Merriam-Webster defines the word intimacy as:
“something of a private or personal nature” and/or “familiarity”.
There are a number of reasons that we can be afraid of intimacy. Two examples:
- Childhood issues, as in inability to attach to a caregiver, having been abandoned, etc.
- Past negative events of being intimate with others- abusive relationships, sexual assault, etc.
Either of these issues can set someone on a path of trying to keep themselves “safe”. This can be both good and bad- it’s good to protect yourself from those who may have bad intentions, but may not be so great when someone means well and just wants to get closer to you.
The fear of intimacy can keep you from getting close to others. It can also cause behaviors like:
- Purposefully pushing others away
- Keeping friendships and/or relationships superficial so the person can’t see who you really are
- Coming off as “cold” or “closed off” to others around you.
- Fear of abandonment and/or rejection.
“Some People Are Worth Melting For”- ” Frozen”
I can’t believe I used a “Frozen” quote but…it fits.
There was a point in my life in which I had become cold. I didn’t even realize it, which is very common. I’d been dealing with anxiety and depression due to my marriage issues. Things were so bad that I felt the need to protect myself emotionally so that I could keep going. I was basically on my own planet.
When your husband is emotionally and verbally abusive, it hurts. It changes you and your marriage permanently.
I was quiet, had lost some of my humor and kept to myself for the most part. I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t notice the tall, gorgeous man that kept trying to approach me at work.
That man was Jake.
I am forever grateful that I met him. He had a quiet, gentle spirit that helped me open up and heal. I was scared that I would get hurt (and I did) but somehow, I realized he was worth that risk.
He told me once that he didn’t know what to do because I kept brushing him off. I would literally walk away from him because I didn’t want to be bothered, but he kept trying- not in a mean or harassing way.
I apologized to him for seeming so cold- that’s not me at all, even then. I realized that I didn’t want to come off that way to others, so I tried my best to open up and let Jake in. It was one of my best ideas in years.
After his death, I had to address my marriage and where it was going. If we were going to stay together, I would have to work on my fear of being close to Matthew again.
I cried my way through lots of therapy sessions before I could decide to let myself take that risk again. Matthew had changed, so I needed to do the same.
I talked a lot about my fears and realized that I was the only one that could truly fix them. Over time, I’ve been able to be fully intimate, meaning emotionally and physically, with Matthew again. It’s helped our marriage a lot.
How Can I Make Changes?
Changes are definitely possible, but they may not be fun.
Coming to terms with this fear can be difficult, depending on individual circumstances. Some may require therapy. Some can work through this fear on their own.
Either way is okay. Everyone’s different and heals in their own way.
A few steps for facing the fear of intimacy:
- Think about it- what is it exactly that makes you fear intimacy so much?
- Write it out- this can help sort out your thoughts.
- Talk. Then talk some more. Rachel, my former therapist, once told me “If it’s on your mind and bothering you, you should probably say it.” I admit this was a big struggle for me, and it’s still an issue sometimes, but it is worth it.
- Get informed. This is a deep fear for many and there’s information all over the Internet. The information for this post is from Psych Mind
- Take small steps. Don’t rush into something because you’re trying to get past a fear. It may take years for intimacy to feel okay for you. Examples: Try opening up to someone you have wanted to but only about one topic. Let someone take care of you.
- Seek a therapist if this fear is keeping you from living your best life.
Forming a sense of intimacy with others can be tough. Facing this fear can create personal growth that you may not have expected.
Has intimacy been a problem for you? What has helped you face the fear OR what keeps you from facing it?