Having a fear of intimacy can be a confusing and complex situation.
It’s important to acknowledge that there is a difference between a fear of intimacy and a general disinterest in romantic relationships. Some people may be at a stage in their life where they don’t want to focus on or commit to a serious relationship. This can be for a variety of reasons, including college studies, transitioning into a new career, or family obligations. And some people may simply not be at a level of maturity or readiness to be in a relationship for a number of other reasons (college, developing a new career, etc).
A true fear of intimacy is different. People who have a fear of intimacy want to experience love and intimacy with another person, but their fear holds them back from being vulnerable and/or getting to a stage in a romantic relationship that is emotionally and physically intimate.
I feel that Margaret Paul, Ph.D., summed it up best in an article for Mind Body Green, where she wrote, “A fear of intimacy is not, at its heart, a fear of intimacy. It’s the fear of an insurmountable loss.”
People who have serious intimacy issues will often attempt to have serious relationships, only to back out when feelings start to develop in a way that becomes scary. Sadly, this fear is what often bars people from discovering the joy of a loving, long-term relationship.
Below are five ways to help you cure a fear of intimacy for men:
Ways Men Can Cure a Fear of Intimacy Tip #1: Acknowledge Your Fear and Understand the Reason Behind It
A fear of intimacy can be spurred by many different events and experiences. There’s a reason that many people say that admitting a problem is the first step to finding a solution, and that sentiment definitely applies when it comes to a fear of intimacy.
A number of factors can play into your fear, including:
- Lack of confidence/low self-esteem
- A past romantic relationship that broke your heart
- You learned to fear intimacy at an early age
- A fear of not being able to measure up physically or performance-wise when it comes to sex
Some of these reasons can overlap, but it’s important to keep in mind some strategies for each. Some of these strategies should actually precede getting out there in the dating world depending on the severity of your symptoms.
We will elaborate on how to increase confidence (which is something that can weave itself through any reason for a fear of intimacy) further throughout this article.
When You’re Suffering From a Broken Heart
If you’ve been suffering from heartache over a previous relationship, it takes time to heal and trust again. Some of the ways you can expedite the healing process include:
- Taking a couple of weeks for self-care and allowing yourself to do whatever you want post-breakup
- Exercising daily — along with the physical benefits that come with working out, exercise releases endorphins, which improve mood
- Spend time with friends and family members that you trust
Having a broken heart can understandably make you develop a fear of intimacy, at least in the short-term. Depending on the nature of the relationship and how badly things ended, you may end up feeling a fear of intimacy for longer than you’d expect.
If a broken heart is leading to symptoms of depression, anxiety, or if it feels like your heartbreak is interfering with your daily life and ability to function, it may be a good idea to talk to a professional therapist.
When a Fear of Intimacy Occurs at an Early Age
Although childhood is supposed to be a time that is marked by happiness and wonder, many people learn to be guarded due to childhood events. If parents divorce or a traumatic event in (or even outside of) the family occurs during childhood, a fear of intimacy is common and understandable.
Dr. Hal Shorey of Psychology Today cited the attachment theory as being one reason that childhood events can dictate an adult’s feelings about intimacy, stating:
“…all children have a natural need to remain close enough to their parents so that they can attain protection and comfort when frightened or distressed. How the parent responds in these instances has a major impact on the child’s developing personality (personality being defined as the way one characteristically perceives threats, thinks, feels, and behaves).”
Understanding the childhood roots that have made you develop a fear of intimacy be a powerful step in overcoming your fear. Therapy can also be a tremendous help if you are experiencing a fear of intimacy, particularly if you experienced trauma as a child.
Learn more about unhealthy attachment styles here.
When You Fear You Won’t Measure Up Physically or Performance-Wise
There are many reasons people may be anxious about how they will perform in the bedroom or if they will be physically appealing to their partner once the clothes come off. In certain cases, this fear can lead to a fear of intimacy and avoidance of sex altogether.
If you’re a millennial (meaning you were born between the years of 1981 and 1996), there is some scientific research to back up fears about performance and physical appearance in the bedroom. According to a study from the University College London called The Next Steps project, one in eight millennials (of the 16,000 tracked during the study) reported that they had yet to lose their virginity at the age of 26.
Researchers and psychologists posited that this was due to this age group being exposed to a hypersexual culture from an early age.
In other words, the things that people do in porn or in graphic sex scenes in movies seem pretty hard to live up to, and many males feared humiliation or a lack of being able to perform.
If that’s your fear, I’ll just say this — porn is fiction. Movies are fiction. No one is expecting you to have sex like a porn star, and to be honest, it wouldn’t be all that intimate if you did.
As for film and TV stars with seemingly perfect, rock hard bodies, remember that these people have access to things like professional chefs and personal trainers and that photoshop has been running rampant for quite some time now.
What you see on TV and in movies isn’t real, so there’s no point in trying to replicate it.
But what if you aren’t a millennial? And what if it isn’t the impossible standards depicted in movies and television that have caused your fear of intimacy.
Although body image issues are usually talked about with women in mind, many men have issues with their body image as well, alongside a fear of being humiliated or unable to perform in the bedroom.
Unhappiness with your body is often rooted in a lack of confidence or self-esteem, but there are things that you can do to help build your confidence. This brings me to my second tip.
Tip #2: Work on Improving Your Confidence
A fear of intimacy often coexists with a fear of rejection — something that can come from a lack of confidence.
Maybe your confidence comes from body image, a bad breakup, or past experiences. But regardless of the reason, avoiding intimacy isn’t going to improve your confidence. In fact, refusing to put yourself in potentially vulnerable situations will keep your self-esteem low, because you will continually be cheating yourself out of experiences that can lead to growth and self-improvement.
Learn to be Ok with Rejection
If we have suffered a loss in the past or have terrible experiences with rejection, it’s understandable that avoiding this could add to a fear of intimacy. Even if you’re dating someone, you may be scared to get too close out of fear that they will end up rejecting you or leaving, just as somebody did in the past. But by constantly avoiding rejection, you are ultimately keeping yourself in a place of fear when it comes to getting intimate with someone.
And remember, when it comes to putting yourself out there, practice makes perfect. When you allow yourself to get rejected and move on, you ultimately see that it’s not the end of the world. This will increase confidence and will ultimately make you attract high-value women that could make compatible, long-term partners.
Ease Your Mind
A lack of confidence can often be caused or perpetuated by anxiety. If you’ve found yourself ruminating over how nerve-wracking it is to become intimate with someone or get stuck in negative self-talk, consider incorporating some holistic practices into your daily routine.
An often overlooked component of overall health is sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can determine whether or not you’re in a good mood or a bad mood, and lack of sleep can have serious effects on things like stress, anxiety and even self-esteem. I know all about this one – my boyfriend needs about 10 hours of sleep every night. If he doesn’t get it, he becomes a grump for the day.
Check out the following tips for improving your health through sleep at Healthy Place.
Exercise and Eat Right
Along with making you the best looking version of yourself, exercising and eating right will definitely improve confidence by making you feel better.
Exercise releases endorphins that improve mood and you don’t need to sign up for a triathlon or enter a Strongman competition to experience the benefits. According to studies published in the International Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practices, low- to moderate-intensity exercises seemed to have the most positive effect on self-esteem.
Nutrition can also play an important role in mood, confidence and other things that can exacerbate things that make coping with a fear of intimacy more difficult.
Things like refined sugars, gluten, dairy, and caffeine can trigger anxiety and depression. According to the Harvard Health Blog, the way that certain foods are metabolized can leave you feeling upset or anxious due to something called the “gut-brain axis.” About 95% of our serotonin receptors (which have a profound effect on mood) are found in the lining of the gut, which is why a stomach ache can result in feelings that go way beyond the physical.
Take Care of Your Appearance
Confidence shouldn’t be based on changing your body to emulate Ryan Reynolds’, Ryan Gosling’s, or any other number of famous Ryans. When you strive to change yourself into something that isn’t truly you, the end result is counterproductive when it comes to confidence and self-esteem.
However, it is beneficial to take care of yourself physically in ways that put forth the best version of you and make you feel good about yourself. You can do this by:
- Getting a haircut and shave that makes you feel sexy
- Wearing cologne that makes you feel attractive
- Wearing fashionable and flattering attire that you feel good in
No, a nice outfit isn’t going to instantly make you confident enough to feel ready for intimacy, but it can increase confidence in a way that helps you move in a positive direction.
Tip #3: Talk to Someone You Trust About Your Fears
If you have a friend or close family member you can trust, confide in them about what you have been going through.
Talking to close friends is a great way to practice being vulnerable and intimate without the extra pressures that come with doing so in a romantic relationship.
Moreover, people who are good friends that love you want to see you happy, and will be glad that you confided in them. Being able to share vulnerability can deepen relationships and help enhance your overall wellness.
Tip #4: MegaDate When You’re Ready
Depending on the reasons that your fear of intimacy has developed, you may or may not need to consider counseling or extra time for healing before entering the dating world. Going further, if you think there is a slight chance you have an intimacy disorder, you definitely want to find a therapist before entering the dating world.
But when you’re ready, MegaDating is a great way to practice getting close to different people in a safe way. It is also one of the best dating strategies when it comes to finding a compatible, long-term partner.
Megadating is a dating process that involves going out with several different people at once in order to diffuse energy and increase confidence by filling your social calendar. MegaDating is not about sleeping around or casually dating a bunch of people to avoid commitment (that would be the worst way to cure a fear of intimacy). This process is about going on dates with lots of different people in order to see firsthand that there are plenty of fish in the sea.
When you MegaDate, anxiety decreases and you learn how to actually enjoy yourself in the dating world. MegaDating also relieves the pressure of finding “the one” or settling for someone that isn’t the right match for you. This, in turn, can help to eliminate a fear of intimacy, because you aren’t constantly wondering whether or not the grass is greener on the other side.
Tip #5: Hire a Dating Coach
If you have a fear of intimacy and have taken the appropriate steps to deal with this (whether that means a basic acknowledgment or professional counseling), hiring a dating coach can be a great way to overcome a fear of intimacy.
Dating services provide structure and guidance so that you don’t have to face the world of dating and relationships alone. A dating coach will help you achieve your dating goals faster by keeping you accountable and creating a plan that is tailored to your specific needs.
As a dating coach, I have helped tons of men like you overcome their dating fears and find lasting love.
Ready to get started? Head over to my calendar and book a 1-on-1 Skype session with me today.