Couples counselors and psychologists agree, a fear of intimacy is one of the most common relationship problems. Dating someone with a fear of intimacy can make you feel as though you're in a state of constant rejection. It can be painful to love someone who reacts defensively to being shown love, particularly someone too guarded to open up about fears.
Identify the Source
The key to overcoming a fear of intimacy, whether your own or your partner's, is to find out and understand where this fear is coming from. Paradoxically, most people who fear emotional intimacy are really afraid of rejection, according to Margaret Paul, Ph.D., co-creator of the Inner Bonding® process, in her article "Fear of Intimacy" in "Huffington Post." Individuals may feel unworthy in some capacity, believing that if they let their guards down, they are open to rejection. Often learned in childhood, avoiding intimacy is a defensive strategy that centers on the principle that if you reject people first, they can't reject you. In many cases, people who fear intimacy have a history of traumatic relationships, either with an absent or unreliable parent or an early heartbreak. As a result, these individuals become wary of expressions of love.
Since every relationship is different, it is important to look at the dynamics of your own relationship and identify patterns that seem to trigger a fear of intimacy or commitment. In identifying these patterns, you should also consider your own behavior. Many people, in response to a fear of intimacy, will seek affection more desperately, appearing clingy and needy to their partners. Alternatively, some become angry and resentful, lashing out at their partners.
Be Open With Each Other
Though it may be difficult, talking about these patterns with your partner, without accusing or expecting instant change, is an important step in de-constructing the walls that have been built up. Engaging in exploratory discussions provides opportunities for opening up and can give both people in the relationship greater insight into particular behaviors as well as understanding and compassion.
Get Professional Help
Sometimes the hardest people to open up to are those who are closest to you. If the two of you truly value the relationship and are still facing difficulty with commitment issues, you may consider seeing a relationship counselor together. This will help with mediating as well as opening up and facing underlying issues head-on with the insight of an unbiased professional.
Latoya Newman is a novelist who wrote and published her first novel in 2012. She has a background in education, research and counseling. She taught at the elementary level for eight years, and has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from York University in Toronto, Canada.