Being physically and emotionally intimate with your partner is one of the crucial parts to any loving, healthy relationship. That close bond is what makes us feel safe and secure, and adds another dimension to the relationship.
But so many of us have intimacy issues, whether it’s because of something that happened to us as children, a difficult relationship with a parent, any kind of trauma, or a bad past romance. It can happen to anyone.
So if you feel like you or the partner you’re dating has trouble getting close to others, here are the signs to look out for.
1. They have trouble expressing their feelings.
Do they find it difficult communicating with you, and saying how they’re feeling? Do they withdraw from you when you have a disagreement, and end up hurting your feelings as a result?
This is one of the most common signs of a fear of intimacy, and it could be due to a lack of trust or closeness in the relationship. Sitting down with them and talking to them openly about how they’re feeling, and offering support and encouragement could help your partner to open up to you.
2. They have a history of unhealthy partners.
Does your partner have a string of toxic relationships in their past? Bad break-ups, abusive behavior, or cheating? Were they subconsciously picking partners who were unavailable, and treating them poorly? Or do they have zero experience, and a lack of history?
Some people choose unhealthy partners like this, or they avoid choosing anyone altogether, because it allows them to avoid intimacy. They have a fear of abandonment or rejection, and this protects them from that.
3. They get bored easily.
Sometimes we can feel really close to someone when we begin dating them, in the beginning stage of a relationship, but this closeness is almost always superficial. Neither of you know the other well enough, or have been through experiences together that would truly bond you, and show vulnerability in the both of you.
If someone struggles with intimacy, they move soon after this initial phase into one where they feel trapped, bored, or smothered, and then begin disengaging in the relationship. This is a way of avoiding intimacy, and could be the result of growing up with an emotionally unavailable parent, or being forced to take on the role of an adult at a young age.
4. They avoid being vulnerable with you.
If you want to have a healthy, loving relationship, you need to be vulnerable with each other, so that you both get to know the real person. For example, some people struggle with their partner seeing them without make-up on, or when they’re in a bad mood, or talking about a past experience that caused them a lot of pain.
But when you try to maintain that image of perfection, you aren’t able to get really close to someone, and let them in on the messy, raw and real, you.
So many of us are scared of showing people who we truly are. We try to conceal our flaws and quirks, out of fear of being embarrassed or rejected. But the only way to move past this fear is by taking a risk and putting your heart out there.
Your partner has to show you who they really are, before you can love them for that.
5. They’re sexually immature.
There are two different categories of people here. The ones who love sex, but may have an addiction to porn or their own gratification, as opposed to making love and focusing on their partner in the moment. Then there are the ones who completely avoid sex altogether. Both of these cases show an inability to communicate intimately, and to emotionally let go.
If you can allow yourself to be emotionally naked in the relationship—discussing your fears and insecurities openly and honestly, and letting the other person see the real you—you’ll be able to do this sexually, too.
6. They can’t just be with you.
If you’re with someone who struggles to just sit next to you in silence, or talk to you without the TV humming on in the background, or doesn’t like to make much eye contact—it could be a fear of intimacy.
Maybe they’re always on their phone, or they insist on going out instead of having a quiet night in, or they love playing video games on their own for hours.
Whatever it is, simple things like making an effort to switch technology off, make more eye contact, and hug or cuddle each other can be really powerful in building safety between the two of you, which will result in deeper intimacy.
7. There are trust issues in your relationship.
If you sometimes wonder if your partner is being real and authentic with you, or you struggle to be honest with them out of fear of what they might say or do, there might be trust issues in your relationship.
Without trust, there will always be a lack of intimacy, because trust is what supports us in being vulnerable. Without it, you can’t fully feel safe with someone.
8. They talk to someone else about their problems.
Do you find your partner talks to their friends or family about their problems, instead of coming to you? This can be especially damaging if the person they’re talking to is a potential sexual partner, because then you might be afraid they’re cheating on you. If they’re discussing things that they wouldn’t talk about if you were standing there with them, then that counts as an emotional affair.
People often lean on others for support and validation like this, when they have a fear of intimacy. If this is currently happening to you, ask them to be honest with what this connection means to them, and what their fears are when it comes to sharing things with you.
Having a fear of intimacy is common for human beings, and a strong part of the way we’re wired. But working through this fear is totally possible, as long as someone is willing to commit to it. Things like counseling, practicing mindfulness, and just opening up with your partner are all great ways to help us become more self-aware and in control of our emotions.