You crave closeness, but also it’s terrifying


September 24, 2017

By Jordan Pickell

You long for close friendships, or a deep relationship with a partner, but every time an actual real-life human wants to get to know you, all of a sudden it feels like too much. Why are relationships so scary? We all want to feel connected. We want to be seen, loved, held. In order for that to happen, we have to feel safe. If you have ever been hurt, if you have ever experienced violence, abuse or neglect, your sense of safety has been disrupted. Your simultaneous longing for and fear of connection is intensified. You cling to whatever sliver of safety and connection you do have. You want things to change, but any movement toward or away from connection with people just feels too scary. So, you stay stuck. You may not even be aware that fear is what keeps holding you back from the deep relationships you crave. But, if you can identify your fears, you can learn how it plays out in your life, and gather the courage and self-understanding to move beyond it. Here are the three most common underlying fears that are getting in the way of real intimacy.

You are afraid they will leave you

Closeness brings up intense anxiety of abandonment for you. You are terrified of rejection, and because of that, you need constant reassurance. You keep picking fights out of your own insecurity. There’s a general sense of dread and desperation. You keep imagining the day they stop caring about you, or worse, they reveal that they never cared about you at all. You would do anything to keep these people in your life, even if it harms you. It feels like these relationships hold you together, and that without them, you would surely fall apart. You may not realize it, but you are so preoccupied with your anxiety, that you are actually keeping people from getting close to you.

You are afraid they will suffocate you

You imagine what it would be like to have real intimacy, but the everyday reality of being close to someone is overwhelming. The vulnerability of closeness becomes too intense and you find yourself looking for an out. You don’t want the responsibility of attending to other people’s needs and emotions. While you long for closeness, you also pride yourself on your independence. Instead, you tend to cycle through many relationships that don’t go beyond the surface of who either of you really are. It’s easier and safer. You act cool and detached, and inside, you feel empty.

You are afraid they will find out who you really are

You have a strong feeling that something is seriously wrong with you. Sometimes you feel like an alien. You’re not like other people. You believe that if people really knew you, they’d realize that deep down you’re not a good person. This fear is essentially about shame. You have basically condemned yourself to isolation. You don’t feel worthy of love so you keep people away. This is the toughest one to move out of, but with the support of a therapist, you can create the security and self-understanding needed to change this toxic relationship pattern.

Facing your fears

It’s terrifying to step into relationship, to show up fully as your whole imperfect self. It is also an amazing gift. Some people go their entire lifetime without experiencing beautiful, vulnerable togetherness with another human being. If you recognize yourself possessing one or multiple of these underlying fears, reach out to a therapist to work with you to dismantle your blocks to real intimacy. Be courageous. Choose to take the next step. You deserve closeness.

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