By Rachael Pace
You met someone you are absolutely crazy about, but now that you’re in a relationship you feel hesitant to truly let your partner into your life. This is called a fear of emotional intimacy.
Emotional intimacy is essential for a healthy relationship. It’s what connects couples, builds romantic friendships, and allows partners to truly trust one another. But letting someone into your life is scary, too. What happens if you let yourself be vulnerable with them and then they break your heart?
You will benefit greatly from opening yourself up to intimacy in relationships. But getting there isn’t always easy, especially for people who are nervous about commitment. That’s why we’re giving you six tips for overcoming the fear of emotional intimacy.
Signs of emotional intimacy issues
It’s completely natural for people to feel slightly uncomfortable when opening up and being vulnerable with a partner, but after some time and as trust in the relationship grows, partners should be more comfortable with one another.
However, if you’ve been with your spouse for a number of months now and still feel like you rather have a root canal than express your deepest emotions to your partner, it could be a sign that you are afraid of emotional intimacy in relationships.
Think you have a fear of intimacy? Here are some common signs and symptoms to consider.
- Feeling anxious when opening up to others
- Uneasy when expressing verbal or physical affection
- Inability to communicate
- Strong discomfort sharing personal goals
- Fear of discussing the past
- Inability to discuss past personal experiences
- Difficulty in trusting others
- Uncomfortable committing to long-term relationships or plans
- Always making jokes to avoid discussing serious or deep topics
- Having an emotional wall up
- Have a reputation of “they are hard to get to know”
Having intimacy issues may sound like a buzzword/phrase, but the truth is the fear behind it is very real. People often experience true anxiety and unease when confronted with the idea of getting close to someone new.
How to overcome your fear of intimacy
Try and be adaptable
Research shows that adaptability is an essential quality for a lasting relationship. In a study of long-married couples, results show that couples who are adaptable retained a positive attitude during social changes throughout the marriage.
Adaptable couples were also more agreeable and did not expect perfection from their partner. The study goes on to say that they “looked to the positives in the marriage and concentrated on their strengths, channelsing energy they might have put into settling disputes into finding ways to accommodate the differences and enjoying the relationship.” It would be a good idea to take up a marriage course together and learn to appreciate each other’s strengths while developing skills for conflict resolution.
Often, a fear of intimacy in relationships has nothing to do with our partners. Rather, it has to do with the love and confidence we have in ourselves.
If you want to overcome your fear of emotional intimacy, it’s important to build up your self-esteem.
Start working on your relationship with yourself. Pursue hobbies and goals that make you happy. Exercise and live a healthier lifestyle that will make you feel great both mentally and physically. Learn to love who you are.
These changes don’t happen overnight but, by taking small steps, you’ll realise how worthy you are of a deep and emotionally fulfilling relationship.
A study done by Northwestern University and Redeemer University College found that couples who trust each other enjoy more fulfilling relationships.
You can build trust and deepen your connection with your spouse by spending time together. This is great for many reasons. One of which is that research proves that married couples are happier when they are spending quality time together. Not only do they report higher levels of marital satisfaction, but they also have lower stress levels.
By developing a deeper connection to your partner, you’ll also feel more comfortable opening up to them.
Know your history
If you’ve been hurt in a past relationship or had someone close to you betray your trust, these events can leave lasting scars on your psyche.
When dealing with issues from the past, many find it helpful to attend a few therapy sessions. You can do this solo or with your new partner. Either way, you’ll be given priceless insight into how your past relationships are affecting your current love.
A counsellor can also help you take positive steps toward opening up to your partner and overcome the pain of the past.
Try to relax
People with a fear of intimacy in relationships often feel an overwhelming sense of dread or anxiety when faced with situations where they have to open up. One way to overcome issues with vulnerability is to de-stress.
Studies show that working out or doing yoga has been proven to lower stress and anxiety and ease symptoms of depression.
Not only is exercise and staying active good for your mental and physical health, but it also works wonders for your self-esteem. This is a win-win solution to your problems.
Bonding with your spouse is another great way to reduce anxiety. The oxytocin released during physical interactions such as holding hands, making love or kissing have been shown to lower stress and promote bonding between couples.
Don’t shy away from opportunities to get close
One way people do this is by staying glued to their phones. Studies show that social media lowers face to face interactions, even with close family and loved ones.
One great way to boost intimacy in a relationship is to unplug from social media.
Research indicates that low-income individuals, especially couples, are more likely to be hurt by stress than others.
Phubbing, or ‘phone snubbing’ a partner has also been shown to reduce relationship satisfaction and increase your risk of depression.
Open your mind and heart to someone new and stop using your phone as a shield. Instead of staying buried in your texts, put your phone on silent, flip it over, and spend some quality time talking with your partner.
Overcoming emotional intimacy issues isn’t easy, but by doing so you will build a deeper relationship with your spouse. Work hard to de-stress, understand your history of trust in past relationships, and strive to make a deeper connection with your partner. There is nothing quite as important as intimacy in relationships.