A fear of intimacy is one of the most difficult obstacles to dating and finding a long-lasting relationship. It is not easy to detect, there are typical signs to look for and determine if this fear could be the contributing factor to why you’ve been unable to find love.
It’s human nature to want closeness and love with another person. But you will avoid intimacy out of fear of abandonment, betrayal and rejection if you experienced early childhood emotional neglect. The neglect need not have been extreme to significantly affect you today.
If our caregivers were neglected or emotionally abandoned as children, they most likely modeled those same behaviors as adults. As a result, we may have grown up feeling unworthy, unlovable and ashamed. We often experience this fear and shame like a giant hole inside of us, or we might feel empty or dead inside. We long for something or someone to fill up the hole, or to wake us up and help us feel something.
SIGNS YOU MAY FEAR INTIMACY
Fear of intimacy typically shows up in two ways: Repeating patterns of behavior born out of fear of intimacy, or avoiding intimacy altogether. Below are some examples of how you may be hiding from intimacy.
- You are attracted to people who are unable to meet your needs and who are unavailable themselves. The relationships end and you feel abandoned, betrayed and rejected—in your love relationships, and possibly also in your friendships.
- You are desperate for love and attention, so you come on strong to get him to like you. You woo him, entice him and put on a good show, but once he admits to liking you, you run away. You might blow hot and cold or do something that ruins the relationship.
- You keep the other person guessing. You’re sometimes there, and then you disappear. The other person is in a constant state of confusion about what’s actually going on in the relationship.
- You stay single because you fear that any relationship you start will end badly.
- You only feel a relationship connection to animals and/or nature. Maybe you surround yourself with a houseful of pets, or you find yourself hiking to the top of a mountain alone every weekend.
- You struggle with addictions, or you focus all your energy on a compulsive quest to reach a goal. Maybe you’re a workaholic, addicted to drinking and drugs, or possibly obsessed with exercise and sports. Other examples include compulsive shopping, gambling, eating or sex.
AVOIDING INTIMACY—LESS OBVIOUS BEHAVIORS
- You tend to withdraw when people get too close. You stop talking and interacting, or you simply ignore others. You might get angry and then go silent. Then you are extra-attentive, or maybe even use sex, to make up for pulling away.
- You often break promises and use excuses. When you disappoint others, you spin a story (which is the same as telling a lie), so you don’t sound like the bad person you think you are.
- You’re the life of every party, and you always need to be the center of attention, especially with people who are strangers. You might pride yourself on being overbearing and bossy. You tend to overshare very personal things with people who are strangers, but avoid sharing these kinds of personal details with people who want to be close with you.
- You’re overly critical or judgmental. If someone makes a mistake, you label her as a bad person (shaming), instead of recognizing that just her behavior is bad. You might blame others for everything. You might tease others to hide behind your fears.
- You’re the master of sending mixed messages–loving and attentive one minute; mean or sarcastic the next. You might ask someone for help with a problem but never follow through. Or you only focus on your friends’ issues, but when they ask about your problems, you change the subject.
- On the outside you look perfect: successful, rich or famous because you’ve worked hard all your life. People cannot believe you’re single and comment on this often, and you wonder the same thing.
If any of the above signs feel familiar to you, you may have a fear of intimacy. The reality is that we all have some level of this fear, but when it’s more extreme is when it becomes a barrier to finding love and connection. The DateWise e-course is designed to help you uncover and work through fears of intimacy.
If you think you have a fear of intimacy, read the next blog posts What to do if you fear intimacy and Does your potential partner fear intimacy?