Fear Series: How to Overcome Your Fear of Intimacy

From Fear to Freedom
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Intimacy is something we all yearn for. Most of us admit we want love and want to feel a deep connection with another human being.

Of course, some people won’t ever admit they crave intimacy with another human being, but if you’re already here on the Fearless Living blog, I’m betting you do! And I’m so happy you’re here! Reading this article means you’ve already taken a crucial step on your journey.

We are all starting on a different path with intimacy. You might be partnered with another human being already; maybe you want to figure out how to open your heart, or maybe you want them to open their heart more.

You might be wondering: “How do you love someone who is afraid of intimacy? If you’re single, you might be searching for love. You might be wondering: “How do I open myself up to the vulnerable process of dating?”

Intimacy - close up of hands in a bed

Or maybe you’re not ready to start dating yet; you just want to feel intimate with your friends, family, or maybe even with yourself.

Regardless of where you are on your current path, intimacy is always a work in progress. Becoming intimate with yourself and other human beings is all about telling yourself the truth, opening your heart, and BEING VULNERABLE😱—over and over and over again.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Okay, Rhonda. Easier said than done,” you’re right! Intimacy isn’t easy, and it doesn’t always come naturally. But without some form of love in our lives, we can’t find true happiness and fulfillment. That’s what science tells us! More on that later in this article.

When we break it down, these difficult feelings and tough moments all come down to one thing: FEAR.

We push love away because of fear.

We don’t accept love from others because of fear.

We don’t take the risk of expressing our love because of fear. 

Now I know—and boy do I know😅—it’s not an easy road, but with a willingness to practice, learn, and show up for yourself, you can work through your fear of intimacy. And as you learn how to open your heart, you’ll continue to attract more and more authentic love into your life.

By understanding where your fears come from and what you can do to change your trajectory, you’ll learn how to create the type of emotional intimacy that will lead you to lasting love.

Let’s get started! I’ll first share an overview of what I mean when I talk about emotional fears. Next, I’ll talk about the science behind our need for love, what a fear of intimacy is, and what you can do (starting right now!) to work through your fears.

A Fearless Living Introduction: Overcoming Fear

When you think about fear, what comes to mind? Maybe you think about being in the dark, speaking in front of a large crowd, or clowns!

While these are all legitimate fears, at Fearless Living, when we talk about fear, we’re talking about emotional fears. Emotional fears cause us to make decisions that lead us further away from living the life our soul intended.™ Emotional fears keep us trapped; they keep us from realizing our goals, dreams, and desires.

The 10 most common emotional fears are:

We’re working through all of the most common emotional fears on the Fearless Living blog, one by one. If you are unfamiliar with the Fearless Living philosophy on fear and want a better understanding of the difference between common phobias and emotional fears, read: 10 Common Types of Fear.

What Are the Signs of Fear of Intimacy?

It’s time for a little science behind just how important relationships are to our health.

A 75-year-long Harvard study found that love and relationships are by far the most important factors to living a happy and fulfilling life. And guess what? The other essential ingredient is finding a way to accept love and not push it away.

Let’s go over that again! The proven ingredients for living a happy, healthy life are:

  1. Finding and having the experience of love.
  2. Living your life in a way that doesn’t push that love away.

The director of the Harvard study, Robert Waldinger, explains that it’s our relationships—and how happy we are with those relationships—that most influences our wellbeing and health. Astoundingly, studies found that people’s relationship satisfaction at age 50 may be a better predictor than cholesterol levels of someone’s future health. 

Waldinger says, “It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”

You can learn more about this fascinating scientific work here: Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study shows how to live a healthy and happy life.

That’s some powerful stuff! And it goes to show just how important love is for all human beings.

But the fear of being hurt, betrayed, or abandoned can prevent you from receiving the love you crave. So, what triggers fear of intimacy? Are you someone who is afraid of intimate relationships?

I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you push people away who try to get too close, whether that be a physical relationship, a romantic relationship, or a friendship?
  • Do you end close relationships before they become serious?
  • Have you established clear boundaries for yourself, and are you able to express them to others?
  • Do you communicate openly and honestly with the people you love?
  • Are you able to express your own feelings, even when it feels scary?
  • Do you have low self-esteem when it comes to romantic relationships?
  • Do you avoid physical contact, even from those you are close to?
  • Do you view social and personal relationships as a chore or something you don’t have time for right now?
  • Do you struggle to find intimacy with a partner you have been with for many years? 
  • Do you have a hard time sharing extreme emotions with others, including negative and positive emotions?

Be honest with yourself. Do you relate to any of those? Fear of intimacy is natural, and it’s something so many of us are continually working through. Let’s keep learning.

How to Work Beyond a Fear of Intimacy

Couple lying on bed - close up of faces

Love Means Equal Happiness

Before we move on, I want to take a step back and remind you that love is about happiness. I love this beautiful quote, but it’s important to understand what it means.

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” - Robert A. Heinlein. 

Note that the happiness of another person is not more important than your own. It doesn’t say the happiness of another person is above your own, and it certainly doesn’t say it’s more valuable than your own. It doesn’t say any of those things.

It simply means you care about the happiness of the person you love. It matters to you that they’re happy. You’re not controlling that person. Controlling someone is based on fear. Loving somebody means you want them to be happy, regardless of your influence. Even if you don’t agree with what they think or what they do or their wild mission in life, you support them because it makes them happy.

Don’t put yourself beneath another person’s happiness. Don’t put yourself aside for them or sacrifice yourself for them. Simply be there for them to offer support and encouragement.

Understand Your Boundaries and Communicate Them

Boundaries are a topic we discuss A LOT at Fearless Living because they are crucial to maintaining our physical and mental health. They help us preserve our own personal identities beyond the people we love.

Personal boundaries are guidelines or rules you create to identify what are reasonable, safe, or permissible ways for other people to interact with or behave around you. They also determine how you will react if one of your boundaries is crossed.

But for so many of us, boundaries are really, really, really tough to establish. This is because for most of our lives, the people around us, often our parents and mentors, have acted like boundaries don’t matter. They told us creating boundaries was selfish—that it was rude not to bend over backwards the moment someone needs something from us. Can you relate to that? I bet you can!

This mentality may have become so ingrained in your mind, heart, and soul that you avoid intimate relationships. You don’t want to give yourself away, and for your entire life, that’s what you’ve been told love is. Heck, it’s even a part of the marriage ceremony when the father “gives the bride away” to her husband. 🤦‍♀️

Being controlled by someone is scary. Not having your own voice is scary. Being told you can’t live your dreams is scary. But that’s not love—that’s fear.

Love isn’t about complete and utter sacrifice. Love doesn’t mean giving up everything you want and desire just to make someone else feel happy and satisfied. In a loving relationship of any kind, happiness and fulfillment has to work both ways. And that’s where your boundaries come in.

When you have clear and established boundaries and can authentically communicate what they are, you can still be your own person while being in a loving and caring relationship. You aren’t someone who fears intimacy because no one is trying to take advantage of you, and if they are, there will be consequences you have already established.

I wish I could go on and on about the importance of setting clear boundaries, but we have more to get through! If you haven’t already (or maybe you want a refresher!), I encourage you to read my in-depth article: Why Personal Boundaries Are Important and How to Develop Them

You Can’t Have Both Perfection and Connection

If you’re trying to be perfect, you’re not going to be able to connect. 

None of us, and I mean absolutely no one on our beautifully imperfect planet, is perfect. It is a human impossibility. The more you try to hide your insecurities or pretend to be perfect, the fewer connections you will be able to make or maintain.

You can’t connect with someone through lies. And that’s essentially what you’re doing when you try to maintain your image of perfection—you’re lying to yourself, as well as the people you’re intimate with.

We all fall down sometimes. We all stink sometimes. We all make fools of ourselves sometimes. We get lipstick on our teeth, pimples show up out of nowhere, we might tell a joke that doesn’t land. No one is perfect.

One of the most essential parts of intimacy is remembering that no one is perfect and accepting someone for their faults.

This is the full and honest truth: Loving someone is about loving their imperfections.

You are imperfect, but that imperfection is what makes you who you are. If you want to open yourself up to love, embracing your imperfections—and those of your partner—is part of the process.

And it’s what will bond you with other human beings because perfect isn’t relatable. Perfect isn’t fun. Perfect pushes people away.

It’s in our imperfections that we connect.

It’s in our idiosyncrasies that we connect.

It’s in our weaknesses that we connect.

It’s in our limitations that we connect.

It’s in the things that we don’t approve of ourselves that we connect.

If you’re looking for love, go ahead and allow yourself to be imperfect. Use failure to your advantage. Use falling down to pick yourself back up while connecting with someone else who has also fallen down (because we all have!)

Be Open and Willing to Receive Love

wet sea pebbles in the hands form a heart symbol on a background of water / declaration of love

I believe we all have opportunities to receive love, and we also all have opportunities to give love. Love is all around us. Love permeates the universe and binds it together.

But for so many of us, giving love is much easier. Are you someone who gives out compliments all the time but is unwilling to accept them yourself? If so, I’m very proud of your ability to share your love with the people around you and the universe—BUT are you able to receive it?

The question is:

Will you let love in?

Will you accept and allow others to love you?

Will you both give AND RECEIVE the love you yearn for?

This is the real work of loving: Saying yes to growing in our capacity to give and receive. It’s a never ending journey, but one that brings great fulfillment and joy.

And it’s a journey I’m still on too! 🙋‍♀️My journey is about my capacity to love and my capacity to accept love.

I used to think I was good at love. When I was younger, I thought I was the best girlfriend ever. I thought I was so, so, SO loving, and I thought that’s all love was.

Love meant making sure my partner was always happy. I thought his happiness equaled my happiness. I thought love meant sacrifice and, therefore, I was an amazing partner because I sacrificed ALL THE TIME! But I had no idea how to include myself in that love. And at the core of my being, I definitely didn’t believe I was loveable.

This is a journey we all take.

Every day, every week, every month, every year, I grow in love. My capacity to receive it, to allow it, to accept it, to believe it, to give it. The real work of loving is increasing your capacity for it, which means continually facing and working through your fear of intimacy.

You have to PRACTICE giving and receiving love.

Put in the Work and Practice

Working through a fear of intimacy is a long journey, and it will take continual practice. All relationships, no matter the type, take work, and you must be willing to put in the effort.

That means showing up for yourself and doing what you can the best you can when you can. Will there be ups and downs? Yes. But I encourage you to keep going because, as we’ve already discussed, love and the ability to receive love are the two most important things to achieving lasting happiness. And who doesn’t want that?

Practice communicating with others. Practice opening yourself up to others, one small bit at a time. Practice being compassionate toward others, and practice being compassionate toward yourself. Because if you don’t love yourself, you can’t truly give authentic love to anyone else.

Cracking Your Fear of Intimacy With Fearless Living

Cracking the code to your fear of intimacy is a difficult road, and it’s only one of the journeys you’ll go on at Fearless Living. I invite you to join our compassionate Fearless Living community inside Fearless You, where you’ll gain access to dozens of courses, lessons, and live sessions—all designed to help you live the life your soul intended.™

You’ll also gain access to the complete How to Overcome Intimacy Course that digs much deeper into this important topic than I could with just one article. The whole How to Overcome Fear series is available to you there with your membership, including Fear of Failure, Fear of Change, Fear of Not Being Good Enough, and many more.

Learn more about Fearless You and continue following the Fearless Living blog for free weekly content on everything from how to achieve ​​greater vulnerability to how to listen to your inner voice.

From Fear to Freedom
From Fear to Freedom GUIDE topaz enhance sharpen hiresDOWNLOAD GUIDE

Intimacy is something we all yearn for. Most of us admit we want love and want to feel a deep connection with another human being.

Of course, some people won’t ever admit they crave intimacy with another human being, but if you’re already here on the Fearless Living blog, I’m betting you do! And I’m so happy you’re here! Reading this article means you’ve already taken a crucial step on your journey.

We are all starting on a different path with intimacy. You might be partnered with another human being already; maybe you want to figure out how to open your heart, or maybe you want them to open their heart more.

You might be wondering: “How do you love someone who is afraid of intimacy? If you’re single, you might be searching for love. You might be wondering: “How do I open myself up to the vulnerable process of dating?”

Intimacy - close up of hands in a bed

Or maybe you’re not ready to start dating yet; you just want to feel intimate with your friends, family, or maybe even with yourself.

Regardless of where you are on your current path, intimacy is always a work in progress. Becoming intimate with yourself and other human beings is all about telling yourself the truth, opening your heart, and BEING VULNERABLE😱—over and over and over again.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Okay, Rhonda. Easier said than done,” you’re right! Intimacy isn’t easy, and it doesn’t always come naturally. But without some form of love in our lives, we can’t find true happiness and fulfillment. That’s what science tells us! More on that later in this article.

When we break it down, these difficult feelings and tough moments all come down to one thing: FEAR.

We push love away because of fear.

We don’t accept love from others because of fear.

We don’t take the risk of expressing our love because of fear. 

Now I know—and boy do I know😅—it’s not an easy road, but with a willingness to practice, learn, and show up for yourself, you can work through your fear of intimacy. And as you learn how to open your heart, you’ll continue to attract more and more authentic love into your life.

By understanding where your fears come from and what you can do to change your trajectory, you’ll learn how to create the type of emotional intimacy that will lead you to lasting love.

Let’s get started! I’ll first share an overview of what I mean when I talk about emotional fears. Next, I’ll talk about the science behind our need for love, what a fear of intimacy is, and what you can do (starting right now!) to work through your fears.

A Fearless Living Introduction: Overcoming Fear

When you think about fear, what comes to mind? Maybe you think about being in the dark, speaking in front of a large crowd, or clowns!

While these are all legitimate fears, at Fearless Living, when we talk about fear, we’re talking about emotional fears. Emotional fears cause us to make decisions that lead us further away from living the life our soul intended.™ Emotional fears keep us trapped; they keep us from realizing our goals, dreams, and desires.

The 10 most common emotional fears are:

We’re working through all of the most common emotional fears on the Fearless Living blog, one by one. If you are unfamiliar with the Fearless Living philosophy on fear and want a better understanding of the difference between common phobias and emotional fears, read: 10 Common Types of Fear.

What Are the Signs of Fear of Intimacy?

It’s time for a little science behind just how important relationships are to our health.

A 75-year-long Harvard study found that love and relationships are by far the most important factors to living a happy and fulfilling life. And guess what? The other essential ingredient is finding a way to accept love and not push it away.

Let’s go over that again! The proven ingredients for living a happy, healthy life are:

  1. Finding and having the experience of love.
  2. Living your life in a way that doesn’t push that love away.

The director of the Harvard study, Robert Waldinger, explains that it’s our relationships—and how happy we are with those relationships—that most influences our wellbeing and health. Astoundingly, studies found that people’s relationship satisfaction at age 50 may be a better predictor than cholesterol levels of someone’s future health. 

Waldinger says, “It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”

You can learn more about this fascinating scientific work here: Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study shows how to live a healthy and happy life.

That’s some powerful stuff! And it goes to show just how important love is for all human beings.

But the fear of being hurt, betrayed, or abandoned can prevent you from receiving the love you crave. So, what triggers fear of intimacy? Are you someone who is afraid of intimate relationships?

I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you push people away who try to get too close, whether that be a physical relationship, a romantic relationship, or a friendship?
  • Do you end close relationships before they become serious?
  • Have you established clear boundaries for yourself, and are you able to express them to others?
  • Do you communicate openly and honestly with the people you love?
  • Are you able to express your own feelings, even when it feels scary?
  • Do you have low self-esteem when it comes to romantic relationships?
  • Do you avoid physical contact, even from those you are close to?
  • Do you view social and personal relationships as a chore or something you don’t have time for right now?
  • Do you struggle to find intimacy with a partner you have been with for many years? 
  • Do you have a hard time sharing extreme emotions with others, including negative and positive emotions?

Be honest with yourself. Do you relate to any of those? Fear of intimacy is natural, and it’s something so many of us are continually working through. Let’s keep learning.

How to Work Beyond a Fear of Intimacy

Couple lying on bed - close up of faces

Love Means Equal Happiness

Before we move on, I want to take a step back and remind you that love is about happiness. I love this beautiful quote, but it’s important to understand what it means.

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” - Robert A. Heinlein. 

Note that the happiness of another person is not more important than your own. It doesn’t say the happiness of another person is above your own, and it certainly doesn’t say it’s more valuable than your own. It doesn’t say any of those things.

It simply means you care about the happiness of the person you love. It matters to you that they’re happy. You’re not controlling that person. Controlling someone is based on fear. Loving somebody means you want them to be happy, regardless of your influence. Even if you don’t agree with what they think or what they do or their wild mission in life, you support them because it makes them happy.

Don’t put yourself beneath another person’s happiness. Don’t put yourself aside for them or sacrifice yourself for them. Simply be there for them to offer support and encouragement.

Understand Your Boundaries and Communicate Them

Boundaries are a topic we discuss A LOT at Fearless Living because they are crucial to maintaining our physical and mental health. They help us preserve our own personal identities beyond the people we love.

Personal boundaries are guidelines or rules you create to identify what are reasonable, safe, or permissible ways for other people to interact with or behave around you. They also determine how you will react if one of your boundaries is crossed.

But for so many of us, boundaries are really, really, really tough to establish. This is because for most of our lives, the people around us, often our parents and mentors, have acted like boundaries don’t matter. They told us creating boundaries was selfish—that it was rude not to bend over backwards the moment someone needs something from us. Can you relate to that? I bet you can!

This mentality may have become so ingrained in your mind, heart, and soul that you avoid intimate relationships. You don’t want to give yourself away, and for your entire life, that’s what you’ve been told love is. Heck, it’s even a part of the marriage ceremony when the father “gives the bride away” to her husband. 🤦‍♀️

Being controlled by someone is scary. Not having your own voice is scary. Being told you can’t live your dreams is scary. But that’s not love—that’s fear.

Love isn’t about complete and utter sacrifice. Love doesn’t mean giving up everything you want and desire just to make someone else feel happy and satisfied. In a loving relationship of any kind, happiness and fulfillment has to work both ways. And that’s where your boundaries come in.

When you have clear and established boundaries and can authentically communicate what they are, you can still be your own person while being in a loving and caring relationship. You aren’t someone who fears intimacy because no one is trying to take advantage of you, and if they are, there will be consequences you have already established.

I wish I could go on and on about the importance of setting clear boundaries, but we have more to get through! If you haven’t already (or maybe you want a refresher!), I encourage you to read my in-depth article: Why Personal Boundaries Are Important and How to Develop Them

You Can’t Have Both Perfection and Connection

If you’re trying to be perfect, you’re not going to be able to connect. 

None of us, and I mean absolutely no one on our beautifully imperfect planet, is perfect. It is a human impossibility. The more you try to hide your insecurities or pretend to be perfect, the fewer connections you will be able to make or maintain.

You can’t connect with someone through lies. And that’s essentially what you’re doing when you try to maintain your image of perfection—you’re lying to yourself, as well as the people you’re intimate with.

We all fall down sometimes. We all stink sometimes. We all make fools of ourselves sometimes. We get lipstick on our teeth, pimples show up out of nowhere, we might tell a joke that doesn’t land. No one is perfect.

One of the most essential parts of intimacy is remembering that no one is perfect and accepting someone for their faults.

This is the full and honest truth: Loving someone is about loving their imperfections.

You are imperfect, but that imperfection is what makes you who you are. If you want to open yourself up to love, embracing your imperfections—and those of your partner—is part of the process.

And it’s what will bond you with other human beings because perfect isn’t relatable. Perfect isn’t fun. Perfect pushes people away.

It’s in our imperfections that we connect.

It’s in our idiosyncrasies that we connect.

It’s in our weaknesses that we connect.

It’s in our limitations that we connect.

It’s in the things that we don’t approve of ourselves that we connect.

If you’re looking for love, go ahead and allow yourself to be imperfect. Use failure to your advantage. Use falling down to pick yourself back up while connecting with someone else who has also fallen down (because we all have!)

Be Open and Willing to Receive Love

wet sea pebbles in the hands form a heart symbol on a background of water / declaration of love

I believe we all have opportunities to receive love, and we also all have opportunities to give love. Love is all around us. Love permeates the universe and binds it together.

But for so many of us, giving love is much easier. Are you someone who gives out compliments all the time but is unwilling to accept them yourself? If so, I’m very proud of your ability to share your love with the people around you and the universe—BUT are you able to receive it?

The question is:

Will you let love in?

Will you accept and allow others to love you?

Will you both give AND RECEIVE the love you yearn for?

This is the real work of loving: Saying yes to growing in our capacity to give and receive. It’s a never ending journey, but one that brings great fulfillment and joy.

And it’s a journey I’m still on too! 🙋‍♀️My journey is about my capacity to love and my capacity to accept love.

I used to think I was good at love. When I was younger, I thought I was the best girlfriend ever. I thought I was so, so, SO loving, and I thought that’s all love was.

Love meant making sure my partner was always happy. I thought his happiness equaled my happiness. I thought love meant sacrifice and, therefore, I was an amazing partner because I sacrificed ALL THE TIME! But I had no idea how to include myself in that love. And at the core of my being, I definitely didn’t believe I was loveable.

This is a journey we all take.

Every day, every week, every month, every year, I grow in love. My capacity to receive it, to allow it, to accept it, to believe it, to give it. The real work of loving is increasing your capacity for it, which means continually facing and working through your fear of intimacy.

You have to PRACTICE giving and receiving love.

Put in the Work and Practice

Working through a fear of intimacy is a long journey, and it will take continual practice. All relationships, no matter the type, take work, and you must be willing to put in the effort.

That means showing up for yourself and doing what you can the best you can when you can. Will there be ups and downs? Yes. But I encourage you to keep going because, as we’ve already discussed, love and the ability to receive love are the two most important things to achieving lasting happiness. And who doesn’t want that?

Practice communicating with others. Practice opening yourself up to others, one small bit at a time. Practice being compassionate toward others, and practice being compassionate toward yourself. Because if you don’t love yourself, you can’t truly give authentic love to anyone else.

Cracking Your Fear of Intimacy With Fearless Living

Cracking the code to your fear of intimacy is a difficult road, and it’s only one of the journeys you’ll go on at Fearless Living. I invite you to join our compassionate Fearless Living community inside Fearless You, where you’ll gain access to dozens of courses, lessons, and live sessions—all designed to help you live the life your soul intended.™

You’ll also gain access to the complete How to Overcome Intimacy Course that digs much deeper into this important topic than I could with just one article. The whole How to Overcome Fear series is available to you there with your membership, including Fear of Failure, Fear of Change, Fear of Not Being Good Enough, and many more.

Learn more about Fearless You and continue following the Fearless Living blog for free weekly content on everything from how to achieve ​​greater vulnerability to how to listen to your inner voice.

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