary. You can start small, by simply challenging yourself to be a bit more friendly with someone at work or sharing a little-known fact about yourself with a friend or family member. Pick your timing well and ensure the other person is receptive. Being vulnerable is hard because it requires us to be ourselves in all our flawed entirety. It’s not putting on a mask and being the things you think other people want to see. It’s peeling back the layers and letting the people you love see the good things and the bad things that make you, you.
When you have an intimacy problem, it can often cause stress and anxiety — especially in those moments when getting close is called for. Relaxation activities can help you to relieve this stress and make it easier to get intimate. Find a quiet area free of distractions and think about what you want to achieve in your closest relationships. Acknowledge that you’re in a safe place and that your emotions are safe with those people. Focus on this positive reframing until you feel comfortable enough to open up to the people you love most. That won’t happen overnight, though. Give yourself time and take it slow.
9. Write a letter
Vocalising our fears is a difficult thing. Expressing the way we feel can embarrass us or make us feel silly. If you already have trouble opening up, chances are you aren’t going to feel comfortable talking to someone face-to-face, so sometimes a letter is the best option. Writing a letter, rather than confronting someone, can help us to feel more in control as we express ourselves – something that is comforting to our sensitive human brain. You can write a letter to yourself about your fears and you can also write a letter to your partner about how you feel. Discuss where your issues stem from and be honest and open about where you’re at and what you need. When you write about your desires, passions and fears you start to see them in a more realistic manner (which is, in itself, transformative). When you can see these things for what they are, you can start coming up with a plan to shift those emotions to where they need to be. Keep your letters safe, burn them or give them to the people you need to. The decision is ultimately yours. All that matters is that you get the words out of your heart and onto the paper. The longer you keep your fears locked up, the more poisonous they become.
10. Be curious about the people who matter
Intimacy isn’t just about sex. It’s about deep and meaningful connection. When we feel close to someone, it’s easier for us to let our guard down and be seen for who and what we are. Only when we are confident enough to be ourselves can we find our authentic self. It takes a lot of confidence to get there, but it often starts with one simple thing: curiosity. Be curious about yourself and the people in your life who matter. Connect with them by getting to know them and who they are on the inside as well as the outside. Curiosity is key for romantic relationships to thrive, and it opens up a dialogue that allows us to accept and trust one another. Being curious about your partner means being curious about their world and not just assuming you know who they are and what they want.
“He wanted to take her in his arms, he wanted to be utterly revealed to her,
he wanted her to understand.”
Be Your Badass Self
Fear of intimacy is common. Past experiences and the failures of our caregivers can make it hard for us to get close to others, but these intimate relationships are what give our life colour and meaning. By learning how to love other people, we can often learn to love ourselves, but that’s impossible to do when you don’t know how to open up. The first step in overcoming intimacy issues is understanding where the issue stems from and coming up with concrete steps to overcome those past traumas.
When you’re disconnected, the people around you will always reflect that back to you. Reality is a feedback loop to teach you by reflecting back to you the feelings you are trying to suppress. Disconnection from the people you perceive to be causing those feelings is not an escape from the feelings themselves. When you are terrified of strong emotions, force yourself to be present while practicing calming techniques. Let yourself embrace these feelings. It’s the only way to process the emotion, rather than create a vicious spiral of lost connection with a person you genuinely want to connect with.
“Love should be easy. Life is hard. Relationships are complicated.
But the love, that’s the one thing we should be able to count on.”
Difficult Roads Lead to Beautiful Destinations
In spite of what we’ve been told, what is most attractive to our authentic self is who will make our world larger rather than smaller. What we crave at our very core is growth – life itself is the ultimate turn on! It is the quality of our energy, our frequency that attracts or repels, regardless of our age, size or social standing. Those who choose to optimise their health and wellbeing psychologically, emotionally, energetically and physically create youthful vitality from the inside out. Whereas those who obsess over their appearance, trying to appear ‘perfect’ from the outside undermine their vibe with anxiety fed by insecurity. Our attractiveness to others is not how we look but how we feel because when we feel good, others feel good around us. How a person feels when they’re in our company is the ultimate magnet for connection. And, if you could only love enough, you could be the most powerful person in the whole entire world.
“Unlike traditional marriages that are committed to material safety and comfort, the spiritual partnership goes one step further and makes a commitment to mutual spiritual growth. Within spiritual partnerships, the focus is not just on us, our needs, our desires, and our petty grievances – instead, the focus gradually becomes local, national, and global.”
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