They say true love is hard to find… in reality, it can be far more difficult for us to accept and embrace true love than it is for us to find it. Many of us hope to find a loving romantic partner, yet many of us possess deep-seated fears of intimacy that make it difficult to truly open ourselves up in a relationship. The threat of vulnerability leads to increased anxiety; we open ourselves up to the possibility of rejection, heartbreak, and loss when we enter into a romantic partnership, and the threat of these painful experiences can sometimes be too much to bear. However, developing and maintaining a loving, healthy romantic partnership is one of the greatest joys in life. It would be very unfortunate if we went our entire lives depriving ourselves of this experience simply because we are afraid of getting hurt. In order to successfully overcome a fear of intimacy, one must first understand where it stems from – and then, becoming willing to do the necessary (and sometimes difficult) work on self.
Where Does Fear of Intimacy Originate?
Fear of intimacy tends to develop early on in life – usually during childhood. When we are young and we experience emotional pain or rejection, we often shut down. We learn that we cannot rely on others to fulfill our emotional needs, and so teach ourselves other ways to cope. If our parents our primary caregivers hurt us, neglect us, or abuse us when we are very young, we will inherently fear being hurt again. We may turn to fantasy gratification rather than interpersonal relationships; after all, fantasies cannot hurt us.
Over time, we may become so accustomed to relying on these fantasies that we may consistently choose them over real, positive affection and acknowledgment. If we grow up feeling unheard, unseen, and unappreciated, we will likely adopt the misguided belief that no one will ever truly love us. The negative thoughts about self that we develop in our formative years become embedded in our psyches. When we are neglected throughout childhood, we believe that we are unworthy of love. This belief will often follow us into adulthood, and shape all of our future relationships.
A Subconscious Fear
If we harbor negative beliefs about ourselves, we will experience a great deal of internal conflict when someone treats us with kindness or affection. When someone shows romantic interest in us, we will often react with suspicion and distrust. Our fear of intimacy has been awakened and brought to light, and we begin to push our potential partner away and unconsciously attempt to sabotage any shot at real closeness. When we act on our fears, we keep our negative self-image intact, and continue disallowing ourselves the opportunity to experience the true joy and fulfillment that unconditional love can bring. How do we overcome this deep-seated fear of intimacy?
First, we must learn the truth about ourselves. We are valuable, we are lovable, and we are worthy of meaningful, intimate relationships. We must learn to recognize the fear-driven behaviors we engage in, and learn to reverse them. This kind of work cannot be done without help. Seeking the guidance and support of a professional therapist is essential. In many instances, individuals who struggle with fears related to intimacy must also overcome unresolved trauma, and co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse, self-harm, or other relational issues. We at Next Chapter focus on treating men who have suffered relational trauma, and understand the importance of overcoming fears pertaining to intimate relationships. For more information on our program of recovery, please feel free to contact us today.