The Mighty Logo

3 Ways I’m Working to Overcome My Fear of Emotional Intimacy

Let’s get straight to the point: I fear intimacy. Sometimes, readers jump from the word “intimacy” to “sex,” but that’s not the case here. While it certainly includes sex, the intimacy I fear is simply closeness with another person. Why? At the core, I fear vulnerability and abandonment.

At a more granular level, I fear opening up to someone and feeling emotionally connected because they may take what I told them and just leave me.

Do you relate? Is that “normal?”

My fear stems from two separate relationships: a friendship and a romantic relationship. First, I was best friends with a girl I will call Emily. We met when we wore diapers and had matching “Rugrats” lunch boxes. We were joined at the hip until she put me on the back-burner at 14; I wasn’t cool enough for her. I was always called to hang out second, or third, or fourth. Suddenly, we’d gone from being best friends to distant cousins. I was no longer important to her. She was leaving me, and eventually, I left myself.

Then, in later years, my fear of intimacy developed from a sexual relationship I had with a man; we’ll call him Steve. I wrote in a previous post about how much I feared sex because of my experience with trauma. A few months after I wrote that, I eventually lost my virginity by having sex with a man I trusted. But just before I gave away a piece of myself, I told him about my fear of sex and how it was so special to me. I told him about my bipolar I disorder, my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), my hearing loss, my trauma — all very important to me and personal in regards to sharing with others. He was receptive and loving and then, out of nowhere, he left. A longer story for another day, but here’s the point:

I have felt seriously betrayed by many, many people — and these are just two examples. For me, the sense of betrayal is followed by shame and guilt. I feel that it’s my fault. That I’m broken. That I’m a bad person. None of this is true, of course, and the fear of intimacy can be overcome.

How?

I’ve been following the below tips and tricks, day in, day out. I am, of course, a work-in-progress, so I’ll likely add to this list as I move through it all:

1. Find a therapist to whom you can talk about anything and everything.

Trust in them with your inner thoughts and feelings. I learned that identifying and being honest about the red flags I see in others helps foster healthy relationships, and ignoring the yellow ones are just as bad as lying about the red ones.

2. Get a journal that is for you and only you.

Write about the deep things that are scarier than anything Halloween can conjure. Write about the thoughts that make you cringe. Write the things you would never want to say with words.

3. Take baby steps and find one person to tell one thing to.

Then, maybe tell one more person. Then, maybe tell the first person two more things and the other person a few things. Go back and check-in with the therapist and journal, then repeat.

If it sounds scary, that’s because it is — it requires vulnerability, and that’s one of the hardest things to achieve. For me, I will continue to plug away at developing healthy relationships one step at a time.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Photo by Zohre Nemati on Unsplash

Conversations 3