What is Intimacy?
Intimacy is mistakenly thought to just be about romance.
But intimacy is part of all our relationships, whether it is one with a partner, friend, family member, or colleague.
The verb ‘intimate’ translates as ‘to make known’.
Intimacy means letting yourself be closely known, even as you make an effort to deeply know and experience others.
And intimacy is increasingly shown by psychological studies to be a very important part of modern life. Yes, you can ‘survive’ without it. But you can’t thrive. Not letting yourself connect to others leads to severe if hidden loneliness, depression, anxiety, health issues, and even, according to recent studies, a shortened life span.
Not sure if your problem is or isn’t anything to do with fear of intimacy? Take a look at these surprising signs.
7 Signs You Suffer Fear of Intimacy
1. You never sit still.
Are you one of those people who is always busy, your life full to the maximum? If you do have down time, do you immediately think of what you can do to fill it? Or are you known as a workaholic?
Behind a fear of intimacy is a fear of facing up to yourself and what you perceive (erroneously) as your weaknesses.
An intimacy-phobic person fears others getting close because they would then see these apparent ‘flaws’, which can be feelings of sadness, anger, shame and grief.
Being constantly busy all the time means you can avoid such feelings so effectively you can deny that you have them at all. Even better, you have the perfect excuse to not have time for other people who are trying to get close. You are busy. So your days remain full of tasks, and people remain kept at bay.
2. You are known as someone who is very positive.
Do you come across as someone who never gets upset, is always strong, and in a ‘good’ state of mind?
The truth about human nature is that we don’t bond over strength but weaknesses. Sure, we can bump chests and high five over group wins, but we form long lasting bonds when we see each other vulnerable and have a chance to share empathy.
So always being forcefully upbeat is often a tactic to hide parts of ourselves and avoid deep connection.
3. You are the strong one others turn to.
Are you always listening to others talk about their wants and needs? If they try to ask about you, do you change the conversation back so that they are the subject again?
This habit of deflecting any focus away from yourself might see you come across as a ‘real friend’.
But deep down, you might be left feeling terribly lonely if your constant focus on other people’s problems is being used as a shield for you to hide yourself behind.
4. You appear perfectly put together. Always.
Do you always seem perfect and flawless?
The more perfect you appear externally, the less others can see that you are human and weak just like they are, and the less they will dare get close.
Your perfectionism acts as a way to intimidate others, and it keeps you too busy for relationships, anyway.
5. You are sure you know exactly what you want in a partner, you just haven’t found him/her yet.
Do you keep a ‘list’ of exactly what you want in a partner?
Another form of perfection, the ‘ideal mate list’ is usually something that nobody can live up to, and is a convenient way to brush off connecting with others by claiming ‘I am sure of what I want and you just aren’t it.’
Of course, as an intimacy phobic person, even if you did stumble across your ideal partner, you wouldn’t choose them. Intimacy phobes are after one thing, and that is to avoid being hurt.
So you will pick someone who is emotionally unavailable (already taken, not looking for love, still hung up on someone else).
Or you’ll find someone codependent – wanting to find their happiness through another and willing to manipulate to get it.
Intimacy phobic people are in fact often called ‘counter dependent‘ . This is the other ‘half’ of the codependency pattern, the aloof one to match the codependent’s voracious need.
6. You are many different things to many different people.
Do you secretly have no idea how to be your real self? Are you so used to hiding the parts of yourself that you don’t like that you mould yourself to be what you think others want?
This could be called ‘Marilyn Monroe syndrome’. Everyone who claimed they knew her well had a different take on who the ‘real’ Marilyn was. The girl next door, the siren, the secretly intelligent woman. The real truth was that she was lonely and felt that nobody knew her.
If someone falls for an image of you they want to see (but which you willingly provide), how can you be hurt if they decide they don’t like the image? You can just laugh at them and claim, “Well you didn’t really know me, anyway”.
7. You have very strong opinions.
Strong opinions can be like a way of pushing others back. If you offer enough of them, or become known for them, others are scared off or tiptoe around you. You thus avoid any real intimacy.
This sounds like me. What do I do?
The good news is that you can overcome a fear of intimacy. There are ways to learn how to connect, if you are willing to put in the time and effort into what can be a long (but worthwhile) journey.
The first step is to get out of denial about your fear of intimacy and admit that there is an issue. (Which you are probably already doing if you have found this article.)
The next best step is to seek support and help. This might be the assistance of a few good books on the subject at first.
Therapy is highly recommended to overcome fear of intimacy. As a deep-rooted issue which inevitably has roots in your back childhood, fear of intimacy can be challenging to unravel. A professional counsellor or therapist can help you do so a lot faster.
Therapy also offers you a chance to form a relationship based on trust. For many, the therapist-client relationship is their first time trusting another, and can be a place to try out ways of relating you can then take out into the world.
The wonderful thing about learning not to fear intimacy is that not only will your intimate relationships improve, but so too will your friendships, your ability to work with colleagues, and your capacity to actually create the life you want for yourself.
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