Categorized | Intimacy, Love & Dating

How To Deal With Your Lover’s Fear of Intimacy

Lately, I’m hearing from more of you who are struggling with a romantic mate who has a fear of emotional intimacy. Indeed, it feels like an epidemic amongst those of you who are single and looking for the love of your life. Tweeting, Facebook, online dating services, and other social media networks may have increased your social community, but not necessarily exposed you to people who are really looking for true intimacy.

You may recall that in my Fear of Intimacy: Are You A Relationship Saboteur post, I talked about the fears of being close that get your lover to sabotage intimacy with you. Understanding your romantic partner’s fears and motivations will help you to cope with his or hers’ come to me, get away from me behaviors. Although this is a good start, you have to learn how to sidestep stimulating their fears that you are going to control, engulf, and deprive them of their freedom. This is the subject of my post today.

Sadly, I have to post a disclaimer early on in my post today, to warn you that proceeding in relationship with a person who has intimacy fears is not going to be an easy journey. But, it’s your choice. Now, that being said, let’s proceed.

Above all else, what you have to remember is that there’s a difference to how you both view love. To you, falling in love, and into a committed intimate relationship, is what life is all about; your reason to be. But, to your partner, intimacy feels threatening. The more you try to convince him of the joy of relating, the more he will retreat from you.

You must first accept that they don’t see love your way. Not because of a difference in attitude or position on the topic, but rather, because every thread of their experience tells them intimacy is unpredictable and unsafe. Their experiences do not support your view of love. If you were up against another lover, truly, it’d be easier, because you’d know with whom you are dealing. But, when people fear  intimacy, you are dealing with ghosts from their  past.

An important point to remember is those whom are fearful of relationships attract exactly the people they need, but, also, of whom they are most afraid. They attract people who are comfortable with their emotions and want nothing more than connection, and may also be of the needy type.

Be A Safe Person

Like many before you, you may believe that your fearful lover resists being in relationship with you because he or she isn’t attracted enough to you. This isn’t the case. What is really going on here is that your ability to feel and relate threatens them.

You are too much and too capable, emotionally. You want more from them, than they can give.

This is the real problem. In fact, they may end-up partnering with people who are not available emotionally, physically, or intellectually, for some reason, in order to avoid experiencing the anxiety that deep intimacy stirs within them.

The best aphrodisiac for a person who has intimacy fears is safety.

Take for example, one of my patients. He told me that his spouse was upset, because he opened up emotionally to me more than her. This subject was great for opening up his fears of relating intimately to her. And, you better believe, that a small part of him enjoyed her feeling insecure, as it made him feel in control of her. But, what she didn’t understand was that it was easier for him to open up to me, because, I was not his wife; I was a safe person. The features and boundaries of our intimacy were  well-defined by the context of the psychotherapy relationship.  I knew how to be a safe person for him. I knew how to help him deepen his capacity for intimacy, without activating his greatest fear of being controlled, engulfed, and deprived of his independence.

The steps that follow show you how to become a safe person to a person who has intimacy fears. To help your lover to become more comfortable in relating intimately to you, you have to change your approach. Remember, you have to give a new experience to your lover about intimate relating. Intimate relating does not control, engulf or deprive. Yes, I know you get it. I really understand if you feel like you have to sacrifice too much of yourself to do this. But, if you really love this person and are up for the challenge, this is the approach that is best for you and him.

  1. Accept his or her makeup as a different one than yours. Know that his or her experience around intimate relating is insecure. He has learned to rely on himself, rather than other people to meet his needs. People who have intimacy fears are more like orangutans; they descend from the treetops to the ground, only to mate. While you, on the other hand,  are more like a monkey, feeling most at home living communally. Your lover needs more space than most to feel free. This doesn’t mean that you cannot be in a relationship with him. It is more that you have to understand these differences in your makeup and accept that your lover is unlike you in this regard, rather than wrong or bad. To be a safe partner for your apprehensive lover different, rather than wrong, has to become your relationship motto.
  2. Stop campaigning for more intimacy. It’s understandable that you want to show him the errors of his way. You want to show him through your warmth and understanding conversation that intimacy is good. But, your zeal is precisely what scares him. You need to relax and stop campaigning. Don’t put words to his weakness; support his strengths. If you really want to have a relationship with this person, you have to learn how to enjoy activities that are safe for him, emotionally. Get creative. Think of non-threatening ways to enjoy togetherness and deepen intimacy without applying pressure. For example, rock concerts, sport events, or dining out with many friends may be more desirable to him than dates that invite one-to-one relating.
  3. Protect yourself. By this, I mean maintain healthy emotional distance so the pace of the developing attachment between the two of you does not become so out of synch that one or both of you ends up feeling frustrated. And, remember, they are orangutans who come down to mate. In the beginning of the relationship, they may appear as if they have no fear of connecting to you, emotionally. But, as you already know, this is not the case. They run hot, and then cold, according to their sexual desire. Thus, protect yourself. Don’t lose yourself in fantasies of who you want them to be, rather than who they really are.

I hope you liked my post today. If so, please select the Like button below. Also, if you’d like to spread the word about the helpfulness of my post today, please select the Google+1 link too.

Remember, the more you understand about yourself and other people, the more fulfilling will be your everyday experiences and your life. Warmly, Deborah.


160 Responses to “How To Deal With Your Lover’s Fear of Intimacy”

  1. avatar Rocky says:

    i really loved your article and i can relate to it because i have intimacy issues but at the same time i also wana change it but unfortunately i dont know how to alter my thinking because i cant help being this way..please write an article to help people like me..i would be really grateful to you.. God bless
    warm regards

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you very much Rocky. You make such an excellent point here. People who have a fear of intimacy wish this were not the case. It’s not comfortable, by any means. I know it is hard, Rocky. I have treated people throughout the years who want to get beyond their intimacy fears, like you. Did you go to the Fear of Intimacy: Are You A Relationship Saboteur link in this article? It’s in there. If you didn’t, it explains a lot about people who have these fears. But, I do need to write an article for people who want to get beyond their fear of intimacy. And, I promise you, I will get to this very soon. Blessings to you too Rocky, Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Kasia says:

        Hi Deborah,
        I really loved your article and thank you! My partner,Steve…has intimacy issues and finds it hard to express his feelings. We meet very often,I always stay at his house at the weekends. We have a great sex and then he is very affectionate. But then the next day he may become distant. He “hides in his cave” sorting things out and I’m around but he doesn’t say much,I have to kind of guess and just be there for him. I know he loves me but never says anything nice and it’s very frustrating…

      • avatar Heather says:

        I’m trying to find the article about how to get over intimacy issues, did you write this in the end?

    • avatar jiya says:

      My husband had premature ejaculatiin issue after marriage since i wanted to close to him he kept on avoiding my sexual advances . He is way to comfortable with hugs and kisses on cheeks and nothing beyond that. If i try and talk to him he runs away getting angry.he avoids eye contact and avoids my sexual advances. What do i do to get him closer to me sexually.

      • avatar ACK says:

        Hello Jiya-
        The exact same thing happened to my husband and he has reacted the exact same way–and anger is his protection. Has you/your husband made progress on regaining intimacy again?

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          Hi Pia, sorry for the delayed response. Oh, yes, it is very possible Pia. Actually, this is often how CP people break off relationships. Remember, commitment phobic persons can have narcissistic personality features that means they are not going to own up to their own problems. A great question Pia.

          And, another great question – do they actually believe they are not at fault? If the CP person has strong narcissistic personality features, then, yes – they deny responsibility for relationship problems. But, there are CP persons who indeed do realize their difficulties but are emotionally dishonest in relationship, so that they don’t let the other person know what’s really going on. But, deep inside – they do know. I think what you are seeing here is the CP people have different types of personality issues and different defenses around their vulnerabilities.

          Thanks again Pia. People here will benefit by your question. Warm regards to you. Deborah.

  2. avatar Deana Khoshaba says:

    I do love this article too. Like Rocky, I would very much like to get your advice on getting past intimacy fears, and how to make it work when one person is needy and the other is afraid, since as you say, they often choose each other. Rocky might like to read a book by David Richo called, Daring to Trust. It is on this very topic. I read it, and liked it very much. He gives practical and sensitive advice.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Deana. Good to say hello to you again. I will definitely write an article on how to get past intimacy fears. There are very fine people who struggle with this problem, as you can see by the people who are sharing with us today. I’m looking forward to tackling this subject. Yes, David Richo is excellent. Thank you for suggesting this book to Rocky and to others (Daring to Trust by David Richo) and for your ongoing support. You take good care. Warmly, Deborah.

  3. i really loved your article and i can relate to it because i have intimacy issues but at the same time i also wana change it but unfortunately i dont know how to alter my thinking because i cant help being this way..please write an article to help people like me..i would be really grateful to you.. God bless
    warm regards. Thanks Dear.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Ahmad. I’m very glad you loved my article and like what I’m doing here. Intimacy fears are difficult, because the mind wants closeness, while the whole body reacts with fear. I hope you went to the link in this post, as I talk more about how intimacy fears develop.

      I will definitely write an article on how to change or work with intimacy fears very soon. Thank you so much Ahmad for visiting and for liking what you found here. Warm regards, Deborah.

  4. avatar Musir says:

    Awesome, Thanks And I Think This Is What I Was Looking For. Dr. Deborah Khoshaba Thanks.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Musir, thank you for visiting me. I am so pleased that you found this article is awesome, as you say. Be well. Warmly, Deborah.

  5. avatar Adil says:

    That is what you say is very intresting to me, i wish you the best in career.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you Adil, I’m glad that you found this article interesting. I hope you visit again. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  6. avatar Khan says:

    interesting article bcz this article really relate with my situation…i will appreciate if u help me more to come close to my friend ….

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Khan, I think I need to write another article sometime on how to help friends to become closer. You have a good suggestion here. If you have a friend and you trust him or her, then, I would share a few intimate things about your life to get more of an emotional connection between both of you. If your friend responds too by sharing something more intimate about him or her, overtime, such communications will deepen your emotional bond. Developing an emotional connection is the way to deepen any type of relationship. A great question Khan. Thank you for visiting. Talk with you soon. Warmly Deborah.

  7. avatar maha says:

    loved the article. Went out with a guy like that a while back. Whom i still love. Things were good but we couldnt balance it. He kept on sayin to break up and wanting to be friends.i couldnt take it thus stop talking and broke up with him. But i still want to make it work. What should i do. Does this still apply to me.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Maha, I’m glad you liked the information in this article. It’s so hard to date and love a person who has a fear of intimacy. So confusing, right? Maha, I do not have enough information to know if this situation applies to you and him. But, let’s say he does have a fear of intimacy. Then, your desire to keep pursing an intimate relationship with him will cause you more confusion and upset. Because, unless he changes, he will do this come forward and push you back action often. Eventually, you will break it off with him again. I always say, let the bird go, and if he flys back, then he’s yours. And, I know it’s hard, because you want to hang onto the times when he is open to you and open to a romantic relationship. But, you must consider strongly how much time you have spent feeling upset and confused. This will tell you if you should go forward or not. Thank you for writing me Maha. Look forward to you visiting again. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Maureen says:

        Dr. Khoshaba I can’t thank you enough for your response to Maha. I am in a similar situation and your response has made everything so clear to me. I’ve been in a relationship with an amazing guy for five years, yet he is still indecisive about us long term. There is nothing more that I want than to show him he does have the capacity for intimacy, yet with every attempt to talk to him about us moving forward with a commitment long term, he seems to become less decisive. I’ve spent years being so confused and so sad at the thought that we may never be together long term. I finally decided to give him plenty of space to allow him to determine if he is capable of expanding his capacity of intimacy long term. It has been the most difficult week of my life just sitting back and allowing him to sort things out on his own. He has sent flowers and messages saying how great the five years have been and that he love me. Yet, at the same time what he isn’t doing is coming forward and saying he is ready for a change and taking a leap towards our relationship long term. As difficult as it is to hear “Let the bird go, and if he flys back, then he’s yours,” I now realize this is the only way I will ever have any resolution. Do you know, on average, how long it typically takes for someone with a fear of intimacy to “fly back” if they decide to do so? Thank you.

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          Hello Maureen. You are very welcome. There’s a lot of people out there who are dealing with this problem either in themselves or their romantic partners. Oh, I hear your pain right now. There’s a saying I often quote – It takes courage to be happy and you have courage dear Maureen, to see if he will ever do the right thing. I wish I could give you a definite answer on time length. I hope the following helps you as you are going through uncertainty and doubt.

          He may be hedging his bets so to speak. Letting you know via flowers and communications that he loves you but not committing. This certainly may be his attempt to win you back without having to move the relationship forward. He may be hoping you fold first. If you hold your ground – he just may fold and move the relationship forward. I have to admit, he’s been pretty good at stalling – five years, so he may come back Maureen but then do his same song and dance.

          I admire your courage, although I know how you must be feeling right now. It’s very difficult to leave a long term relationship. But, if he cannot move toward commitment and this is what YOU want and need, you may have to close the door on him. Unthinkable now I’m sure. But, one door must close for another to open.

          Thinking of you Maureen. Happy Holidays, Warm regards Deborah.

  8. avatar Mary says:

    Hi Deborah I came across this post and found it very helpful for my situation. I am curious about what I should do in addition to your steps outlined above (1-3). I am comfortable with those approaches but am wondering what happens in the long run? There must be a longer term strategy (e.g. how to transition into more emotional intimacy slowly over time).

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Mary, I’m glad the post is helpful to you. You ask a very good question. Mary, the idea here is that the more you practice these steps, the more you will appreciate the level of intimacy that your mate can give to you. People who have these fears need some personal therapy to learn how to express themselves emotionally without feeling they are losing themselves. Yes, your approach to the circumstance (steps 1-3) will definitely lower your mate’s fears, which is good for the intimacy between you two. But, he may never become so emotionally free as to give you what you desire. This doesn’t mean you can’t be happy Mary. I’d recommend that long-term, if your mate is open to it that he get some therapy to explore deeper what these fears are all about. Thank you for visiting Mary. I hope to see you again here. Warmly Deborah.

  9. avatar Mary says:

    Thank you Deborah. At his own suggestion he is receiving therapy and is committed to working on this as he is aware that a past relationship is the cause of his current fear. I just want to be supportive in the meantime and know what to do longer term if/as things improve.

  10. avatar Max says:

    I am having a hard time dealing with this issue. I’ve just gone with a girl who is 49. She hasn’t had a boyfriend for 17 years. she is absolutely perfect for me. Stunningly beautiful, very sexy very intelligent and very giving person she spent the last both of her life raising many kids and working in her business. she was isolated from: love

    She met me after all her kids are grown. She was going to move but because we have nice times she decided to stay. Every single time that I have close to her as a person she sent me an email breaking up.she immediately had great love for me and said this. but is actually Jacqueline & Hyde. literally she was going to move in with me and we plan to marry mewhen she did another about face feeling trapped like a bird in a cage.

    I’ve been completely open with her. She denies her problem. She just thinks and a circular fashion that because she’s pulling away I am not the guy for her. I’m telling you this is nonsense. But I don’t know what to do. When she was young she gave birth really young and to some degree I feel like she hasn’t gone through Erik Erikson’s identity stage of development. At the very least she cannot at this stage of life be intimate. She substitute sex for intimacy. She does get intimatebut then she does the about face. It’s absolutely shocking because I have had the best times with her and she with me than anything you could possibly imagine.

    What in the world can I do? I’m sitting here thinking will she ever change? My only strategy was too tell her problem and tell her that I cant be exclusive with her. it’s not fair to me because well most the time she’s extremely nice, when she does this about face she actually is cruel towards me. She dimi ishes me. she projects like crazy on me

    It is so sad and I feel powerless. Because if I try to get her back now I am needy. And if I dont then I am not trying and it wasnt meant to be. OMG this is so sad she’s going to move and end up alone or the superficial relationship and breaking it off again with some other dude. Without her kids are business to keep her busy she’s just going to be depressed. she is losing out on the one thing that she craves in this world.

    what should I do? it’s all in God’s hands right now

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Max. You describe your friend very well, emotionally. Perhaps she was very hurt and decided to work on herself and attend to her children. Or, as you say well, she didn’t complete the identity stage of development. Whatever the reason, it certainly sounds like she fears intimacy to some degree. Breaking up just when the relationship gets comfortable and close can certainly be a sign of this fear. In general, it’s a fear of losing oneself. Max, I would hope that she would go to therapy. But, of course, she has to see the problem. It is very sad for you and for her. She is losing out on love.

      Max, I wish I had a better answer for you. I think at this point all you can do is let her know you love her and encourage her to talk to a therapist. From what you say, she may resist this idea. So, of course, you have to frame the suggestion carefully, as you know. You sound like a trained therapist–or a naturally talented person psychologically. I really like your understanding. But, you are right, there’s little you can do if she doesn’t choose to face her fears and move forward. Stay strong my friend. Faith can go a long way. One thing for sure, you are a person who is capable of intimate relating. That’s wonderful Max. And, if she doesn’t choose to go forward, there is someone out there waiting for you. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Max says:

        Thank you for your kind words and insight. I tried so hard with this girl. She sabotaged everything. She would find anything wrong and when that does not suffice, project whatever. Basically be mean to me and diminish me. Damn. Such a nice girl inside with good values but in a relationship totally a wreck. She is compelled to see me as a controlling guy just like her father and first husband. I am absolutely the opposite. Then she takes on that persona. Diminishing me and controlling the outcome. So sad. I am probably the most emotionally mature and secure person she has ever met but she has no trust in me. I tried so hard to be empathetic and understand. I forgave this because I have a little insight. But all she can do is tear me down with ludicrous ideas about who I am. So yes I will move on to someone who actually is ready for real, authentic love. I just hope for a moment that one day she can believe in a man again. Because this one had the most pure intention and genuine affection with absolutely no strings. And still not enough.

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          Hello Max, you are so welcome. I’m glad you found this article helpful for the situation you describe here. It is sad to see a person who is having a hard time freeing herself of role models and their relationships from the past. We can see potential and the good in other people. But, the saying is true that people have to acknowledge the good in themselves to begin to live out those ways. Fear undermines so much happiness in this world Max. I’m sure you tried to be empathic. But, it’s hard to keep taking on the negative projections from her past, because she doesn’t believe that any man could be honest, good and true.

          Max you do have insight; I hear it in every word. And, your understanding that she goes between the victim of a controlling father to acting like him is what we call a projective identification. Excellent insight! But, nonetheless, painful on you. I hear how disappointed you are Max. I wish for you to find a woman who can freely return your love. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Stella says:

        Dr. Debra.
        My husband fear of intimacy is terrible and I’m having a tough times dealing with it, he’s now finally accepting help by seeing a therapist. He’s an introvert so therefore I’m not sure how open he is to his therapist. He’s always distant make it very difficult to be with him. How long do you think it would usually takes to see if his therapist sessions really help him and I will see the differences in him!

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          Hello Stella, I’m sorry for the delay in getting back to you. The great news is that he is willing to see a therapist. Stella, many men who have these fears will not do this. Have you suggested that from time to time you both attend some couple sessions with his or her therapist or with some other therapist? Stella, research on couples’ problems shows that couple counseling is needed to deal with the problems interfering in the relationship.

          But, with regard to your question, it will take some time to treat a person’s fear of intimacy. This is problem deeply rooted in a person’s defenses. He may need at least one year of therapy to gain insights into himself. But, he may still never be the emotionally open person that you are yearning for. This is okay if you get more of your needs met, right? Warmly Deborah.

  11. avatar Max says:

    Wow. Thank you for your kindness. Truly healing words for me. Truly. Psychologists are healers of the soul. Most all are unable to do it well. I have only met one who had that gift because he was so individuated. His name was Max. He passed away. But you have that gift too. God bless you. You have a beautiful spirit.

  12. avatar E.J. says:

    Dr. Deborah,
    You beautifully put into words what is wrong in my current relationship and I can’t thank you enough. I’m normally the kind of guy who tries to deal with things on my own and who would avoid psychological help, but I’m so glad I put that behind me this time and found your article!

    I am a junior in college and met a girl about 6 months ago who I shared an immediate spark with. I had been single for about 6 months at the time, having gotten out of a 3 year relationship at the start of last Fall. I’m just like the person you describe in the article: to me, loving someone and sharing myself with a significant other “is what life is all about.” This girl immediately turned my world upside down and had me falling for her; I went from the typical, casual dating college guy to someone completely and totally in love in about 3 months. And while things started off wonderfully with my girlfriend, I’ve made the difficult realization that she has some intimacy issues.

    Unfortunately her and I are still in that awkward stage of independence where we are completely independent during the school year, but both live at home with our parents for the summer because it is the most affordable option. We are from small towns about 2.5 hours apart, and had initially planned to see each other often this summer. However, after one visit to her hometown her stepfather refused to allow her to see me when she asked if she could come visit me. He cited our different socioeconomic backgrounds as the reason for not supporting our relationship. He even had the audacity to say that my parents would never allow me to date “a girl like her” because my parents happen to be in a different income bracket. Of course I find it completely irrelevant who my parents are or who hers are; I fell in love with her simply for her. This has been hard for me to deal with, because I’ve seen how much control her stepfather apparently still has over her life; even when he has no control whatsoever while she is at school. She said he has never liked anyone she has dated, and was especially vehement about her not seeing me when he saw how serious I am about her.

    I’ve noticed that she has slowly been distancing herself from me since we’ve been apart, and even after finding a way to see each other (her grandparents were kind enough to let me come and stay with them in order to see her), she acted completely unlike herself. She avoided intimacy of any kind whenever we were alone for the whole visit, and we’ve been a very passionate couple from the beginning. She also didn’t talk much and didn’t seem excited to see me at all. She was also generally uninterested in any future plans for us to see each other.

    I know she cares about me, and I know she wants to be together again. But she refuses to talk to me about why she is acting different and just pulls away when I do. All I want is to show her that I am here for her and for her to open up to me. It has been one of the hardest, most frustrating things in my life thus far to accept that the girl I love more than I thought I could love anyone will not, and perhaps cannot, truly open up and let me love her. I’m struggling with how to handle it, but thanks to you I at least understand the problem she has. I just have to decide if it’s worth the pain to deal with this long term.

    Thank you again,

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello EJ, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I wish you well in your journey EJ. Yes, it always helps to put words to what we are feeling and to our and other people’s behavior. It’s so hard to fall in love with a person who has intimacy problems. We can see that they have no fears–but they have to see this. And, of course, the fears are imagined rather than real, so it’s hard to change. But, if the person herself will start learning about herself, psychologically, through self-help or therapy, there is a way to get beyond intimacy fears. It also takes some good, trusting relationships for her to heal. But, in the meantime, I know you have some decisions to make. You take good care. And, remember, EJ, if it is not her–someone else is there for you and ready to be intimate with their whole being. Warmly DEborah.

  13. avatar Lynn says:

    Hello Dr. Deborah,

    I can’t believe I finally came across your article. I’ve been researching fear of intimacy for 3 straight days because of a relationship that I’ve been in for 8 months that suddenly ended without any warning and everything was fine. I was completely blind-sided. Your article is the BEST information I’ve found.

    I’ve been dating this guy and we get along perfectly. We have so much fun together and can sit and just talk and talk. But, I began to notice that the only thing we did is go out at night to a local club and hang out (this is where we just sit and talk and we laughed a ton). He always wants to be around people, except he did come to my house on Sunday evenings for dinner and tv, but that was safe, I believe. We were around his friends all the time, until I finally said that I couldn’t be around his friends all the time and that became a big issue. He did not want to sleepover with me very often and said he just likes to be in his own bed. However, he told me he’d “work” on trying to sleepover somtimes because he knew it meant a lot to me. We saw eachother 5 nights a week and he sleptover usually 3 of those nights. I essentially let him run the show. I went along with everything he wanted to do because I was just so happy to be with him and we really got along well. Everyone told us how happy they were for us and that we made a great couple.

    I was teaching a class from January until May and it took up a lot of time on the weekends to prepare etc. I think this worked out perfectly for him because I couldn’t do a lot during the day on the weekends. However, when the class was ending, I told him that we really needed to do things during the day on the weekends “like normal couples do.” I said all we do is go out at night and hang out at the club. I said that we needed to do stuff alone and have experiences as a couple. I made sure to tell him that I didn’t mean we needed to be attached at the hip 24/7 or do stuff all the time, but just once in a while run to a flea market, take a hike, run errands etc.

    As an aside, he takes A LOT of naps. He sleeps every day after work and he taps naps on both Saturday and Sunday every weekend, which I now recognize as a sign of depression.

    He agreed that we needed to do things, but also said that he liked his alone time and had no problem being alone and liked to take his naps. In 8 months, we only did 3 things during the day, and the other plans never actually happened. I began to sense that this was an issue for him. I asked if all he wanted to was to get together at night and he said no.

    I saw July 4th weekend as an opporutnity and asked him to take off work the friday after and told him we could take a trip somewhere. He readily agreed and threw out ideas like he was into it, but no plans were really made and he eventually said he didn’t want to take a trip. I finally pushed the issue at the end of June and it was uncomforable and he got a little snippy and I told him that I at least wanted to do something each day over the holiday and he agreed. Two days later, he broke up with me and told me I was needy for wanting to do something every day over the holiday. He turned from the loving man I knew to a completely cruel person. He said he didn’t love me and didn’t want to be with me when just the night before he’d told me he loved me. He pushed me away in the most hurtful way I’ve ever experienced without much explanation.

    A week later I ran into him randomly (total surprise) and he said that he can’t be in a relationship with anyone. That everything I said about what couples should do is right and that he just doesn’t want to do those things and he doesn’t know why. He said he lost his best friend in me and he missed me, but that he can’t give me what I want to do things as a couple. He said I didn’t do anything wrong. He said he’s not a good person. He said he thinks he needs some time to think about why he doesn’t want these things.

    I just had an epiphany several days ago that he might have a fear of intimacy. He put himself down a lot. He told his friend that he didn’t want anyone to plan his weekends for him and wanted to be able to do whatever he wanted. There are issues with his parents and a bad marriage. The only issues we had ALL had to do with me asking for alone time: friends, sleeping at my house, and doing things on our own.

    I’m devestated. He’s a good person. He told me he was trying, but it just got to be too much. He hadn’t dated anyone for 4 years before me. He didn’t keep in touch with me the way normal couples do and said that he didn’t need communicate with me all the time. I read my words and feel like I sound like an idiot, but I really think he has fear of intimacy issues regarding control/freedom of his life, like you said.

    My question is do I contact him and try to talk to him? I think I need to just let him be with his thoughts. I think he has depression, fear of intimacy, and is super-selfish as well.

    I appreciate your time. I can’t stop crying over losing him. Do people with this fear hurt when they end it with their lover? I keep wondering if he’s just fine, but I know that can’t be. He really loved me . . . I know it. I’m the “too capable” emotional person.


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Lynn (I will use your screen name), thank you for sharing and describing your situation with me. First, I”m sorry that you had to go through this. The hard thing is that it does sound that he is basically a decent person who has some personal/psychological problems. Lynn, it does sound like he is depressed and I was wondering while reading what you said if he drinks also. But, most importantly, it sounds like he has deep fears of intimacy (also see my post on Commitment Phobic men, perhaps you did already).

      Yes, people do feel as sad and hurt as you do because you saw so much possibility that was short-circuited way too soon. Lynn, it is like prematurely losing a loved one to death. Here, in eight months, you were forming fantasies in your mind of a life together. This is normal; this is what we do when we start romantically sharing time with a person. Now, you have all of this built up in you and no where to go–no closure with it all. You will heal Lynn. But part of your grief is the grief of having this possibility taken away from you.

      Lynn, to his credit, he ended up telling you that it is his problem. It does sound that there’s some deep hurt in this man; that he needs a tremendous amount of downtime. I would hope that he would get in some therapy. But, people with a fear of intimacy don’t always go for therapy unless something really shakes them up. This is because it’s really part of their personality structures, so that it troubles them less than it troubles people who are involved romantically with them.

      Yes, I’m sure you are emotionally capable–I hear it in your words. You may also be a helper, healer Lynn, as he was attracted to you on many levels and this is usually one for people who fear intimacy. I know you are worrying about him too Lynn; but, remember, that we all have the responsibility of growing and learning and some people choose to stay with their problems. So, there may be little you can do here. You may just write him a letter to say you hope he’s taking care of himself.

      Thank you again for sharing with me. Remember something Lynn You have a good heart. I hear it in your words. Trust, a love will come who is free emotionally to love you back fully. Warmly Deborah.

  14. avatar Marah says:

    Wow. This explains my situation so well. When I first met my boyfriend we had great chemistry and he showed a lot of affection. We were both physically and emotionally intimate and I became in love. We have been living together now for 7 months and his intimacy level with me has decreased to the point where there is none. I feel dumbfounded, confused, frustrated and most of all I feel hurt. He was the one who I felt was needy and loved me more than I loved him. But recently the tables have turned. I feel needy and insecure because I think he finds me repulsive and unattractive. He tells me that he still finds me attractive and that I don’t understand. Reading this has definitely helped me understand a bit more. I have been pushy and have tried to cling on to him more. I mean I sit on his lap and try everything and anything to want to be physically intimate and nothing works. What should I do? He says he loves me and we are going to grow old together. So I am hopeful that if I can learn to understand him more, than our relationship will do better. Do you have any idea of how to make him feel comfortable enough to once more be intimate. Thank you for this article. I no longer feel alone in this battle.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello again Marah. I see this is your first comment. I”m glad that this post helped you to understand his change. You know it always seems like it comes out of nowhere –because it really does. Most people who have intimacy fears do not show it at first. It’s only when the relationship starts to get a little serious that you see a 100 degree turn around. Marah, trust his behavior–not his words. When he says he still loves you and you two are going to grow old together it is most likely because he doesn’t want to hurt you.

      The only thing that helps people with who have real intimacy fears is psychotherapy. You know from my article that the more you cling, the more he will resist you. Oh, I do wish I could give you a more optimistic outlook. I don’t want to mislead you as to what he is capable of–especially because I don’t know him. The only thing you can do to make him more comfortable is in this post. You may send him this link to the Commitment Phobic guy and see what he has to say about it. Let me know how it all goes for you Marah. Warmly Deborah.

  15. avatar Marah says:

    He has also mentioned to me to find someone who can give me what I need because he will never be who I want him to be. But I love who he is and don’t want to change him. I just want to understand why the sudden change happened and how I can compromise and help him through it.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Marah, I know how hard it is to accept that he cannot give you what you need. Marah, I believe he gave you a powerful message and a powerful gift. He’s saying — move on Marah. The more you try to understand what happened, the more you will stay stuck in these questions in which there’s no sure answer. One thing is for sure–he decided he cannot be what you need. You have to heed this. Please know–I understand that you want to change it. Don’t be afraid of the change Marah; STay still and know the right person will come into your life. Warmly Deborah.

  16. avatar ben says:

    Hello Doctor,

    I really like your article and I think you are a genuinely warm, caring and spiritual person (would you like to go on a date!?).

    I have a question, what is the point of going through all this to gain a person who has this fear. Is it to help them to eventually overcome fear of intimacy or is it for someone to simply learn how to gain and manage a relationship with someone who has this fear?

    If it is the latter then is it really worth being in a relationship with someone who has a fear of intimacy? It sounds like you must be prepared for them to walk out at any given time.
    Are you not setting yourself up for heartbreak?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Ben, thank you for the complement. I’m glad that you can sense that I care. I’m married 🙂 but thanks for the kind words. Ben, you ask some excellent questions. Fear of intimacy is not easy to get over because it has roots in childhood relationships. But, people can vary in terms how how deep their fears go. Unfortunately, most people don’t find out their mates have these types of fears until they are well into the relationship. So, you are right, there is little point of going through all of this (“to gain a person who has these fears”) if you are not too deep in the relationship. But, some people are already attached to a person who has these fears, so that they have to learn how to cope with this problem or move on without him/her.

      Fear of intimacy is hard to get over, without the help of a therapist. Thus, the sooner we know our romantic partners may have such fears, the easier it is to decide if we should stay or get out. So, yes, we are setting ourselves up for a lot of work and probably heartbreak if we proceed when we don’t have to. Great questions Ben. You take good care. And, thank you for stopping by. Warmly Deborah.

  17. avatar edule says:

    I am dumbstruck by how similar all the stories are to mine. I met this guy some time ago on a party. He was really cute and funny and really into me, I wasn’t very sure about it because he was 7 years younger, but I went for it. However, from day one he became very anxious about starting dating. His only previous relationship was a three week long thing when he was 18, that ended because they girl just wanted a rebound guy. We went off dating, sex and everything for the following 8 years until he met me (that was a big red flag that I somehow ignored).
    As we started to get closer, everything went back and forth a lot, and everything seemed to cause him anxiety, and even panic attacks. We finally broke up after a stupid argument and then he told me he couldn’t take it, that he felt I tried to change him and that he couldn’t give me what I need. We continued as friends for a long while, but again, every time we started communicating with regularity, he would pull away. He always assumed that I talked to him because I wanted to get back together, but I only wanted to know how he was doing. (He doesn’t like talking to his parents very often either).
    All this time I have been blaming myself for being needy and scaring him away. I do that also because I haven’t been with anybody else since him, and that’s been a year now, so my conclusion is that it must be me. Now I’m not so sure. The only thing is that I may be attracted to, or attracting these types of men. That is something I would like to understand, and also I would like to know how to change it. I don’t want my next relationship to be an uphill struggle, like the last one.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Edule, what you describe here is common (unfortunately) when being involved with a person who has intimacy fears. It is common to blame yourself and to look for problems that you had that made the person afraid of you. It is true that people who have intimacy fears often are attracted to people who have high emotionality — not always the best pairing of personality types. But, still, even if you have high emotionality–you did not make this person run. People’s intimacy fears have to do with their own emotional problems rather than the people with whom they are involved.

      Yes, it’s very good Edule to think about your attraction to men who are fearful romantically. Do you have some fears of your own? Edule, we are often attracted to people who share problems that we have ourselves–only we express the same problem differently. Let me know how your thought process goes for you. Warmly deborah.

      • avatar edule says:

        Thanks for the response, it is reassuring to know that it was not all my fault.
        I do have fears of my own. I fear abandonment and I do have trust issues. Maybe I chose men that have suffered as well because I think they will be able to understand this about me and not be jerks. I really want to break that pattern, but I don’t know how.

  18. avatar Adelynn says:

    Hi there Dr. Deborah!
    I’m in high school, and recently, a guy who I’ve been dating for half a year broke things off with me suddenly saying that he has no time for the relationship(as he is a swimmer and has a busy schedule), and that he knew it wouldn’t work as one day it would have to end, since he may be going overseas to further his studies(but in 2 years) so its better to end things early to prevent us from getting hurt. Then he continued saying that he felt that we were really different people, and that we didn’t have many similarities, and said that he felt differently from when he did at the beginning, and he thought he liked me but he feels differently now, and what we had wasn’t real, maybe it was just infatuation, and that we rushed things(even though he set the pace of our relationship), and that it wasn’t love(he has never said he loves me). And when I asked him if he still liked me, he couldn’t give me an answer.

    This came about because 3 weeks ago, I had had the relationship talk with him, to see where we were going. I’ve had this talk with him before too, because we both acted like we were in a relationship, so naturally I thought it would be fine to discuss with with him; that time he said he would ask me out, but he never did. After I asked, he told me that he may be leaving overseas very soon(this wasn’t confirmed at that time, but now its confirmed that he doesn’t have to leave until 2 years later), and told me he was sorry. Since then, he was very cold to me. After that, I pressed to have a talk with him, and that was when he broke things off completely as aforementioned.

    At first, I was shocked and really upset, as I had never expected this, I really treasured what we shared. But looking back, I realise that he may have had intimacy and commitment issues, and that part of me didn’t want to see it and part of me really trusted him. Our relationship started with both of us being invested into making things work, and I thought he was sure that he wanted a committed relationship, as he was very attentive and caring and put in lots of effort. At first, he was loving and would initiate things acts of closeness like hugging and kissing, but this slowly reduced. However, even after a few months of “taking things slow”(as he said), things didn’t progress, and the situation started deteriorating, as he would say and promise a lot to me, but his words didn’t match his actions, and his behaviour was hot and cold. A day prior to his silent treatment, he was still acting sweet when I was unhappy, and making promises to me. I had opened myself and put in time and effort for the relationship, but that may have made him feel stifled, as he did not open up emotionally to me, even though we got along really well and were comfortable with each other. Was he just in for the initial chase and thrill of a new relationship? Previously there were 2 girls that he had been serious about, but he also never managed to commit to them.

    Hence now, he avoids talking to me and avoids seeing me, though I would think this stems out of guilt and his confusion over his feelings for me. This really hurts, as after everything we aren’t even friends now. I guess what I want to ask is that, I’m not sure if he still has any feelings left for me, if he just wasn’t that into me and really feels that we weren’t meant to be, or because he’s scared of taking our relationship to a deeper level.

    I can’t think objectively, and my friends say that he never took it seriously. I also think that I can be emotionally needy at times, and this may have made things worse(however, learning from previous experiences, I had already tried to be less clingy and impose less of my needs on him), but now I still feel that it was my fault, and can’t stop blaming myself as I wonder if I could have eased his fears on intimacy, and if there was anything more I could have done to change his mind. Making it worse, he got closer to a girl friend of his, and he talks and chats and hangs around her without being hot and cold, and I can’t help wondering if this is because he is falling for her, or if its easier for him to open up to her as she’s “safe”(as you mentioned in your article!) I know it’s none of my business but it still hurts, as I feel replaced.

    I would really appreciate any advice you have, as I am so confused and upset and even feel anger towards him over this, but I still miss him. Should I try to move on?

    Thank you so much!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Adelyn, thank you for sharing this with me. As you know, I don’t know him so I cannot respond as to what he is thinking and feeling, although you fully describe the situation. But, there’s one thing that I know for sure is that when it a relationship is really meant to be even if you were a little needy, this could not have pushed him away. Remember, young men at your age are usually more interested in having their egos stroked than being in a romantic relationship.

      This young man may have intimacy fears that I describe in this article, but he’s still too young to say yet. But, one thing for sure is that I wouldn’t be surprised if he is just interested in flirtations with women as a way to feel that he is attractive to the opposite sex. Thus, I’m unsure that it is true that he did not take YOU seriously per se, but rather that he doesn’t take any romantic relationship that seriously right now.

      Of course, you feel hurt and replaced. It doesn’t feel good to see him talking with other women. Don’t let ideas about what it means that he’s talking to other young women build into dramas in your mind that upset you, like you are being replaced. You don’t really know what is happening, so try not to do this to yourself dear. Remember, you are lovable and when a person is really the right person for you, things tend to work out no matter your or his bad moods or neediness. This is how true love is.

      I have a little exercise that will help you to control your thoughts when you start to think he’s replacing you or sad ideas. It’s simple. But, it really does work, if you practice it. It’s called the Thought Stopping Exercise.

      Each time a negative or bad thought comes into your mind about the situation, you say silently to yourself, STOP! and get back to whatever it is that you were thinking or doing. Now, the thought may come back immediately. That’s okay, each time it does, repeat the exercise. STOP! and return to the activity that you are engaged in.

      The idea here is that YOU are in control of your thinking and the feelings that come with your ideas–not your mind. The more you do this, the mind eventually starts to give up because you do not follow it.

      You see when we get some thought that pops into our mind, many of us start to follow the thought–I call this dramatizing or romanticizing the thought. Then the thought builds into ideas and feelings associated with it. So, for example, you see him talking to another young woman. Your mind says, “Oh, he’s chatting with that girl. Maybe I pushed him away or he’d be mind. I’m being replaced. I feel hurt and sad because I’m being replaced. Is she better than I am? Am I lovable?

      Do you see all of the thoughts that flowed from this one idea that he’s chatting with that girl. Whatever the first thought is I want you to say STOP and not let it progress into a drama that makes you feel sad and hurt.

      Thank you Adelyn for reading this post dear. You take good care. And I know you can do this. Love will be yours in the future, I have no doubt. Warmly Dr. Deborah.

  19. avatar polly says:

    I have a general question.
    Why does it seem that it is mostly men who express their fear of intimacy by pulling away?
    I don’t mean to say that is only men who fear intimacy, but in my experience, women tend to express it by picking men who cannot commit to them for any reason (I know I do), but acting all committed to the relationship at the same time.
    I just want to understand the reason to all this fear of being controlled or not meeting needs, in general, feeling incapable of giving.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Polly, it does seem that men have intimacy fears more. I know. But, research shows that actually women and men equally share this problem. It’s just that women hide it more by picking men who have it. I’m saying that we have to examine why we are choosing men who push us away. Is it because we too fear a close loving relationship.

      You see Polly when any of us, man or woman, is really ready psychologically and spiritually to give ourselves over to love, then we tend to choose mates who are as ready as we are.

      So, if you find that you keep finding these types of men. Then, reflect upon why you are attracted to these types of guys. I know that they present as very willing to have a meaningful, loving relationship. It’s true that people with these fears can deceive other people to some degree. But still, if you keep running into this, then it’s time to reflect upon your choices. Thank you for taking the time to write today. Polly, you ask a great question that many people have on their minds too. Be well. Warmly deborah.

  20. avatar Sally says:

    Hi Deborah,

    It’s reassuring to read all your advice, I was hoping you could help me with your insight. I am in a relationship (10 months) with a divorced, kind , emotionally capable and decent man who is trying his utmost to maintain his relationship with his young daughter. The complexity of managing this well right now together with the fear of losing himself in his new relationship with me has led him to start closing down towards me. He also worries that he may disappoint me because I would like a child with him but he is not sure if/when he’d like more, and I am in my late thirties. We still have a great time when we both manage to relax about things and both feel we have found true right person after our past failed relationships, but talking about our future (for example, living together) is something he says he doesn’t feel able to do right now. We had a really good talk where he explained all his fears to me and I could listen to him, I empathise fully with his worries, but I am unsure what comes next. I feel uneasy about making the relationship the safe zone for him when this all makes me feel unstable myself. I don’t want to maintain the status quo, but I am also aware that challenging him more on this could make things worse. I told him I felt this way and that seems to only make him feel worse about himself. He does see a therapist but I don’t know what they discuss together. On the one hand, I feel we made a great step to get everything out in the open and we are both aware of the issues. What I struggle with is whether to just take my own distance now, or to hang in there and take the pain for a while, and whether to keep pushing for these kind of open conversations or just trust him and leave him to it. I find it hard to relax and just see what happens when we are both aware of the issues, then why not move forward to find solutions? And time feels precious. Do you have any advice on this or other suggestionss?

    Thank you for your support, and kindness


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Sally, you describe the situation so clearly to me. I very much appreciate what you say about making the relationship the safe zone for him when this all makes me feel unstable myself. You are very right here. Of course, this makes you feel unstable, no matter how right the relationship is for both of you. Blending families and having other children is a real stressor for a couple, especially when the children are still young. Many people come into therapy precisely for this reason. Yes, if your partner does not find a healthy balance of relationship commitment to you and his daughter, you will feel resentment and arguments will eventually ensue.

      Sally, it sounds like he is a very nice man and of course his concerns are real. He has a young daughter to consider also. Perhaps he or both of you could get some couple counseling on how to blend families and form healthy boundaries so you can move your relationship forward, with each other.

      He has a challenge as a single man of introducing his daughter to the idea that he loves her and will never abandon her but that other people who he loves can enter into their relationship to. You see sometimes, we project our own fears unto our children and then makes decisions that are not always the best thing down the road for them. If he gives his child the idea that no one will ever ever come between them, eventually, this will be a big problem for both of them down the road. The reality is that he is a single man and deserves love too. How he copes and manages all of the relationships will speak volumes (positively) to his child of how to handle tensions in relationships and negotiate boundaries with people whom we love.

      So, what I am saying in a nutshell is that if the relationship between both of you is so special than to throw it away or let it wither away because of this issue is sad. It seems to me that this could be worked through with proper help, so that your mate understands he can love both his daughter and you and any new children that come along in the future.

      Let me know how it all goes for you. Warmly Deborah.

  21. avatar Sally says:

    Thank you Deborah for your considered and quick response.

    It’s heartening to hear your objective views that take everyone’s needs into consideration. I think we both are at risk of putting the needs of others before ourselves to the exclusion of our own happiness and it would be so sad to lose the relationship because of this or simply the fear of it happening. At the same time you are right, the issues we face with blending the family are real and need to be given priority. I think he has felt it’s been his responsibility to face alone, but I like the idea of couples counselling to help with this and will suggest it, hope he might be open to that. Certainly he deserves love himself too as well as being the best father he can be in challenging circumstances, and I hope we can find a way to accomplish all these things together in the context of a happy and secure relationship. I have felt some positive intuition that there had to be a better option than a black or white stay-or-go decision, this suggestion is definitely worth a try and the rationale behind it for his and his daughter’s future as well as mine and our relationship together is very clear.
    You’ve helped me forward with this a lot – thank you, I will let you know how things work out!


  22. avatar Dawn says:

    Dear Deborah,

    Thank you so much for this article. I was searching online to learn more about emotional intimacy and your article was one of the first to come up.

    I started dating a man in January. Although I cared for him from the beginning, it never progressed to anything romantic. But, we became friends and kept in touch.

    About a month ago, in September, we reconnected. After a few dates, it became romantic and we began to spend a few days a week together. It was one of the most enjoyable relationships that I’ve had in a few years, and I hoped that it would become more serious.

    A week after we really connected and he opened up to me emotionally, he was suddenly distant. When I later asked him for his thoughts about becoming more serious, he suddenly said that he had doubts.

    His two main reasons were:
    1. It had upset him that we didn’t become romantic in January, so he had written me off in his mind then
    2. He is looking for a wife whose parents are still married, and mine are divorced

    Both of these points have boggled my mind. Clearly, he knew in September that we didn’t date in January – and that my parents were divorced. His own parents are divorced and his father moved to another country and was not involved in his life growing up. He says that it’s not something that impacts him now, but I wonder if that’s true.

    He also said that he has encountered situations with multiple women where he dates the woman for some period, they grow close, and she is devastated to learn that he’s not interested to move forward.

    He claims to be looking for something serious, and to get married, but I don’t know.

    It’s important to know that he’s actually a very kind, nice person. He’s not a jerk in the least. I don’t feel that he was intending to hurt me (although clearly he did).

    So far, I wrote him a brief e-mail saying that I am disappointed in how things turned out… that I care for him… but that I respect his wishes not to move forward. He wrote back saying that he cares for me too, but that he just couldn’t get over that he had mentally written me off back in January.

    I’m really struggling with how to proceed. I don’t want to argue or attack where he’s coming from, but I don’t buy his reasoning at all. We didn’t even kiss back in January, and we remained friends. In addition, when things turned romantic a few weeks ago, he was very engaged. I thought we’d turned over a new leaf.

    I’m a little lost on this one. After knowing him for ten months, this is the last thing I expected. If you have any suggestions on how to best proceed, I would love it.

    Thank you.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Dawn, thank you for sharing your experience with me. Many people who have intimacy problems are good people. I’m glad you point out that fear of intimacy does not equate with being a bad person. I’m sure you were very confused when he broke it off in January, with no understanding as to why. But, of course, he has a fear of intimacy and communication is not their strength.

      I know him only by your description. But, let me say that his reasons do make it sound like he is distancing, especially the first reason. As to your parents being divorced, there are so many factors related to a person’s ability to form stable, meaningful long term relationships that coming from a divorced household does not predict well how children will fare later on. Intellect, coping mechanisms, perspective taking, and emotional health (and much more) contributes to the ability to form meaningful, long term relationships.

      So, I’m saying that his reasons don’t have a lot of substance to them. I don’t mean to be critical. Simply, they are insufficient to explain his fears. And, Dawn, this is what you may be feeling and why you don’t understand. Because they are not clear–especially to him.

      Dawn, if he comes back again (which I know you are hoping for 🙂 I’d suggest that ask him why and what has changed–what makes things different now. You see short of asking him to go to therapy, he needs to know that he cannot come in and out of your life because you have feelings. So, I’m saying do what you can to protect yourself, not from him as a bad person, but more because he is psychologically unaware and it is his unawareness that can hurt you. Let me know how it goes. Take good care. Warmly Deborah.

  23. avatar Dawn says:

    Dear Deborah,

    It’s interesting you mention that I might have been confused back in January when things ended. I suppose I was. We were dating a few days a week for all of January and the beginning of February. It trailed off around Valentine’s Day when we didn’t go on a date. Multiple other men I wasn’t dating did ask me out, and so I went on dates with them, and just assumed he wasn’t all that interested. Hearing him talk about it now, I can hear in his voice that he was frustrated. I don’t think I clarified in my last post– he said he was frustrated that we didn’t get romantic in January because he couldn’t tell that I was interested because I didn’t put out as many physical signs as other women he has dated.

    I appreciate you saying he sounds like he’s distancing. That’s certainly how it feels. I agree with you about my parents divorce. And really, they live two states away. So even if they were still married, our contact with them would be fairly limited.

    I’m really trying to get over the situation. Each day feels a bit easier, but there have been some days where I feel like I’ve made no progress at all. I really felt a genuine connection to him. I’ve been single for two and a half years, and he’s the first person that I’ve wanted to pursue a real relationship with.

    We have sent each other friendly e-mails back and forth this week. I’ve tried to provide my perspective without sounding emotional or irrational, and I think he’s tried to provide clarity from his perspective. It has helped some, but I still don’t believe his reasoning. Even more complex, his notes seem to show that he cares and feels bad about the situation.

    I feel very confused about how to proceed. On one hand, it doesn’t matter what’s going on. If it’s not working for him, it’s not. On the other, I’m having a hard time putting my feelings aside. I wish there was something I could say or do to change things. I just don’t know what it would be.


  24. avatar Lynne M says:

    Thank you Dr Deborah for your insights.

    I have searched on many websites to understand what is going on in my current relationship. Yours is the first clear and practical advice.

    I have been in my current relationship for just over a year. We are both mature people with 3 long relationships each behind us. We began by falling in love instantly, irresistably and unexpectedly. It was a little rocky from the start and sex was always problematic. He put it down to age and I let it go, believing that it wouldn’t matter all that much anyway.

    It is only after a year or so that he has begun to really pull away – to sleep alone and rarely touch me. I am unwilling to give up so easily. I turned to the internet to try to find an explanation of how we could go from swooning sweethearts to frosty flatmates in a mere 12 months. I found ‘fear of intimacy’ explained his behaviour and his history perfectly. He was devastated by the end of his first two relationships in a way that I never really understood. Even understanding it, what am I to do? Do I continue in a sexually unfullfilling, difficult relationship for possibly no reason? Is it just my own emotional issues which draw me to this experience?

    After reading your advice and the responses to it I do feel a new sense of strength, a new motivation to try again and, most of all, a kind of restraint to not push so hard, not demand so much and hope that, slowly, I can help my man find that capacity to love as intensely and completely as he did first time, when he was hurt so badly. Ultimately, it is probably this capacity that drew me to him in the first place.

    Thank you for helping me take a deep breath and to pause before releasing my anger and frustration. Even if it doesn’t work in the long run, I am sure that you have helped me avoid a lot of self-blame and regret and from compounding his hurt even more.

    Kindest regards…

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Lynne. I’m glad this post gave you clear and practical advice. This is what I always hope to do. Very compelling questions you asked yourself Lynne. I can hear in your words that you have a good sense of his fears and that his withdrawing has more to do with his fears and past history than to desire for you. Your approach sounds very wise to me Lynne. You must love him very much. And, I love what you say — that most likely you were drawn to reflect upon what love means and looks like now for you and to him. Only good things can come from this wisdom Lynne.

      Warm regards to you. I admire you. Warmly Deborah.

  25. avatar Sally says:

    Hi Deborah,

    I promised to let you know how I was getting on, and perhaps it’s helpful for other readers too. As per your advice we had a counselling session together. This was a very positive experience for us both. For me it was a huge comfort to hear there that my boyfriend does actually see us side by side together in the future. Just hearing that has helped me relax a lot since, which benefits us both! A big issue we identified was dealing with the ongoing negativity from his ex-wife and his fear that upsetting her (by establishing a more committed relationship with me) could affect the access he has to his daughter. Meanwhile I need to remember to speak up for my needs from him. We are trying to figure out how to manage the situation, practically and emotionally. It’s still not easy and still requires patience and a long term view, it can still make me feel insecure, but the fact that we can identify these points makes it clear what the issues are to work on. My boyfriend is committed to that process with his and our happiness in mind, so I feel it’s okay to give the relationship more time and see how we go. I am glad to have received your advice at a critical point, thank you for your support.

    Warm regards,

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Sally, thank you so much for following up. I am so pleased to hear that couple counseling has helped both of you. And, it is very good for people to read that therapy can be so helpful, especially when you find the right therapist and two people want to work so they can be together. It sounds like the work all of you are doing in therapy is excellent! Thank you again, Warmly Deborah.

  26. avatar McCarty says:


    Thank you so much for this article. It feels comforting to know others are going through and experiencing what I have- this is the first article that really hit every point I’ve been feeling/thinking. But I must say it has left me feeling kind of sad- as though I might not be strong enough to continue to deal with my partners issues-it has taken such a huge toll on me already.

    I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year and a half- very seriously. I realize he has deep intimacy issues that just started to come out after the first 6-7 months. When we met he was loving, giving, affectionate- gave me everything I needed sexually and intimately- but it feels as though the closer he has gotten to me (and the more he loves and adores me) the more he compartmentalizes his life and is unable to be sexual or affectionate with me. He also has issues with blending me into other aspects of his life. Overall it just hurts so much and is so hard for me to understand.

    I try so hard to be patient but I’ll wait a very long time then try to become intimate with him and he resists. He says “he’s just different” and there is always an excuse. However I am so afraid of bringing ALL of this up to him- that these are deep rooted issues that he must work on if he wants to get better. . In the article you mention “stop campaigning for more intimacy”… but how? If I stopped then we would never ever be intimate or have sex. If I stay with my boyfriend am I looking to a future of this? It’s truly breaking my heart. I don’t think I would be fulfilled as a person or in this relationship if this keeps on going the way it has: ie no sex, no affection, the separation of different aspects of his life.

    It is such a sensitive subject and I want to be careful about how I approach talking to him about it. He has childhood issues and I know seeing/talking to someone would be SO helpful. I care about him so much and want him to but I’m afraid of hurting him by saying this. Do you have any suggestions for bringing up the topic of his intimacy issues?

    I also just want to thank you for this article and for responding to each and every persons’ comments. It is SO helpful I really can’t thank you enough.


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, I’m glad the article spoke to you, but as you said, it is bitter sweet, because it’s hard to know if you can or should continue to deal with your partner’s intimacy fears. They do take a big toll on people and just when you think the bond is strengthening between you and trust developing, his withdrawing or rejecting behaviors weaken the progress.
      The closer he feels, the more he will find ways to withdraw.

      I understand what you are feeling. If you stop campaigning for intimacy, what do you really get in the end? I wish I could answer this for you. My recommendation here was more for people to see that this approach usually does not work.

      It is important to raise this issue, although it is sensitive. Your love for him is very apparent in your words. This is always an important part of any communication. My suggestion is that you open with how much you love and value him and that you appreciate that there are differences between people but that you need more intimacy in the relationship. Ask if he’s willing to go to couple’s therapy with you to talk about these issues.

      If he will not go, I suggest that you talk to a professional to reflect upon the issues you raise here, especially–if you are looking to a future of no intimacy, can you live with this? There are a lot of people who live without regular sexual intimacy and adjust their lives around this. But, the problem is that a lack of sexual intimacy often goes along with a lack of emotional intimacy. If you don’t get sex and also no affection or emotional support and intimacy, then, this is a lot for you to give up in your life. You sound so kind and loving and like you have so much to give of yourself; it must pain you so to not get it back.

      I’m sure he is a very nice person. Intimacy fears do not mean a person is not valuable or decent; they are just afraid.

      I wish you very well in this effort. Thank you for commenting today and let me know how it works out for you. Happy Holidays to you and yours. Warmly Deborah.

  27. avatar Cameron says:


    Ypur article has really gave me a good idea of what is going on with my current girlfreinn. We have been together for 6 months, I noticed around month 4 that she began pulling away. She has had allot going on in he life with her health and family so she has alot of stressers, and I think underneath it all are some deep seated intimacy issues. She has been cheated on in more then one of her previous relationships, the last one being over 4 years. I have asked her and tried to talk to her about why she is pulling back and I think that she doesn’t understand her self or is afraid to tell me. She is willing to talk to me about it but I have been focusing on the wrong reasons, today I had to ask her if she has lost attraction to me, we talked and she re-assured me that she is still attracted to me and that is when I started searching and came upon your article.

    For the first 3-4 months she was very affectionate, reciprocating my touches, innitiating kisses and intimacy, etc. but around month 4 it dropped dramatically. She shows her love for me in many other ways, but she is push/pulling with intimacy and it definitley fuels my insecurities of wether she is truelly attracted to me. We do talk about the future, even marriage eventually, she is committed and loving, just complex I suppose.

    I only hope that in time she will trust me fully with her heart, we have such an amazing relationship I know she loves me back but it is hard, I do have to remind my self to be patient , it is almost like she is expecting to be abandoned so she withdraws but withdrawing is hurting us, not protecting her. If it reaches a point that I am unable to handle it my self any more I will ask that we go to therapy together. Eventually I may show her this article but I will take baby steps, I do not want her to feel like I am accusing her of anything, I just want to help.

    • avatar Cameron says:

      This was typed on my phone please excuse all the typos 🙂

      • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

        Oh believe me I understand Cameron. The autocorrect errors are sometimes so phony when I type on computer, iPad and my phone. 🙂

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Cameron, it is odd that she expressed intimacy in the first few months and then withdrew. It’s hard for me to say exactly what is going on of course, because I haven’t talked with her. But, you are right, past hurt and betrayals in relationships can create a fear of intimacy. I also don’t know if she is comfortable with affection, but less comfortable with sex. Perhaps, she fears that the intimacy might lead to sex very soon, as the relationship is progressing. You see I’m speculating here because I can’t exactly know what is in her mind. I think you have a very good idea to show her this article and others and open it up for a good talk between both of you. This is a great start. And, if something opens up for both of you that may require a little couple counseling, this would be the next step too.

      You sound very understanding. Wishing you much happiness and health in 2014 and that 2014 clears the way for understanding and for the progression of the relationship. Warmly deborah.

  28. avatar Cameron says:

    Thank you for your reply.

    We have been talking about it and it is clear to both of us that it is a fear of intimacy. She withdrew both physically and emotionally. I feel like we have made great strides in just talking about it. We are both very committed and love each other very much, we understand that this will take time but there is hope now.

    We have been reading tons of articles on fear of intimacy and where it stems from and are getting a greater understanding on why she is feeling uncomfortable. It seems she has lots of self healing to do. She said she has never been in a relationship with someone that is caring and loving and it makes her nervous but she has no control over those reactions right now. Her willingness to face her fears, anxiety and nervousness shows me how much she values our relationship. It has been a very fast moving relationship and I think the realities of it are hitting both of us.

    We have discussed the option of couples therapy but will give it time first. I am excited for what this relationship could grow into, I see great potential and I will stay as optimistic as possible.

    Thanks again,


  29. avatar kelly says:


    thank you so much for this post! recently my best friend of three years who has major commitment and intimacy issues confessed his feelings for me. i feel like he is so hot and cold however, as when we go on dates he is the perfect gentleman and is so attentive and makes me feel so safe in our potential relationship. yet at the same time, he is slow to move forward and has expressed his own feelings of inadequacy to my roommate (whom he is also good friends with). he feels that i “deserve a knight in shining armour” and that he can never be that for me. how can i make him see that he is in realty a great guy and deserving of my affections without smothering him or making him feel like i am pushing him too fast? also, how can i, as a very type-A sort of person, deal with the slow pace of the our budding romance and balance the friends-in-public but lovers-in-private relationship we are having?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      You are very welcome Kelly. You ask a very good question and exactly the challenge of being involved with a person who has these types of fears. How can I come closer without pushing him and being rejected? Kelly, I wish I could give you a way that without a doubt will give the results you’d like. I can suggest the best way of managing his fears. But, for the most part, people who have such fears need personal therapy to help better understand when their fears began, what may have caused them from their pasts and how they express these fears in relationship, today e.g., letting the idea that you deserve a shining knight be the reason for holding back. Although you deserve the best in treatment and in love, he may be subconsciously letting himself use this idea to disquise his real fear–intimacy.

      Kelly, your situation is a little unique because you are not in a full time romantic relationship. Nonetheless, see if you can spot what’s happening in the relationship when he feels close: for you this means when he treats the relationship romantically and times when he treats the relationship as purely a friendship. Is there anything during these contrasting times that lets you know what is happening when he feels less threatened? Identifying these patterns will give YOU more control over the relationship by seeing the ways in which he feels less scared of intimacy. For example, how do you respond when he treats you as just a friend? If you get anxious, distressed, a little more pushy or needy–he will subconsciously pick up on this and pull away.

      Kelly, even though I’m suggesting you look at the patterns in times of friendship and in times of romance between the two of you, I do worry for you. Three years of your friend being able to keep the relationship at a friend level most of the time is very long for you to wait for him. He is managing his fears by having a relationship with you that stays romantically undefined. But, what about you? How are you managing this type of situation? It is slow for anyone to manage.

      Kelly even though he’s commitment phobic, I still suggest that you try to have a conversation with him about the friends-in-public, lovers-in-private and what this means to him? Even if he is afraid of these conversations–you have to take care of yourself, emotionally. Remember, a relationship is what you want as well. And, I can see by your sharing with me today that you are reflecting on your needs, which is very important. You take good care and I wish for you more clarity in this situation. Warmly Deborah.

  30. avatar Laine says:

    Dr. Deborah,

    Like so many other posters here, I enjoyed reading your article as it spoke to me personally. I recently reconnected w/an old love – the love of my life, if you will. I met him 31 yrs ago at age of 18 and fell head over heels. He fell for me too, but I found out he was already engaged to someone else. I backed away and he went on to marry her, but not before putting an ad in the personals telling me he did love me and he’d wait forever for me.

    Life went on for me and I got married and had children. I never stopped thinking of him and on occasion would see him – the connection always feeling the same for both of us, though we did not act on it. Recently, I became divorced and found out he was as well. We started chatting and I began thinking my old hopes and dreams might come true after all.

    I live 3 hrs from him, but I have traveled to see him 4 times now in the past 3 months. I have family there as well – so the trips serve a dual purpose. I’ve come to learn that his wife left him for the babysitter and he has since had multiple hurtful relationships. All of which have left him fearful of getting hurt again. I marveled at how in touch he seemed to be with his emotions. He was very open about his intimacy fears and I tried to assure him I didn’t want to take away his freedom. He said I was the first woman he’d let back in in the past 4 years.

    When I’m actually with him, he is very talkative and I enjoy our time. The problem is, after that first night, he pulls away. He actually did tell him he hates himself after he is with me because he doesn’t like letting himself “fall” again. Sometimes I think he does things to try to push me away in an effort to be the one who pushes first and therefore, won’t be as hurt.

    I know he still loves me. I feel it so much when I am with him. I also feel his pain and fear following my first nights. Following my first visit – he sent me a message saying it was hard to see me go. When leaving my last visit, I looked up to see him stopped and watching me. After I get back home from visiting, I’m left alone w/my thoughts and wondering how to help him overcome his fears. He rarely responds to my texts or phone calls – the wall goes right up for him – until I tell him I’m coming for the next visit. I do believe it is precisely because he DOES love me, that his begins to push me away more. I’m left wondering if it is better for me to be more or less present in his life. Which is better to help him? Do I leave him alone for those 3 weeks or do I send him little reassuring messages with no expectation of a response? I make every effort not to push him or criticize him in anyway and try to keep my own insecurities to mostly to myself. I have expressed my feelings to him (when I saw him last) and asked him to “lean in” a little more because I feel like I am a secret in his life right now. No one in his world even knows I exist.

    I will be going to see him again in 2 weeks and have been contemplating the best approach to help him. I like your tips for me trying to control my thoughts by saying “STOP” to myself, because I am overwhelmed w/self persecuting thoughts right now.

    I am not ready to give up on him. I’ve been in love with him for 31 years now. I have been suspicious he had self esteem issues and is sabotaging himself by choosing the wrong women. It is heart breaking to me knowing this has been happening to him, but perhaps, he has been like this all along, which is why he could not choose me initially. I am nothing like the other women, I sincerely love him and want what is best for him – which is why I walked away 31 years ago. I was the one hurt then and am back at risk again. I feel compelled, in spite of family and friends advice, to stick this out and hope we can turn a corner. I know it is up to him to figure it out, but I want to let him know I love him w/o conditions and am here for him. Are there any specific words or phrases I can use to reassure him that won’t be threatening to him? He has expressed a desire to have a long term relationship and I pray some day it can be me.

    I promised myself not to be too “wordy” here and yet it appears I have. Like the others here, I’m seeking hope that with strength and perseverance, happiness and contentment in some form can be found.

    Thanks for listening,


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      You were not too wordy, Laine. Life is can indeed return us to unfinished business, especially in matters of love. I’m happy that you reconnected again, because whatever transpires, you can have some closure on the fantasy of 31 years of thinking about him. Please don’t take my word fantasy as meaning that I think this won’t work out. Many people here on PIEL and in my practice through the years have shared similar stories and they have worked out. So, there is nothing that says it will or will not work out positively for both of you. The only issue here is what you mention. He has been very betrayed in love. Betrayal is very difficult to get over and when we reach a certain stage in our adult life, we have adjusted to some degree with the life we have on hand. All of this may be contributing to his reticence to move things beyond the times when you do get together.

      Laine, I think we women like to seal the deal, if you may because we feel anxious not knowing what a love relationship means. Yes, men can feel this way too. But, it seems that I more often here women wanting to know what the relationship means. He may indeed have a fear of intimacy that is making him withdraw when you are not together. I think if you decide to wait this relationship out and to see what it becomes and means to your whole life then you may have to think about what a romantic relationship means to you today. Yes, I understand that you want happiness and contentment and you deserve it. But, you can create the relationship according to your vision of what you need and want today. You can give the relationship a little more time to see what it all means, if this feels right to you. But, trust yourself. If time goes by and you are still not getting what you need, then act on what you need and want to be happy and content.

      You mentioned how aware he is of his feelings and emotions, especially around his hurt. But, is he open to communications about what you need and want as well–or does he shut down these types of conversations? Make sure that you are not continually adjusting your needs and wants just to make him feel safe. Yes, I’ve recommended a certain way of interacting with men who have these fears. But, make sure your are not sacrificing who you are just to make the relationship work out. Despite his intimacy fears, this is unfair to you. Also, if the relationship doesn’t work out, you may feel upset that you gave so much of yourself and got less in return.

      So, what am I saying here? There’s nothing wrong with giving this relationship a little more time, to see if he starts to move in the direction of a commitment. But, trust your gut and do not cast aside your needs and desires forever. Have courage to start some conversations about what you want and need in your future, without saying it’s him. Saying that you’d like a committed, loving relationship differs than saying something like what are we all about or what does this relationship mean. The latter usually scares most men, but especially those with commitment issues.

      Thank you Laine for taking the time to share your life with me today. Take good care. Let me know how it all goes. Warmly Deborah.

  31. avatar Laine says:

    Thank you Dr. Deborah for taking the time to reply. I will most certainly be considering all you had to offer me and try to discuss my needs with him when I see him next. I love the fact that even though you and I both know this will be difficult, your response – to me and the others – is always uplifting and positive. It helps me stay uplifted and positive as I move forward. I will give you an update at a later date:)

  32. avatar Mary says:

    Hi Dr. Deborah,

    I really liked your article, and I wanted to see if I could get your advice. I am 35, and I have just recently reconnected with my high school sweetheart, Jack. We were best friends then, and in love, and together during the last two years of high school and first few years of college. We had one big breakup, during which I got pregnant by another man, at age 18, and the father of my baby left me and didn’t want anything to do with it. Jack, actually took me back and was there when my son was born and we were together for about another year and almost got married. He was trying to go to college a couple hours away and I felt like I was holding him back. We eventually broke up, but it was more of a letting go experience due to it not being the right time in our lives.

    We both married other people, but we have remained friends, and kept in touch via email over the years, and attended each other’s weddings. I got divorced about 4 years ago. He contacted me about 2 weeks ago, telling me that they are divorcing and was asking me for advice on divorce processes. We started talking more and realized we both still have really deep feelings for each other, and since then have spent hours talking, and have seen each other two times, spending almost the entire day together talking and catching up. We want to be together when his divorce is final. And I am happier than I have been in years with the prospect of it all, and I think we are both a little overwhelmed because of our connection being so easy with each other. He seems very happy too, but he has expressed that he is afraid because it seems too good to be true and he feels like he is waiting for something bad to happen to ruin it. I am fully aware that he has fears of intimacy, and tries to avoid saying what he is really thinking. Reading your article helped me to realize that more. He said that when he looks at me, he sees the 17 year old girl that he loved so much, and when he spends time with me, it’s just like it used to be. He said that he’s never had a relationship that was so easy or second nature before, and that it scares him, and makes him afraid of screwing it up, or doing something to sabotage it. He said that the fear overtakes him sometimes, and it’s more than just being scared, it’s an actual fear.

    Also, when we parted ways 15 years ago, he says that he feels like he walked away from me and my son, leaving us hanging, and says he feels major guilt about that. I told him now, AND 15 years ago that I NEVER felt that way, and that I felt helping me raise my son wasn’t his responsibility, and I didn’t want to hold him back, and I still view it the same today. He still feels very guilty over this.

    I realize that a lot of his guilt and fear is his own issue, and probably stems from other experiences in his life as well, that I may not be able to help. But I love him so much, and I know he loves me. I have a fear that HIS fear will hurt our relationship, and I don’t want to push him away, or make him more afraid. What can I do, besides being a safe person, to alleviate his fears? I am very open with him about how I feel, and he knows he can tell me anything. But I still think he holds back feelings at times. How can we proceed with this relationship in a positive way? I feel we are meant to be together, and I have never wanted anything more in my entire life!

    Thank you so much for taking time to read this!!! And I appreciate any advice you can give!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mary, it certainly seems like both of you have a very special destiny with each other. There is a strong friendship here that keeps drawing both of you together. Mary, his fears may really relate to the timing of the divorce and that rushing back to what is known and familiar is what scares him and you too I’m sure. There’s nothing that says that both of you are not right for each other. So know that I’m not saying this here. I’m saying — give this relationship time. You both have waited a long time to be together. He may need more time after the divorce to feel like his decision with regard to a relationship with you is sound, emotionally. So, I’d give it time. Time will work for rather than against you–so don’t rush. Enjoy the time together and see what it means for you as well as him. Let me know how it goes Mary. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Mary says:

        Thank you SO much for your reply! I completely agree with everything you said! I also feel that time will tell everything for us, and we are trying to take it slow for sure. I don’t want to do anything to interfere with his divorce process, and I know he is ready to get it over with and move on. Thank you again for replying so quickly!! And thank you for your expertise.


        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          You are very welcome Mary. Wishing both of you well and on the way to long-lasting love. Deborah.

  33. avatar Willow says:

    Thank goodness for your article. I’m going through a break-up with my emotionally distant, intimacy fearing boyfriend of a year and a half.

    Throughout our relationship, there was always something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. We were long distance, which didn’t make it easier. I admit, I have my own fears of intimacy, but they surface in the complete opposite way: I cling. Doing research on attachment styles, I feel a level of acceptance for myself being the way I am, and him being the way he is, while also seeing a path for both of us to change things for the better in that regard. I am highly of the ‘preoccupied’ spectrum, and I’d wager he’s of the ‘dismissive’. We both tried so hard, and I know we share a deep love of one another. I knew – but couldn’t quite vocalize it well enough – that intimacy was playing a huge part in what we were missing, and the more I wanted it, the more he wanted to run away. Even our attempts to balance things seemed to backfire, such as doing activities together to take the pressure off him, but then I would start to feel distanced from that as it felt like a distraction from *us*.

    Our relationship was off and on, I suppose you could say. Last year he broke up with me out of nowhere after saying just a week before we were still headed in the same direction, he planned to propose.. All that sort of stuff. I gave him space and then we very slowly came back together. I convinced him to start therapy and it helped a lot, but his need for autonomy and my need for closeness just continued to butt heads. It is really annoying to look back on our issues and know that intimacy was 95% of them; the only real complaint I had beyond that was his snoring!

    And wouldn’t you know, in the process of agreeing to break up (after him shutting me out for over a week despite not being mad at me), then we can both say it clearly: it was intimacy. In his words, “I think our ideas of what constituted intimacy varied to a degree moreso than we thought?” Yet simultaneously he can agree that his own issues with trusting others did play a part and is something he’s working on in therapy (as I am working on mine as well). He said he didn’t feel like he was present enough for me, and I said honestly that I felt I wasn’t absent enough for him. I honestly had faith that he would become closer in time, as I would find more of my independence. It really is a difficult relationship to make work, no matter how much you love someone (and *choose* to love them).

    Intimacy is such an important thing and such a hard thing to balance. I couldn’t believe someone who loved me could be so detached at times, describing my own affection for him as feeling like I was just a towel draped over him at times, or how he would avoid inquiring about me because I sensed that could lead to the attachment he feared. Yet when his walls did come down, and I was in… It felt marvelous. Everything was right, it’s just that those moments were so short-lived.

    I’m still left wondering… If we could ever get past that or if our differences would always push each other away. There is a limit to what I can change; I will always be the girl who wants at least a short phone call everyday, and a kiss before leaving, and to hold hands. I think he will always be the man who puts more thought into his independent activities, prefers to rely solely on himself, and takes more comfort in autonomy than closeness, but it is so hard to be realistic about this right now, at least for me. He on the other hand? Well to the benefit of his issues, I have a level of certainty that he will feel perhaps better than ever in having the distance he sought so hard, even if there is a level of sadness in that for him, too.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Willow, first, I see all of the psychological work you’ve done by your description of your romantic relationship here. It’s wonderful that both of you have sought counseling to better understand the attachment issues. Yes, it does sound like you are the preoccupied and he the dismissive. I think the preoccupied is emotionally easier to work with than the dismissive in anxiously attached relationships. Although both of you have fears that get expressed, differently.

      There’s nothing wrong with wanting closeness in relationship. And, a phone call every day, kiss hello and goodbye, and holding hands are all normal loving behaviors, Willow. So don’t change this and your desire for closeness and intimacy.

      You just have to become less afraid of losing the love and support that you want so much that you become needy and clingy, e.g., texting and calling 20 times a day, wanting him to say he loves you several times a day. These are needy behaviors that certainly cause a problem with a fear of intimacy to distance.

      You know, one of the best ways to get over your fear is with a romantic partner who does not have intimacy fears. A person who doesn’t fear closeness will not behave in ways that only reinforce your greatest fear (rejection and abandonment by a romantic partner). In time, you would become more trusting of attachments and less preoccupied.

      But, that being said, let me tentatively say to you Yes. It seems he has some insight that he has intimacy fears, enough to have him seek psychotherapy. This is a very good sign. If he puts great effort into working against rejecting behaviors and you put great effort into working against clinging behaviors–then, maybe both of you have a chance with each other. There’s nothing written in stone that says no Willow. Thank you for writing me today. Take good care. Let me know how it all goes for both of you. Warmly Deborah.

      • avatar Willow says:

        Thank-you for your reply, Deborah. It is as you say; wanting closeness isn’t a bad thing, but I do struggle with distance, and I do believe my own issues with that only exacerbated his, too. Relationships are tough!

        As for the last part… I don’t know. He said in the end that he didn’t think we could make ‘this’ work, that he worried that he couldn’t make me happy, and that I’m better off without him because he knows his shortcomings. To me, there’s an inkling of thinking that’s more distancing behaviour (I’ve heard it before from him), but I can’t fight it lest I cling to my own insecurities. In fact, I can’t win, because even if he came around in some time, I’d just think we were playing out a pattern. I pull back > he wants back in, I get close again > he backs away. I don’t want to do that either, and it would take a lot of time and work to know that we would not do that in the future, but it is so hard to let go when you feel like the issue is winning by letting go, even if you just kind of have to accept that you can’t change things for someone else. I have to fight my own clinginess even now and continue to find my own independence.

  34. avatar Caitlyn says:

    I really liked your articles. They hit the nail on the head for me. I really couldn’t describe my fears to others until recently and I realized that maybe I had a fear of intimacy and decided to look it up.

    I’m only 19 however so I’m not sure it’s possible for someone my age to have the issue. I am quick to find every reason to not jump into any relationship and I try to find something wrong with every potential person that shows up. People are usually surprised to hear that I’ve never had a boyfriend or experienced something as simple as holding hands or my first kiss. I was never able to explain my discomfort with people touching me either. I feel like I’d probably freak out ifa hypothetical boyfriend tried to hold my hand in public

  35. avatar Caitlyn says:

    I really liked your articles. They hit the nail on the head for me. I really couldn’t describe my fears to others until recently and I realized that maybe I had a fear of intimacy and decided to look it up.

    I’m only 19 however so I’m not sure it’s possible for someone my age to have the issue. I am quick to find every reason to not jump into any relationship and I try to find something wrong within a possible relationship of every potential person that shows up. People are usually surprised to hear that I’ve never had a boyfriend or experienced something as simple as holding hands or my first kiss. I was never able to explain my discomfort with people touching me either. I feel like I’d probably freak out if a hypothetical boyfriend tried to hold my hand in public despite the fact that I find touching important (a total condtradiction I know). Most times just someone flirting with me triggers anxiety. I’m sure my negativity with my body image doesn’t help matters either. I constantly talk down about my own appearance that I figure I come off as needy or clingy which is nowhere near my intention because I’m actually the opposite.

    I’m a middle child with 2 brothers in a mostly male family. Neglect was a common lifestyle for me because I’m very intelligent, independent and reliable. I was more likely to be ignored because people in my family realized I didn’t need help and thus I lost nearly all attention from others. People say I have a great sense of humor and that I’m very mature and offer great advice on relationships for someone who has never been in one. I credit that to being a big introvert that devoted time to observation and logic but for some reason I don’t know how to solve my own problems such as perfectionism, rejection and intimacy.

    Its very frustrating and vexing for me because I’m not sure if I should go on and let things be or try and find a solution. I’m not in a rush to lose my virginity or anything (as a matter of fact sex is close to terrifying to me at this point). But I sometimes wish I was able to make a connecion with someone without the fear of sex, controlling partners etc taking over my thoughts.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Caitlyn, a person at 19 can certainly have these issues because our issues in our adult relationships stem from our relationships to significant others from our past. You describe very well the situation of being a middle child especially in a mostly male family. It seems like you had to learn to thrive on your own. This can make it difficult to open up to intimacy in a romantic relationship. Caitlyn if you find a mate who really appreciates your independence and some of the things you mention here about your background, you may begin to risk more and open yourself up to intimate relating. I hope you do as you like all of us deserve a loving relationship with a person who understands us and is also our friend. I wish you well dear. Warmly Deborah.

  36. avatar Jamie says:

    Thank you for this article. My girlfriend recently told me that she loves me, but she isn’t in love with me. I asked her not to make any rash decisions about us, but she told me that she just wants to be friends. I suspected that this may be due to the fact that she has a core belief that she doesn’t deserve love, and that everything I do for her and the love I show her challenges her core beliefs. She agreed to stay together while I give her some space to figure things out. Reading this article, I am pretty sure that her fear of intimacy stems from my live challenging her core beliefs. I find comfort in reading your words and I hope that my girlfriend realizes that she is as amazing as I say she is and learn to accept my love! Thank you!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Jamie, I’m sorry for the delay in responding to you. I’m glad the article helped you to understand more about the situation. I know you are hoping that she learns to accept love — your love. I hope this for you too. But remember, if she isn’t the one, I promise you the right one will be there. Warm regards Deborah.

  37. avatar thepinch says:

    Hi there,

    When I w2as 17 I met a very young man in school. He was very attracted to me. For the next 10 years we were friends, pals, buddies, and he was obviously taken with me. Then he took me to a party, and afterwards, we made love. I never heard from him again.

    Fortunately I had the benefit of drugs and alcohol on my side to blot out the hurt. I had lost a good friend and someone I loved. Eventually I sobered up, got married, had a child, and so forth.

    Thirty years later, he put a lot of time and effort into organizing a reunion. I had forgotten the incident, but eventually he reminded me. He’s brilliant -in fact he reminded me of every detail of our time together from all those events so long ago. He said he loved me from the moment he met me, and even at this age, I believed him. I still do.

    He was a week away from divorcing. Dating him was chaos. One evening I walked in to a domestic dispute with his ex that was horrifying. No matter what they say about exes, this woman was genuinely horrible. I finally got the smarts to set up some distance between us, but that seemed to draw him in.

    Although it was a real joy to connect with him, and he was obviously smitten, kept referring to our situation as a “tragedy”. WTF?

    He was overjoyed that after nearly 3 months I was coming to his cottage. We had a lot of history, and he invited all his friends who knew me. We had a lovely time. He had been talking about me all summer. Then when they left he started getting unpleasant. I just walked away.

    He followed; I said “I love you”, and you may as well have set the house on fire – he was a very, very happy man. I don’t think he slept at all! Instead he unleashed every secret; every sadness on me.

    The next day however acknowledged it had been life changing (his words) but that he now felt suicidal, and couldn’t stop crying. He started bossing me around.

    He demanded that he drive me home. I asked him not to. I couldn’t stand it, and as soon as I could, I got out on the side of the road near a train station.

    He had been frantically cleaning things and afterwards sent some texts. He finally sent a text 3 weeks later talking about what a shit he had been.

    I know what fear of intimacy is, and I went through hell afterwards, but I never called him again. I couldn’t even cry for over a year.

    I am trying to understand it. When this happened, did he still have feelings? Miss me?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello, thank you for sharing with me. I don’t’ know this person but for sure he seems very confused and perhaps a lot of emotional damage from his past that has caused him to behave so erratically. His extreme emotions that led him to act suicidal may speak to alcoholism, bipolar disorder, or a personality disorder. I don’t know. But, I think you were right and strong to never call him again. This is a very emotionally healthy part of you. You are right to disconnect completely from his drama that is clearly pathological and extensive.

      I think the most important thing for you to know to answer your questions is the following. People with this amount of emotional baggage can’t completely be authentic in their feelings because they have so much denial and projection and trauma from the past. He has to work a great deal on himself (psychologically) to become a fully aware and integrated human being. Only then could we expect that his feelings are genuine. This does not mean in any way that he didn’t have feelings for you–it’s rather that his feelings are most likely superficial because of his difficulties. What I am saying here is also true of whether or not he misses you. You take good care and know that the very healthy part of you detached from him. Warm regards Deborah.

  38. avatar Mike says:

    Hi Deborah, thanks for the information- very helpful. So, now that I have a better understanding into the mind of someone struggling with a fear of intimacy, how do I know if this person is really earnestly interested in forming a relationship with me?
    I am very certain this lady I’ve seen off and on over the past year struggles with this fear. Your description of the orangutans coming down from the trees to mate, is spot on. This lady runs cold literally for a week or two and then, out of no where she surfaces and is hotter than a two dollar pistol. During the “hot” phase, she actually opens up a little and over the past 1.5 years, bit by bit, her tumultuous past started to come to light. During a recent “hot” spell, she’s even briefly mentioned about wanting to meet my kids, getting a house together, etc. It’s only very brief comments- almost like a passing casual comment, usually said during a very public location, like at a sporting event or playing pool at a sports bar.
    I’m confused, hopeful and a little worried. Sometimes she will briefly talk about her past, but it’s like quick 30 second snap shots of a movie. I never get the whole picture or whole story.
    Bottom line, I do have feelings for this woman, but honestly, I have no “freaking” idea how she feels about me. Once again, you nailed it regarding the type of person they gravitate to. I am very open and completely comfortable and capable of expressing my feelings. I know myself and am emotionally available for a serious committed relationship. I just have no idea whether or not to take this woman very seriously. Asking her about what she wants or how she feels is a complete mistake as in the past it has ended with more questions and confusion, than answers.
    Please advise what to do. This lady has a wonderful heart, is a great mother and has a very good career. I just have no idea how she feels about me and am at a loss of how to navigate the near dating future with her. Do I move on? Should I keep my options open and just casually date her while seeing others? Do I hang in there for a time and date exclusively? Interestingly, we hadn’t seen each other much this year- maybe only 4-5 times, but recently she asked me several questions about whether I was seeing anyone else casually. Each time she asks these serious questions, I kinda get my hopes up that we’re reaching a turning point for things to get more serious, but that’s yet to happen.
    Thank you in advance for your consideration and time. Mike

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Mike. I’m glad the information in this post was helpful to you. It is a problem and also revealing that this woman has managed to avoid true intimacy over the course of 1.5 years of dating you. This is a long time to be dating a person. But, mostly, you should not have had to wait so long for so many important relationship questions to be answered. By now Mike, you are right–you should know more about who she is and what she wants. From what you describe here, the one thing is clear is that she wants a casual relationship.People with these fears do run hot and then cold and so it’s easy to mistake the “hot” times for more than they may really be. I’ve known many clients and friends who have experienced this Mike. But, unless you want a casual relationship as well, then only getting some of them some of the time, shouldn’t be enough for you. Clearly it isn’t from what you say here. And, you are emotionally healthy because of this.

      Mike, I think I can help you best today by asking you some questions. I don’t know her, but you have given me some good information that makes me think she has these relationship fears. If we find ourselves having to imagine, guess, surmise what another person wants or thinks then we are living in a fantasy relationship in a way. Mike you have to use her actual behavior to guide your thinking and what is right for you. She keeps mysterious (emotionally) for the reason of self-protection and preventing true emotional relating. You have to stay in the reality of this and pull yourself out of guessing what she wants. I know how hard this is. We have all been there. You are open, desirous of true relating and thus open to trying to appreciate what things mean. Nonetheless, you have to know what she wants so you don’t keep hoping a you say. You deserve so much more than just hoping for a relationship–YOU deserve a relationship that is reciprocal.

      Let me take a risk, which may help you to take a risk. Act on what you want and need. If she can’t give you answers and more time than dating 4 to 5 times per year, I suggest you keep your options open and casually date her. Also let her know. And, if she has more serious intentions, I think you will begin to see more of her. And, if she doesn’t, she still reminds a good person with a fine heart but not someone who is available.

      You take good care. Let me know how it goes. And, remember, what you want and need is very important here. Warmly Deborah.

  39. avatar Mike says:

    Deborah, thank you. The takeaway here for me is to not inadvertently getting caught up in the “how and why” of her actions and trying to decipher their underlying meaning, but rather, as you said, to use her actual behavior as a guide. I will keep the dating options open, and like always, will be truthful and explain why I’m doing so.
    I’ve scoured the web and your insight and analysis on the subject resonates the most clearly for me. Thank you again for your time. Mike

  40. avatar Pat says:

    I have found this article really helpful, definitely the most useful and accessible piece of writing I have found on the topic, thank you. My partner of two years recently expressed his fear of intimacy, and our sex life has ground to a complete halt, much to my disappointment. I panic when he withdraws from me emotionally, it sends me into a terrible pit of despair, and I am not looking forward to going without sex for the forseeable future. But he is aware of his issues, which is something. I am working hard to give him more space, take the pressure off and give him the opportunity to approach me rather than always being the one to initiate contact. It is a slow and painful journey, but we are determined. I have to accept that we may never have the sort of physical connection that I long for and look for other ways to enrich our relationship. Meanwhile I am getting treatment to deal with my past traumas, which is helping me recognise my triggers and head them off before I freak out when I feel like he has rejected me again. It is hard when you get to almost 40yo and you have been used and abused by others and made to feel worthless. Rebuilding confidence in yourself and others can be a terrifying proposition. But you never know if you never try.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Pat. I’m so glad this article was so helpful to you. Thank you! Oh, yes, withdrawing from intimacy through sex is one of the first things people who have such fears do to control their fears. Yes, it is promising on some level that he’s aware of his fears and what he does to control them. This is a great start.

      You are doing exactly the right thing to focus on yourself, so you can understand your triggers and responses better, which helps not to increase any drama his withdrawing causes. Also, to stay centered despite your worst fears that this is him not you and you are lovable and deserving of love and attention. I respect you for trying to see this through with him and that he too is trying to understand and work past his fears. It would be great if he had some individual therapy too. Wishing you and him well Pat, Warmly Deborah.

  41. avatar John says:

    Hi Deborah.

    So glad I found this article. It describes my relationship exactly and your advice is just what I needed.

    I’ve been with a woman for several months who has just admitted her fears of intimacy and her desire to get some form of counselling. Her story appears almost textbook – physical and emotional abandonment by her parents, a lifetime of toxic relationships and recently, the development of a physical condition that has rocked her self-confidence.

    She has also developed a very successful, independent life for herself over the years with a good career, a well nurtured circle of loyal friends and interesting hobbies. It was immediately obvious that she fears a close relationship may threaten all that and I’ve been very careful to reassure and encourage her to maintain her commitment to all of those things.

    She’s an amazing and unique person and after much soul searching I have decided to stay with her, largely because she acknowledges the problem and has agreed to get help. I like your advice about understanding that they are different. I am gradually learning that about her. What I’ve noticed is that when she’s feeling overwhelmed, she doesn’t push me away as such, she just ignores me and goes into herself or focuses intently on some other aspect of her life. I’ve found that if I just leave her be while she does that, she’ll emerge again after a few days and pick up where she left off with me as if nothing has happened.

    The lack of physical intimacy is frustrating though. We’ve been together almost 6 months and still haven’t slept together. She doesn’t like putting any kind of formal tag on our relationship, so it’s difficult at times for me to know exactly what I am to her. She still finds it difficult to engage in even simple gestures like hand-holding and she’ll only kiss me when she feels safe that it won’t escalate into something more “dangerous”; so she’ll kiss when we part but not when we meet. It’s difficult though to know when I might be crossing a boundary because I’m not always sure where the boundaries actually are.

    When she told me that she was considering counselling, I let her know that if she ever wanted me to participate with her I’d be happy to. This kind of freaked her out a bit and she said it was her problem to solve and she’d be more comfortable doing it on her own. I understand that but have been thinking of getting some counselling for myself to help me deal with everything properly.

    On the positive side, she never squanders our time together so whenever we are together it’s always about quality over quantity. We do a lot of really cool things and I cherish every minute I spend with her. We’ve also never had an argument, which is a first for me! In fact, if it wasn’t for the intimacy issues I’d call it a perfect relationship.

    I love her very much and I want to do my very best to support her. It is a difficult thing to handle and there are times I feel I’m walking on eggshells, not knowing what to do for the best. Your article has gone a long way to reassuring me that I’m heading in the right general direction. Thank you very much.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello John, I’m glad you found it too. You describe so well her emotional makeup and the nature of your relationship. John, she does seem very resilient as a person; I’m sure that you value this in her. Also, your approach to encouraging her to maintain her work, relationships, activities is very healthy for the relationship and wise of you. I’m wondering if you have ever had a discussion with her about the lack of sexual and emotional intimacy. There’s something there (perhaps in the past) that is very unclear. I’m glad she is open to counseling so both of you can understand this important missing piece of the relationship. You are right–it sounds like a perfect relationship, if not for the intimacy issues and certainly worth going the extra mile for. Also, you sound like a very good person and so capable of having a meaningful, long relationship. She’s fortunate to have you John. I wish you both the best. Let me know how it goes for you. Warm regards, Deborah.

  42. avatar Dave says:

    I’m a male aged 23. I have been with my girlfriend for going on 2 years now and I love her to bits. I enjoy her company even when we just sit and do our own things, but we do not have sex. I was very new to the sexual relationship when we first got to together, it was great! But we never really had that honeymoon period, we had been friends for a long while before and the relationship was not about an active sex life for me initially (perhaps because of my lack of one before). But as the relationship grew my girlfriend became more and more distant from me, to the point now where we do not have sex. She opened up to me about her life and upbringing (I don’t think it’s fair for me to go into it here) and I support her and want to help her, but It now means she can’t even bare the thought of sex. She has panic attacks at the idea of sex or me even getting close to her. I want to be able to make a magic solution to make everything alright for her but I can’t, I know I can’t, I know it doesn’t work like that.
    But I myself have a desire for sexual intamacy and to feel wanted. The more I try to distance myself from her and try to be the safe person she needs and I want her to have the more sexually frustrated I get and in turn this pits a strain on the relationship. Last night for the first time in 6months my girlfriend kissed me passionately and initiated sex, it was great! But I knew she was doing it for me and not because she wanted to. I felt her start to shake and she fell into a state of panic and began to cry. I helped her settle and told her I love her, which I do! But I can’t help but feel anger/frustration at the fact I can’t be intimate with the person I love. I don’t know what to do, I have tried talking to her and asking her to seek help, but she will not seek help, she is adamant there is nothing anyone can do for her. I have tried suggesting we take it slow and not to have intercourse but try other things. But she is repelled by sex at the moment and I can’t help but feel that she is thus repelled by me. I know this isn’t the case but what I feel can be different. To make things worse she is anaemic and rarely has the energy to get out of bed for work, granted she is not exhausted all the time, but again this hinders our abilty to get out and do other things, which would side track us from the lack of sexual intamacy in our relationship . I don’t know what to do to help her. Or to help myself (selfish I know, but I can’t help but think if I were better, maybe I could help her too)

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Dave. Thank you for sharing your relationship with me. I love how you say you love her to bits. Very endearing. Loving a person gets expressed emotionally and sexually. So, I completely understand your frustration. It sounds like she does too but has some personal issue that she can’t get past. I respect you for protecting her and not sharing what she hasn’t shared herself here. I think you may suggest that she get some good counseling/therapy to deal with whatever anxieties and fears (and past) are stopping her from enjoying a natural extension of her love with her partner. It sounds like you are an ideal mate for her: compassionate, understanding and caring. Nonetheless, her fears may require professional help. I hope she’s open to this for herself and for the relationship with you. Best to you and her. Warm regards Deborah.

  43. avatar Zhen says:

    Hi Deborah, I have no idea of what commitment issue is until I read your article. I’m currently 22 and have been together with my boyfriend for around 7 months. We know each other since 2 years ago when he started to flirt with me. Throughout these 7 months, I am always the one who takes the initiative to contact as we are actually in a long-distance relationship. We meet each other once in a month and most of the time we spend is at his house. I know he doesn’t like to hang out with me. When he was out with me, he looked uncomfortable. He told me that his relationship before me did not last more than 3 months. I know he has been trying very hard to commit in our relationship. He tried replying texts and picking up phone calls (we had an argument regarding this before and he started to change from not replying to replying). His parents divorced when he was at the age of 14 and he has gone through a very tough period that time, staying alone and taking care of his own daily life. I know he has a low sense of security. Recently, he starts to ignore my phone calls and texts again. We had a small argument last weekend as he cancelled the lunch which he promised. Then he told me not to treat him that nice and do not make him my priority. He did text me after that but then I ignored that. The next day, he tweeted,saying that I might not be the right girl for him. I texted him, asking to solve the issue together through communication but then he did not reply. I am lost. I dont know what I should do right now. I dont wish to lose him and I really hope that I could help him to cope with his problem. Dear Deborah, what should I do right now?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Zhen, well, this is exactly why I started Psychology in Everyday Life. I wanted people like you dear Zhen to be able to identify psychological issues in their lives that can help to make their lives better. So, thank you for this feedback.

      You are right that his parent’s divorce at an early age and then having to parent himself can be enough to give him a fear of intimate relating. The problem is that unless he decides that a fear of intimacy is a problem for him there may be little you can actually do to help him. Zhen, I wish I could tell you something more hopeful than this. But, a fear of intimacy is a deep fear that has deep psychological roots. You see if I tell you to be satisfied with the distance and to let him come and go as he pleases so that he doesn’t get fearful—that can’t (shouldn’t) be enough for you. I’d like you to start thinking about what you need and deserve. Yes, I know you care for him and that he’s probably a very worthwhile person, despite his emotional difficulties. But, don’t let YOU get lost in his emotional fears.

      I always tell my patents this in similar situations—don’t go off your fantasy and what you want to happen. Take his words as facts. You see he says don’t treat him like a priority and be nice to him. He’s letting you know something that he isn’t available emotionally. This hurts you I know (sorry Zhen). But, facing the reality of what he says rather than what you want will prevent you from hanging on too long and from getting more hurt.

      Sometimes when we want something or someone badly enough we can let our fantasies around our desires stop us from facing the facts of what we hear and see. Have courage to stay present to the reality of the situation and I guarantee you, in the long run, you will be better. Warm regards to you Zhen. There’s a very special someone in the future waiting for you. Deborah.

  44. avatar Elizabeth says:

    Hi Deborah, this is an excellent article, and it’s wonderful that you’re taking so much time to respond to all the comments. I’ve been seeing a guy for about two months now. It was always a little bit hot and cold, although I could tell that he cared for me a lot and loved being around me. We started getting closer, and then he suddenly withdrew all affection and told me that we had just been “friends” all along, which was ridiculous and hurtful. He’s now trying very hard to put me into the friend box, even though he still wants to see me, and said he would miss me a lot if I didn’t want to see him anymore. The last time we had contact before the great withdrawal of affection, I felt as though we connected on a deeper level, that he was so happy, and I felt he looked at me liked he loved me.

    His mother got sick three years ago with motor neurone disease, and died late last year. Since she got sick he hasn’t been able to sustain relationships at all, and normally doesn’t have them, though he does have a lot of friends. He drinks a lot, and hasn’t really dealt with the grief.

    I care about him and want to be there for him, but it also hurts me that he can’t acknowledge his feelings for me. What can I do to help him address his grief? A very strong part of me wants to withdraw from him completely to make him feel sadness at his decision, as I think that’s the only thing that might force him into action. I think he just wants us to be friends so he doesn’t have to have any transition, or feeling of loss, so he can stay emotionally flatlined. I don’t want to encourage that. But then is that selfish and wrong? Do people learn through more pain, through criticism, or does it take love and that “safety” to make them come out of their shells? Thank you! Elizabeth.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Elizabeth, let me get right to your important questions. I think the most important thing for you to do is to recommend that he sees a therapist to talk about his grief and to deal with any drinking problems. I see where your question is coming from–should you leave him (causing him pain) or give him more love to come out of his shell. In general,people learn more through a loving and safe environment. But, you are talking specifically about a person who may have a fear of intimacy problem. This is a different situation requiring a specific interactional approach. Yes, it’s true that in general we learn more through safety and love than through rejection and punishment. But giving more love and more safety to a person who has intimacy fears may actually make him fear you more. In other words, this may feel smothering to the person. Persons who have a true fear of intimacy really do require therapy because the fears run psychologically deep–deeper than love and safety from a loved one can provide.

      I also recommend that you think about you. What do you need to be happy? Is it fair to you to have the intimate relationship placed on hold indefinitely? Remember, he has to take responsibility for his own happiness that means getting the help he needs for his fears. You can’t do this for him, although I know your heart is in the right place.

      I wish for you the best Elizabeth and hope he gets the help he needs to work past his fears. Be well Warmly Deborah.

  45. avatar Jo says:

    Hi Deborah

    I’ve read up on this a lot and yours is the only article I find that makes much sense. I wonder if you do any form of online sessions for people who are in this situation as I know I would pay the earth for them if they a available!!

    Are you able to give a little insight into my situation so I at least know whether or not this is what my partner is dealing with? I’ll try to keep it brief!!

    I have been with my boyfriend now for 3years. I am now 26, he is 31.

    When he was 24, his long term girlfriend died in a car crash and within the same month his mother moved to new Zealand (we live in the uk). He doesn’t get on well with his father but he is the only family he has now in the country. After this he met and lived with another woman who was very emotionally abusive towards him. She cheated on him, used to constantly tell him he was worthless, that his mum obviously didn’t love him either seeing as she went to another country, etc. He told me that he stayed with her because the alternative was spending his life completely alone and that thought scared him more than staying.

    When we met, he was extremely open about his affections, he wanted affection from me an awful lot but gave as much as he got. We were very sexual and I even remember him saying to me once that once the sex leaves a relationship it is the beginning of the end, although at this time he was sure this would never happen to us.

    We moved in together after 8months and that’s when things went weird. The starting point of everything was that he would avoid kissing, he would move away when I tried to kiss him and then when I asked him about it, he said that now I had made an issue of it he would find it impossible to get over it in his head. He then stopped touching me in any sexual way but he still wanted me to behave the same towards him. After about a year of this I said I was starting to feel resentful and asked why he wouldnt touch me anymore as well as the kissing. Again he said the same thing that now I had made it such a huge issue that he wouldn’t be able to do those things again.

    Anyway 2 years later there is no kissing but also no sex cos he knew it wasn’t enjoyable for me the way we were doing it so he would rather not do anything now. I said it isn’t hard to do if you are attracted to that person but he said to him, he wants to be ‘normal’ he just is unable to bring himself to be normal again because he knows I want him to be the person I met and he cant live up to that expectation.

    The past few months have got more difficult he has stopped any form of hugging or spending time with me emotionally. He also has sunk into a very depressed state saying he feels so low all the time because he can see that I am not happy and he feels he is the cause of my unhappiness and although he knows he can make me happy it is as though he can’t let himself be close to me anymore even though he wants to. He has started being very snappy and thinking I am constantly against him, as though I have labelled him and nothing else matters. He thinks I am cheating on him and want to leave him so that I can be sexual with someone else who can meet my needs which is not true!!

    I told him that if I try to stop seeing him in that way, and therefore stop craving a physical connection with him, that would solve the problem. But he said that wouldn’t be normal and if I no longer saw him in that way then I shouldn’t be with him! I’m at a loss what to do or say to stop things getting worse never mind getting better.

    He has made an appointment at the doctors in a months time so I am trying to stick everything out until then and hope they can shine some light on it.

    I wondered what your thoughts are?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Jo, it’s great that you have researched this important relationship topic. Fear of intimacy is complex as you know, especially if you are dealing with it in a romantic partnership. Thank you for your description of the problem. Jo, certainly people can develop such intimacy/relationship fears as a result of some past trauma (girlfriend dies in car crash; mother moves away). It’s hard for me to know exactly what is the issue with him because of course I haven’t talked with him. But, let me say that the shutting down after 8 months of being together is definitely more about him than you. I say this strongly because of the answers he gives you to very reasonable questions. Like, when you tell him how you feel about a lack of sexual intimacy — he blames you as to why he is shutting down. This can’t be possible Jo. I hope you know this. You are asking a very reasonable question. What is most likely true is that your confrontation pressures him because he has a problem with intimacy, sexual intimacy. I’m not sure.

      I’m very glad to hear that he has made an appointment with a doctor. I’m assuming that it is because of these issues and that the doctor is a counselor or therapist right? This is a good sign, as he’s acknowledging that something is wrong about him rather than you. Jo, he has a history of trauma around women (girlfriend dying, mom moving far away, an abusive ex-lover). These issues alone can result in intimacy fears. But, also the distant relationship with his father suggests that he did not learn healthy emotional interaction from his parents.

      Again, I’m glad he’s going for some help. I’m sure he’s a very good person who just needs better understanding into himself and his depression so he can have healthier romantic relationships. Whether you think there’s enough for you to see the relationship through is of course up to you. But, please remember, sometimes these types of emotional issues take time and he may never be all that comfortable with intimacy. Hard to know at this point.

      You take good care. Thank you for sharing this with me. Let me know how it goes. Warm regards Deborah.

  46. avatar Anna says:

    Hi there – hope its not too late to reply here.

    I found this article very illuminating for me. I have been in a ‘relationship’ with a lovely guy for about a year. (I put that word in quotation marks because its really a very undefined thing at this point.)
    He is someone I’ve pretty much loved since I first met him about 11 years ago. I was only 18 at the time, and he was 28, and he made it fairly clear in as kind a way as possible that he didn’t want to date me. Eventually I got over it and moved on and got married, however the marriage was very rough and abusive and I had to get out of it. I’ve been divorced now for a couple of years, and after coming out of that traumatic period am now happier and more self-aware and fulfilled than I have ever been. Then at a party I met my former love-interest again, and I remembered how much I had liked him and how similar our interests and outlooks are. I was still really attracted to him too, only now things were different and he seemed really interested in me as well.
    He definitely pursued me from that point, and texted me a lot, and things were always very sexually charged between us – except it was mostly just talk, he seemed very hesitant to actually be physical. When we eventually progressed to having sex it was wonderful, but always was followed by a really long stretch of time where he wouldn’t contact me at all. Sometimes these stretches were as long as a month. Every time we see each other we have a great time, we get along really well and share so many interests, but I probably only see him once or twice a month. We both have busy jobs, and I’m not a clingy person (I feel very deeply, but after being in such a suffocating marriage, the last thing Id want to do to anyone is try and possess them)

    He has been honest with me and told me that being sent to boarding school when he was younger has given him intimacy issues – particularly a fear of getting too close to people (presumably because he wants to avoid abandonment and rejection.) he once expressed the opinion that the pain of a relationship ending overshadows the whole relationship. However he has always remained friends with this ex’s (I think because of what a previous commenter said – that he wants a smooth transition, not a sudden disconnect.) However in the last 10 years he has not managed to make something last with a girl for more than 3 months.

    I feel really sorry for him because he is the most wonderful person. sweet, funny, handsome, kind. He has said he really wishes he could get past this hurdle. He has been to therapy in the past, but has said he doesn’t like it because he hates ‘making a fuss.’

    He always makes an effort to reply to my texts, albeit not right away. And I tend to take quite a ‘hands-off’ approach to avoid being hurt, although sometimes I fear its in retaliation to that feeling of not being wanted. It stings my pride and hurts that he doesn’t want to acknowledge the relationship – its like its a secret. Lately I’ve found myself wondering if I can keep pulling back – I’ve not told him that I love him because I reckon it’d freak him out. But keeping that kind of thing inside is really painful.

    Sorry that this is so long – I guess I’d just like a little advice. I’m a very secure person in general, independent and happy, so I think I can manage a less intimate relationship. And I think he is worth going through some hard things for – my fear is that he doesn’t see me as anything more than a fling. Or a sexual release. I do have a fear of inadequacy with this particular person, because he was the same one that rejected me all those years ago.

    Thanks, Anna

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Anna, no it’s not too late to reply here. I’m glad you found this post helpful. I really like to write about relationships and intimacy. They can be so complex and are so important to our lives that it’s good to give people insights they are looking for.

      Anna, you describe the situation very well and it’s very good that he understands his intimacy fears. Many people never get to the point to believe that this is their relationship problem. But, that being said, it doesn’t cure his fears and give you what you need and deserve.

      He sounds like a very nice person. You mention something very important–you are secure and can manage a less intimate relationship. Many people who get involved with this type of person are emotionally insecure; exactly the wrong type of relationship for a person who has intimacy fears. But, I ask you if this is really all you want? I know you are writing here because you’d like more of a relationship and with him. Anna, I always tell people we have to embrace what we see and hear in reality rather than what we are hoping for. This is especially true if time hasn’t brought us what we want. Trust your gut. If you have been rejected by him, in the past, and fear that it is his fear of intimacy and a desire to simply not commit to a person–then, I’d say protect yourself.

      Anna he certainly may have a fear of intimacy from his past, but he may also just enjoy being free of commitment for no other reason than not having to negotiate needs and desires with another person. I can’t say because I don’t really know him. But, you do. What does your heart and mind tell you about the situation? Thank you for writing me Anna. Warm regards Deborah.

      • avatar Anna says:

        Hi – thanks so much for replying!!

        It certainly is a tricky thing – however as time has gone on I’ve noticed changes – i.e at first, he would say almost nothing about himself – very little, anyway – we would always talk about me, and if I asked him things, he would cleverly manage to divert it back to me, and sometimes I wouldn’t even notice until a long time later. Whereas recently he talks a lot more about his upbringing and past, and family. We are about 50/50 now on sharing information. In fact I probably share less haha.
        And the first time having sex for us he seemed keen to get me out the door as soon as possible (in a nice way, but I still felt a little used.) But now he is a lot more tender and loving and unafraid to have me stay over etc.
        The only thing that hasn’t changed his the frequency with which we see eachother, and the fact that we don’t interact as a couple amongst any of our friends. (we have a very large number of mutual friends, which may have something to do with it.)
        I have been trying to do as you suggest and only look at the realities of what he has actually said and done, rather than what I hope I’m seeing. The only time I ever told him that i was confused about how distant he is, he told me that he really does like me, and wishes he could make more happen with me, but is afraid. I have tried to always keep the conversation away from the future and in the now.

        I think I would be a lot more concerned if I hadn’t noticed him starting to open up to me and trust me. I’ve also allowed myself to be less than perfect around him so that he realises he can relax around me and that I accept his flaws.
        I do hear you about protecting myself. I’ve been all about this from the beginning – I constantly prepare myself for him backing off, and to manage this I make sure I have great friendships and support and that I take pleasure in things I can do on my own or with other people.
        The question is – is this all I really want? Well, at the moment, its enough for me. I myself am not ready to re-marry or even live with someone. Having a very casual relationship is teaching me a lot about how to take care of myself regardless of what someone else thinks of me. If I notice no further progression in his behavior – that we are in a rut of nothing changing and me wanting more – that will be the time when I hope I am strong enough to pull the plug. As long as I can see positive changes I can be patient.

        Thanks so much again for getting back to me! So kind of you 🙂 This has been very useful for me.

        • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

          Happy to do so Anna. You have a deep inner processing of what you need and want. This is wonderful, as it helps you to know what is right for Anna. Take good care. See you here soon. Warmly Deborah. 🙂

  47. avatar Sally says:

    Hi Dr. Khoshaba –

    I’m wondering if you might have a suggestion on how to handle and/or move forward with a man that has admittedly , emotional intimacy issues.

    We went to HS together many years ago. We reconnected 3 years ago through social media. He was going through a divorce but we ended up dating. We had a very connected, intimate, special relationship together. Albeit short, due to his divorce. He broke it off with me to get through all of that, which was understandable. We both agreed he had to. We stayed in touch here and there. Seeing each other twice. He would then back away. Then this past winter he contacted me and said that he was very grateful for me & our relationship. That I was a big help to him. We continued to communicate through the spring regularly. It got to be daily. This past July he told me he was seeing a therapist for his intimacy issues , that he knows he pushes me away and that I was really important to him and he wanted to make me a priority. We started to see each other every other weekend (he has kids) , doing outdoor activities with each other. There was no talk of if we are just friends or more, but it felt like dating to me. I didn’t bring it up because I was comfortable with it moving slowly. He texted me daily w good mornings, good nights and everything in between. About a month ago, after hanging out all day we ended up having sex. The first time since we’ve reunited. The next day he said “it freaked him out a little”. I didn’t press the issue. He then had his kids for 3 weeks straight but we had made a plan to go hiking with me spending the night for the first weekend he was free, the last weekend in September. He ended up getting sick and we couldn’t go. I did drop by to give him soup , but for a very short visit. He held my hand and seemed appreciative. He has asked me every time to do something. For his next free weekend, I asked him. He said he had other plans, told me what they were but I was upset he didn’t include me. I pushed back a little saying “we’ll how about after” kind of thing. He has since pulled back. Some days not texting at all. Then the other day I found him on a dating site. ( I had a hunch ). I asked him about it, he got defensive which led to a fight. I asked him to get together in person to talk. He flat out said no! I dropped it to give us both some time to cool down, think etc. he did end up contacting me but just in a playful way. Now I don’t know what to do? Is he really just feeling afraid or did he just decide to not be w me? Confused & sad.

    Thanks for any thoughts you might have.


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Sally, I appreciate why you feel confused and sad. Sally, so many people reunite after a 20 or 30 year hiatus from high school, as you know. The comfort of reconnecting to a romantic partner who knows our history is quite a draw for people. But, what you say here is a problem that many people who do so encounter. That is – people connect very quickly forgetting that they really don’t know this person from the past — not really, anymore. And, social media has loosened up our boundaries so that people say many things for which they may not be ready. Sally, I don’t know him but my sense is that something like this is at play here. It’s not that he doesn’t care for you or like you but perhaps he got involved (romantically) way too fast. He said — sexual intimacy “freaked” him out, right? That says a lot. But, you know, he needs to take responsibility for allowing himself to go there, so to speak before he was emotionally ready.

      I’m sorry Sally. I know you are hurting. But, please trust two things – he was freaked out by true intimacy and he was searching dating sites. Don’t avoid or deny this information because you miss him. This is what we tend to do; focus on what we want to happen rather than what is really happening. Stay focused and trust — the right person is out there. Don’t accept crumbs when you deserve the whole wonderful cake. Warm regards to you. Deborah.

  48. avatar JulieD says:

    Hi Dr. K.,

    Great article – and what a great stream of questions and answers!

    Hee’s my situation/ question:

    My ex-fiance and I are both 55, though look and act younger/ fit, etc. We knew each other in high school, so we have small-town, platonic friendship history. (Like cousins / we never dated.) Though he asked me 4 years ago to marry him, he told everyone, and moved in, he dragged his feet after that, in a slew of ways. ( had no intention of accepting a live-in boyfriend if not enaged, tho I hadn’t said that.) Most notably: he took forever to finalize a divorce from an old “Vegas” marriage (a green card marriage.)

    He also came up with a million ways to sabotage things. Right in the middle of everything going great, he’d bring in a crazy new drama. Getting himself beaten up at a fancy wedding was the worst of it.

    I finally realized he was ADHD (& possibly formerly ODD), on top of having very neglectful/absent, awful ADHD parents. He regularly “jokingly” referred to himself as “the neglected child”, with lots of crazy drama stories to back it up. Also, early in our dating, he said things like “will you take care of me and be my girl?” (I noticed later he had quite a string of enabling, co-dependent relationships, where he’d ultimately run away – many of those women still contact him – drunk dialing, facebook, etc.) I wanted to make sure my own “hunting trophy” didn’t end up on his wall as well. 😉

    Sept 1st, he told me he “never wanted to get married,” so I said (calmly), “fine, then you have to leave – Oct 1st.” (We live in my very nice apartment.) No response from him, and no actions to leave. Previously, he’d often threatened to leave me; but on Oct 1st he admitted he didn’t want to leave, and didn’t want to lose me; that “we know each other so well”, he’d be my “life partner”, help me build my vacation cabin (our current project), etc. Basically, anything but married. I did not reply to any of that.

    But I said again that, while I felt like we were being torn apart, I did not agree to a live-in boyfriend (nor his dramatic ADHD dramas/disrespect), and that he’d still have to leave my apartment. I did not need a roommate or a live-in boyfriend. He “blamed” my “ultimatum” for “making” him leave. Of course, my enforcing my boundaries was in response to his trouncing them. I told him he couldn’t have it both ways.

    Now it’s Oct 20, and he’s still here, though he’s been moving /consolidating things between storage units, and found a room with a recently divorced male friend. He’s been noticeably/consistently better to me, trying hard since Oct 1st, no doubt partly out of fear, partly testing my resolve, honeymooning, etc. (Yes, I do charge him rent.) I know he does not want to move into his new place. It’s going to be a sad version of the Odd Couple.

    Thankfully, I feel strong about sticking to making him leave. He only has a couple of days left to wrap up his storage unit situation. I believe it’s a slim chance that he “may” finally have enough unwanted alone time, without me, that he “may” finally reflect on himself. He refuses to acknowledge anything at all is wrong with him whether ADHD or childhood issues, and I know I can’t live with his untreated issues – it’s like his evil twin lives with us. He’s fun and connected when he’s relaxed – then boom – when he thinks he’s losing his last gasp at youth, freedom, and external validation (music performer)- here comes the sabotage. On top of the worst ADHD symptoms ever.

    I should also add that: the only times in the past where he took my complaints seriously was when there was a crisis and I told him to stop (the offending behavior) or get the h*ll out. Those were: smoking, heavy drinking, and emotional affairs.

    He’s awesome when he’s not in threatened/ defensive / exhausted / mode. We connect when there’s nothing competing for his time (time debting/ 2 jobs / music gigs), OR I’ve given him an ultimatum. Jekyll is great – it’s Hyde that’s the problem! :0

    I can barely get 30 seconds to have a serious talk with him, he’s always on the way somewhere, coming or going – or else exhausted (ADHD symptom). He’s very avoidant, vague, etc., and tends to blow up (gets defensive / deflects the topic) if anything reasonable/serious is broached. I’m not a natural nagger, but this forces “me” to be the “broacher.”

    Yet, he still expects that we’re dating (with no title at all?) while he lives in his new place (soon/next week), and of course I’m going to have a hard time saying no, including to sex. (He’s also genuinely tried to be less selfish in that department too, lately. Much improved! I suppose out of fear.)

    Again: we’re both 55! Neither of us has kids.

    What I’m working on is: reducing/eliminating my fear of abandonment / being alone, if only so it can’t be used against me. Also: I’m already up on investing in myself, staying busy, working, exercise, movies, doing my creative thing, finding friends, etc.

    So, how, when and where do I find the right way to say “I’d love to wait for you, but I can’t”; and: “we can’t be intimate again unless you deal with your issues”, etc. I can’t stay with him in his current, untreated state. It’s just too draining, as any non-ADHD spouse will attest, let alone with intimacy avoidance!

    Thanks 🙂

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Julie, yes, I love the stream of questions/answers and that so many people are willing to share with people their experiences here. This is what makes writing a psychology blog so much fun. I’m learning from all of you everyday.

      Okay, on to your question! First let me say that you have a great personality – I can tell just by the way you describe the situation. Julie I’m quoting something you said here to make a point:

      He’s awesome when he’s not in threatened/ defensive / exhausted / mode. We connect when there’s nothing competing for his time (time debting/ 2 jobs / music gigs), OR I’ve given him an ultimatum. Jekyll is great – it’s Hyde that’s the problem!”

      From what you describe, he is emotionally unstable/volatile in a way that seems much more than ADD or ADHD. I’m sure attention deficit issues are at play here as you say, but it sounds like he has never really matured, so that he copes poorly and feels entitled to have a caretaker/mother for a romantic partner. Yes, we all play mother and father to each other in our romantic relationships at times. But, not to the extent of what you describe here. It seems he expects that you SHOULD have a long leash with regard to his emotional issues and addictions. I’m so glad that you have boundaries and you have established that he needs to leave. Julie, I know there’s a part of him that is lovable — this is the Jekyll part that you fell in love with. But, his Hyde seems to be predominately his personality. You seem to appreciate the extent of his problems very well. Just remember your mind and gut is telling you right. Stay strong and get him to leave. You don’t want to play mama to a boy who is chronically acting out on you right? You take good care Julie. I know there’s someone out there for you who is more able to maturely participate in a romantic relationship. Warm regards to you Deborah.

  49. avatar JulieD says:

    I forgot to add:

    He refused to go to counseling until I told him to leave last Jan 2nd. Then he offered to go.

    BUT – the counselor (contrary to his online info) had no experience with ADHD. PLUS: my ex-fiance’ just lied, “gaslighted” (denied everything that I said happened / admitted nothing) or raged in every session – we couldn’t even get to the listening/repeating exercises.

    Then he’d act all loving afterwards, like nothing bad happened in the session!

    So he claims “counseling didn’t work.” BUT that’s where I noticed that he could not sit with ANY uncomfortable feelings – even when the therapist gently suggested it. he’d just stew, jump out of his chair, threaten to leave, etc.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi again 🙂

      I am not surprised he refused counseling until he was given an ultimatum. And, raging/gaslighting are tactics he would use. Julie, romantic relationships, as you know, involve work. But, what you describe is way too much work for any romantic relationship to survive. Stay strong my friend. Warmly Deborah.

  50. avatar Brent says:

    i lost my wife if 28 years we had a wonderful relationship but she was ill the entire marriage and sex was out of the question for over ten years. I remarried quickly and love my new wife very much. however she has an obvious fear of intimacy issue. We had a wonderful love life until 2 weeks before the wedding and it has basically gone now. We are six months into our marriage and while she is very caring she has closed off sexually and even physical closeness or kissing is awkward. Reading ab out fear of intimacy on the net feels like I am reading about my wife. I am very affectionate and caring. I am devistatted at the thought of living the rest of my life not being able to share intimacy with a woman I am totally in love with. Help Please!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Brent, sorry for the delay in responding to you. I can appreciate your concern. It is way too soon for sexual/romantic intimacy to wane in a marriage. Brent have you talked with her about the problem? You might consider some couple’s therapy so you and she can better understand what is happening in this important area of a couple’s life. She may have a fear of intimacy and if so, it would really benefit her to talk to a professional about it, so that the lack of intimate connection between both of you does not negatively affect the marriage. Oh, I wish I could say more to help you Brent. But I think the best thing for you to do is talk to her and then suggest a therapist. Thank you for taking the time to comment today. Let me know how it goes. Warm regards Deborah.

  51. avatar cynthia says:

    Hello,my name is cynthia and I’m 23 years old, I have been recently dating this guy for about 1 month now and have only known one another for 2 months. I am having a very hard time being intimate with him, I also have a hard time showing my affection towards him. I have not been in a relationship for a couple of years now and have not ever been very sexuel active. I have always struggled on that and not too sure why. This guy I’m seeing I do like him, I feel happy when I am with him and safe. We try and see eachother about 2 or 3 times a week whenever we can. I am although kind of confused and am experiencing very mixed emtoptions. I tell myself that I like him yet I don’t always want to be with him, I feel that one of the reasons why I don’t want to be with him all the time is because I’m not very comfortable with the fact that when we are together he is very touchy Feely and always in a sexuel way..he is the groaping type. And whenever he gropes me I feel that I want him to stop! So this is where I’m Confused, shouldn’t it be the opposite? I mean in a new relationship, shoulent it be all lovey dovey and wants to be all over eachother? Why is it that I am so afraid and uncomfortable? Is it me, or is it because he’s just not the one for me? I’m some who has been wanting a serious relationship for many years now and i want to have a family and kids. So what is the problem? This is the first time I kind of reach out for advise..never really have about anything this deep so I’m giving this a try hoping to get some sense put into me.
    Also this may be out of context but if a woman has experienced some kinds of sexuel abuse in her past as a child will this affect her? And If so what can or shoula she do? Will it be a long journey before she can fully feel okay to commit to a man?

    Well that being said I hope this isn’t too out of context and I’m hoping you have some advise.


    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Cynthia, I’m very sorry for the delay in responding to you. “Why is it that I am so afraid and uncomfortable?” Wow, what a great question to ask yourself Cynthia. If more people honored their feelings and thoughts rather than denying him, they’d avoid relationships that may not be good for them long term.

      That being said, it’s not easy to answer your question, only because there are many possible answers. Although the mad rush in the beginning of a love relationship can signal neediness it is also common in the newness of relationships for people to want to be with each other 24/7. But, I think the more we know ourselves and have a life that is well developed this isn’t the case, as we work have other activities and relationships that don’t permit for what we psychologists call codependent behavior. This leads me to codependent behavior. He may be codependent. But I don’t really know of course. I’m just putting it out there for you to evaluate.

      Some of your discomfort may be you, but remember we tend to attract people who resemble our issues in a polarized way. So where you may avoid intimacy he may rush into it (out of fear) and engulf his lovers. I’m glad you have reached out to understand all of this better. A history of sexual abuse most definitely can show up later as a fear of intimacy. This is very common and understandable. Cynthia, my recommendation is that you seek out a knowledgeable, supportive therapist who can help you to address things in your past that may be leading to your discomfort. You took this first step by writing me. You’d be amazed at how healing therapy can be. Nothing you have said to me is out of context. I wish you well in your efforts. Keep them going Cynthia. Warm regards Deborah.

  52. avatar Allie says:

    Dear Dr. Khoshaba,

    Thank you for your article. It has been very helpful. I realized a lot of things about myself and boyfriend after reading it. I met my boyfriend over a year ago. We fell in love quickly and dated exclusively about a month and a half after we meet. Soon, we met each other’s friends. He met my family and I met his brother. His parents live in another state so I didn’t meet them. His parents were/are very controlling and he had a turbulent relationship with them and has been very independent since his early 20’s. He mentioned to me that his last romantic relationship was 10 years ago and lasted 2 years. He dated a coworker and no one at work knew about it (classic fear of intimacy?). He also told me that his parents have never met his ex girlfriends. He is now 37 and I am 34. We both agreed in the beginning of our relationship that we wanted a long term relationship, I let him know that I wanted a family and he seemed to agree and would often jokingly name our children.

    Fast forward 6 months in our relationship, we spent more and more time with each other. But in retrospect, we may have spent too much time together and not given each other enough space. One day he mentioned that he’s not sure about having children because he says he has anger issues and says he would be a bad father and may hurt his children. He’s never been angry with me but I’ve seen him angry in situations (road rage, someone being rude to me), and he told me he beat up someone very badly because that person hurt his friend. I think his angry reactions were normal and understandable. He also said he has friends who have children and they told him not to have children. I was very upset about his feelings about not having children and cried a lot because I was hoping to have a family with him. Looking back, I realize that I made him feel unsafe by being overly emotional. He finally told me that he said “maybe” he wants children. I accepted the maybe and told him I wasn’t ready to have a family yet anyway.

    2 months later, he mentioned feeling less passionate about our kisses. I began to feel a bit insecure in the relationship. We celebrated our 1st year anniversary by going out to dinner, and he bought a beautiful coat for me that was very expensive. I felt guilty that he spent so much money and had him return it (although later he bought me another gift which I accepted). Looking back, I think I made him feel bad about the gift.

    That same week, I remember crying because I saw my friend and her boyfriend going to an event together and wishing my boyfriend was there too (needy I know!). He saw me crying afterwards and he felt bad and said he wasn’t being a good boyfriend. He told me that he’s not sure about being in a relationship, not sure about marriage, and not sure about having children. He felt like a lone wolf and would be fine being single for the rest of his life. He knows he’s been sabotaging the relationship. He said that I deserve someone who could treat me better. I was again very upset and asked if he wanted to take a break, but he said he didn’t because that would be the same as breaking up. A week later, I suggested that maybe we could take things slowly to figure out what we wanted relationship wise, still be boyfriend and girlfriend, but spend more time concentrating on ourselves, spending tie with friends and career and then decide what to do in 6 months (continue with relationship, break up, etc). He agreed with me.

    However, after 1 week of space, I started feeling extreme anxiety and felt unhappiness and told him I was scared. He told me that he was pretty certain he did not want to get married and have children. He told me that he loved me very much but he didn’t want to stop me from finding someone who could give me both. He’s afraid of losing his freedom and feels trapped in the relationship. For example, he might want to travel, but if in a relationship, he would worry about me when traveling. I told him it was ok for him to travel without me, people in relationships can still do things independent of each other. We were both crying and told each other we loved each other. I actually felt some relief because I realized he really did love me.

    I told him I didn’t want to break up but if he wanted to leave the relationship he could. During Christmas, he made plans without me and spent most of the day with his friends. He did see me in the evening after I asked him. I understood he wanted to spend time with his friends so I didn’t complain, but I felt a little sad he wouldn’t have initiated meeting with me. We did spend New Year’s Eve and NewYear’s together. However this past month has been really tough because I initiated the majority of our meetings. He doesn’t say I love you anymore and does not ask me out on dates. I feel like he’s passive aggressively breaking up with me, but he will still send me texts and agrees to meet with me and is affectionate when we see each other.

    I realize that he’s feeling pressure from me and I’m trying my best not to be needy and give him space. Last weekend he mentioned getting therapy/counseling for his commitment issues. It really surprised me because I never brought it up. I felt slightly hopefully, but at the same time, I know it may not change anything. I know I should not let him change what I want. I’m pretty sure I still want to get married, but have been contemplating whether I really want to have children.

    Anyhow, I’m not sure what my next steps are…I’ve been feeling so much internal pain because I don’t want to lose my boyfriend. I’m trying my best to focus on myself and hang out with friends, exercise, job search, etc. But I’ve been getting anxiety attacks, insomnia, and physical heart pain. I was thinking about approaching him and asking him for a 2nd chance for a relationship and possibly going to counseling (either separately or together) and work on our communication, but also be prepared that the relationship may end. I’m finally realizing that we’ve both been reacting to each other with our internal fears. I know he needs time to heal and it’s his decision whether he wants to resolve his commitment issues. And I think I need to work on my personal issues as well. Thank you for listening.

  53. avatar Joan says:

    Hi Dr Deborah,
    I know your post about dealing with lovers with a fear of intimacy was some time ago, but I’ve only just found it, and like so many people who have posted before, saw my husband described in it. He had an extremely controlling older sister, and took avoidance action to outmanoeuvre her, as a coping tactic. He would agree to her requests, then not follow through. Her resulting anger gave him a feeling of power. He would hide from his parents, and then watch them from a distance searching for him, again it gave him a feeling of power. He has said, ‘Never let anyone know your weaknesses, because then they’ll have power over you.’ He has said, ‘If I don’t fully commit, I can’t fail.’ He has refused to have dinner with me without TV, phone, laptop etc. because he is afraid he won’t fulfil my desire for an intimate evening. Most things are other people’s fault. He has said he won’t do a ‘perfect’ job for his mum, if she asks, because he likes to keep a bit of ‘himself’ back. There are times when I think he enjoys having power over me, almost making me dance to his tune, just because he can! If I’m angry, he goes super calm. I have the feeling that he gets me to express anger for him, as he sees it as ‘losing control’ which he abhors, having seen his sister get very angry when she was younger. Your post has useful suggestions, but may I ask how I get the intimacy I desire while skipping around him trying not to be obvious about wanting nothing more than his attention. Going out has sometimes resulted in him feeling we’ve had a great time when I’m thinking, ‘….but you didn’t pay me any attention! You spoke animatedly to strangers in a way I’d like you to speak to me.’ As you said in your article, he has actually articulated that he can be friendly to others because he’s not as close to them as he is to me. I feel like saying, ‘Well could you be less close to me because I’d get far better treatment!’
    Thanks Dr Deboroh.

  54. avatar Natalie says:

    Hi Deborah,

    I recently broke up with my boyfriend 2 months ago. We started seeing each other about a year ago and became boyfriend:girlfriend four month after. He had never had a serious relationship before. In the beginning of our relationship, he was caring, affectionate, and would talk to me about anything. However, we only had sex twice a month, and it was so so. He would finish first and was quite rigid in bed. Although i told him that I loved him, he never said that back to me. Before our break up two months, he started pulling away. We had a huge fight, and he said he was not sure if he could take care of me. He became gradually distant. In December, I tried to talk to him. We then broke up. He told me he had never been in love with anyone and could not reciprocate my love. Also, he would not change himself for anyone. He is a single child with a lot of friends. He loves partying and would like to hang out with his friends almost every night. However, I do care about him necause I think he has a potential to be a loving and caring person. I went no contact with him for two months then started meeting for coffee a couple of days ago. He seemed nice but still insisted that this is who he is. He will not change his identity. Although I love him, I have to step back and really think about what I want in my partner.

    Do you have any suggestions for me, Deborah? Can I help him or not?

  55. avatar Annie says:

    Hello Deborah,

    I read both your blog post and your generous warm responses to reader responses as well. I may be the one with fear of intimacy you are referring to. Can see a clear pattern in retrospect, was married to my work for so many years and that became a reason to avoid relationships or not have enough time towards it. Have been dating online for so many years, and somehow someone or the other didn’t meet up the mark (even though a few people did express concerns whether I was “too picky”). Recently have met a guy who is not exactly my type as in smart but not too intellectual or with professional degrees or such. He has been the only one I could find no reasons to reject, and is such a gentleman that am vacillating between a clear no and yes, each time the topic of marriage comes up. He is a warm, very wonderful guy who started out shy but after a month or so of calm conversations opened up fully and wonderfully. We have a wonderful connect and it’s amazing how he calls me out on my angry outbursts or mood swings so well as a mask that I wear to keep people away. Have become completely open with him and it feels safe, comfortable as well as exciting to be with him. We have become exclusive after 2 months of dating, and it’s scary how quickly our relationship is progressing to the extent, that we have been discussing making a commitment. It feels natural too on one level but on the other, making a commitment of such kinds brings in all kinds of fears, anxieties out of the closet for me. That being said, each time he becomes willing to step back, I just do not want to let him go. Yet am wondering if I may be doing the right thing by using him to get control over my fears slowly, steadily versus just letting him go, free to live his own life. He has already fallen in love with me, whereas I still look at him as a close friend, very close friend who can become much more with time.

    There are two things which are bothering me heavily right now. As much as I like him, am unsure how to handle his growing warmth and need for deeper intimacy, even at an emotional level. He is consistently emotionally available, calls me regularly, shares everything and calls me endearments, tries to do special things on days, and not sure why as a knee jerk reaction I tend to act dismissive at times. I do like him lots and feel that he can easily be the one. Yet each time we get one step closer in the relationship, find myself behaving very irrationally ending up blowing hot and cold. I try so hard to be consistently nice and yet some days I slip up badly. The more I feel closer to him there is an instant need to disconnect. Am now more comfortable than I used to be before, and our relationship has grown in many ways but somehow things feel like we are rushing too soon, each time he broaches the subject of marriage. i dont want to say yes too soon and dont want to say no either. Does this mean that I am taking advantage of him?

    Secondly, I recently had a very unpleasant experience due to which I had to leave a job. I don’t feel inherently lovable or employable, yet he treats me so well. Is there a way I can stop with the frequent vacillating here? How can I be a better version of myself? Or is there too much of a dissimilarity in that, I need to call it off for his own sake. He hasn’t said that as much, but each time I pull back he wonders if I might be wanting to say no, but not doing so to not hurt his feelings. Previously I used to have a lot of doubts, but now it’s just feels more of a leap to be taken. Then again, am not sure if I will ever feel ready.

    I appreciate your complete honesty and will take whatever advice you give in the right spirit. I was wondering if you had another from the perspective of those struggling with these fears and how to work on this challenge, within themselves. Thanks.

  56. avatar Carly says:

    I really got a lot from reading your article today and there were some points that really helped me to understand the situation I find myself in.
    I don’t think sex/gender/sexuality comes into the equation when someone has this fear of intimacy they behave the same.
    I’m a gay woman and meet a girl and really fell for her. I’m very loving and give with a whole heart my all. We really got on well, enjoying each other’s company and as time went on and it started getting more intimate, she started pulling away from me. She told me she didn’t want a relationship at the start and then she seemed to act like she did. Then as the weeks went on (2 months) she was pushing me away more and more. She was actually pretty horrible about it, showing me very little love. I know she thinks herself unworthy of love. She doesn’t want a relationship with anyone, but doesn’t want one night stands either. She told me it’s over and I chased after her, telling her how much I cared and that she’s important to me and I want her in my life, if not a lover than a friend….but she will not talk to me. I really care about her-I know she liked me a lot and we were good together and I was exactly what she needed, but I don’t know what I can do? I sent a text saying the hand of friendship is open if ever she wants to take it in the future….but I think I’ve totally scared her by saying how much I care for her etc. How can I help her to trust me or make myself look ‘safe’ enough to actually approach/contact. Because at the moment I’ve said too much in a way and she’s scared of me and probably doesn’t feel able to contact me. What should I do?
    Thanks very much,

    • avatar Bill says:

      Hi Dr. Khoshaba, Hah, I see the comments occcasionally trickle in on this article. Anyway I just want to affirm this bit of Carly’s comment: “I don’t think sex/gender/sexuality comes into the equation when someone has this fear of intimacy they behave the same.”

      As a man who partners with women, I’ve had some struggles in this area with previous relationships: my Ex wife of over 10 years and my last girlfriend (a brief relationship).

      My Ex wife showed herself trustworthy but not really capable of relating with me and fully sharing lives. My newest girlfriend definitely had that Orangutan coming down to mate phenomenon going on, and it really left me astonished. It’s like you say, there was some initial apparent motivation to relate but it kinda vanished and just kind of came and went, touch and go, not consistent at all.

      We these two failed relationships, I’ve been getting down on myself a little in terms of whether I can find someone to really reciprocate in terms of enthusiastic sharing of experiences/ideas and life together, “matching” my intensity despite very busy lives.

  57. avatar S. Bristol says:

    Your article is great, I wish I had seen it sooner.

    My boyfriend recently broke up with me. He told me he has never been able to connect emotionally to anyone, even friends. He believes everyone leaves so there’s no point in investing. We were very close for a while, never was able to have sex but I supported him and never pushed for it. I made sure he knew I was in it for him and not the sex, and we had a bond regardless. Then he got a high stress job, and having anxiety issues, it put him even further away. I gave him all the space to do his things and encouraged him all the time. I even suggested multiple times he see a therapist. When we broke up he told me it was because he wasn’t at the same level as me, and it was unfair. I told him to not make decisions for me, but he decided to leave anyways. He was adamant we remain friends and he’s been away on his job for a few days. Everyone tells me to just cut him out of my life, but nothings going to change if people keep leaving him. I’m lost. Even if I could never have him back, I’d never want to loose him.

  58. avatar Chi says:

    Thanks for this article. I just recently started going out again with my ex boyfriend from four years ago. After a year of being friends, I have managed to see him a different light. It has not been easy but one that has come out, and him acknowledging and saying it, is that he has a fear of intimacy most of which has come from his childhood and his relationship with his mother. He is now committed and is talking about having kids and getting married. I have told him that all I can do is try to create an environment where he feels loved, safe and comfortable but I am wondering if you have ideas of other things I can do create spaces in our relationship where he can feel comfortable to share?

    Its amazing some of the stuff you have written for something that works in our relationship is watching live sport!

  59. avatar David says:

    I have been with my girlfriend for 4 years but she seems to have intamacy issues. I know now I shouldn’t have but I asked her about it and she said she doesn’t.
    But we have never had sex, never stayed the night together, never been on holiday together. Never touched other than holding hands. Never seen each other naked. We do kiss but that’s about all and it has to be when we meet and when we say goodbye, no inbetweens.
    My gf is partially sighted so has a carer twice a week. She feels comfortable going for a day out to a theme park or sea side area with her carer but not with me.
    She says she is not ready for sex or touching other than holding hands and gives examples of people who wait years for intimacy.
    She says she will be ready one day in the future. But I don’t see that ever happening.
    I wish I knew what to do.

  60. avatar carlos says:

    Do you give therapy via skype? Where do you practice out of? I’m one of these people now… I didn’t used to be.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Carlos. I’m sorry for taking such a long time to respond to you. I live in Southern Ca but will live in Las Vegas Nevada by the end of this year. I do not do Skype at this point if a person lives outside of the state I live in. Psychologists licenses are only active in the state where they live. Thank you for your request. Best regards to you Carlos. Deborah

  61. avatar Shinny says:

    Hi Deborah,
    But how do we really know if this is all because of hteir fear of intimacy or they have just lost interest in us. I mean we might know that they had childhood issue with their parents and didnt receive enough love, and then in their adult relationships they were let down many times and they are suffering from vulnerability, but this doesnt guarantee that their pulling back attitude is because of fear of intimacy unless they actually mention it. i recently found myself in this situation were a long friend of mine who i knew had the above mentioned issued expressed interest to date me and after 2 years i agreed to go on date and before we start dating he was seeing me as the only person he could ever be with and after we dated for a very short period of time he disappeared never to return my call. during the time we dated which only lasted 2 weeks I could see he was holding back but he was taking a step forward and two step backward…and eventually disappeared forever. i dont think he would ever come back..and i would never know if the fear of intimacy caused him to run away. he had issue with his mum when he was a child and few unsuccessful relationships where the women constantly picked fight and he was always hated fighting.

  62. avatar jiya says:

    Husband Premature ejaculation
    4 years of marriage
    No sex life
    Husband never trues to understand i also need to be loved and enjoy a good marriage life .
    Avoids communication and gets angry quickly.
    Doesnt reply ever to my questions
    Can i have a sex life.
    We havent gone beyond hugs and kisses on cheeks
    If he does have sexual interest im not involved in the act.

    He is the only one performing and leaves plzz help

  63. avatar jiya says:

    Husband Premature ejaculation
    4 years of marriage
    No sex life
    Husband never trues to understand i also need to be loved and enjoy a good marriage life .
    Avoids communication and gets angry quickly.
    Doesnt reply ever to my questions
    Can i have a sex life.
    We havent gone beyond hugs and kisses on cheeks
    If he does have sexual interest im not involved in the act.

    He is the only one performing and leaves plzz help

  64. avatar jessica says:

    Hello Dr. Deborah Khoshaba , thank you so much for writing this article. It comforts me being I am currently dealing with a man I’ve been seeing now for almost 6 months. He’s aware he has intimacy issues and said he’s ben that way from a tough ago. and says he hates that part of him but doesn’t say he’s changing it. I think he feels he can’t. I think it could be from possibly being a lasted at a very young age.
    He refuses to call me his girlfriend but we’re seeing no we’re seeing no other people and basically ask as we are. He says he cares about me deeply but would not say I love you and says he doesn’t think he’s “in love”. I don’t know if the “not in love” statement is a protection/fear thing or not which is why I’m still with him. By nature I am needy but I have worked on it for a few years now I have gotten so much better. He same to be unable to spend too much time with me or anyone for that matter. We tend to text every day and spend two days a week together (average). When it was more(3 days straight) he actually said I think we’re spending too much time together. I recently brought up the girlfriend/boyfrined subject for the second time and he freaked out(in a calm way). Mentioned he doesn’t know if you could be with just one person for long term or when or if he’ll ever want to live with somebody. We have a very kind,honest real relationship but I fear or wonder if it is possible to be together Long term. I am willing to bend with not seeing him all the time because I love him and feel we are compatible in so many ways but my question is is it possible to work and how do I deal with it?

  65. I blog frequently and I truly thank you for your information. This article has truly peaked my interest. I’m going to bookmark your blog and keep checking for new details about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.|

  66. avatar David says:

    Hi Deborah, do you have any advice for me please? Comment is above the last fee posters. Can’t type it out again as using mobile phone.



  67. avatar Annie says:

    Hello Dr Khoshaba,
    I have been with my Boyfriend for 18 months, when we first got together there was no problem with the Sex although he wasn’t highly sexed we did enjoy some intimacy. I noticed once my partner told me that he loved me our Sex dwindled, we had a few words over it as I felt like he didn’t fancy me that way, he told me that he was told through a friend that he had a Detachment Disorder due to his Mother leaving him and his younger sibling with his Father, who had a drink problem, his mum went of with another man and he hasn’t seen her since over 40 yrs. His Father met another woman who didn’t like my partner and treated him differently from her own children his Dad never intervened so he made his own way in life, staying with his paternal Grandparents, who he adored, but both passed away by time he turned 15. He has had many girlfriends and has been in long term relationships but they haven’t worked out, whether it was because of his intimacy fears I don’t know as he doesn’t really talk about it, he just says they drifted apart, he will give me little kisses, will cuddle me and hold hands, but that is all, we have had Sex once in 10 month’s, with no sign of it changing. I get the feeling now that he cant be bothered as its to much like hard work, he can be a bit lazy, he would rather play on the play station, we get on really well he is good company in every other aspect of our relationship, we go out with friends, go for meals together, have weekends away and have a really good time, I don’t try to get him in the mood as the last time I tried he said it made him feel uncomfortable, and we fell out, I would like to know how I can help him move on with his life and try to get some intimacy back into our life, I Love him and I know its not his fault that he has this fear, he says hes weird I just think hes had a raw deal with parents who should never of had children. Any help would be much appreciated.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Annie, you give me an excellent description of his background that most definitely is ripe for what we call attachment issues. You know in the honeymoon period, people often rise above their emotional issues because of their desire for closeness and attraction to their lovers. Very normal and common right? But, as you learned, who they are in the beginning doesn’t speak for who they really are, psychologically. They don’t mean to change, as I’m sure you know. But their issues kick in. Annie, as I said, his background is a tough one. It sounds like our basic needs for safety and protection were not met for the reasons you cite here. And, his mom, left for a man and never came back. Wow! What a hurt that causes a human being. It’s unnatural to consider leaving our children. Most of us don’t want to leave our pets. So, he learned to get along by taking care of himself, I’m sure. I can appreciate why he has fears/concerns about intimacy. As children, we learn about closeness, intimacy and sexuality from our parents. He had very poor role models to teach him these things.

      What I say in no way speaks to who he is in value. He may be a very good, wonderful person. He’s developed a temperature for certain levels of intimacy, which may be difficult to change unless he fully understands it Annie. It would be very good if he went into individual therapy or both of you went together to see if this can get better and what it means to the longevity of your relationship.

      Happy Thanksgiving Annie. Best regards, Deborah.

  68. avatar Bethany says:

    Hi Deborah,

    Thank you for your article. I feel like my situations is a little bit interesting… I’ve been dating and living with my partner for two years now. He is keen for us to to save up for a house as we are living with his mom at the moment. He also seems to be loyal from what I can tell however he is extremly emotionally distant. He has anxiety for which he has medication. He hates kissing and touching. He’ll make a joke when I try to flirt or initiate sex. if I tell him I love him he’ll just mumble it back or hesitate… when I asked him why he never says it anymore he said it’s Because I don’t say it enough. More than 6 months ago I tried to break it off Because I couldn’t handle it he told me he didn’t want me to go. He was imidietly affectionate… This wore off after a couple of weeks. So in my mind I think it’s like he wants me but doesn’t want to put in the effort to make me happy. (He’s convinced he doesn’t need to see a counselor as he already saw one for his anxiety)
    I am confused because I’ve already invested so much into this relationship and he’s made it clear he wants a future with me but it’s so hard sometimes…

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Bethany, I understand that you are confused about his ambivalent emotional behavior. You are right to be confused. It certainly does sound like he has some fears of intimate relating. Now, we have to remember you are both living in his mother’s house. I don’t know if he has issues showing emotions around his mother (which is an interesting issue in itself). You will know this much better than I do.

      I’m sure he doesn’t want you to go Bethany. But what he wants and his emotional temperament may be in conflict with each other. I hesitate analyzing him as you understand, I don’t really know him. I can best help you by suggesting that you consider his emotional ambivalence very carefully, as it will affect you long term. You know some people are just comfortable with a lot less intimacy than other people. This can do with their emotional issues as well as their biology. Bethany sometimes people with high anxiety have strong obsessive compulsive tendencies. These individuals can devalue emotional intimacy as important to their lives. They are much more focused on getting things done, organizing things and creating a perfect world.

      I hope this helps you to think further about the situation. Take good care Bethany, Happy Thanksgiving. Deborah.

  69. avatar David says:

    Hi Deborah. I was wondering if you could help me.
    My partner of five years (I’m 34, she’s 29) has a fear of intimacy.
    She thinks she doesn’t but agreed to see somebody about it. But then the other day, I found some specialists nearby as she said she didn’tt want to go too far. But then she started stamping her feet and going mad. So she is no longer willing to seek help (I don’t think she ever was).
    We have only ever hugged and kissed in five years and the kissing id only when we meet and when I am leaving, she only likes to do it then as if it’s somd sort of routine.
    I really don’g know what to do. I crave intimacy. I’m not sure I can hold out for another five years. I would never cheat on her but what I mean is I’m not sure I can stay another five years doing little more than friends. Please help.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello David, I’m happy to try to help you. I have a question for you. What about her has kept you there for five years? You have not had your needs met. I know it’s not just sexual, as people with fears of intimacy are on and off, emotionally. Of course, you crave intimacy – emotional and sexual. That is normal. You are right in asking her to get treatment. David, I don’t know if you are willing to take a risk but you may have to consider giving her a loving ultimatum of help or you leave. I know there must be very good things about her and that these are the things keeping you in the relationship. David, have you recommended couple’s counseling? This is a good way to have these issues addressed that may lessen the emotional threat for her.You may also give her a book on fear of intimacy. There’s many out there. I happen to know the authors work on two books, I’d like to recommend to you.
      The first is by Dr. Robert Firestone on Here’s the link -

      The next is by Dr. David Richo called Opening Ourselves Up to Real Love and Intimacy. Here’s the link:

      Wishing you and your partner well David. Warm regards Deborah.

      • avatar David says:

        Thanks Deborah. What has kept me there? I have considered leaving but I love her and not sure I can do that. Plus if I leave, it will not address the issue and she will have these problems in the future. Last month she agreed to see a couples counseller in June (six months time from January) if we have not made a lot of progress by then. She thinks she will have. She has started giving full hugs lately. I still think the books might be a good idea. But do you think both books would be better than one? Or do they contain much of similar material?

  70. avatar Samantha says:

    Hi Deborah!

    Thank you so much for your post!

    I have been dealing with a man who has fear of intimacy and I personally struggle with getting close to man myself. I have really worked hard to move past this fear but sometime I stumble.

    But with this man, whom I really care about, in confused on how much pursuing I can be? Do I need to wait for him to feel fully comfortable to ask me somewhere? Do I suggest something? Can I start a conversation when I have allowed a lull in communication?

    I am not sure how my communication might ignite his intimacy problems at the same time I always would like to move slightly in the forward direction.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Samantha, I’m so glad you liked this post, although I know if you have been challenged by this issue in a romantic partner, it is not easy to emotionally manage. You ask a very good question – “How much pursuing can you do” and not push the other person away? I think some of this depends on the strength of the friendship to begin with. It sounds like you are friends, but you want to move the relationship in a romantic direction. If you’ve been friends for quite a while, then I think it becomes safer to have these types of intimate communications. But, it is true, and that’s why you are asking me the question, that there’s rarely a good time to talk about such subjects to persons who have these fears. So, it’s not that you shouldn’t or you will be wrong, or you can’t because you have not gone there in the past. It is rather that you be prepared that he may not allow you to go there and that temporarily he may distance himself from you to reinstate the friendship status. First and foremost have in your mind what you want to accomplish and try to do it in a calm and centered way. Too much emotion may scare him, if he’s fearful of intimacy. Try to open the topic as an exploration about friendship and romance in general before it comes to both of you. Questions like, “Are you looking for a romantic relationship?” I think he may disclose what he feels about intimate relationships that may be a green or red light for you to proceed.

      Samantha, get clear in your mind what you want to accomplish in this talk so your success has more to do with YOU fulfilling your intentions of the communication than if he approves or disapproves of what you have to say. You see what I’m saying here that I think we can’t know how he will respond until you ask and he actually responds. Please know that I wish you very well. Let me know how it all goes. Warm regards Deborah.

  71. avatar Jennifer says:

    Thank you for the reassuring article. My relationship is new. When we first started seeing each other we were very physical. In fact I was a wee bit concerned that our relationship was just based on sex. Then after a few dates I realized how depressed he actually is. Long story short on his end he had some unfortunate things happen in his business and now he’s suffering from the loss. He is down a lot but I really care about him and I see the person he is beneath the sadness and how down he gets on the world. Basically the relationship we have now consists of a friendship but we sleep in the same bed, cuddle to an extent (which he is happy enough to do and even initiates often) and kissing is now only quick pecks on the mouth.
    I’m not about to bail on him because I really do enjoy his company and I think we have something but his fear is holding him back. He will flat out comment on his fear but we haven’t actually talked about how he feels or why.
    (Just a side note, on occasion we have started to get physical in bed and as soon as we get to the point where I suggest we continue he pulls away. For a brief moment I was thinking it was him not be attracted to me).
    Any advice would be amazing.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      You are welcome. Jennifer, depression is so personal taking one inward so that, it’s difficult to fully participate in all types of relationships. Sexual interest lowers a lot when a person is depressed. I’m not surprised that in the beginning of the relationship, despite his depression, he was more sexual. He rose to the occasion, so to speak. No pun intended here.

      Do you know about the quality of his romantic relationships before you and prior to the losses he now faces? Also, has he had several bouts of depression in his life? Answers to these questions will tell you if he really does fear intimacy or that his issues now are solely a result of his recent losses and depression. If he does have a history of recurring depression, then his intimacy issues most likely arise from this as opposed to a real fear of intimacy.

      I hope this gives you some direction Jennifer. Let me know how it goes. Warm regards, Deborah.

  72. avatar Anna says:

    I just found this article and it has really struck a chord with me.
    I met someone about a year ago, and our relationship began with “casual” intentions (he was going to be moving out of the country a few months later anyway), but we ended up spending a lot of time together… dinner, movies, traveling, etc, and were not been very physical with each other. I assumed he just wasn’t that attracted to me, and I told him how I felt. He said he was afraid to get too close since he was leaving anyway, and that was why he didn’t pursue anything sexually with me.
    Long story short, he moved, we kept in touch, and he just came back for a visit. We spent a lot of time together again, and again, he didn’t pursue anything in a physical way, but I can’t help feeling the way I do about him. I love spending time with, he’s a fantastic person.. Intelligent, kind, funny, and very affectionate at times. I’m also very open with him. I’ve told him how I feel, and he said that he’s “afraid of intimacy, or too much of it”. Factor in the distance and nothing about this is simple. He has also been open with me about having anxiety issues (which I have too, so I can relate) and experiencing depression, both of which he was seeing a psychiatrist to help him cope with. I’ve done my best to not put pressure on him, but to just continue to be open and honest about my own feelings.
    I’m not sure what to do though. Should I hang in, give this more time, and see if there is progress the next time we’re together (which will be in a few months)? Or am I wasting my time and emotional energy? The distance makes it that much harder, but I truly feel that he’s worth it.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hi Anna. Thanks for taking time to comment today. Well, it’s good he has revealed his intimacy fears. This and the fact that he struggles with anxiety and depression informs you of the issues you may be dealing with long term. Now, anxiety and depression in no way stop people from having loving, good relationships. It’s the intimacy fears that’s the real issue here with regard to commitment.

      I have no doubt that he’s a good, quality person, Anna. This and your good time together keeps you hopeful of a future with him. I know you have already emotionally attached to him, which makes breaking it off difficult for you.

      If you could continue to date and keep your options open, then you minimize the attachment bond you have formed. But, I know that once we as people attach to a romantic partner, dating other people is hard to do. I want you to reflect upon the quality of the relationship as it stands now. Much of your needs are not being satisfied, right? A lot of the time between being together is spent in fantasy about how the relationship could be. So, you see, it’s difficult to call it a real relationship because of the logistics of the relationship. I don’t mean to hurt you. I just want you to see the situation clearly. And, in an important way, he’s told you about his limitations that I know emotionally are hard to accept – but you should accept them. I admire that he says his issues up front. Some people with these fears do not. So, accept what he says about himself and the issues he has about intimacy – rather than hoping for what you want. Anna, if he can muster up a part of him that really wants the relationship trust me, he will do it. If he does not come after you, then you have your answer and are free to find your one and only love.

      You take good care Anna. Warmly, Deborah.

  73. avatar Ellen says:

    Dr. Koshaba,

    This article was so brilliantly written. About a month ago, my therapist put me on the defensive and pointed out that my on / off boyfriend of 14 years whom I am relocating for has intimacy issues. Her delivery put me on the defensive as she hadn’t yet met him and I did not have the support in place to cope or evaluate my options. This was very scary for me.

    When I approached my boyfriend about what my therapist said, he obviously became defensive, ended things with me (again), and I was left incredibly confused. Sometimes feeling abandoned in this relationship combined with what was said in therapy, this break-up only added insult to injury. On Friday, it will have been a month since he and I have spoken.

    I love him…and I know he loves me. However, he disappears or breaks up with me about every two months and it is emotionally exhausting. I guess knowing his triggers could be helpful in this. I don’t know if I can do this forever but what I would like to say to you is this:

    The only thing harder than being someone has intimacy issues is loving that person. Processing that information is a hard, lonesome road and my therapist came from a good place but really made me feel defeated and lonely. Your article was a more open communication style that didn’t bring me down yet highlighted what I’m dealing with in a rational way. Thank you for that.

  74. avatar Pedro says:

    Gods, this hurts. So just clarify me in this. Even with time developing intimacy we won’t be able to overcome this?
    I don’t know what to do.

  75. avatar Andre says:

    It really hurst to read that.
    Won’t it ever change? I mean, with time and confidence, the orangutan metaphor will keep being true? There’s this girl, we tried to have something a while ago but because of the subject i was demanding too much of her, and i would suffer and she ended things to stop hurting me, but we never lost contact. I just simply can’t choose to move on because i tried and i just can’t, but i don’t know what to do and how to deal with her when it comes to more intimacy. I have my own insecurities too and i overthink things all the time and becoming a safe person will be tough, but since i don’t have another choice…
    But if i dedicate myself, and become a safe person, will she become comfortable towards me? I’ve failed many times when it came to protecting myself from fantasies, including now, but i can’t help it. I don’t have any other way to go.

  76. avatar David says:

    Hi Deborah, thank you for your insightful article about this. I believe this is very sound advice as I am currently dealing with a partner who is afraid of commitment. We met just over two months ago and it was immediately intense, even though in the beginning she said that she had declared she was in a period of no relationships. We felt a very strong connection, she tells me I make the world disappear for her and nobody has ever treated her so well, both emotionally and sexually. But twice now she has told me she wants to end it, only for us to end up together again within a few days. She says she has this feeling that she should be alone, but also tells me she doesn’t want to lose me. She also says that she wants me to help her through this faze and give her my positivity and patience. She says she wants to feel that she wants it all, but is struggling with it. But then on the other hand she acts distant and won’t even easily commit to a weekend together. We truly have a special connection and have declared this to each other. Can you clarify that I am dealing with a commitment phobe? And in this situation should I follow the advice as written in your article? It seems to resonate with me.

  77. avatar Cory says:

    I just came across this article and it really hit home. Both my gf and I are coming up on the 1 year anniversary of our respective marriage separations. She is officially separated while I am still finalizing. We were the recipients of emotional abuse in our marriages, but in different ways and we’ve both dealt with it in different ways. She ultimately lived the last 5 years of her marriage essentially as a single person, and became very independent and private. She freely admits she has intimacy and sex issues but doesn’t know what to do about them. Her counsellor did not provide any assistance in the matter. She is the most beautiful and wonderful person I have ever met and we always have a great time together, but I feel like I am not a priority for her, and she tends to ‘retreat’ inwards when she feels any kind of emotional or intimacy pressure. I assure you I don’t pressure her at all, I feel I’ve been very patient and supportive in the matter. However, it is incredibly frustrating and emotionally unfulfilling for me and I don’t know what else I can do for her. She tends to look to relationships of people close to her and doesn’t like how close they are and how much time they spend together, and appears to make a point to not let that happen to our relationship, but in the process, it is hurting our relationship. What can I do?

  78. avatar Marcy says:

    My girlfriend was sexually abused by someone from the age of 12 to age 15. We are very close to each other and don’t have many problems besides the intimacy issue. We are sexually intimate maybe once every 3 months at most. She doesn’t show affection unless I say something about lack of it, always makes an excuse when we start kissing. It’s madenning. It makes me feel unattractive and used. She tells me she loves me and is attracted to me. She said that she is afraid that I will leave her if she gets intimate. I try to be understanding and I love her more than anything. I would like to work this out. Is this relationship salvageable? Should I back off or should I keep bringing up the issue?

  79. avatar brian says:

    Hoping you’re still responding to messages on this post. I’ve been seeing a woman with big committment fears for about six months. I’ve noticed whenever we have a few wonderful days. Very close, inimatacy both physically and conversation wise, she freaks out a bit a day or two later and will reinterate that she needs space, note that she’s not ready for an exclusive, deep relationship. Here’s my question, knowing how she reacts and what she says, i know she cares deeply for me and it is scaring her. I know when she gets like that she sometimes goes out with friends or ends up having a one night stand. This doesnt happen often, but wondering if i’m patient, can she ever get past this. I do care about her and think sooner or later she’ll seethat a relationship is ok, that she can be intimate and not be let down like she’s been in the past.

  80. avatar Lee says:

    Hi Deborah,
    Its been wonderful finding your website, very insightful. I would like your feedback on my situation:

    A bit of history of my childhood: I am the oldest of 4 siblings, my mother held me in high regard in terms of achieving good marks in school, always compared me to the smart girls. She was a perfectionist and rarely listened to anything I said but would always respond “how do I look?”. My parents cared for me but never showed me any affection, never said they loved me, no hugs are kisses. My relationship with my parents today is lovely, my mother has changed and does show affection which wonderful.

    My Fiance history of childhood: He is the oldest of 3 siblings, he grew up in a physical abusive household, his father hit his mother and he said he never grew up in a safe environment. His mother internalised the abuse and took it out on him, mistreating him on many occasions by kicking him out the house when he wouldn’t listen and throwing cups at him. I read a journal of his one day where he would write about his mother saying how much he hated her. He told me during his early teen he developed an addiction to pornography to counter the affects of the abuse. His relationship with his parents today is very strained.

    I met my fiancé when I was 19 he was 21, we had wonderful chemistry, we spent many hours together and time would just disappear. I was premiscuous in my past and slept with several boys which he didn’t approve of as he was a virgin. He faught bitterly with me over this especially since I slept with an older man, this disgusted him and he would fight about this every time we met. I fell pregnant 4 months in to the relationship, this was a trying time as he didn’t want a child, however, I decided to go through with the pregnancy and told him he could leave if he wanted. He stayed but faught constantly about my past. A year into our relationship he told me he had cheated on me with prostitutes (blowjobs), he blamed this on me saying “I stole his innocence and he wanted to get me back”. I was devastated, he left me and a week later was dating another woman that he said was his solemate, he discarded me like I didn’t exist always boasted about how amazing this girl was and that she was a virgin not a whore like me. This didn’t last and 2 weeks later came running back to me. I took him back, low self esteem on my part I guess.He decided to see a psychologist who helped him deal with the heavy burden of my past, this helped slightly.

    Our relationship was on off for the next several years, we would break up and he would go to strip bars, meet woman but never sleep with any of them, so he said, our break ups were largely over my past that he couldn’t deal with. About 7 years into the relationship we decided to move in together, our daughter was ready to start school, things we getting off to a good start, he got on well, he was moving up the corporate ladder and we were finally becoming a family I really wanted. His early jealousy stopped and he seemed more self assured. My past was still an issue but he tried hard not to bring it up. However, he was disconnecting, our intimacy took a nose dive, our sex life before we moved in together was incredible but now I was the one asking for sex, he was never in the mood. He was however always eager to get a blowjob but had little interest in sex. He largely told me it was because I turned when I had just had a baby and I was tired for sex, he used porn to get through that time. Our fights now were largely over the little intimacy in our relationship, the kissing stopped, he would watch porn and if we did have sex he would be so disconnected with little foreplay.
    He went through a rough patch at work and suffered a bit of depression, he said he needed space and was lusting after other woman, he said he loved me but couldn’t help himself, I told him I would work at the relationship and be more caring, I couldn’t imagine my life without him. He decided to stay, I gave into his requests for blowjobs whenever he wanted but slowly I was dying inside. After 10 years into our relationship we got engaged, I was happy since I had been waiting for this for so long. Again I thought that this was the beginning of something new, but my hopes were dashed as he was just more disconnected intimately, he suffered another loss of a job and went into depression, he didn’t work for a year and was taking xanor daily for his anxiety during this time my daughter also suffered from anxiety and we had to take her out of school (we took her to psychologists for a year of therapy). The anxiety was hereditary from the father.
    Fast forward to today, he again quit his job and wants to start his own business, he is very disconnected from me and is doing inner child healing at the moment on his own, he is very moody during this time and brings up my past in third person a lot (i.e we will watch a program and any premiscous woman he will say “so cheap” “no one wants to marry a cheap person”or “scrap woman go after older men” “they should be disgusted”). Also intimacy is non existant, maybe once every 3 months, no kissing and we sleep on separate sides of the bed, when I bring up why he doesn’t touch me he says I don’t dress up anymore and we need to bring the excitement back into our relationship by going out, he also says he has low libido, funny thing is that he asks for blowjobs every day and tells he how amazing I am, I have stopped giving them to him. He looks at other woman constantly and tells me there is nothing wrong with it, he says I should worry if he doesn’t look because all men look and says at least he is being honest. My gut just says something is wrong, I know he isn’t cheating because we are home together all day long (I work from home). He follows busty woman on Instagram and when I confronted him he says he is just curious. He berates me if I do something wrong.. He will say: “you piece of sh1t”. He is a great father and treats our daughter wonderful, he will talk to her with respect but me on the other hand he despises me. He has told me on 2 occasions that he hates me, this comes up in arguments. I feel really down and don’t know what to do. He plans for our future but honestly I cant see one? Our daughter is 13 and I worry the affects of leaving him would have on her since she has anxiety? Also, he isn’t working and doesn’t have a support system?
    Will he ever change? Is he a narcissist?
    He doesn’t trust anyone, he has told me on many occasions that everyone has abandoned him and he is waiting for me to abandon him? He says he is very guarded and wont let anyone in and he thinks everyone is out to hurt him. He is very negative and critises everyone.
    I would love your insight on this as I really don’t know what to do?

  81. avatar Ryan says:

    Hi, I’ve been looking for some kind of advice and I’m not sure where to find it because its different, I have read a lot of the questions here and well mines just a little different…
    My girlfriend and I have been together for 2 years now. just a month ago my girlfriends and I came very close to breaking up after an incident of drama between family, and lies. we went from very happy and having no problems at all to the incident and the only thing we have lost in our relationship is intimacy its self. My girlfriend says she gets nervous feelings when she thinks of intimacy “down there”. My girlfriend has always been very loyal, very kind, and would give her love over the world for me. We have always been close, and hid nothing. She says when she thinks of it she gets the nervous feeling like I described before, and she feels like she does right before she would have a panic attack. -she has had past panic attacks from intimacy when alcohol was involved, 1 time every couple months- She says she does not know why she feels like this, and swears she has no hidden feelings or thoughts, and I’m sure of her honesty. she says she doesn’t want to feel like this and that all she know is that it started right after the incident went down. i asked if there was anything she disliked about our past intimacy and she said no. at the incident we did discuss some of her feelings about it, but they were kind of off topic, but I’m just mentioning it to prove she isn’t trying to hide no more. All in all we have agreed that only time can tell. we have discussed that she can still get aroused, but the solid thought of intimacy down there makes her nervous. I’m not worried about giving her time, i love her with everything and have no problems with treating her with what she needs, I’m trying my hardest to make this easier for her, because she said she wishes she didn’t feel like she does. if there is anything that can help us out… we would really appreciate it. Thanks -Ryan-

  82. avatar Rose says:

    Dr. Khoshaba, First of all,
    I would like to say thank you for writing this blog post. I have come back to it several times within the year. Up until now, I’ve had a hard time accepting your Step 1: that his makeup is different than mine. When he disappears after we have a great time together, my default has been “I’m not enough” but now I see His childhood abandonment and prior relationship of being controlled “loosing himself” is what is at play here. Despite having my heart crushed when I was 14, men have always come to me freely, with open hearts and zero hesitation — so the current situation I’ve been in is terrifying territory for me, and I feel like a fragile 14-yr-old again. Having said that I am ready to step up and do my part, as much as I can to make this work with the man I will tell you about…

    To give you some background:
    Over a year ago I met this wonderful man as we were cast in the same play together. It actually took 3 months of rehearsals for him to speak with me. I had developed friendships with all of the other 10 cast members but noticed from Day 1 that he was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen and that he kept to himself, was very professional… and shy. Our dress rehearsal day was the first time he spoke to me. He followed me outside to where I was warming up and said “you sound really great you know”. I knew instantly and instinctually he really liked me but was shy and… different. In our first conversation together I learned that he was the youngest of 2 brothers and felt like he came dead last with his mom, she kept him at an “arm’s length” and spent all of her time working and not taking care of him. He also mentioned his last relationship 5 years ago and eluded his ex was incredibly controlling. I was sad to hear of his rough experience but was happy he was speaking to me and opening up, even. The next few weeks were like heaven… he was making excuses to talk to me, be close to me backstage and then took me out one night after the show : it felt like a date, he was incredibly interested in me, walked me to my car in the dark, said goodbye, I started my car, smilling to myself knowing the man I had admired for months liked me too and heard a knock on my car window. He was back. I rolled down the window and he said to me “I just wanted to tell you, while I have the guts You are a very beautiful woman”.

    After that night he was making every excuse in the book to talk to me backstage, every excuse to show his strength by fixing some of my props, warming up in front of me, etc. I felt like my confidence in him was growing alongside his affection for me -the same rate. 🙂 And this is when I felt the rug pulled out from under me. Whenever we had (have) a beautiful time together is followed by not hearing from him for a week… three weeks. In the beginning I took I so personally but I held back, and watched the patterns instead of getting into a confrontation about it. I didn’t want to scare him away with the “what are we” talk. Instead, I worked with my therapist on it to deal with my own fears and insecurities.

    This summer I did another show with him and that same cast. I had front row seats to observe his behaviours again. Some days he would be super happy, others gloomy. He would go out of his way to talk to me and on days he felt good he would ask me out. We had so many wonderful intimate times together. On my birthday (our Opening night) he gave me his ring. He tried to downplay it but I was so happy, knowing it was his favourite piece of jewellery. One intimate night at my house he admitted to having dark depression and anxiety (my thoughts: could be bipolar with ADHD?). He said he had so many walls up (around his heart). When I asked “how am I doing with the walls?” he replied “you’ve burst through a few.” and smiled. He told me he didn’t want to disappointment; he was completely broken. I assume from a First love. And then couldn’t speak, it was like his mouth was sewn shut. This looked like shame(?) Since then when he reaches out, asked to see me again it’s like it feels like he RUNS to me with a giant leap forward with his heart 🙂 … only to take one hundred small shuffles back…

    I love him and can’t stop loving him and would like to move things along and make it work. I’m ready to give up my idea of the ideal balanced relationship and Accept he is “different”, like you say. Knowing that he scares from commitment, how could I move this forward without stirring threatening triggers in him? Should I be the one to suggest dates? > I worry this will give him all the power and also concerned for harbouring resentment towards him by giving him the luxury of turning down seeing me if he is struggling one day (for example). He is also incredibly attractive to lots of women and I’m wondering if you have any tools for how to deal with jealousy? I don’t want my jealousy to get in the way.

    Thank you so, so very much, Dr. Khoshaba,


    • avatar Rose says:

      Forgot to ask you the most important thing!
      > How do I become irreplaceable to this man? How do I get him to rely on me? To need me.


  83. avatar Jeff says:

    Hi Dr.

    This article was a big eye opener for me as i am definitely in a relationship with a woman who has intimacy issues. We dated off and on for 7 years, lived together 2 different times, broke up for 5 years and recently we started seeing each other again. I am and have always been head over heels in love with this girl! ha.

    At the time I didn’t realize the “break up when things finally get comfortable/hot and cold dance” we had always done was due to her fear of intimacy, but now it’s been 6 months that we’ve been seeing eachother and her fear of intimacy is in full swing even more then it used to be.
    She hasn’t ever initiated sex, won’t french kiss, rarely texts or calls, won’t hang out with my family or friends outside of a holiday, or just stop by my place. But instead will comment on what our kids would look like, or insinuate us moving in together.

    She is seeing a psychiatrist now and is showing little signs of affection here and there.
    But even after going out and doing intimately non-threatening activities and having a great time together most of the time, it’s been 6 months I’m not sure what to do.
    From your perspective, is the writing on the wall? should I let this sleeping dog lie?
    I’m going MAD!!!! I don’t want to give up! But I’m 32 she’s 36 and i’m at a point where it’s time to grow up.
    I would spend the rest of my life with her if it was reciprocated in any way.
    Everything is perfect except this level intimacy. Is it best to just walk away?
    Thank you for your time and advice!

  84. avatar Harley says:

    Hi Deborah,

    I met a man who has a deep fear of intimacy. He is open and honest about this with me. He has been divorced 10 years and had had many dates but only a handful of relationships that he never got emotionally connected with by his choice and kept them at arms length. He was safe in those relationships. In walks me, and now he is fighting to change and move past his fears. They stem from early childhood and then a loveless long marriage and then dating not the best women. I am the complete opposite of all that. I am lighthearted, compassionate, opening loving, one heck of a good communicator, I see that everyone is different in their own ways, and I extremely optimistic. I have never pushed him to open up he does so freely, when he pushes back, I give space, I listen and try to understand what it is he needs for us to grow into a healthy relationship.

    It’s only been a few months and he has told me that he never lets person stay the night, until me. He never sleeps at other peoples houses, until me, He has never invited someone to a wedding, until me, he has never felt this way in 10 years, until me. We are both almost in our 50’s. The thing is this, it was great until he told me he was falling for me. He ran the next day. I waited and gave space realizing that was a lot for him. Two weeks later with him barley texting and then sending an a text one day saying he cant do this, was shocking. It was a cry for help text too. I worried and tried to communicate in a neutral way not taking it personally. I set aside my feeling to try to help him. Then returning again after the cool down has begun apologizing. We talked about ending this seeing I think I am causing more hurt then pleasure at this point. But, then we both say we were great and why are we doing this. And, we were, I was living date to date with no pressure. I was slowing trying to say “I am hear for you” lets not rush, we laugh a lot, we joke, we can talk for hours and he does open up. We agreed to meet face to face to talk this over. My question is this….its such a beautiful shame for us to part. Its all there, except he’s fighting hard and it’s become too much and he’s freaking out mentally and emotionally. He’s taking this down a negative road with his feelings of being overwhelmed and ignoring me. We haven’t seen each other in two weeks. I wants to help him and I want him to see he is worthy. he doesn’t think so. Your tis are exactly what I have been doing all along. I have much respect for him and I know this is real. Please offer some advice. Do we walk? Do we keep trying and he overthinks daily and wants to hide and retreat? He’s made huge forward steps…if we part does this only fed into what he’s been afraid off? He told me he see a future wit me that that scared him. And, here I was jus living date to date knowing I was falling for him. I tried not to look to far ahead. I care deeply, please help!

  85. avatar Sam says:

    Thank you your blog post is very helpful. My partner has a fear of intimacy, being somewhat distance at times, not very expressive and will not kiss me fully and I long her to. I’ve said I want to be kissed properly but am told it’s not her thing. She tries and will give me soft small kisses but never in a way that is passionate. She loves to cuddle and hold hands but real kissing is a no go area. When she knows I’m upset about this, she give me small gentle kisses and tells me she loves me. She is a lovely and I know she does love and care about me.

    People who know her tell me she was badly hurt in the past, that she is guarded, a closed book, keeps things very close to her chest. I know she is scared to let me in and by not kissing me fully this puts a barrier up to intimacy. Love making is not great, she is unable to express passion and somewhat detached. But it’s good enough for me, I get the closeness I need.

    I love her, I do not control, engulf or deprive her of my love. But I cannot allow myself to be deprived, this would not be respecting my needs. I show lots of affection and kiss her as much as I feel I can without it being too much. In every other way we are very happy together.

    I long for real passionate intimacy and connection. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. But no relationship is perfect. I hope one day she when she truly knows I’m very safe and will never leave or hurt her those little kisses may become longer and truly loving.


  1. […] Feeling lonely in the midst of a relationship is fine sometimes, but not always.  Another person cannot conquer your moods and blues.  No one can do that for you.  So, yes it is okay to have some times of lonely solitude and private contemplation.  If your longing for closeness will never match your love interest’s desire for closeness with you, then you need to deal with that. […]

  2. […] How To Deal With Your Lover’s Fear of Intimacy … – Thank you very much Rocky. You make such an excellent point here. People who have a fear of intimacy wish this were not the case. It’s not comfortable, by any means. […]

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