Intimacy issues may affect your performance in the bedroom. But there are ways to help you face your fears.
In this article:
- Prevalence of Fear of Intimacy
- The Psychological Roots of Avoiding Physical and Emotional Intimacy
- Possible Source of Intimacy Issues: 5 Parenting Behaviors That Disrupt Attachment
- Fostering Vulnerability in Your Relationship
- Moving Past Fear of Intimacy
- Tips to Overcome Intimacy Issues
Resolving Your Emotional Intimacy Issues
Prevalence of Fear of Intimacy
Do you suffer from sexual performance anxiety? Are you worried that you can’t give your partner what they need and want sexually?
If so, you are not alone. Roughly 17% of people in Western societies fear intimacy, and so they tend to avoid closeness.
In most cases, intimacy issues are not about sex. Instead, they are linked to psychological issues.
Here’s the good news — You can get past your fear of intimacy. You can enjoy a loving and fulfilling sexual and emotional relationship. Here’s what you need to know.
The Psychological Roots of Avoiding Physical and Emotional Intimacy
When people detach emotionally or pull away from intimate experiences, they are usually following patterns established early in their life. Often, their behavior is involuntary.
They care a lot about their partner, but they simply don’t know how to connect. Sadly, this pattern is relatively common.
These patterns are ingrained in people in infancy and early childhood. Attachment theory describes what happens.
Babies and children need to be close to their parents. Those early bonds create a sense of comfort in the children, especially in times of fear or distress.
Unfortunately, however, if the parent avoids or neglects the child, he will develop attachment issues on some level, e.g. fear of abandonment or rejection.
Though, to affect the child’s future intimacy, these behaviors don’t need to be abusive. In fact, they can be extremely normative and culturally accepted.
For some generations, a detached parenting style “to encourage independence” was even recommended in parenting books.
Possible Source of Intimacy Issues: 5 Parenting Behaviors That Disrupt Attachment
1. Abusive Parenting
In extreme cases of attachment issues, the parents may abuse the child. Or, they may abandon the child.
When you have these experiences in your background, you may back away from intimate relationships and experiences.
2. Belittling Expression of Sadness or the Act of Crying
In other cases, the parents may let their babies cry themselves to sleep instead of offering comfort. Boys may often hear phrases like “Boys don’t cry” or “Take it like a man” growing up, and both genders may be exposed to sentiments such as “Don’t be such a crybaby.”
However, it’s not just crying or sadness that’s ignored.
3. Rejecting Soft Feelings
When the child is frustrated or upset, the parent may not offer solace. Instead, the parent perceives those emotions as ungrateful or immature, and they undermine those emotions by telling the child to stop it.
They may yell at or even hit the child, effectively teaching the child that these softer feelings need to be avoided at all costs.
4. Helicopter Parenting
Helicopter Parent Definition: This refers to parents who are always hovering and who want to be constantly involved in what’s happening with the child.
Sometimes, the parental actions that affect the child swing the opposite direction from the emotional neglect described above. You may have heard the term helicopter parent.
In situations wherein the parent always interferes, the parent may swoop in too quickly when the child is being emotional. The child sees the parent getting anxious, and they don’t like that.
So, the child stops sharing those emotions. They quiet their emotions in response to their parent’s anxiety, and this pattern carries through into their adulthood.
5. Only Acknowledging or Rewarding Achievements
In addition to those situations, some children who develop intimacy issues later in life are the ones who are overly focused on achievements. Their perfectionist parents generally only show affection when the child achieves something.
As a result, these children worry that their parents won’t love them unless they get good grades, perform well on sports teams, or earn other accolades. As these children grow up, they shut down their emotions and they think they only need achievements to be accepted.
While those comments and actions may seem innocuous, they often lead to the child thinking that these tender emotions are not normal. As a result, the child starts to hide these emotions.
When these feelings surface during adulthood, the now-grown child suppresses them—and out comes the fear of intimacy.
Fostering Vulnerability in Your Relationship
Tragically, as these children become adults, they continue to struggle with emotions. They fear vulnerability in particular.
Usually, these patterns are so ingrained that the person in question can’t see them.
If you suffer from these patterns, your partner may have approached you and tried to address them. They may have told you that you aren’t open enough or that you don’t give them the emotional support or trust they need.
They may have even said that they want to connect more sexually.
If that has happened to you, how did you react? Did you deny their accusations?
Did you get angry? Or, did you pull away even further?
If that’s what happened, you are not alone. Many people in this situation, even in long-term relationships, have had the exact same experiences.
But, it’s important to know that hope is not lost. You can get past these patterns.
You can enjoy emotional and sexual intimacy with your partner. Fear of intimacy does not have to control your life.
Moving Past Fear of Intimacy
Whether your fear of intimacy is giving you sexual performance anxiety or causing other issues in your relationship, the first step is recognizing the issue. Be aware that you tend to pull back and watch yourself in intimate situations.
When you see yourself pulling away from your lover, be aware that these are lifelong patterns that will take time to unlearn.
Most importantly, remind yourself that you are worthy of love. You are worthy of a deep emotional connection and you deserve to feel good sexually.
Tips to Overcome Intimacy Issues
To foster your sense of connection and intimacy, you may want to explore these tips:
- Listen when your partner expresses concern about your trust or intimacy issues.
- Pay attention to your feelings. When you’re having a strong emotion, don’t necessarily yield to it, especially if it’s fear or anger. Instead, let that emotion go.
- Develop a language or vocabulary to talk about your emotions. Let your partner know when you are sad or fearful.
- Recognize that you are loved even if you don’t do everything perfectly.
- Don’t listen to your inner critic. Become aware of the roots of that internal monologue and learn to ignore it.
- Relax. Taking time to relax before sex can help to improve the experience.
- Finding ways to connect with your lover outside of the bedroom can aid in having a healthy sex life.
- Try new things. Simple physical exercises like letting your partner kiss you everywhere can help you notice when you lock up and give you practice relaxing and yielding to the experience.
- Practice being vulnerable. Vulnerability is a skill. Trying a new thing, expressing an opinion, or standing up for yourself are all actions that can help you practice vulnerability.
If you want to learn more about improving your emotional, mental, and physical life through better sex, we invite you to explore the rest of our site. We offer tips on everything from optimal positions to helpful exercises to erectile dysfunction management and treatment options.
But ultimately, our focus is on helping you improve intimacy and communication in ways that increase your connection and relationship satisfaction on all levels.
For a personalized plan, fill out our survey form, and we’ll get you the help you need.
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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for quality and relevancy.