Center for Shared Insight, PC

Relationship Question Answered: How do I overcome my fear of intimacy?

March 26, 2017
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Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.
Couple kissing near the ocean

Intimacy is a necessary part of any healthy relationship. While it’s most common to think of intimacy as physical closeness, intimacy takes many important forms in a healthy relationship such as emotional closeness, friendship, intellectual alignment, and attachment. A close cousin to intimacy is vulnerability, which is a willingness to put yourself at risk for heartache, rejection, or abandonment, in order to be fully in a relationship. Both of these emotions take the courage to step outside your comfort zone and don’t come easy to everyone.

Fear of intimacy shows up in many forms and for a variety of reasons; three of which we’ll discuss here.

Perceived Limitations

Fear is sometimes rooted in feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and unworthiness. When you feel less than perfect, you can doubt your own self-worth and develop a fear of being close to others. This might manifest as body image issues, lack of confidence, defense mechanisms, or fear of abandonment or rejection stemming from past relationship experiences.

A therapist can be extremely helpful in working through these feelings and helping you understand why you view your body the way you do, why you let others treat you the way they do, and how you process past relational traumas. A trusted professional can also help you understand your best sources of self-confidence and better build this important attribute overtime. All love starts with self-love. Understanding the origins of your own personal limiting beliefs and how they impact your willingness to be intimate is instrumental to overcoming your fear of intimacy.

Attachment Style

Your attachment style is born out of the earliest relationship you have with caregivers, family, and close friends. The three most common styles are described in detail in a previous blog post and those styles are secure, anxious, avoidant, and unresolved/fearful.

Your attachment style describes your level of comfort with closeness, as well as expectations about how a loved one may respond to you. Those with avoidant attachment styles are more hesitant to become close to others as a general rule and appreciate more solo time, while anxious attachment styles desire greater closeness and might have unrealistic expectations about their partner’s comfort around intimacy.

Understanding your personal preferences in light of your attachment style will provide insight into whether these earliest relationships in your life now impact your willingness or fear to be intimate with others. Attachment style can change, slowly, and move towards secure, with the help of intentional work, best done with a therapist.

Emotional Intimacy

Communicating with emotional vulnerability is a good start to developing better intimacy. This includes openly sharing your deepest hopes, fears, desires, and needs without concern about how they will be received. Setting healthy boundaries that promote self-care and growth will also foster greater emotional intimacy within your relationships. When you take time to understand your specific needs, wants, and desires, you can be more effective in communicating them to your partner and developing a healthy give and take. If you are not in tune with what your needs, wants and desires are or have difficulty setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, spend some time individually or work with the help of a therapist, to help you identify and then communicate them. Mastering emotional intimacy is a good start to building comprehensive intimacy, which includes physical closeness, friendship, intellectual connection, and possibly even spiritual intimacy.

Embrace Fearlessness

Comfortable intimacy is something a couple strives for overtime, and can ebb and flow throughout the duration of a relationship. When it feels more challenging to find comfortable intimacy, practicing fearlessness is often a great tool. Intimacy takes courage and vulnerability. Inviting and welcoming intimacy is an attractive quality for partners, lovers, and friends alike. There is a realness or authenticity in intimate communication, interaction, and conversation.

Learning to live a fearless life is an approach very close to my heart. I recently completed an ebook “Fearless Living & Loving” which discusses this way of living and offer it as a free download. Follow the link below and get your copy or contact me to schedule a free consultation to understand actionable ways to overcome a fear of intimacy.

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