When we hear the word intimacy many of us think of physical intimacy. But true intimacy involves a lot more than physical touch. It involves vulnerability. It is to know and truly be known by another. Intimacy involves letting your guard down and lowering your defenses. A relationship can be sexual and not be intimate at all.
True intimacy can be very scary! A truly intimate relationship takes courage and it involves risk. But without taking this risk, the relationship is characterized by a fantasy bond rather than by true intimacy.
There are many reasons people fear intimacy, and many times they are very deep-rooted and go back to early childhood. Some people fear intimacy because they were raised by emotionally hungry caregivers and grew up feeling enmeshed (too close). In adulthood, getting emotionally close to another triggers old feelings of being smothered and losing independence and individuality. There is a fear of opening up and getting consumed.
Others fear intimacy because of past abuse. Closeness feels dangerous.
Still other people may fear intimacy because of strong feelings of inadequacy. The thought is… “If they really know me, they won’t like what they see. They will, therefore, reject me and abandon me.” They may unconsciously think, “I will reject and abandon them before they reject and abandon me.”
Another reason people fear intimacy is because they were taught at a very young age that it is weak to show emotion. The problem with this is that a truly intimate relationship cannot be achieved without a willingness to show human emotion and expose vulnerabilities. Many times it is the sharing of vulnerabilities that differentiates one relationship from another, making one particular relationship more special. When two people share who they really are, their hopes, fears, hurts, and longings, with each other and these disclosures are accepted and cherished, the bond grows stronger.
Do you fear intimacy? Below you will find 10 questions that may help you answer this question. If you answer yes to one of these questions, it does not necessarily mean you fear intimacy. However, if you answer yes to two or more, you may want to explore your fears and get professional help to assist you in overcoming them.
Do you express anger when you are really feeling emotional pain?
Do you have a difficult time telling your partner that he or she hurt your feelings because it makes you feel weak?
Do you hide your true feelings because you want to appear emotionally strong?
Is it difficult to let your wall down, even with your spouse?
Do you keep secrets from your spouse that cause you to feel shame?
Do you feel like you have a secret life?
Do you feel like you are not the person your partner believes you to be?
Do you spend more time watching pornography than you do sexually relating to your spouse?
Do you leave relationships when things get to be too emotionally close?
Do you have extra-marital affairs?
One of the most powerful things we can experience is an intimate relationship. Don’t settle for a fantasy bond. Erich Fromm said, “To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.”
Yes, emotionally exposing yourself to the one you love can sometimes result in grief, but many times the result is great healing.
This post was written by Kristin Barton Cuthriell, MEd, MSW, LCSW. Kristin is a licensed clinical social worker and the author of The Snowball Effect: How to Build Positive Momentum in Your Life. If you would like to read more, you can go to my website here at www.thesnowballeffect.com and sign up for a free chunk along with weekly positive momentum tools, or you can check it out on Amazon. It is available in soft cover and kindle edition. Kindle Edition is now only $3.03. Be sure to read the Amazon reviews. I love that this book is helping people live happier lives. P.S. It is available at barnesandnoble.com too!
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