Does the thought of getting close bring up a fear of being hurt and prevent you from starting a new relationship or deepening an existing one?
Intimacy is part of every healthy relationship. It includes being completely open and exposed with another person, being the real you and opening up your heart, body and soul to your significant other.
Without complete openness and vulnerability between partners, intimacy may be compromised. If either partner holds back in being totally vulnerable with the other partner (often because of their fears and beliefs), it can lead to hurt, resentment, anger, disagreement and conflict in a relationship.
What affects intimacy? The relationship you have with your partner, and whether or not you fear intimacy, depends on a range of influences. The influences below will give you clues as to whether you may fear intimacy in your relationship:
Clue #1: Family upbringing
How did your parents interact with each other and with you and your siblings when you were growing up? Did they show love openly or hold back on expressing emotions? Did they play “games” with each other or were they open and honest with their thoughts and feelings?
Clue #2: Religious and cultural values and beliefs
Some cultures and religions have beliefs around intimacy and pleasure being bad, people needing to be punished because of it or to feel guily. Meanwhile, other cultures and religions encourage intimacy.
Clue #3: Peers and friends
Was there peer pressure from friends to behave in certain ways with the opposite sex so you belong in the “cool” group, and feel accepted and loved by them?
Clue #4: Cultural and social expectations
Is intimacy reserved for after marriage and then only as a duty to have children. Is it more important that you be a good provider for the family or be a loving partner, or both?
Clue #5: Education
Was the education you received in school around relationships and intimacy very clinical and devoid of emotion? Was it based on stereotypes or social expectations?
Clue #6: Media/internet exposure
To what extent are you influenced by what you read and hear in the media/on the internet regarding relationships and intimacy, and how you should behave in a relationship?
Clue #7: Past experiences of relationships and intimacy
Have your past experiences of relationships and intimacy been pleasant and exciting or boring and uncomfortable? How were you treated by your partner, family and friends when you were in past relationships? Are you expecting your future experiences to be the same or different?
All of the above influences can combine to form our role models, current values and beliefs, thoughts, emotions and behaviours around intimacy and relationships. For some people, the above can culminate in positive emotions and empowering beliefs. For others it can result in negative emotions (eg. fear, hurt, anger, resentment, etc) and disempowering beliefs (eg. “I am not worthy of love or a relationship”, “I am not good enough”, “if I have pleasure I will need to be punished”, “fear of being vulnerable”, “fear of losing control”, etc.).
Developing Healthy Intimacy
There are many ways to become more intimate with your partner, ranging from open and honest communication, spending quality time together to learning new ways to please each other. However, if you only utilise these strategies and ignore any disempowering emotions and beliefs around relationships and intimacy, this may only be a short term solution. For as long as fears of intimacy and other disempowering emotions and beliefs remain, the same dynamic will continue to be created in your current and future relationships.