intimacy issues | fear of intimacy | fear of intimacy | fear of intimacy

Are Intimacy Issues with the One You Love
Causing You Pain and Heartache?

Intimacy issues in a young woman - dealing with fear of intimacy

Fear of intimacy: Does this phrase cause you to roll your eyes in exasperation? Or does it strike a nerve and leave a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? For those who don't understand it, it may sound like a common catch phrase to excuse undesirable behavior in a relationship. But for those of you who experience intimacy issues firsthand – or see them in someone you love - it can be very frustrating, leaving you to wonder "what's wrong with me or my partner?"

Let's get clear on what intimacy is. Intimacy is not purely physical. It includes the ability to emotionally open up, trust, and experience a closeness in every aspect of a relationship. Not to be confused with sex and romance, intimacy develops over time between two people through trust, vulnerability, physical connectedness, and sharing with one another on an emotional level. And speaking of vulnerability... although fear of vulnerability is often entwined with fear of intimacy, the two, although related, are not the same. Being vulnerable is being able to show your true self – whether it's to the world or close friends or family members. But intimacy is SHARING yourself with someone on a deep relationship level, in a give and take kind of way.

Signs of Intimacy Problems

So, what are some signs that you – or someone you love - may have intimacy problems?

    Serial dating - Going from one partner to the next, moving on before intimacy has a chance to develop.

    Seeking out relationships in which you feel a sense of control, in an attempt to avoid vulnerability.

    Sabotaging relationships with people you care about.

    Avoiding situations that bring about feelings of vulnerability.

    Testing your partner's commitment and love for you, time and time again – no matter how often they "prove" themselves to you.

And the causes of intimacy issues are as varied as the situations life may throw your way. Maybe you were impacted by witnessing your parents fighting or hurting each other as a child. Perhaps you experienced a trauma, or were on the receiving end of mental or physical abuse. Being hurt deeply by someone you're supposed to trust can have lasting effects, leading you to withdraw emotionally or physically in future relationships in an attempt to protect yourself from feeling the pain of betrayal or abandonment. Depression can also play a role in intimacy issues. Ultimately, those who fear intimacy typically (but not always) fear abandonment, loss of their identity, or both. What results is a yo-yo effect of pushing your partner away, only to feel the panic of abandonment kick in and the need to pull them back in. This is exhausting for everyone involved!

But why should you go to battle with your fears? Why not leave "well enough" alone? Let's face it. Love is a roller coaster ride. It's exciting, scary, fulfilling, and unpredictable. But for some of us, the risk of pain is too much to bear. Yet ironically, by trying to protect ourselves from pain and vulnerability, we're actually isolating ourselves further and perpetuating the cycle of disappointment and unfulfillment. As humans, our very existence revolves around and depends on social relationships.

Fear of Intimacy -
Mending the Wounded Heart

So now what? For the person struggling with issues of intimacy, the first step is to consciously work on changing your perception of yourself. Begin seeing yourself as worthy of love and intimacy. Because once you start realizing your worth, rejection will no longer feel like the end of the world. And by pinpointing the underlying cause of these fears, you can start taking steps toward healing yourself and experiencing life on a richer level.

And for those of you who are invested in a relationship in which your partner has a fear of intimacy, what do you do? Encouraging your partner to share their childhood experiences that impacted his or her view on relationships can be a good starting point in uncovering deep rooted fears. But if the source of the fear stems from a traumatic experience that happened later in life, counseling for both you and your partner is highly recommended.

Remember, intimacy issues can be very complex and deeply rooted, especially if the pain of abuse or trauma is involved. This is where professional guidance can make a huge difference. A trained and trusted counselor can help "uncloud" these perceptions and offer help in developing the tools needed for healing and growth. And although these changes take time, effort, and can seem utterly daunting, the rewards are well worth it.

If you decide that the best thing to do is leave your partner, a Life Coach can guide you through that pain and help you heal. A Life Coach can also work with you to help you get emotionally healthy again - and help you get ready for a relationship that's more rewarding!

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