The Fear Of Emotional Intimacy
I had always thought I had been chasing intimacy in my relationships. That intimacy was what I wanted. That intimacy was something that I felt comfortable with.
I realised this year that for the last 20 years at least, I had been running from intimacy.
Now those of you who follow me and read my articles regularly and listen to podcast appearances, know that I consider myself consciously secure from an anxious attachment style.
You see, I thought chasing love meant that I was the one who wanted intimacy. That I was capable of being emotionally available and intimate. I can talk about my trauma, my patterns, my behaviours, my general self-awareness with reasonable confidence. I can comfortably talk about my personal experience with ease. So that must mean I am vulnerable, right? That must mean I can be intimate, surely?
So what I’ve learnt this year is that being able to talk about one’s own trauma isn’t actually vulnerable. Vulnerability comes from putting yourself in a situation of opening up about your loves, fears and desires with the risk of rejection.
When we are able to tap into our vulnerability and share it with another human, that creates intimacy.
So when I met a man who was able to see me, the vulnerable me without judgement, it allowed me to drop deeper.
It allowed me to express further the parts of me where I felt shame, the parts of me that I felt embarrassed to express. You would think with the continuing acceptance of being fully seen it would create a container of safety. That this safety would mean that I would feel comfortable and confident in the relationship.
Instead, my nervous system freaked out.
I noticed a fear of commitment. A fear of being stuck in a relationship. A fear of being trapped. A fear of not being able to breathe. Feeling suffocated from the love and expectation of another human being.
I noticed patterns emerging - I would express my vulnerability, in turn creating intimacy and then I would back off or sabotage.
Backing off would look like talking how the relationship might end. That it couldn’t last forever. Looking for ways that it might not work. Looking for validation elsewhere. Needing more time for me or wanting to create distance in some way.
The sabotaging would look like misunderstandings which would then create conflict. Or creating an emotional crisis. Or behaviour that would trigger a wound in my partner.
And this wasn’t done at a conscious level. It was my body’s reaction to the unknown.
I would be taken to a moment of expansion in going to my edges of vulnerability and then would follow retraction. A return to the familiar. A return to what my ego deemed as ‘safe’.
My nervous system is used to chaos, chasing and needing. It wasn’t used to feeling seen, heard and held. The familiar to me was uncertainty, a sense of longing and situations that would have me questioning my own self-worth.
I now had a partner who ticked all my love language boxes of physical touch, gifts and words of affirmation but because I wasn’t used to it, it didn’t feel normal. It didn’t feel real.
There was a gradual unfolding.
The realisation was - I am emotionally unavailable.
I fear intimacy.
It was why I attracted for years emotionally unavailable people. I couldn’t access my own emotional availability. How could I share or connect to something in someone that I didn’t yet have in my own nervous system?
And as I write I notice two things - shame in not noticing this sooner. The second, a relaxing into understanding that this is what has held me back from deeper levels of connection. Understanding and fully accepting that part of me, my inner-child, has been helping me to not drop into full shame cycles when I basically fuck things up.
My partner and I are exploring this fear I have. It is also linked to my heart-opening. For years not having access to vulnerability and intimacy has led to my heart shutting down. A feeling almost of emptiness, of nothing there. So with each step of intimacy we have taken, and our journey with Tantra has been a big part of that, my heart has begun gradually opening too. And as it’s opened, emotions which have been held inside for so long with no means to come out have flooded out of me.
And I have been held.
I have been seen.
My darkness has not been used against me.
It has not been used for blaming or shaming.
I have not been rushed to ‘change’ or be ‘better’.
I have been invited to be me.
And all my parts have been welcomed too.
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other articles and podcasts which are supportive around this topic are: