For most of us, being happy and finding people we love and who love us in return is often the ultimate goal in life. In fact, research even proves that the most important determinant for a person’s happiness is the quality of their personal relationships (Watkins, et al., 2003). We spend years and years trying to figure out where we belong, who we should give our hearts to, but when we finally know the answer, we sometimes can’t help but run away in fear.
It can be scary to be intimate and emotionally vulnerable with someone. Having a fear of intimacy is perfectly understandable, especially if you have a history of failed relationships and emotionally distant or absentee parents. It can lead us to pushing away those we love most, often without meaning to, and doubting the stability and security of our relationship.We waste so much time stewing in indecision that we miss our chance to be with them.
With that said, here are 6 telltale signs you may be suffering from a fear of intimacy:
1. You’re Afraid of Abandonment
Oftentimes, a fear of intimacy stems from a deep-seated and unresolved fear of abandonment. Those who grew up with neglectful parents and have an anxious-avoidant attachment style are most likely to develop this fear. When this happens, you learn to adopt a positive view of yourself, but a negative view of others, thinking “the only person I can ever truly count on is myself”.You think that it’s always better to leave before you’releft behind, and so, you’re reluctant to let people in and struggle with long-term commitment (Thelen, Vander Wal, Thomas & Harmon, 2000).
2. You’re Fiercely Independent
There’s nothing wrong with being independent. Of course, it’s good to be competent, knowledgeable, and self-sufficient, but you should also know how to ask for help when you need it. If you’re too independent, you will try to do everything on your own, because you take pride in never needing anything from anyone.In a lot of ways, it’s what makes you feel in control of your own life and enables you to keep your emotional distance from people by never allowing yourself to depend on them or need them.
3. You Like People Who Are Bad For You
Do you have a history of falling in love with all the wrong guys or girls? Do you find yourself attracted to people who are emotionally unavailable or distant in some way? Or maybe abusive, rude, or unfaithful to you? Picking unhealthy partners is a common characteristic seen in those who have a fear of intimacy, because it allows them to avoid getting too close to the person and ever having a stable or secure future with them. You might find damaged, aloof, or complicated people more appealing because you want to avoid intimacy, and thus, end up rejecting the ones who are actually more compatible and well-suited for you (Syzmanki & Hilton, 2013).
4. You Tend To Be Flaky
Being flaky means being inconsistent with our behaviors towards others, so when people get too close to you, your first instinct is to push people away. Do you sometimes ghost your friends after spending a lot of quality time with them? Have you ever opened up to your partner about something deep and personal, but then stopped calling and talking to them for a few days? These kinds of behaviors show that having an honest emotional connection with someone scares you, so you try to keep your distance and stop yourselffrom getting to attached to them (LeFebvre, 2017).
5. You’re a Perfectionist
It’s normal to want the people you love to think well of you, but you shouldn’t show them the perfect version of yourself all the time. If you’re a perfectionist, chances are, you will have a hard time letting others see your shortcomings and your flaws. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected for them, or maybe you don’t even want to admit to yourself that you have them. But it’s important that you learn how to be open and vulnerable with the people you care about, and that you trust them enough to let them see your flaws.
6. You’re a Workaholic
When you’re practically married to your job, it can be hard to leave room in your life for your relationships. Maybe you’re pouring so much of yourself into your job because you want to deflect your focus away from your personal issues and avoid having to confront them. Maybe you use your job and how you’re too busy doing it as an excuse for not being able to form or maintain healthy and lasting relationships. People who are afraid of intimacy often throw themselves into their work to avoid having to commit to something serious, so if you’re a workaholic, ask yourself if this is the reason why.
7. You Sabotage Your Relationships
It goes without saying, of course, that people who are afraid of intimacy will often sabotage their own relationships. This is why having this kind of fear can be so destructive, because it can rob you of opportunities to have happy, stable, and functional relationships. You may be doing it unknowingly, by failing to communicate well, not expressing your feelings to others, or deliberately doing things you know could hurt or upset the ones you love. In fact, studies show that people who cheat on their partnersoften do so because they have a fear of intimacy (Martin & Ashby, 2004).
With that said, while it’s easy to see why being afraid of intimacy and commitment can keep us from being happy, it’s harder to change when we’re already so set in our ways. Painful memories, messy breakups, and unhappy early childhood experiences can leave us with a lot of emotional baggage we will likely have to work through for years to come, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.
There’s no need to let these negative experiences define you and keep haunting you for the rest of your life. With patience, dedication, support, and hard work, you have the power to overcome your fear of intimacy and commit to a healthy, emotionally fulfilling relationship. The first step is to simply recognize the signs.
- Watkins, P. C., Woodward, K., Stone, T., & Kolts, R. L. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 31(5), 431-451.
- Thelen, M. H., Vander Wal, J. S., Thomas, A. M., & Harmon, R. (2000). Fear of intimacy among dating couples. Behavior modification, 24(2), 223-240.
- Szymanski, D. M., & Hilton, A. N. (2013). Fear of intimacy as a mediator of the internalized heterosexism-relationship quality link among men in same-sex relationships. Contemporary Family Therapy, 35(4), 760-772.
- LeFebvre, L. (2017). Ghosting as a relationship dissolution strategy in the technological age. The impact of social media in modern romantic relationships, 219-235.
- Martin, J. L., & Ashby, J. S. (2004). Perfectionism and fear of intimacy: Implications for relationships. The Family Journal, 12(4), 368-374.