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  • Intimacy is an important part of any relationship: it plays a role in your romantic relationships as well as those with dear friends and family members.
  • That said, welcoming intimacy and opening yourself to it isn’t always easy; in fact, it can be pretty difficult, especially when past experiences have left a bad taste in your mouth.
  • If you’re struggling with intimacy, you might feel uneasy expressing your emotions, discussing relationship issues, or even expressing your personal needs.
  • Fortunately, if intimacy is an issue for you, you can take measures to open yourself to it: first, analyze your past and see if this explains your caution.
  • Also, challenge yourself when you find that you’re taking a step back or hesitant to be intimate with a loved one—don’t allow yourself to repress your emotions.
  • Finally, give yourself permission to be vulnerable; sometimes overcoming this fear is as simple as telling yourself you are free to love and be loved in return.

We often look to television characters to model our own relationships after. Now, regardless of whether or not this is intentional, doing so typically leads to unrealistic relationship expectations and unwelcome blunders. However, two characters succeeded in portraying a realistic, loving relationship on television: Corey and Topanga, or Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel, from Boy Meets World. Corey and Topanga built a strong, devoted relationship: they harbored trust, passion, loyalty, and support. They helped each other pursue their wildest dreams, achieve their biggest goals, and survive any difficulties that arose. Finally, they exhibited true intimacy—a level of intimacy every couple desires.

When we’re intimate with someone, we feel understood, seen, and connected to them. Intimacy is sharing your deepest desires and fears. It’s trusting them with your secrets, your vulnerability, your love. It’s feeling a true connection. And while intimacy certainly exists between lovers, it also exists between good friends, parents and children, siblings, and others. But sometimes we’re afraid to open ourselves up to intimacy; we have reservations about being vulnerable, even after witnessing a loving relationship like Corey and Topanga’s. The good news is we can resolve these fears—once we understand where we are lacking.

Intimacy: Emotional, Intellectual, Physical, Experiential, and Spiritual

While many think of physical intimacy right off the bat, there are several different realms. Let’s understand those first:

  1. Emotional intimacy

To be emotionally intimate with someone means you can talk to them about your deepest thoughts and feelings. This is the person who you feel comfortable crying to, the person you want to celebrate with. If there is a lack of emotional intimacy between you and a partner, there is likely an underlying cause, such as a grudge or feelings of resentment.

  1. Intellectual intimacy

Intellectual intimacy is characterized by sharing ideas and delving into important or meaningful conversations with someone. This may include discussing your favorite books or music or just life in general.

  1. Physical intimacy

Physical intimacy is not necessarily sexual intimacy. It simply means being affectionate with each other: holding hands, hugging, snuggling up on the couch together, kissing goodnight. Again, if there is a lack of intimacy in this area, you should explore possible causes. Ask your partner if something is wrong, and look within yourself.

  1. Experiential intimacy

Experiential intimacy simply means experiencing different events and activities together. This can be as easy as going on a bike ride or walk, seeing a movie together, or trying out a new restaurant. Or, it could entail trying new things like rock-climbing.

  1. Spiritual intimacy

To be spiritually intimate with another individual means sharing meaningful, remarkable moments. This might entail exploring one’s religion or worshipping together, but it might also involve sharing a love for nature or travel.

Am I Afraid of Being Intimate?

As we mentioned earlier, some of us are afraid of intimacy—of being spiritually intimate or physically intimate. These fears commonly surface due to past relationship issues, but can also emerge for no apparent reason at all. The following are signs that you might be experiencing a fear of intimacy:

  • You feel uneasy or uncomfortable expressing your emotions.
  • You’re scared of revealing your true feelings.
  • You avoid discussing unpleasant experiences or topics.
  • You don’t commit to long-term relationships.
  • You’re uncomfortable discussing a partner’s personal experiences.
  • You have trouble acting spontaneously with a partner.
  • You avoid expressing your personal needs.
  • You’re fearful of discussing relationship issues.

Resolving Your Fear of Intimacy: 3 Tips

If the above resonates with you, you might be afraid of intimacy. This can be a huge burden and hurdle to jump over when it comes to relationships, as a lack of intimacy in even one or two areas can push couples to the breaking point. But don’t worry, you aren’t doomed—the following steps will help you overcome your fear of intimacy:

  1. Analyze your past.

The first step toward resolving your fears is looking at how they manifested in past relationships. Did your fears lead you in starting pointless fights? Did you deny your loved one’s affection? Did you avoid talking about your negative feelings and/or fears with your partner? Once you find the answers to these questions, you can more easily understand how your fears directly affect your relationships.

  1. Fight back.

There’s that little person on your shoulder telling you that you should be scared—that you should repress your emotions and your affection, you should hold back your feelings and not get too attached. But you can’t let this fearful person tell you how to live your life. You have to fight back against this voice: allow yourself to experience another person and let them get to know you too.

  1. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Our fears of intimacy and love are rooted in defense and protection of our hearts. Nobody wants to get hurt or broken, so we build up walls and develop fears that leave us lonely. In order to break your intimacy fears, you have to break down these walls and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Continue to ignore that voice telling you it’s too dangerous and act on how you really feel. It’s well worth it.

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is a staff writer at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

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