- It can take a while for a couple to truly be themselves when they start dating.
- But after a while, you may realise your partner never seems to open up about their feelings.
- This could be because they have a fear of intimacy.
- Some of the signs are if they always opt for double dates and group activities, spend all their time in the gym, or work overtime instead of spending time with you.
- Usually, it’s because they have been through trauma before, and it’s scary for them to take the risk of trusting someone.
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It’s normal to feel butterflies and uncertainty, but sometimes it can feel like someone is giving you mixed messages. They text you often and say they want to see you, but then they never seem to open up about their feelings.
Some people have what’s known as a fear of intimacy, meaning they push their partners away – usually subconsciously – so they don’t run the risk of being hurt.
David Brudö, the CEO and co-founder of Remente, a mental health app, told INSIDER this fear of intimacy can stem from dysfunctional past relationships or trauma.
“It can also be linked to insecurity, and a fear of letting someone get close enough to see the ‘real’ you,” he said.
“Living with a fear of ‘what if people really knew me’ can, on occasion, lead to people turning to addictions as a means of coping, such as overworking, over-exercising, or partying regularly.”
Behaviours that look healthy on the outside, such as going to the gym a lot, or spending a lot of time with friends, can sometimes actually be a sign someone is trying to avoid getting close to their partner.
“This person might seem like a very social person, always seen at parties and with a fully packed schedule, but never participates in more in-depth conversations or seeking out long-term relationships,” said Brudö.
“If a person suffers from a fear of intimacy in a relationship, this person might start to spend more of their time on other activities, rather than spending quality time with their partner.”
For instance, instead of one-on-one dates, they might try and invite friends along for double dates, or plan group trips instead of intimate getaways.
Those who are struggling with their fears are usually tackling a lot of complex, and often conflicting, emotions, Brudö said. For instance, they might have a sense of unworthiness, or of self-doubt, and the feeling they don’t deserve the love, support, and attention from a partner.
This can often lead to them having an “avoidant attachment style,” meaning they essentially have a defence mechanism to stop them getting hurt, which is to avoid letting anyone get close to them in the first place.
“In the short run, addictive behaviours, such as logging overtime in the office, spending time at the gym, or speed dating, can work as a safety net for people struggling with a fear of intimacy,” said Brudö. “They are able to be popular and social, without giving too much of themselves away.”
He said the way to start breaking out of the cycle is trying to tap into your true emotions, and opening up about the past traumatic experiences that may still be hurting you.
“This, in essence, goes against everything someone struggling with a fear of intimacy wants,” he said. “But if you feel that this is starting to impact your relationships, then it might be worth seeking professional help from, for example, a physiologist, therapist, or a life coach.”
While it may seem daunting, working with professionals can help you get to the root of your fears, so you can start to overcome them.
And if you’re dating someone who you suspect is emotionally avoidant, the best thing you can do is try and talk to them about it. If they trust you, they might open up to you. But if they don’t, they might not be ready for a committed relationship just yet.
Either way, it’s better to ask and receive an answer you don’t like, rather than living in uncertainty about someone’s intentions.
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