Intimacy and a fulfilling, loving relationship is something most of us crave – in theory. In practice, there are countless cases of two individuals getting close, and then one of them starts pulling away. Popular psychology and its countless self-help books all tell us the same thing – intimacy issues most commonly stem from fear of rejection, fear of being trapped in a controlling relationship (hence passivity) and self-image issues. However, they offer very little insight into why these fears live within us, and therefore how to effectively fix them, truly fix them. Band-aid solutions like ‘find your voice and don’t let others smother you’ are all nice, but they also serve as superficial empowering mantras that don’t apply in real life. To get over your fear of intimacy, there is a lot of work to be done, but it will be worth it because you will come out to the other side feeling ready to love yourself and subsequently let yourself be loved.

Part 1 – rejection

Ok, so we’ve established that one of the contributing factors to intimacy issues is a fear of rejection. The pattern is fairly straightforward – you start getting close, and then out of the fear of losing a person or being rejected by them, so we project and imagine this rejection in every move they make and every action. Then arguments and finger-pointing ensue and, most frequently, the person dealing with rejection issues is the one to duck out of the relationship to prove to themselves that they don’t want to be rejected again. The thing this person is unaware of is to what extent previous negative experiences are deeply rooted in them. Rejection happens to all of us at some point in life or another, but it leaves a deeper mark on some than the others. The thing is, we unconsciously become ‘addicted’ to rejection and willing to go through the pain over and over again, to the extent that we create a ‘rejection scenario’ even if it isn’t happening. This entire behavior is a consequence of unresolved issues etched in our psyche, and until we can get to the bottom of the issue, preferably with real professional help given by a therapist, we will continue to twirl in this vicious circle. We need to acknowledge our subconscious attachment to this gut-wrenching feeling of rejection to be liberated from it.

Part 2 – body image

Strangely enough, body image issues are one of the easy ones to tackle. Loving yourself and your body takes a ton of work, but there are specific and effective steps that have proven to be highly effective. Once you accept and love yourself in the body, personality and face you’ve been given, it gets easier to feel comfortable with someone, to bare yourself physically, emotionally as well as sexually. Some of the steps involve learning to accept a compliment, refraining from putting yourself down but building yourself up with positive affirmations directed towards yourself, and there is, of course, working on your appearance. Losing excess weight that is both literally and figuratively ‘weighing you down’ will be of immense help. Not only will it improve your cardiovascular health and overall mood, but it will even increase your libido and make you more energetic. Of course, the fact that it will make you feel sexier doesn’t hurt either. Sexual intimacy plays a huge role in overall levels of intimacy, and people have different issues holding them down in this department. For instance, many women have trouble being intimate with their partner due to the insecurities about the appearance of their genitalia. In cases like these, labiaplasty can be a great solution that will make them more confident in the bedroom. The key is to identify the crucial points causing you insecurities and tackle them with all you’ve got.

Part 3 – when you’re engulfed in flames

This is the title of David Sedaris’s book, but it works. The fear of engulfment (being controlled by another person, losing yourself in the relationship and being forced into a passive role) has been previously mentioned, and what most commonly occurs in these cases is quite similar to the pattern mentioned in fear of rejection section. When there exists a history of passive behavior and loss of self in a relationship, what we, again, unconsciously do is give up before the ‘battle’ has even begun. We place ourselves in the passive position only to experience self-loathing followed by passive-aggressive behavior towards our partner, which ultimately leads to a toxic relationship. It’s easy to say ‘learn to stand up for yourself,’ but one can’t do that unless they’re aware of this instilled attachment to passivity. Again, there is no easy way to resolve this, but working with both your partner, talking to someone who can help and uncovering your inclination to passivity is a good start.