Fear of intimacy is understandable—and common—but the inability to overcome that fear will wreck your relationships. First, you need to recognize the subtle fear-of-intimacy signs, then you have to address the problem: Here’s what the experts recommend.
You’re angry—a lot
There are many types of anger, and it helps to figure out what type you’re expressing. A deep, subconscious fear of intimacy can rear its ugly head, showing up in response to a relationship that is becoming uncomfortably close, and one way this fear can manifest is via anger. “Constant explosions of anger indicate immaturity, and immature people cannot form intimate relationships,” says John Mayer, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Doctor On Demand. Everyone gets angry sometimes, but if you find feelings of anger bubbling up constantly, or inappropriately, a fear of intimacy may be lurking underneath. The fix may not be easy, or quick, but communicating your feelings to your partner can help. “Talking it out is key here. Foster vigorous, frequent, honest, and open communication. Don’t deny these issues exist, and put them on the table with the person you are interested in,” suggests Dr. Mayer.
You’re scared not to be perfect
We all want to be loved, warts and all, but that takes trust, and the ability to risk rejection. “People in relationships are constantly asking themselves, in one way or another, if they can trust the other person. Can they show their flaws, or risk being embarrassed? The way to move past this fear is to take measured risks,” says licensed marriage and family therapist, Jenn Kennedy. You can also gauge whether your partner is trustworthy by looking for these signs. Being loved for who you really are is an incredible gift, but you have to show your partner the real you, if it’s ever going to happen. “Give your partner the chance to show up for you, and see how it works out. If it goes well, risk doing something bigger, and more important,” suggests Kennedy, who also stresses the importance of verbalizing your fears, and feelings. “This is a great way to help the other person soften, and be more open. For example, if you say ‘I’m afraid you won’t respect, love, or find me attractive, if I do this,’ It lets your partner express a willingness to not reject you,” she explains. Nobody’s perfect. No matter who are you, or might have done in the past, coming clean about it will free you up, allowing emotional intimacy to take the place of fear.
You’re sexually immature
Maybe you love sex, but can’t connect with your partner during the act—ever. If so, your fear of intimacy may be fostering a level of sexual immaturity, which has nothing to do with chronological age. “Sexual immaturity can show up as excessive interest in porn, or in sex acts, as opposed to making love. Sexually immature individuals may also insist upon using toys, or the accoutrements of sex, rather than concentrating on their partner. It includes inattention to the other’s needs, and sole concentration on their own need for sexual release, or gratification,” says Dr. Mayer.
People with a fear of intimacy may also recoil from sex, altogether. Both ends of the spectrum display an inability to emotionally let go, or to communicate intimately. Dr. Mayer suggests letting yourself be emotionally naked towards each other, so that you are not afraid to bring up your fears, and insecurities. If you are able to do this in all aspects of your life, it will be easier to do it sexually, as well. “Remember, by doing this, you are allowing the other person to get to know the real you, and that’s the best path to intimacy and love,” he explains. If you think falling asleep after sex represents fear of intimacy, learn what science has to say about it here.