Fear of Intimacy
Why Would One Be Fearful of Intimacy?
Over the past eleven years that I have been in practice, I have found that there are a few
different ways that clients show themselves being fearful of intimacy. I am not speaking
of the guy who is afraid to commit to being married. I am also not speaking of a woman
who is unwilling to be bedded down by any man who asks. I also am not speaking of
people who would prefer not to be touched by others. What I am speaking of are those
people who are truly unable to allow another human into their lives on an intimate basis,
personal basis by being transparent and real. Instead, these people put up all sorts of
walls of defense feeling safer without the emotional closeness.
Interestingly enough it isn’t really the fear of intimacy as such that is the problem in most
cases. It is the fear of rejection by being abandoned or the fear of losing one’s self to
the other by being invaded and/or controlled
When conflict arises some will end up angry and controlling blaming the other, as their
partner will withdraw feeling emotionally hurt. Sadly, many of the causes of fear of
intimacy go back to the family of origin and the way in which one is raised. If the parents
were overbearing, argumentative or critical of the child, the child will have created
these various ways to interact.
It is only when we take personal responsibility for own self-worth that we will stop
allowing these games to be played with our emotions. If the idea of co-dependency
came to mind, then you have a good idea of how this plays out in life.
I had a client years ago who came to see me because she was very unhappy in her
marriage. She realized during our work together that her husband was very critical
of her and had all sorts of demands that she be home every night to be with him. It
didn’t start out that way. Rather over the years, it became this way with her husband
always making her feel guilty any time she wanted to spend time with her girlfriends.
By the time she came to see me, seeing anyone but him after work hours was out of
the question. He would tell her that by being with her friends she was letting him know
that he didn’t matter to her anymore. Sometimes he would get angry with her for even
mentioning that she wanted to go to a movie with her female friends. It got to the point
where her friends started questioning why it was that she could no longer ever spend
time with them. It was after one too many times that one of her friends brought it to her
attention that she always seemed to have weak excuses as to why she couldn’t be out
with her and the rest of the group, that my client realized that there was a good reason
why she was questioning if her marriage was working for her any longer. During our
sessions, she realized that she was getting more and more self-conscious while feeling
sad and guilty a lot of the time never really recognizing why this may be so. Through our
work together she was able to more clearly see the power that she allowed her husband
to take over her life. She did indeed try to resolve the situation with her husband,
however he was not interested in changing anything, so she ended up leaving him
several months later, realizing that her husband’s behavior demonstrated anything but a
As in this case, the situation may require some professional help because when one
is in the middle of this sort of relationship it is very hard to understand what exactly is
going on. The subtle changes that arise of a long period, feel okay, except for that deep
feeling inside the unconscious mind, telling one that all is not as may be being portrayed
for the world at large. With the help of a professional one can build up one’s self-esteem
and self-respect never allowing the demeaning behavior of another to enter your world.
The only reason for one to control another is because of feelings of being threatened.
Healthy relationships are based on bringing out the best in one another, in fact, being
willing to help one another grow becoming ever more present to the essence of the
person inside. So once again the tonic for this issue is that of building up one’s self-
esteem and self-respect which will allow the feelings of being threatened to disappear,
while allowing in feelings of love and respect for another.
Sometimes this co-dependence happens in friendships as well. Many years ago I was
friendly with a very gifted artist. The only problem was that every time we would get
together I would listen for hours about the dramas of her life. She would have me come
over to “help” with a project, and I would find myself helping her with several. She did
indeed give me many very nice gifts over the years – thoughtful gifts. However, I had
to ask myself why it was that my life was more about “saving” her from disasters she
brought on herself, then my owning my own time. This was particularly important as I
became self-employed. It was at this juncture that I wrote her a letter letting her know
that though I cared very much about her, that I really could no longer be an active part
of her life. It was a boundary that I needed to create.
We are indeed like ants and bees in that we are social beings. We humans learn much
about our selves through our interactions with others. If something isn’t feeling right, the
best approach is to take notice of what feels off and address it sooner rather than later.
If the issues can be resolved in a healthy and productive way for those involved great.
If not, it is best to dissolve the relationship allowing for a healthier one to be developed
with someone else.