The fear of vulnerability is a very common fear and understanding this central emotional challenge can go a long way to help you navigate your way through tumultuous moments. Intimacy doesn’t have to be a bad thing, quite the contrary it is a valuable part of building genuine connections with people. Our personal relationships are fundamental in building our social currency which play a huge role in achieving our goals. In fact, research supports that the most important determinant of a person’s happiness is the quality of their relationships.
To be emotionally vulnerable with someone isn’t for the faint of heart, specifically for people who have a history of failed relationships and emotionally distant or absentee parents. Vulnerability is a state of emotional exposure and it comes with a certain degree of uncertainty. It involves a person’s willingness to accept the emotional risk that comes from being open and willing to love and be loved.
Letting one’s guard down that way can be difficult and it leads us to push away those we love most often without meaning to. We constantly doubt the stability and security of our relationships and we waste so much time skewing that we miss our chance to be with them.
With that said, here are seven telltale signs, you may be suffering from a fear of intimacy.
- You’re afraid of abandonment.
Majority of the time, our fear of fear of intimacy stems from a deep rooted and unresolved fear of abandonment. Those who grew up with neglectful parents and have an anxious avoidant attachment style are most likely to develop this fear however, it is quite common to all. Constantly living in the fear that the person you choose won’t wake up one day to switch up on you can be very exhausting and its even worse for people with relationship OCD. Again, in a world where everyone is hyper focused on finding their ideal half you might wonder on end if you’d still be in the picture when they meet another character worth leaving everything for.
With this fear at the back of your mind, you learn to adopt a positive view of yourself but a negative view of others, thinking the only person you can ever truly count on is yourself. You think that it’s always better to leave before you’re the one who’s left behind and so you’re reluctant to let people in. As a matter of fact, long term commitment is improbable with you.
- You’re fiercely independent.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being independent. Of course, it’s good to be competent, knowledgeable and self sufficient but you should also know how to ask for help when you need it. If you’re too independent, you will try to do everything on your own because you take pride in never needing anything from anyone or perhaps you feel it’d be easier that way so you’re not indebted to anyone.
In a lot of ways it’s what makes you feel in control of your own life and enables you to keep your emotional distance from people. However, by never allowing yourself to depend on them or need them you are feeding your fear of intimacy by making sure you never have to succumb to having others fulfil your needs. Your independence gives you freedom by keeping everyone at arm’s length.
- You always fall for the wrong ones.
Having a history of falling in love with the wrong people can be tough. It does something to you and you may not even realise it. Especially when you find yourself attracted to people who are emotionally unavailable or distant in some way. Perhaps they are even abusive, rude or unfaithful to you. Picking unhealthy partners is a common characteristic seen in those who have a fear of intimacy because it allows them to avoid getting too close to the person or ever having a stable or secure future with them. This way you’re able to validate your reasons for being distant and not giving your maximum commitment to the relationship. You might find damaged, aloof or complicated people more appealing because you’d want to avoid intimacy and thus end up rejecting the ones who are actually more sincere to commit.
- You tend to be flaky.
Flaky/ˈfleɪki/ verb/ ;to be inconsistent in our behaviour towards others.
For this reason when people get too close to you, your first instinct is to push them away. You find that sometimes you ghost your friends after spending a lot of quality time with them. You might have a genuinely interesting conversation with them but without mention you destroy the conversation and the energy as well. Probably because you don’t want to get too attached. You might have even opened up to your partner about something deep and personal then you stop calling and talking to them for a few days. This also applies to platonic relationships specifically with people who have had bad breaks in the friendships.
These behaviours show that having an honest emotional connection with someone scares you. So you try to keep your distance and stop yourself from getting too attached to them. Since they’ve come too close for your comfort, you run in the opposite direction to nullify any budding connection and to keep yourself from getting hurt.
- You’re a perfectionist.
It’s normal to want the people you love to think well of you but you shouldn’t try to show them the perfect version of yourself only all the time.
If you’re a perfectionist, chances are you’ll have a hard time letting others see your shortcomings and your flaws. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected because of them. Perhaps you don’t even want to admit to yourself that you do have flaws. People tend to feel intimidated by the perfect front you put up and hence they feel reluctant to approach you as they find it hard to match your level.
This facade keeps everyone at bay but it’s important that you learn how to be open and vulnerable-ish to people you care about and that you trust them enough to let them see your flaws.
- You’re a workaholic.
When you’re practically married to your job, it really leaves no room in your life for any kind of relationship whatsoever. Maybe you’re pouring so much of yourself into your job because you want to deflect your focus away from your personal issues and avoid having to confront them. You use your job and how you’re too busy doing it as an excuse for not being able to form or maintain healthy and lasting relationships and it might be fine for a while but it does leave a void in you. Humans are social beings and regardless just how much we try to avoid our emotions, they’d always tarry with us.
People who are afraid of intimacy often throw themselves into their work to avoid having to commit to something serious. So if you’re workaholic ask yourself if this is the reason why.
- You sabotage your relationships.
It goes without saying of course that people who are afraid of intimacy will often sabotage their own relationships. This is why having this kind of fear can be so destructive because it robs you of the opportunity to have happy, stable and functional relationships. You may be doing it unknowingly by failing to communicate well or not expressing your feelings to others or you might be deliberately doing things you know could hurt or upset the ones you love (which happens more often than you believe). In fact, studies show that people who cheat on their partners often do so because they have a fear of intimacy. While it’s easy to see why being afraid of intimacy and commitment can keep us from being happy it’s harder to change when we’re already so set in our ways.
Painful memories, messy breakups and unhappy early childhood experiences can leave us with a lot of emotional baggage we’ll likely have to work through for years to come but it doesn’t always have to be that way. There’s no need to let these negative experiences define you and keep haunting you for the rest of your life. With diligence and support you have the power to overcome your fear of intimacy and commit to a healthy, emotionally fulfilling relationship. The first step however, is to simply recognise the signs.
Did you relate to any of these signs? We’d love to know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Also don’t forget to share with those who might benefit from this blog post. As always, thanks so much for viewing this article.