Is this a scenario you recognize all too well:
You’re dating someone and things are going great. Then out of nowhere, you start to feel very uncomfortable. You’re not sure why, and so you start to pull away.
Or maybe you’ve been on the other side of the fence. Just when things began to go deeper with a new love interest, they suddenly got cold feet.
So what’s going on?
Sure, feelings can change. But if it’s a pattern that keeps repeating, intimacy issues may be the cause.
Intimacy is all about closeness. That may be sharing our thoughts, feelings, activities, ideas, and even our bodies with others.
All of which can be incredibly vulnerable. For some, that strikes fear into their hearts.
Why? Here’s what they are often afraid of…
1) Making a commitment
If someone struggles with intimacy, then they are usually hesitant to settle down.
They may prefer to play the field. This gives them the feeling of having freedom.
As long as there are few expectations on them, they can enjoy the ride without overthinking.
They may prefer to avoid labels for this reason. They would rather just “see where things go”.
In the beginning, they will happily spend time with you. They may seem far more comfortable and open too.
But it’s when things start to feel more serious that they usually pull away. Because this is when a much deeper connection starts to form.
If they are fearful of committing they may:
- Get into cycles where they break up and make up with you
- Avoid making a relationship official
- Want to see other people
- Not want to intertwine your lives, and avoid meeting each other’s friends and family, etc.
2) Being less than perfect
Here’s the bit that can sound strange about intimacy issues:
When someone is on the receiving end, they can be made to feel like they’re not enough for the other person.
If you are the one with intimacy issues, you may also tell yourself that you’re obviously just not that interested. Clearly, they’re not “the one” or you wouldn’t be so hesitant. Right?
But deep down it’s not the other person you think isn’t enough. In fact, you also worry that YOU are not enough.
People with intimacy issues often subconsciously feel like they don’t really deserve to be loved. So they are deeply suspicious when someone shows them it.
They also hold on to unrealistic expectations of what real love and relationships look like, putting a big burden on themselves and their partners in the process.
Intimacy demands that we let go of idealistic fantasies of ourselves and others.
Instead, we must accept the messier truth of natural human flaws. And that’s something that is hard to do.
3) Being abandoned
When you let someone in, there is always a chance it will fall apart.
If you keep someone at arm’s length, this can feel like you have a shield protecting you.
That way, if the worst were to happen, you are prepared.
It’s a bit like the person who thinks they are about to be dumped, so tries to get in there first.
In reality, it doesn’t make a difference. But it seems like a better way of handling the pain at the time.
One of the root reasons for avoiding intimacy altogether, or retreating when someone gets too close is a fear of abandonment.
The Alfred Tennyson line, “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” does not ring true for someone with intimacy issues.
The thought of loss is too overwhelming, so they would rather not love at all.
4) Being honest about what they need and want from someone
Saying what you want can feel like a very risky business to someone with intimacy issues.
It’s like laying your cards on the table. Doing so exposes you.
In their mind, the other person knows too much and it can be used to hurt them, regardless of whether it’s intentional.
It can feel far safer to keep that information to yourself.
You may worry that your needs will not be met, that you will be judged for them, or simply that the other person won’t want the same things as you.
And those feelings of rejection hit harder for someone with intimacy issues.
5) Getting rejected
I don’t think any of us particularly enjoy putting ourselves out there. Relationships are exposing.
When you tell someone how you feel, there’s always a certain amount of risk.
One of those is that the level of feelings you have won’t be reciprocated. And let’s face it, that’s scary as hell, right?
You fall for someone, only for them to turn around and not feel the same way.
Rejection is icky. There are no two ways about it. But sadly, we cannot avoid it completely in life.
Everyone faces it at some time or another.
But those with intimacy issues want to avoid it so badly that they would rather not try in the first place.
6) Taking a risk
So, as we’ve just highlighted, the emotional side of life can feel like a dangerous game.
It demands that we suck it up and take a leap of faith if we are to let someone into our inner circle.
And that kind of gamble feels much harder for someone with intimacy issues.
This is why the dating history of someone with intimacy issues can look like this:
- They opt for casual flings
- They make dating into a game
- They avoid making plans for the future with anyone
- Any relationships are often shortlived or unstable
- Once the honeymoon phase is over, so is the relationship
In reality, it’s the risk of a more meaningful connection that they are scared of.
7) Getting too physically close
As we said in the introduction to this article, intimacy isn’t just about feelings.
We experience it in many forms. One of those is physical intimacy.
Whilst some people with a fear of intimacy are able to compartmentalize sex and separate it from emotions, others cannot.
For some people, even having someone enter into their own personal space feels incredibly uncomfortable.
That may mean they would rather avoid sexual contact, cuddling, handholding, or displays of affection.
As a physical manifestation of a close bond, it feels awkward for them.
8) Talking about relationship problems
Sometimes people with intimacy issues are completely fine until it seems like there may be trouble in paradise.
In the early stages, they are relaxed and at ease. But the first small sign of a problem has them running for the hills.
That could be an argument or even the slightest disagreement. It starts warning sirens off in their mind.
Because it’s going to demand honesty and effort to work through issues. They may prefer to try to sweep them under the rug or retreat altogether.
They may take it as a sign that perhaps they are not a good match. But rather than it being about incompatibility, they’re just worried about getting hurt if things do turn sour.
9) Trusting people
We all know that at the heart of any successful relationship, there must be trust.
It’s this that allows us to feel safe and secure. Without it, we cannot be courageous enough to show vulnerability.
But it is very hard for people who avoid intimacy to display this trust in others. Because trust is putting your heart in someone else’s hands.
They may feel paranoid, suspicious, or jealous when it comes to their partner. They find it much harder to let go and have faith in others.
10) Opening up about personal things
You can often spot when you’re dating someone with intimacy issues by the sorts of conversations you have.
You may enjoy each other’s company and have lots of fun. But your chats stay on the frivolous and shallow side of things.
You don’t learn what makes them tick underneath it all.
When it comes to communication, you struggle. They never reveal their thoughts and beliefs on more serious topics. They prefer to avoid “heavy” conversations.
They don’t tell you about what’s going on for them in their life. They never share private information, disclose their secrets or divulge details about their past.
It’s like you know them, but only the outer layers. Peeling that onion back feels almost impossible.
Pushing past resistance to love
Many of us will exhibit a certain amount of hesitancy when it comes to intimacy. It’s common to be fearful when it comes to protecting our hearts.
But it’s often a sliding scale depending on the individual and their circumstances.
Some may only need a little patience and time to overcome their apprehension and feel safe. Meanwhile, others may find it almost impossible to form any type of close bond.
Tackling negative self-beliefs, looking deeper at past experiences, confronting your emotions with greater awareness, and therapy can all help to push past any resistance you may feel to cultivating intimacy.