Do you struggle from intimacy issues, and an inability to connect to others?
Or do you worry that you will never have a good relationship or friends you can count on, even as you long to know what it feels like to trust and love another?
Here are some concepts and tools you can work with to help you get closer to people.
How to Overcome Intimacy Issues
1. Choose differently.
Does every relationship you try to have end up proving to you that you should not bother to get close to people, because they always disappoint you?
The very people who struggle most with intimacy issues tend to be the same ones who will choose relationships with people that are emotionally unavailable or manipulative.
If you try to connect with someone who isn’t really interested in connection, it won’t work. And you will sadly take it as ‘proof’ you can’t have relationships.
You can. But you need to learn how to choose different types of people. Stop rushing into things before you know someone, and spend time learning the signs of healthy relationships and healthy people. (Our free Guide to Healthy Relationships is a good place to start.)
2. Drop assumptions.
Do you ask people what they think or feel before acting on things? Or do you assume you know what they are thinking, then react?
Assumptions block us from seeing people as they are and can even see us living in a false, paranoid reality where we push people away over things that aren’t true.
Unless you can read minds, the only way to truly know what someone thinks and feels is to learn how to ask. Listen to what someone says, then ask them what they mean. If you aren’t sure, ask them for more clarity, or to confirm if what you are hearing is correct.
3. Learn about perspective.
Do you think the way you see things is always right, meaning you tend to make others wrong?
People tend to back away from knowing you if they are constantly told ‘you are wrong’.
Actually, there often is no right and wrong, merely perspective. We all see life from the angle of our own values and personalities. Ten people can be at the same event, and all will tell a different story.
There is an old saying that suggests we try ‘walking a mile in another person’s shoes’. What would life look like if you were the other person? Can you try imagining?
4. Invest in self-knowledge.
Do you change who you are depending on who you are around?
For others to connect to us, they need to be able to see who we are in the first place. If your sense of self is weak, it can mean others struggle to understand you and you are left feeling lonely. Learn how to pay attention to what you feel, what your personal values are, and what boundaries work for you.
Tools like journalism and mindfulness are very helpful here (you can use our free Guide to Mindfulness).
5. Learn how to trust yourself.
Do you doubt your own thoughts and feelings?
It’s so easy to focus on others being hard to trust. But if you don’t trust others, the truth might be that you don’t trust yourself. You don’t know what you’ll do next, or can’t trust yourself to make decisions that keep you safe and happy.
Slow down with the next decision you are asked to make. What is it you really want here? What decision would show good self-care?
Learn to ask good questions of yourself. You might also find mindfulness is also a way to get in touch with what you want more easily.
6. Try self-compassion.
Do you secretly criticise others?
Others will back away from intimacy with you if they sense you are criticising them.
Behind critical thoughts towards others is inevitably criticism towards ourselves. So the best way to stop being hard on others is actually to work on giving ourselves a break.
By learning to be more gentle with yourself using self-compassion, you will by default also raise your self-esteem. And this, too, makes relationships easier.
7. Challenge your core beliefs.
Do you deep down just think you are not loveable, flawed, or somehow not as good as anyone else?
Core beliefs are assumptions about ourselves, others, and the worlds we mistake for facts. Unless we recognise and challenge these core beliefs we developed in childhood, we can spend our whole life making decisions under their false perspective. Such decisions will, of course, ‘prove’ the belief as ‘right’.
What proof do you actually have that you are unlovable (or flawed, or not good enough, or hopeless..). Is it possible this is just something that negative childhood experiences taught you?
What would life look like if the opposite were true? What new decisions would you make?
When is it time to get support?
Intimacy issues often come from traumatic childhood experiences, or from childhoods where we just didn’t get a chance to develop healthy attachment to a parental figure. We were not able to trust them to be there for us regardless.
Trauma can be hard to navigate, and the support of a professional therapist or counsellor creates a safe space for you to process the repressed emotions and negative thoughts that arise. A good therapist can help you work on all the tools in this article, and help you learn to connect to others in all new ways.
A therapist can also help rule out if it is a personality disorder blocking your ability to connect with others, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), or if you might have something like Aspergers syndrome.
Would you like to work with a therapist that specialises in intimacy issues? Harley Therapy connects you with experienced therapists in four London locations, as well as worldwide via Skype.
Still have a question about intimacy issues and how to connect to others? Ask in our public comment box below.