I think the reason I never realized I had a fear of intimacy is because, like most people who are avoidant-attached, I actually want intimacy but when faced with it, it’s scary.
It’s like getting the big break you’ve been wanting and then rejecting it because you suddenly “realized” that this isn’t what you want.
No, it is what you want. You don’t trust that intimacy has been achieved because you never had it before. Or, because you’ve never had intimacy, you don’t know what to expect.
This person is now going to see your flaws (especially the ones you don’t know about) and you are going to see theirs. The narrative of who this person is may change, and their idea of who you are may change as well. Things could go well and flame out in a fireball from hell or you could wake up one day and coldly distance yourself from them forever.
You could have children and endure some painful ordeal like an illness or a tragic death. You may have to battle the nauseating traits of their parents. You may be afraid they’d want to leave you when they see the people who birthed you. You could be in love until old age and then die happy while they were cheating on you the entire time, rendering your romance a lie.
So, it isn’t completely irrational to fear intimacy. And yet, it kind of is. I’ll explain why in a bit, but first let me explain how this problem arises.
One develops a fear of intimacy or becomes avoidant-attached because growing up the need for love and intimacy went unfulfilled. Either it wasn’t there or it wasn’t enough.
Moreover, the role of caregiver had to be assumed because one’s caregivers craved it themselves. The child is no longer a child and this role reversal had an adverse effect because who’s going to nurture the kid?
As a result, the child grew up without adequate amounts of love but the desire for it never died. But because they resented not being loved or the circumstances surrounding not being loved, they grow up still wanting love but fearing that if it showed up, would it just end up in the same way with their parents?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes because humans replicate the model of love that they learnt as children. So those who have a fear of intimacy are unconsciously attracted to people who they cannot trust to meet their needs for love.
The people they often go for are anxiously-attached. They crave love but their craving is too intense and it terrifies the avoidant-attached person.
Fearing Intimacy Makes Sense but Ultimately it Doesn’t
While there is a risk in trusting others and in revealing who we are, there really is no risk. In friendship, we do this all the time.
We will meet someone and when we are comfortable, we reveal something below the surface such as a like, dislike, fear or something in our history. If the other person reciprocates, then we continue to share and they are continued to share.
Over time, we see each other for who we really are. The big scars eventually get revealed because there was a foundation of trust that was built over a period of time.
That friendship is solid and secure because intimacy was a gradual process where the person was honored for who they are and sharing was reciprocal.
This is why the fear of intimacy is ultimately pointless but it reveals exactly why the avoidant and anxiously-attached can never have intimacy. They do not realize that trust and intimacy are built over time.
If one reveals something and it is reciprocated, then one proceeds to deepen the relationship with more sharing. But if it hits a snag where someone isn’t sharing (withdrawal) or if someone is oversharing (chasing), that is the cue that something is wrong. The relationship cannot be deepened.
The solution is simple but not easily implemented. If one can gradually reveal who they are to someone who is also revealing themselves, intimacy and trust will naturally be built.
And there’s a bonus. Revealing who you are makes you more honest with yourself. The lies and escapist thoughts that run around in your mind are silenced in the light of truth.
This of course has the ripple effect of you being all the more honest with others. It’s a win-win.
So as scary as intimacy might seem, if you approach it the right way, it will be a blessing. Give people a chance, drop judgment and allow yourself to see them for who they are while allowing them to see you as you are.