Intimacy doesn’t always come easily. There are a number of different types of intimacy, including but not limited to physical intimacy and emotional intimacy, and they can all be scary to build with someone new, especially if you’ve been hurt in the past. However, those who fear intimacy tend to have a deep desire for it, and intimacy is indeed imperative in relationships. As nerve-wracking as it can be, it is possible to establish intimacy despite fear. So, how do you do it?
How To Establish Intimacy In Spite Of Fear
Here are some things you can do to work toward intimacy in spite of fear:
Think about what you want
Knowing what you want in a relationship matters. Sometimes, when we’re caught up in fears related to if we’ll be liked or wanted by the other person, which is one of the things that fear of abandonment can stem from, we forget to think about our needs and desires in a relationship. If you haven’t already, it’s imperative to look at your non-negotiables. How do you want to be treated? Is there anything that wouldn’t fit with the life you want? What are your deal breakers? Once you have a clear idea of what matters to you in a relationship, it might ease the fear a little bit and get you in a mindset where you’re more confident about putting yourself out there.
Take small steps
If you meet someone you’re interested in, know that it’s okay to take small steps. You don’t have to move too fast or do things you aren’t comfortable with, and the right person will respect that. In fact, this is a great non-negotiable to set. This could mean that they don’t come to your home right away, that they don’t have your phone number until after the first few dates, that you wait for sex, that you spend a longer deal of time getting to know each other, or something else. When you’re aware that you’re taking it slow and that you don’t have to rush into intimacy, it can be advantageous in mitigating fear and making you feel more secure. Small steps might still stir up some nerves, and there will probably still be feelings to sit with and work through, but it makes the process of getting close to someone more doable.
Acknowledge the way(s) your fear shows up.
Fear of intimacy can show up in both thoughts and actions. Someone with a fear of intimacy might act “hot and cold” because their interest and worries are going head to head, or they might have feelings of inadequacy that show up when they start to like someone, to give two common examples. Other examples include sabotaging relationships or nitpicking partners once you start to get close, struggling to express yourself and communicate your needs, and so on. If you notice yourself engaging in patterns like these, ask yourself, “where is this fear coming from? How can I navigate it without ending this relationship?” Often, the answer will be to talk to the other person about how you’re feeling. If it’s tough for you to talk about it or work through the ways your fear of intimacy shows up, seeing a therapist or counselor can help.
Communicate with the other person.
To follow up on the previous point, communication is crucial for establishing intimacy. When you’re getting to know someone, ask them questions, learn about each other, talk about what you’re looking for, and don’t be afraid to discuss how you want to pace the connection, either. Again, if you start to get close to someone and notice that you’re in a spot where your fears would typically take over, remember that you can talk to the other person about it. This will likely help you get closer in and of itself.
Ask for support.
Working to establish intimacy can be tough. The defense mechanisms that arise due to a fear of intimacy often show up as a way to protect ourselves from getting hurt, and with that in mind, it makes sense if it’s not easy to change the patterns that stop you from getting the closeness you want. The good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own. A therapist or counselor can help you work through your fear of intimacy or any other concerns you have related to interpersonal relationships as well as anything else that’s impacting your life. To find a therapist, you can search the web, ask your doctor for a referral, contact your insurance company to see who they cover, or sign up for a reputable online therapy platform with licensed providers like BetterHelp. Regardless of how you find a therapist, you deserve to thrive. Don’t hesitate to take the first step and reach out or sign up today.