Human beings need to have meaningful relationships with other people to be happy.
To us, being loved is a necessity, and without that feeling of belonging, we can never truly be content.
Love is a basic human need, something that we can’t live meaningful lives without.
Yet in some cases, even when it’s right before us, we still find it out of our reach.
Being in a loving relationship with another person can be both an incredible and a terrifying experience.
That’s because such a relationship implies a certain level of emotional and physical closeness that many people are not comfortable with.
Due to that avoidance of intimacy, many people find themselves experiencing short and shallow relationships that they can’t fully enjoy or appreciate.
If you are one of those people then you should know that you are not alone.
Some resources suggest that roughly 17% of people are afraid of intimacy in some way, shape or form.
Luckily for you, given time, there are many ways for you to overcome this fear.
What causes the fear of intimacy?
Generally speaking, the fear of intimacy can be either physical and/or emotional.
Many of those who avoid emotional intimacy use acts of physical intimacy, such as sex, to avoid having to share their feelings with their partner.
Similarly, people who have a fear of physical intimacy tend to be more emotionally open but also tend to avoid the physical aspects of a relationship.
There are many things that can cause a person to be afraid of intimacy
Some people have a hard time trusting others while others struggle with their low self-esteem.
Either way, it is important to recognize your problems, whatever they may be.
In fact, understanding your fear is the first step to overcoming it.
1) Fear of rejection
Nobody likes the feeling of rejection.
Whether this is your first serious relationship or one of many, the pain or rejection doesn’t get any easier to bear.
By “pain” I mean having your partner reject your advances, lose interest in your relationship or maybe even find someone else.
And yes, when I say pain I do mean pain.
Multiple studies have demonstrated that rejection stimulates the brain in the same way that physical pain does.
Rejection isn’t just unpleasant, it actually hurts
This kind of distrust is more common among those who experienced heartbreak before.
Similarly, heartbreak also affects our brain in the same way that physical pain does.
In other words, people don’t like being hurt, and actively avoid things that may cause them pain.
Moreso in the case where they have already experienced such heartbreak before.
2) Low self-esteem
It should be noted that the fear of intimacy is typically considered to be a social phobia.
That isn’t to say that people who avoid intimacy have a hard time with crowds or personal conversations, but they do struggle in similar ways with specific people.
Namely their partners.
Many people believe that they are simply not good enough to sustain the relationship.
This can be due to multiple reasons, such as lacking in experience or having low self-esteem.
They tend to put themselves down and avoid deepening the connection with their partner out of fear for being called out on their shortcomings.
3) Attachment avoidance
Attachment theory attempts to categorize the ways that we form bonds with other people.
Our needs, desires, and requirements regarding our interactions with other people.
Attachment styles are learned through past experiences, usually from our parents.
For example, when we express our needs as children, the way that our parents address those needs will affect the way that we regard relationships altogether.
If our past relationships with other people, not necessarily romantic once, were, superficial and short then we will learn to treat other relationships the same way.
One study concluded that about 20% of people are attachment avoidant, feeling uncomfortable with any level of intimacy with other people.
Those who find themselves in this category will take more time to open up to their partners.
4) Trust Issues
At its absolute core, a relationship needs, first and foremost, trust.
Relationships that do not have that core value to them are not going to succeed.
In fact, some studies suggest that it is the most important factor in a relationship.
If you do not trust your partner, for whatever reason, you will have a hard time opening up to them.
This, in turn, will make your relationship very shallow, with you being together for several months or even years without actually knowing anything about one another.
After all, for many people physical intimacy can only come after emotional intimacy – they have to really get to know the person before they feel comfortable around them.
One cause for distrust is, as I have said before, past experiences.
A few other examples would be childhood trauma, social anxiety or even simply an introverted, shy, personality.
5) Lack of attraction
Maybe there is not much chemistry between the two of you.
Maybe your attraction was a spark that was quick to die out.
Or maybe, once you got to know each other better, you did not enjoy each others company.
It doesn’t really matter.
The point is that some relationships were simply not meant to be.
For example, you wouldn’t want to kiss someone who you aren’t attracted to, right?
This is actually the best case scenario.
It means that you aren’t afraid of intimacy so much as you choose to avoid closeness with a specific person.
In this case, simply finding a different partner might solve all of your problems.
Either that or reigniting the flames of your relationship, whichever comes easier to you.
How to overcome the fear of intimacy
The fear of intimacy is not a pretty thing.
Some forms of fear, such as a fear of snakes, will probably not be such a big deal in your daily life.
After all, how often do you have to deal with snakes? Even if you do, avoiding them is always an option.
The fear of intimacy is different in the sense that it actively creates a rift between you and your partner.
You can’t really forge a meaningful relationship with this kind of obstacle getting in your way, regardless of how much you want to.
As it turns out, however, it is very possible to overcome this fear – The only thing that you need is time.
That, and the acceptance of your partner.
1) Get to know each other better
It is important to understand that most successful relationships are founded on principles of friendship rather than pure love and attraction.
Many would even argue that love by itself is never enough to sustain a relationship.
In fact, to many people, intimacy, be it physical or emotional, can only come after creating a bond with their partner.
Get to know each other better -Talk about your hobbies, interests, dreams for the future and the like.
Use all of that knowledge to build a core of familiarity with one another.
At the most basic level, trust is absolutely crucial for any relationship to succeed.
To certain people gaining that trust might be difficult due to personal reasons, but it is still possible.
By going through the standard phases of friendship you can become more comfortable with the other person, with the two of you learning to trust one another.
2) Talk about your problems
Look, nothing is more important in a relationship than communicating your problems to one another.
There are many studies that prove this statement, claiming that proper communication is one of the secrets for a healthy relationship.
Besides, it’s not as though your problems are going to disappear just because you avoid talking about them with your partner.
It’s quite the opposite actually.
For example, should you choose to actively avoid intimacy and avoid talking about it you are only going to increase the rift between yourself and your partner.
The biggest issue with this is that being open about your problems also leaves you vulnerable, something that many people who are afraid of intimacy would try to avoid at all costs.
The thing is, you need to take that leap of faith, and your partner is likely going to accept you regardless.
After all, relationships are a two-way street, and they chose you just as much as you have chosen them.
3) Seek professional help
A lot of people who could truly benefit from counseling actively avoid it due to certain stigmas and misconceptions that surround the topic.
Look, the fact is that you have a problem, one that you may or may not be able to deal with on your own.
If you can handle it by yourself – Great! In many cases the fear of intimacy rooted in a lack of familiarity or low self-esteem, both can be solved by simply getting to know your partner and being more comfortable around them.
Some issues, however, are rooted in much darker places.
Childhood trauma, an obsessive fear of abandonment or even a mental disorder can all make intimacy extremely difficult.
In cases such in these, getting professional help is highly recommended.
Meeting with a couples counselor or a therapist can go a long way in helping you to overcome this problem.
Overcoming the fear of intimacy takes time
The fear of intimacy, be it physical or emotional, can be traced (for the most part) to very similar causes.
In many cases, communicating your problems to your partner, and learning to trust them, will go a long way in helping you with your intimacy avoidance.
In other cases, where the issue is rooted in more internal problems, such as childhood trauma or a disorder, seeing a professional is highly recommended.
Finally, in cases where the problem is rooted in shame, low self esteem and a lack of confidence, certain methods can help you overcome your fear over time.
In these cases, I would highly recommend The Shyness and Social Anxiety System.
With it, you will learn how to stop feeling shame and start developing self confidence.
If you are having these types of problems then you should defenitely give it a go.
If you have any other questions feel free to contact me by sending an email or posting your question in the comment section below – I would love to hear from you!