Intimacy, as defined by Wikipedia, "is both the ability and the choice to be close, loving, and vulnerable. Intimacy requires identity development. You have to know yourself and your inner self in order to share yourself with another."
Fear of intimacy is a common relationship problem. Some people are afraid to open up and become vulnerable to their partner.
What causes fear of intimacy?
Fear of intimacy may stem from childhood experiences.
Let’s say for instance, your parents had a tumultuous relationship. You depended on them to care for you and love you. However, their rocky relationship left you feeling emotionally abandoned and rejected.
As children, we identify ourselves with our family and still have not formed the idea of our own identity and worth separate from our family. Thus, if the family is ‘broken’, then we see ourselves as such – broken and defective, and unworthy of being loved.
Another reason may be that when we were kids, we believed that our parents fought and got divorced because we were bad. Because we thought we were ‘bad’, we see ourselves as unlovable and could possibly be abandoned.
Why fear of intimacy disrupts relationships?
This kind of childhood trauma causes individuals to take on another identity, so to speak, because they do not want their partners to see the ‘real’ them. But as the relationship goes on, their masks unravel.
Before their partners can see the real "damaged" self, some people (unconsciously) create scenarios that sabotage their relationships. The reason behind this is that they want to get out of the relationship before they are rejected.
Overcoming fear of intimacy
To overcome this fear, first you must recognize that you are hiding your true self. This does not necessarily mean being socially withdrawn. It means putting up a facade. You can hide your real self, even if you are the life of the party.
If you want to overcome your fear of intimacy, note instances when you are hiding, and decide whether you are ready to open up. When you’re finally ready, know when you should open up.
Intimacy means sharing your (true) self to the person you love, so open up. Communicate your thoughts and feelings, your fears and even your wanting to hide. Remember, "shared sorrow is half a sorrow".
Overcoming your fear of intimacy takes time. Don’t feel obligated to spill everything out all at once. That’s not how it works (for one, you might overwhelm your partner). Open up just a little at a time. Share whatever you are comfortable sharing at a given moment. You will gradually feel more and more comfortable opening up more often.
Finally, if these practices don’t work, seek help from a counselor. The underlying issues might be too great for you to address without professional help. Dealing with these feelings directly may be the way to overcome your fear of intimacy.