Most people search for love and relationships for at least one part of their lives, but at the same time, they may have a fear of being truly loved. Fear of intimacy is manifested through the problem of a person establishing an attachment and connection to a partner in an emotional relationship. People who struggle with this fear do not really want to be alone and they do not avoid being in relationships, but in certain ways, they may push close people away from themselves or sabotage their relationships.
Achieving intimacy in relationships has long been considered a basic need for an individual’s mental health and adjustment. Possible obstacles or difficulties in forming and/or maintaining close relationships are often preceded by fear of intimacy, which is defined as the inability to share thoughts or feelings with another close person (Descutner & Thelen, 1991). Various deficits in intimacy are associated with problems such as depression, and motivation for intimacy has been shown to be a significant predictor of later psychosocial adjustment (Descutner & Thelen, 1991).
Fear of intimacy often impairs the well-being of the individual, to the same extent that quality close relationships can contribute to it (Phillips et al., 2013). In addition, it inevitably affects the quality of romantic relationships (Descutner & Thelen, 1991).
Why is intimacy important?
Research shows that people who have close relationships usually have better physical and mental well-being (Cohen and Syme, 1985). Men who have greater emotional intimacy with their partner feel greater sexual satisfaction and their partner’s sexual satisfaction is also high. Emotionally more intimate married couples are happier in their marriage. Dissatisfaction with the level of intimacy in a romantic relationship can be one of the factors that motivate people to end that relationship. Moreover, people who are in a romantic relationship with an unsatisfactory level of intimacy are somewhat more vulnerable to stress and have a higher risk of developing depressive disorders.
Methods for overcoming fear of intimacy
People with this problem are very often not aware that they have a problem, and they do not even think about being in a relationship. If they turn to tantra in order to solve this problem, they work on learning how not to be sensitive to criticism, how to change unrealistic attitudes, assertive communication, how to unconditionally accept themselves instead of depending on other people’s acceptance, develop trust and overcoming shame. This way, they become more confident, and they strengthen their capacities for an emotional relationship in which they can satisfy their authentic needs and be happier.
Clinical psychologists assume that fear of intimacy is rooted in destructive thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs about one’s self (Firestone & Catlett, 1999). These so-called internalised voices lead individuals to distance themselves from others. Through a therapeutic intervention called “Voice therapy”, individuals can be taught how to confirm, understand and change their critically focused inner voices. The potential outcome of this therapy is to reduce the frequency of negative thoughts about oneself, their partner, as well as interpersonal relationships in general and to integrate a certain degree of optimism in the individual, which will then lead to greater satisfaction in future relationships (Firestone & Firestone, 2004).
It is also possible to use “Emotionally focused therapy – EFT” (Johnson, 1996), a therapeutic intervention for couples that focuses on the dimension of attachment. Its goal is to transform a relationship characterised by a significant level of stress into a secure attachment, minimising defensive reactions and conflict, and by clarifying the communication effects of individual defensive reactions and modelling more constructive patterns of communication between partners and teaching individuals how to rely on their partner and use their partner as a source of support and comfort. This type of therapy has been found to improve relationship satisfaction in individuals in the long term (Johnson & Sims, 2000).
By acknowledging the existence of the problem, we are already halfway to its solution. We have to deal with the problem and make a detailed introspection to figure out why we actually feel fear. The next step is to admit to your partner that you have a problem. With proper communication, both partners can solve the problem much easier together. It is necessary to make small steps to establish closeness, open up a little and enjoy the achieved results. Hiding behind the walls leads us to stay behind them – alone. By tearing the walls down, we build bridges of love between ourselves and our close ones.
Tantra brings together spirituality and sexuality and emphasizes the importance of intimacy, so you can be in a full and healthy relationship with life. Learn more about conscious relationships with the InnerCamp Tantra Method Practitioner + Teacher training.
Cohen, S., & Syme, S. L. (Eds.). (1985). Social support and health. Academic Press.
Descutner, C. J. & Thelen, M. H. (1991). Development and Validation of a Fear-of-Intimacy Scale. Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 3, 218- 225.
Firestone, R. W. & Catlett, J. (1999). Fear of intimacy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Firestone, R. W. & Firestone, L. (2004). Methods for Overcoming the Fear of Intimacy. U D. Mashek, & A. Aron (Eds), Handbook of closeseness and intimacy (str. 375-395). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Johnson, S. M. (1996). The practice of emotionally-focused marital therapy: Creating connection. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Johnson, S. M. & Sims, A. (2000). Attachment Theory: A Map for Couples Therapy. U T. M. Levy (Eds), Handbook of attachment interventions (str. 169–191). San Diego CA: Academic Press.
Phillips, J. T., Wilmoth, D. J., Wall, S. K., Peterson, D. J., Buckley, R. & Phillips, L. E. (2013). Recollected parental care and fear of intimacy in emerging adults. The Family Journal: Counselling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 21, 335-341.