Ask James: How Do I Get Over My Fear Of Emotional Intimacy

James Newman, Advice Columnist

How To Get Over My Fear Of Emotional Intimacy?

– Fearful Intimate

Dear Fearful Intimate,

This is something that many people might think is shocking for a high school advice columnist to give advice on but I want to preface that high schoolers have “adult problems” that impair them in many ways so sometimes we need to talk about “adult topics”

But I digress, fear of emotional intimacy is something that a lot of people deal with, myself included. But since I am not a psychologist, I will be using an article from VeryWellMind to help give this advice.

Emotional Intimacy can be a scary thing because of the fact that it requires you to be well…intimate with another person. Intimacy is defined as the ability to genuinely share your true self with another person and relates to the experience of closeness and connection. This fear can be connected through many things, even other fears, some causes for this can be fear of engulfment which is the fear of being controlled, fear of abandonment which is a fear that your partner will leave you, anxiety disorders(like social anxiety).

Now this can also stem from surprise…surprise childhood problems, like having an enmeshed family which to the outside eye may look loving and fun but on the inside it can be toxic will blurred boundaries, neglect (physical and or emotional), parental problems(parental illness, parental mental illness, or loss of a parent), and verbal abuse are some factors that can lead to fear of emotional intimacy. But again there are many things that can cause this as well as traumatic/impactful interactions even outside of family. Remember, fear of emotional intimacy can be different in so many relationships like familial, romantic, or platonic.

There are some signs/manifestations to show that you may have fear of intimacy:

  • Serial Dating and Fear of Commitment: If you have a fear of emotional intimacy, you may interact with people to a certain extent, but when the relationship starts to grow and you start to get closer you run away. Then to be replaced with more superficial and short-term relationships.
  • Perfectionism: You might think that you have a fear of emotional intimacy that if you’re not “perfect” then you’re not worthy of love or to be supported. So you may try to be perfect to prove that you are. It could be that you’re a workaholic or some other type of perfectionism and because of that you probably push others away instead of drawing them near.
  • Problem with Expressing Needs: Because there is an underlying feeling that you’re not worthy of love or deserving of other people’s support. And because people normally aren’t able to read minds your needs are unfulfilled which basically confirms your underlying feelings of unworthiness which puts you back in a vicious cycle.
  • Sabotaging Relationships: With your fear of emotional intimacy, you can have a tendency of sabotage, that can take the form of nitpicking and being overly critical of your partner. Even acting very suspicious and accusatory towards your partner of something that hasn’t happened.

Now that we have shown signs and have a better understanding of what this fear is. How do we help this problem…well it’s going to be a process and understand that fighting fears and healing yourself is not something that happens in one day nor is it linear, healing looks different for everyone and beating yourself up for messing up is not something that will help, so please remember that you are only human and you are bound to make mistakes. First I would suggest talking to someone, preferably someone in a therapeutic role, like a school counselor or even an actual therapist if possible. But you can also do this just by yourself as it’s your fear and sometimes we have to look within ourselves to see the problem.

Starting off, you should learn to accept uncertainty, with a fear of emotional intimacy you are really just fearing the consequences of a relationship going bad, so it’s important that you learn to accept that nothing is really guaranteed in life and especially in human relationships. But even though this is the case with us gambling when we talk to new people we still are driven to talk and meet new people all the time. You can also try developing a higher sense of courage and focus on being present and not needing a particular outcome.

Next, like mentioned before, be understanding with yourself and with that learn to be comfortable with yourself. With that being said you will be able to see your own value and a separate person and then you’ll be able to see that rejection may not be as damaging as it seems. When you learn to hold value to yourself that will allow you to set boundaries and be able to protect yourself from engulfment as well as be able to bounce back from rejection. You can read books to help with self compassion if it doesn’t come as easy to you as it does for others.

These next ones are going to require you to do some introspection and thinking. Try looking into the past and see what may have caused you to have this fear and look to see what was the cause. Now I’m not expecting that you can unearth every single thing from your past nor remember it in great detail, but start to look there for some answers. Also take a look at your inner dialogue and when you catch yourself saying negative things in your head look to see where they’re coming from and try and challenge and even correct them. And finally look at your goals, are you ready/do you want a long term relationship? Have you interfered with your goals and see if so how you can help reach your goals instead of hindering them.

Know that there is a spectrum to everything and fears are not exempt from this. So always give yourself time to heal and remember that you can definitely overcome this fear, again probably not in a day but when you try to combat your fears, find tools to help you succeed and grow into a newer you. You will always have mistakes, just take them reflect and grow. And always grant yourself forgiveness when dealing with challenges.

I hope this helped you <3.
See you again. XOXO.