couple

We often think of intimacy as physical closeness, but it goes much deeper than that. Emotional intimacy is about sharing your innermost thoughts, feelings, and experiences with someone else and being able to be vulnerable without fear of judgment or rejection.

Emotional intimacy is often confused with physical intimacy or sexual intimacy, but they are two very different things. Physical intimacy is about sexual attraction and physical closeness, whereas emotional intimacy is about a deep, emotional connection.

While physical intimacy and sexual satisfaction are certainly important in a relationship, they are not the be-all and end-all. In fact, many intimate relationships that are built solely on physical attraction often fizzle out quickly because there’s no emotional bond to sustain them.

On the other hand, romantic relationships that are built on emotional intimacy can often withstand the ups and downs of life because there’s a deep level of understanding, connection, and care between the people involved.

So why are we so afraid of emotional intimacy?

For many of us, emotional intimacy is scary because it means putting ourselves out there and opening up to someone else. We worry that we’ll be rejected or hurt if we let down our walls and show our true selves. But the reality is that emotional intimacy is a vital part of any close relationship, even platonic relationships, and without it, we may continually struggle to truly connect with another person.

worried woman

According to a study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, only 26% of adults report being very emotionally close to their partner. It’s no secret that our upbringing and society’s messages can profoundly affect our lives, including our emotional intelligence and sexual well-being. When it comes to emotional intimacy, these factors can play a significant role in our fear of intimacy and vulnerability. Our parents may have taught us to be independent and self-sufficient, which can only contribute to our emotional distance and make it difficult to open up and depend on someone else. Additionally, we may have received messages from society that emotional intimacy is weak, unimportant, and not a valuable trait. As a result, we may view emotional intimacy and the feeling of closeness as something to be avoided or overcome.

But the truth is that emotional intimacy is an essential part of a healthy and fulfilling life. Emotional experiences are crucial for our development as human beings and life satisfaction. That is why it is essential to understand the root of our fears with self-compassion and learn to embrace emotional intimacy instead of running from it, especially if we are yearning for a long-term commitment or a close friendship. Studies find that adults in long-term relationships are more likely to report feeling emotionally close to their partner than those in shorter relationships. This makes sense, as we often need time to develop trust and intimacy with someone.

How do you create emotional intimacy with someone?

When it comes to emotional intimacy, many of us tend to shy away from it because it can be scary. We may not know how to express our feelings or may be afraid of being rejected. But emotional intimacy is an important part of any relationship, whether it’s with a romantic partner, family member, or friend.

So how do you create healthy emotional relationships? It all starts with communication. Building intimacy requires honesty and communication. Communicate openly and honestly with your partner. First, you need to feel safe sharing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with them without fear of judgment or rejection.

It’s also important to spend quality time together on a regular basis. Spending time together allows you to connect with each other without distractions. Quality time means having long conversations, sharing experiences, and simply enjoying each other’s company. It also means being curious about where the other person is coming from without judgment, ridicule, and shame.

couple sharing feelings

Finally, it’s important to be supportive of each other. This means being there for each other during tough times, offering encouragement and understanding, and being each other’s biggest supporters.

Emotional intimacy is not just about sharing your feelings with each other. It’s also about feeling heard and understood by your partner. It’s about feeling supported and valued by your partner. When you have emotional intimacy in a relationship, you feel a sense of closeness and connectedness that goes beyond the sexual experiences. You feel like you can really be yourself with your partner and that they accept and love you for who you are.

What is at the root of the fear of emotional intimacy?

Fear of emotional intimacy is often rooted in fear of abandonment and rejection. This can be due to childhood experiences, such as being neglected or having parents who were emotionally unavailable. Trauma plays a major role in fear of emotional intimacy, especially if it has been caused by a parent or caregiver leaving or not being consistently available and nurturing.

Fear of emotional intimacy can also be connected to feelings of insecurity. When we are afraid of emotional intimacy, we are afraid of being vulnerable and hurt. We may feel we need to protect ourselves by keeping our guard up. Previous relationships where you felt rejected or abandoned often lead to fear of opening up with other partners. If you’ve been hurt in the past, it can be difficult to let yourself get close to someone again.

Low self-esteem or trust issues can also play their part in fear of emotional intimacy. If you don’t feel good about yourself, it can be hard to believe that someone else would want to be close to you. And if you’ve been betrayed in the past, it can be hard to trust that your partner won’t hurt you too.

Fear of emotional intimacy can prevent people from having healthy and fulfilling relationships. It’s important to develop insight and self-awareness of why fear comes up for you and possible ways to work through it. If you are afraid of being rejected or abandoned, try to build up your self-esteem and confidence. If you are afraid of being hurt or betrayed, try to work on building trust with people. If you are afraid of the intensity of emotions, try to learn healthy ways to cope with and manage your emotions.

couple drinking coffee

Tips to work through your fear of emotional intimacy

There are many ways to work on overcoming a fear of emotional intimacy. One is to talk about it with someone you trust. This can help you to understand your fears and start to work through them. Another way is to slowly open up with more and more people in your life that you feel safe with. Share a little bit more each time until you feel comfortable with being more vulnerable. Finally, it’s important to practice self-compassion.

When it comes to emotional intimacy, we often put up barriers because we’re afraid of getting hurt. By following these tips, you may find it easier to let down your guard and open yourself up to a more fulfilling and connected relationship.

  1. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with the other person. It’s okay to be vulnerable and open up about your thoughts and feelings. This will help create a stronger connection between you two. Make sure you feel safe first.
  2. Spend time talking and listening to the other person. Really get to know them on a deeper level. Ask them questions about their life, thoughts, and feelings, and listen to what they have to say. This will help nurture your romantic partnership.
  3. Be honest about what you’re feeling. If you’re feeling scared or vulnerable, tell your partner. This can be difficult, but it’s an important first step in being emotionally intimate with someone.
  4. Don’t try to control the situation. Trying to control how your partner responds to you or what they feel may push them further away instead of creating a close relationship. Consider focusing on being present and open yourself up to whatever they may feel.
  5. Don’t make assumptions! Don’t assume you know what’s going on with your partner. Instead, ask them to explain what they’re feeling and why. This will help you understand where they’re coming from and give you a much better idea of the appropriate response.
  6. Don’t try to fix things! Dedicate your energy to listening and understanding, and avoid coming up with solutions. When you tell your partner what they should do or feel, you may create judgment for them and invalidate their feelings.

couple talking

Of course, these tips are oversimplified versions of the work that needs to be done to increase self-confidence and healthy emotional intimacy. Talking with a therapist to get to the root of your fear of emotional intimacy and understand what emotional intimacy really entails can be the foundation of healthy relationships and the best investment you can make for your well-being.

Working with a mental health professional who can validate your experiences, provide insight into how these experiences have shaped your life, and help you find tools to cope is invaluable. As with anything else related to our mental health, small and safe steps are most important.