Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Patricia Lamas LCSW
What Your Fear Of Intimacy Means & 3 Exercises To Help
Published May 21st, 2021 & updated on May 21st, 2021
We’ve all seen those couples that aren’t afraid to smooch anywhere and everywhere — whether it be a busy hallway at school, the water cooler at work, or in any other public place. But you’re just not a fan of PDA (or even intimate moments behind closed doors for that matter!). In fact, your fear of intimacy has come up in multiple relationships and makes you feel like you have to explain yourself to whoever you bond with.
You’re defs not alone! Around 17% of adults struggle with intimacy avoidance in their relationships. It can feel SO overwhelming when you don’t have the capacity for the emotional demands that come up in a relationship. And it’s even worse when someone accuses you of not caring or not being there for them! But you DO care, you just find it hard to show it.
What Is Intimacy?
Intimacy is the closeness between people in any personal relationship — and this doesn’t just apply to romantic partners. There’s a common misconception that intimacy = sex, but you can have sex without intimacy and intimacy without sex! And we’re gonna show you just how much deeper it gets.
5 Types Of Intimacy
Intimacy is actually hella complex because it’s not just you and another person enjoying spending time together. There are actually 5 different ways you can be intimate with someone. And, you can feel just one, some, or all of these.
- Emotional: You feel safe to let your walls down and share anything with someone. You can truly be yourself.
- Physical: Physical and sexual intimacy is about the closeness between two bodies (kissing, cuddling, sex).
- Intellectual: You both exchange ideas and have meaningful conversations. You’ve also felt that ‘spark’ with each other.
- Experiential: This is built by sharing common interests and spending lots of quality time together.
- Spiritual: You are on the same wavelength about your spirituality and both believe you were meant to be in each other’s lives.
These things might seem pretty straightforward to someone who doesn’t have intimacy issues, but they’re a lot easier said than done when closeness doesn’t come easy to you. So, let’s dive into what may be causing your fear of intimacy!
Why Am I Afraid Of Intimacy?
There are a few things that can affect how you view and experience intimacy. A big one is your attachment style. If you have an avoidant attachment style, you’re less likely to show sensitivity and vulnerability towards others. You likely grew up not getting any from your parents. (Childhood abuse or neglect can also play a part here.)
Another factor that may make you wary of intimacy is having been in a verbally or physically abusive relationship before. Of course, you’re going to be scared to let your guard down! It may have been abusive to the point that you never want to be controlled (or lose yourself) in a relationship like that ever again — so much so that you climb up into your shell and never plan on coming out!
9 Ways It Shows Up
If you’ve faced any of these challenges in your past or grew up with an avoidant attachment style, there are a few ways that your fear of intimacy will come to the surface.
- Low self-esteem
- Trust issues
- Bouts of anger
- Avoidance (of emotion, physical contact, etc.)
- Avoiding physical contact
- Not being able to form or commit to relationships
- A history of unstable relationships
- Not being able to express emotions or share feelings
- Choosing individuality over mutuality
Someone may point these out to you and say it means you don’t care about them when, really, it’s your way of coping with intimacy-related trauma! When you’re scared to get intimate with someone, you’ll tend to be a serial dater or have lots of short-term relationships that end before anything gets too serious.
If you’re screaming “YEP” to all of these points right now, we’ve got some tips to help you get over your fear so you can start to experience how great intimacy can really be.
3 Ways To Overcome Your Fear Of Intimacy
Even though it’s completely normal, your avoidance of closeness and lack of intimacy may bother you. You want to show that special someone that you care about, rather than just feel it silently. A good way to start to beat that fear is to try intimacy-building exercises together!
Sit with your partner eye-to-eye with your knees touching for 5 minutes and just see what happens! There might be some laughter at first, but once you get through that awkwardness you will notice the two of you connecting and really seeing each other for who you are. You might even be left with a trance-like feeling when those 5 minutes are up because you were able to sit in the present moment together and relax.
2. The Couples Jar
Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Time to get out a mason jar and some colourful paper! The idea behind this exercise is to write down 5 positive things for each negative thing that happens. For example, if your partner didn’t make you feel heard, write down how they did the dishes and cooked you dinner. This helps you focus on the good things about your bond and realize that they outweigh the bad things.
3. Special Dates
Make the time for dates together! Be sure to set aside at least one hour of fun. Whether it’s hiking, walking, a quiet dinner, or even just putting your electronics away for an hour! Having that space to just be with each other can help you feel more comfortable in one another’s presence and allows you to open up.
Give these things a try and see what happens! And if you want to really dig deep into your fear of intimacy, we highly recommend therapy! A mental health professional will be able to help you figure out where your fear of intimacy comes from and work through your trauma. It’s all about learning and growing!