What is Fear of Intimacy?
According to marriage counseling experts, fear of intimacy is one of the many enemies of growth in marriage. Intimacy itself can be defined as physical and emotional closeness with another person. You can express intimacy emotionally, intellectually, and sexually in marriage. It is one of the secrets that help to maintain a good bonding between a man and a woman.
Fear of Intimacy then can be defined as the fear of sharing an emotional or physical closeness with someone. It is characterized by the inability to maintain the desired closeness with your spouse. It is also known as avoidance anxiety, intimacy avoidance, and commitment phobia.
Couples counseling will tell you that fear of intimacy is not necessarily fear of relationships. It is often seen in marriages rather than outside of marriage. When a party fails to stay committed as expected in a relationship, such can result from fear of intimacy.
Intimacy is essential to make a marriage grow. Lack of growth in marriage can be traced to inadequate communication and intimacy between couples. Dealing with lack of growth in marriage is possible when you can identify your partner’s weakness as fear of intimacy. This article features symptoms, causes, and treatment of fear of intimacy.
Causes of fear of intimacy
Fear of intimacy doesn’t just occur in marriage, and you can trace it to some root causes. When you realize that your spouse finds it difficult to maintain a long-time intimacy with you, it might result from many factors. The following are some of the many reasons that cause avoidance anxiety:
Fear of abandonment
According to marriage counseling, the fear of abandonment is mostly the root cause of commitment phobia. This fear always comes to play when it is difficult to establish trust in one’s partner. When you begin to fear that your partner might leave you any moment, you find it difficult to commit yourself to the relationship. On the other hand, an experience of abandonment in past relationships could trigger this fear.
Fear of engulfment
Fear of engulfment could also lead to fear of intimacy. When you entertain the fear of being controlled or influenced, you are a subject of fear of engulfment. When you cannot dominate your partner, you won’t be committed to such a relationship. Hence, fear of engulfment will result in fear of intimacy.
Fear of rejection
Perhaps you might have experienced rejection in your past relationships. This rejection might result from a condition or part of you that your spouse is yet to know about. On the other hand, rejection may not necessarily happen to you but to others. As a result, the fear that your spouse might reject you can metamorphose into fear of intimacy.
Personality or anxiety disorder
There is such a thing as an avoidance personality disorder. This disorder is common to 2.5% of the world population. It usually happens during childhood and can persist till adulthood if not corrected. Some signs and symptoms of this disorder are low self-esteem, awkwardness or shyness, oversensitivity to criticism, fear of judgment, and avoidance of social gatherings.
Intimacy anxiety disorder can metamorphose into fear of intimacy. A kid with such conditions will grow into an adult who may find it challenging to stay committed in marriage.
Experience of sexual abuse
Sexual abuse can greatly alter one’s personality. A victim of sexual abuse has great potential of having trust issues. After the experience, such a person might find it difficult to trust another wholeheartedly. Emotional trauma can also contribute to the inability to be committed to a marriage partner.
Aside from these, some aftermaths of sexual abuse can result in fear of intimacy. A victim of sexual abuse may have challenges such as inhibited sexual desire, a feeling of disgust when touched, inappropriate sexual behavior, and difficulty having an orgasm. All of these can make up for avoiding anxiety in marriage.
How do I know if my spouse is experiencing fear of intimacy?
Most times, it is not all lack of commitment in a marriage that results from infidelity. Some might be as a result of fear of intimacy. Failure to identify this abnormally and deal with it can lead to instability in the union. To properly identify your spouse’s challenge, the following are signs they are experiencing fear of intimacy:
Low self-esteem is one of the signs to watch out for in your spouse. It necessarily doesn’t have to be an exhibition of self-esteem in public. When you find it difficult to bring yourself to a spouse level, it indicates low self-esteem. This situation possibly indicates that your spouse is battling the fear of intimacy.
Fear of commitment
One of the leading marriage researchers, Dr. John Gottman, advises that commitment is essential to successful marriage counseling outcomes. Both people in the union must maintain a high level of commitment. Therefore, whenever your spouse finds it hard to stay committed despite your commitment is an indication that intimacy is at stake.
History of serial dating
You might want to ask your spouse about their relationship history. If your spouse has a record of being in a different relationship in the past, it might mean many things. One of them is that your spouse might have a problem staying committed or dealing with the fear of intimacy. There is no assurance you won’t be facing similar issues in the relationship.
Refraining from expressing oneself
A marital relationship demands that couples should be able to open up to one another. Psychologists and counselors will advise that there should not be secrets among couples as far as their family is concerned. Therefore, the inability of your spouse to express themselves is a sign of fear of intimacy. It is an explicit submission that such a person is not dealing with their intimacy avoidance.
When it becomes a complicated task to establish trust with your partner, such could mean that intimacy avoidance is at play. If your spouse exhibits and displays a lack of trust in you in every situation, such a spouse will likely not be committed in such a marriage. Fear of intimacy will make your spouse doubt most of your moves and words.
There are other signs of fear of intimacy your spouse can exhibit. Some examples include:
- Difficulty with physical contact
- Self-sabotaging a relationship
- Consistent expression of anger
- Too much or too little sexual desire
- Self-imposed isolation.
How do I deal with the fear of intimacy in my marriage?
Fear of intimacy should not end your marriage or deter the marriage from growing. This fear can be dealt with and treated regardless of how long it has been in existence. In treating avoidance anxiety, both the victim and the spouses have a role. The following are how to deal with the fear of anxiety in your marriage:
Think about the effect of your fear
As a spouse dealing with the fear of intimacy in marriage, you must consider the consequences of such fear on your marriage. There is no quicker way to deal with this than coming to terms with your fear. You must consider the love you have for your spouse and the marriage. Then consider the harms the fear might have caused the relationship.
Communication is a vital key to dealing with the fear of intimacy. In most cases, not having a deep communication with your spouse on your condition is why the fear thrives. Having an intimate discussion on your fear and your willingness to let go can ease your fear.
As a partner to someone experiencing fear of intimacy, you must be quick to call for communication. Reassure your partner of your commitment to the relationship. You must also affirm your readiness to help your partner walk through it.
Give yourself time
Fear of intimacy will not disappear over the night. It is a process, and you need time to heal. You need to engage in communication and keep up with your therapy session. As a spouse to the victim, you must be ready to play your part until you overcome the challenge. With time, you will overcome it.
Seek help from a marriage counselor or a therapist
Fear of intimacy, if not properly handled, can destroy the growth of a marriage. As a victim or a spouse to the victim, you must be proactive to work through it to save your marriage. You must believe in the ability of your marriage to grow and thrive regardless of avoidance anxiety.
In dealing with the fear of intimacy, it is always advisable to see a marriage counselor or individual therapist. A counselor can help to walk you through the ordeal and learn new ways to cope with your fear. Meanwhile, if the cause of the fear can be traced to trauma and is accompanied by depression, it would be best to see a trauma therapist. Psychotherapy is the best treatment of fear of intimacy.
Marriage Counseling or Individual Therapy in Louisville, KY and Surrounding Areas
Our counselors are able to work with you or your spouse regarding the fear of intimacy. To learn about our therapists, please click here. If you would like to schedule an appointment, then click here.