When you hear “fear of intimacy,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you probably assume this means being afraid to let someone get close to you physically or sexually. But that’s only part of the intimacy equation. Intimacy is giving yourself permission to ask for what you need, express how you’re feeling, and to give another person the privilege of seeing and experiencing who you really are — the really raw, authentic parts of you that you tend to keep very private.
Based on my personal and professional experience, I believe we all struggle with a fear of intimacy in different forms at different stages of our lives. In fact, I think it’s a normal, innate part of being human. But if we don’t recognize this fear and work through it, we end up unintentionally pushing away our friends and loved ones. While you may use your fear of intimacy as a coping strategy to soothe yourself and feel safe, from the outside you may appear closed off and disinterested.
Here are the top five signs that you may have a fear of intimacy:
You have trust issues
Do you often question whether someone is being authentic or whether you can be honest with them? Intimacy is fostered by trust, and trust supports us in being vulnerable. Without trust, you can’t fully embrace all levels of intimacy or feel extremely safe with someone.
You don’t ask for what you need
Communication is key to any relationship. In order for you to experience intimacy with someone, you must be able to hear, share, and support each other’s needs and requests.
You struggle with your emotions
Ugh, we’ve all grappled with trying to figure out difficult feelings, right? It’s often easier for us to move away from pain and discomfort rather than articulating what we’re feeling, and that may be because we’re afraid of expressing or feeling those things. But guess what? If you dismiss your own emotions, you’re most likely dismissing your friends’/partner’s too, and this only perpetuates a disconnect in understanding.
You push people away when you need them most
When you’re going through tough times, it helps to lean on friends and loved ones for support. But if you fear intimacy, you probably tend to push people away because you’d prefer to suffer alone than to be vulnerable with your emotions.
You can never say you’re sorry
Knowing that you’re wrong is one thing, and saying you’re sorry is another. It can take a lot of effort for us to admit a mistake and apologize, as it can make us feel like we’re putting the other person in a position of power. If you struggle with telling someone you’re sorry, you’re uncomfortable letting your guard down. And you probably assume that whoever you’ve wronged will kick you when you’re down.
Once the fear is realized, it becomes easier to overcome. Working through the fear of intimacy can be done by becoming more self-aware and emotionally empowered. Interested? Consider working with a coach or therapist, and practicing mindfulness through journaling and a meditation practice.