Have you ever been in a relatively new relationship and felt a need to exit the relationship for no apparent reason? You might have a fear of intimacy. Those who are afraid of intimacy avoid becoming emotionally or physically vulnerable to others.
They often pull away once they begin to get close to someone – ending relationships before they’ve had a chance to flourish. Sometimes this fear of intimacy is conscious, and the person is aware of their fears. Other times people are subconsciously afraid of intimacy – and they may not know why they behave in ways that push others away. It can be challenging to establish a level of self-awareness that recognizes this subconscious fear of becoming close to someone. Shutting emotions down before they surface is a typical response to emotional trauma. And identifying emotions that don’t emerge, isn’t easy. It may take a series of unstable, uncommitted or unhealthy relationships before someone realizes they have a problem.
If you’ve noticed a common theme in your relationships that centres around fear, check out some of the signs that suggest you may have a fear of intimacy.
- You Say You Want It, But You Hardly Try
This one can be difficult to identify. On the one hand, you do want to be close to someone. You do want to be in a relationship. On the other hand, you don’t put in enough effort to acquire or maintain one. When you chat online or through text, do you help carry the conversation by asking questions, giving details, and listening? Or do you only offer vague responses and let the conversation die?
When you engage socially, are you approachable, and do you attempt to approach others? Or do you spend the whole time staring at your screen? When you’re in a relationship, do you work hard to create a healthy environment where you can be open and communicate effectively? Or do you withdraw as soon as the road gets bumpy?
You might tell yourself that you want to find love, but if you’re not putting in the effort, your subconscious mind doesn’t desire intimacy – because it’s afraid.
- You’re Terrified Of Being Abandoned
Being afraid of losing someone is natural. Grief isn’t a fun or desirable emotion. But when a fear of intimacy is the problem, a fear of abandonment often stems from feelings of low self-worth. Those who feel this way, often believe they are undeserving of love, and that their love will not last.
When something good comes their way, they have a hard time accepting it – because they believe with complete certainty that they will lose it. This fear of abandonment might lead you to avoid intimate relationships altogether. This way, you don’t have to face rejection, disappointment, or loss.
- You Have A History Of Picking The Wrong Types Of Partners
Avoiding a situation where you might lose someone you value, doesn’t always translate to being alone. You might just choose people who you know subconsciously you won’t future with. If you tend to pick partners who have low expectations, don’t put in the effort, or aren’t interested in long-term relationships, that could signal a fear of intimacy. And you might not even realize you’re doing this.
It could manifest in partners whose company you don’t genuinely enjoy. Or it might look like a series of random hookups. Both will leave you feeling empty, but your subconscious mind will think it’s safe.
Alternatively, you might choose people who aren’t interested in you. Knowing they will reject you, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy of getting abandoned.
- You Keep Your Partner Away From Your Friends And Family
Introducing your partner to your close friends and family members is a big step in a relationship. It shows that you’re both interested in taking it to the next level. If you actively avoid situations where your partner spends time with your family and friends, you might not be ready for this step.
Have you ever asked yourself why? You might be afraid of embarrassing stories, photos, or family members – but you’re most likely scared of what sharing your life (your whole life) with someone else means. If you’re hesitant about sharing your personal life with your partner, you’re probably afraid of intimacy.
- You Don’t Grow From Conflict
Believe it or not, happy and healthy couples fight. Conflict is a massive catalyst for emotional intimacy and growth. Staying connected with, actively listening to, and caring for your partner during difficult moments will bring you closer together.
If you avoid these opportunities to gain intimacy, it might appear as aggression during conflict, or as unreasonable demands, withdrawal, or silence. When these behaviours arise, it means that your body has activated its fight or flight responses – because your brain doesn’t feel safe being close to another person, or handling conflict appropriately.
- You Become Closer To Other People
If you avoid becoming emotionally invested in your partner, you won’t tell them deep or personal information. Instead, you could find yourself opening up to someone outside of your relationship. Do you find yourself talking to a co-worker, an acquaintance, or someone random you met in an online chat about personal information – like your fears, hopes, or dreams? And at the same time, do you keep that information away from your current partner?
Talking about deeply personal topics will build emotional intimacy with your partner. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing that information with them, it could be a sign that you’re afraid of intimacy.
- You Become Defensive Easily
When someone is afraid of intimacy, they usually don’t give their full attention or effort when in a relationship. Their partner may express their dissatisfaction and bring up their emotional needs. For example, your partner may simply ask you to put down your phone and pay more attention to them. But instead of looking at it as a good thing that they want to connect with you, you lash out.
This defensiveness might turn into aggression, but it could also take the form of self-blame – putting you in the victim’s position. Instead of facing the problem, taking responsibility, and reaching a compromise, you might check out emotionally. This defence mechanism can feel overwhelming, and by preventing moments of emotional growth, you avoid intimacy.
- You Sabotage Your Relationships
If you’re afraid of emotional intimacy, you’ll do anything to escape intimate situations – even if that means ruining a great relationship. Those who fear intimacy, often feel uncomfortable in healthy relationships. Instead of becoming close over time, they create ‘problems’ to sabotage the relationship.
For example, they may become unfaithful in order to maintain their distance. Whether you sabotage your relationship because you’re not happy in it, or because it’s becoming too real, this self-defence against intimacy pushes you to avoid emotional connections – even if it’s on a subconscious level.
- You Prioritize Jobs And Hobbies Instead Of Relationships
If you’re afraid of intimacy, creating intimate moments and emotional connections is not at the top of your to-do list. Instead, you prioritize other things. For example, you might find yourself over-committed to your job. You’re always on call, checking emails and taking phone calls. Maybe you stay after hours when you don’t need to. Or, you spend all your free time on your hobbies. Either way, by prioritizing these things above your relationship, you create distance between yourself and your partner. Instead of facing your fear of intimacy, you’re running away from it with these distractions.
- Your Friendships May Suffer
Intimacy doesn’t always entail romance and sexuality. It also refers to being close to another person and connecting with them in an authentic and caring way. If you’re afraid of being emotionally intimate, you might also avoid getting too close to friends, and even family members.
Those who have a deep fear of intimacy, usually don’t have emotionally connected friendships – as they keep prefer to keep others at a distance.
If you think you may have a fear of intimacy, know that you’re not alone. It’s estimated that around 17% of people struggle with this. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change. Intimacy is an essential part of any meaningful and healthy relationship – whether romantic, platonic, or familial.
If you notice that you’re always pushing others away, sabotaging your relationships, and avoiding intimate moments, you should ask yourself why. Understanding why these behaviours feel like second nature can help you move on. It can also aid you in maintaining the kinds of relationships that you deserve and genuinely do desire.
How have these ten signs revealed themselves in your life? Are you working through your fear of intimacy? Share your experience in the comments below.