When you suffer from intimacy issues, it means you have a fear of intimacy, or a fear of being close with another person. These issues might seem like the opposite of being clingy, but both are unhealthy.
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There are four types of intimacy, and intimacy issues can affect any or all of them:
- Intellectual — sharing thoughts
- Experiential — sharing activities
- Emotional — sharing feelings
- Sexual — sharing sexuality
Fear of intimacy is often a subconscious one. People with intimacy issues might not even realize that they put a wall up to prevent close relationships from forming.
Some signs you or your partner have intimacy issues are the following:
- Avoidance of sex – more on that here
- An insatiable need for sex
- A difficult time committing
- A history of breakups
- Anger problems
- Low self-esteem
- Trust issues
- Holding in emotions
Intimacy issues can be emotional or physical, and they typically happen with meaningful relationships. Being in love with someone means being vulnerable. People who fear intimacy don’t want to be vulnerable or completely open with another person. The fear for people with intimacy issues is that if they do open up and reveal who they really are, they might be rejected.
Lots of people suffer from different types of intimacy issues. But these issues shouldn’t hold you and your partner back from having a great relationship and a great sex life. Intimacy issues can cause difficulty both for the person who has trouble with intimacy and for that person’s partner. It’s useful to discover the most common causes of intimacy issues to know how to deal with them.
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1. Childhood Rejection
If you felt rejected as a child, the feeling might have been so painful as to cause you to shut down emotionally to deal with the pain. Instead of relying on other people and maybe be rejected again, you might have had to learn to rely on yourself, keeping others out, making this a common intimacy issue. Instead of taking another chance on someone, you might be cautious about opening yourself up again.
2. Feeling Misunderstood as a Child
Although you might not have been outright rejected as a child, you might have been misunderstood. And that can lead to intimacy issues. You might find it difficult to believe that anyone could really love you because no one really knows and understands who you are. This feeling of being misunderstood might now be the way you see yourself, so you distrust people who say they love you.
3. Being Abused as a Child
People who have suffered from child abuse that includes sexual, physical or emotional abuse can have intimacy issues. They have a difficult time trusting people and live their lives trying to protect themselves from more abuse. It’s common for people who have suffered sexual abuse in particular to have intimacy issues. Instead of working on being physically intimate with their partner, they might choose to have affairs or to concentrate only on porn instead of becoming truly connected to another person.
It can be difficult to recognize abuse, especially when it’s emotional. More on that here.
4. Fear of Losing Oneself
Some people are afraid to be truly intimate with another because they fear losing who they are when they enter a relationship. They might feel as if they need to play a certain role now, which would not allow them to be their true selves. These people need to develop a stronger sense of who they are so that they won’t become lost in the relationship.
5. Having Social Anxiety
People who suffer from social anxiety fear any type of social situation. They have feelings of self-consciousness and believe people are judging them in a negative way. This leads people with social anxiety to avoid people and to avoid sharing their feelings. Learn how you can deal with sexual anxiety in this article.
6. Having a Narcissistic Personality
People with narcissistic personality would rather be admired that be truly intimate with another person. These people have an inflated opinion of themselves and often feel as if they are better than other people. But narcissists usually suffer from low self-esteem. They can’t stand to be criticized and don’t know how to be close with others.
7. Fear of Death
When you fall in love, you are generally happy and love life in general. This might make the thought of dying even more difficult to bear. You have so much more to lose when in love: your partner and your own happiness. This fear might make you subconsciously pull back from intimacy, which makes fear of death an existential, or an existence, intimacy issue.
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How to Overcome Intimacy Issues
When you act out of fear because it’s familiar to you, you miss out on the pleasure of loving another and sharing your life with someone. Here are four ways to overcome intimacy issues:
1. Recognize Your Behavior
When you’re distancing yourself from your partner, you can learn to recognize when you’re doing that. You can then try to stop yourself from engaging in those distancing behaviors. You might feel anxiety as you drop your defense mechanisms to let someone in. And you need to understand that you are taking a risk, but that risk could very well be worth it.
2. Talk About Intimacy Issues with Your Partner
When you have intimacy issues, they might come out in ways designed to drive your partner away. For example, you might nag so much that your partner doesn’t want to be around you. Try admitting that you nag without defending yourself as to why you nag. (You can work that out later.) Acknowledge to your partner that you are aware that you nag and that you don’t like to do it. See the nagging from his point of view and admit that you would want to run away from a nagging person as well. This conversation shows both of you that you’ve been pushing away your partner but that you now want to stop that behavior and get closer to your partner.
Using the nagging example again, talk about the other solutions besides nagging to get things done. You and your partner can then discuss what those other options might be. The key here is that you need to be willing to change and let yourself feel love for your partner. This should have a positive effect on your partner as well.
3. Try an Intimacy Exercise
Here’s an exercise designed to improve communication, which is one way to be more intimate with your partner. Have your partner say anything that’s on his mind for 30 seconds, during which time you just listen. You say nothing as you pay attention to what he’s saying. After 30 seconds are over, you repeat what you heard him say. He than grades you between 0 and 100. If you get a score below 95, he explains what you missed. Repeat the exercise until you get 95 or better. Then you be the one talking, and score your partner.
4. Go to Therapy
If intimacy issues are not getting any better, you can seek therapy. One partner might need in-depth therapy alone, or the two of you might need couples counseling. A trained therapist can help figure out the reason for intimacy issues and can show you how to overcome them. Therapy can help you with anxiety, depression and other issues that can affect your relationship. More in this post.
People need to feel connected to one another and to feel loved by someone. Otherwise, they will feel alone and lonely throughout their lives. Intimacy issues can be daunting to approach. But when they are handled in the right way, people can overcome them. And that could lead to an awesome sex life and a happier life in general.
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