Do you have a hard time communicating with a partner about your feelings? Are you the one to leave a relationship just as your connection starts to grow? Do you feel uncomfortable when a romantic partner shares deep personal details and you cannot reciprocate?
If so, you most likely don’t have a secure attachment style. This can negatively affect how you approach relationships, but your attachment style shouldn’t stop you from making deep emotional connections.
What are attachment styles?
When we’re children, we form bonds with our caregivers. These early relationships become the blueprint for how we form relationships as adults.
There are four attachment styles:
- Secure: A securely attached person feels comfortable sharing their emotions, depending on others, and having a partner rely on them. They have emotional regulation and aren’t afraid of being partnered or alone.
- Anxious: This attachment is marked by a strong fear of abandonment. The anxious person values their relationship but is preoccupied with their partner’s approval. They often put their partner’s needs above their own. They usually have a negative self-image.
- Avoidant: An avoidant person sees themselves as complete without a relationship. They don’t like to rely on others. They have a hard time asking for support and avoid emotional closeness. They usually have a positive self-image.
- Disorganized: This is also known as a fearful-avoidant attachment. A disorganized person has a hard time regulating their emotions. They have difficulty forging emotional connections due to a fear of being hurt. Even when they want intimacy, their trust issues prevent it.
What is intimacy?
Intimacy is a necessary part of relationships. While we might think of sex and intimacy being the same thing, intercourse isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. Intimacy means being your honest self in front of another person so that they know who you are, wholly and truly.
This happens when you’re emotionally open with each other—telling deep fears, personal secrets, hopes, dreams, and complex feelings. You also create intimacy with someone by sharing new experiences, having intellectual conversations, and having private, meaningful moments together.
What does a fear of intimacy look like?
When you’re afraid of intimacy, you’ll avoid any behaviors or situations that get you closer to someone. You’ll have a hard time communicating anything beyond day-to-day feelings and events. Talking honestly about your private emotions gives you anxiety. As they want to spend more time with you and get to know you better, you pull away and withdraw.
For this reason, you might have a pattern of short-lived, surface-level romantic relationships rather than long-term partnerships. When you avoid intimacy, your relationships will never reach their full potential.
Most likely, your fear of intimacy is tied to your avoidant or disorganized attachment style. Childhood traumas such as abandonment probably led you to learn early on you can only depend on yourself. If you grew up in an environment where emotional intimacy wasn’t safe, you carry that with you as an adult.
Without consciously addressing these childhood issues, your adult self will replay these patterns of emotional withdrawal, stunted communication, and aloofness.
How can you overcome this fear?
Recognizing that your avoidant or disorganized attachment style is negatively affecting your relationships is the first step. Look for a therapist who is well-versed in attachment theory. They’ll help you get to the root of your attachment style and look for patterns in your relationships. Attachment styles aren’t necessarily one-size-fits-all.
You might behave differently with different partners, so it’s important to examine your life in terms of trends. Your therapist can guide you on your introspective journey and give you new ways of forging healthy relationships.
To learn more about how therapy can help you overcome your fear of intimacy, please reach out to Integrative Psychotherapy Group.