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5 Ways to Deal with an Intimacy-Phobic Person

5 Ways to Deal with an Intimacy-Phobic PersonHave you ever met someone and got along famously, only to have them back off suddenly? Perhaps you reacted by ignoring them when they finally tried to get in touch a few weeks later, and now, ages later, are still wondering what happened.

There is a good chance that you simply became involved with a person who suffers from fear of intimacy.

Seen as a social or anxiety disorder, fear of intimacy often results in a person blowing hot then cold, or doing the occasional disappearing act, which can be terribly frustrating for others. But it’s also terribly frustrating for the person who is intimacy-phobic and does want your friendship but sabotages it despite themselves. The very nature of this anxiety disorder makes it difficult for them to explain what’s going on.

12 Comments to
5 Ways to Deal with an Intimacy-Phobic Person

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  1. I was on the receiving end of a relationship like this. My now ex-boyfriend seems like a pretty good guy: laid back, generous, funny, smart. However, he has severe intimacy issues, which he is good at hiding most of the time. He has knee jerk responses to anything dealing with love, marriage, commitment, etc. You can’t even give him a valentine with the word LOVE on it. I’ve tried to ask him about it in a non-threatening way, but I never get an answer. I’ve tried everything I know to help him feel comfortable, and talk about things in a non-threatening, non-critical way, but it was never enough. He would act one way, then act another, and seem to be totally oblivious about it. He wouldn’t listen to me when I told him he was doing things that made me feel like he didn’t care about me. He told a stranger, in public, that we were “just friends with benefits” because the man thought I was his wife. I finally had enough. I had to force the issue, and asked him to tell me what he wanted. He said, “I don’t know.” He finally admitted to having this fear of “what might happen” all his life. He pushed and pulled me, dismissed my feelings, and still expected me to stay. I wanted to, in the hopes that it could be worked out, but I left. I just felt that if he had known me for 8 years, and it wasn’t enough…when would it be? What about every woman he’s thrown away over the course of his life….when will it be enough? He knows he has a problem, but he’s not exactly upfront about it, and he does nothing to work on it. I feel bad about the whole situation, but I have to think about my life too, and take care of myself. I would have liked to stand with him to work on this, but I doubt it will ever happen. I grieve for him. I wonder what happened to him to cause this. It’s horribly sad.

    • Hi Cg13,

      I hope you don’t take this the wrong way,
      But are you sure he has issues and it’s not just the way he is with you,
      I have had friends over the years who think the guy has commitment issues and then they break up and hey presto, he’s with another girl, married, pregnant, the commitment issues have diseappeared.
      Sorry, could be completely wrong about your case,
      But try not to make excuses for bad behaviour,


  2. I’m so glad I read this today. I have a friend who wants to get closer and I’m terrified. What you wrote has helped me understand my fears and helped me see a new way of handling my fears. Thank you.

    • Hi Sally,
      How would you face your fear? I have a friend going through this, not sure how I can help without being exiled.

    • Sally,
      The best thing you can do is be honest with your friend about what you’re feeling. Hopefully then, if you both care about each other, you can work together. That would be great. I wish you all the luck in the world.

  3. Catherine,
    Good question, but he told me himself that he has never been able to move forward in any relationship, due to his fear. He only admitted this after I forced the issue. Before this, he would tell me things like how he had finally found the perfect relationship with me. He had me completely involved with his family and friends. We’d known each other for several years before we got together. In fact, he pursued me to begin with, and I told him no because I didn’t know him very well. We were just friends.

    He made statements all the time about future things we were going to do….years in advance. He had plans for us to be together, but it became clear from his behavior, and the things he would say, that it was only if everything was easy and detached…if you could hear him talk, you would understand. He is the master of vague talk…saying and doing just enough. That’s why it was so confusing. He’s had many girlfriends over the last 30 years, so I know he has faced this issue before….but will only deal with it when forced to.

    I would not be surprised if he got with someone else again quickly. He’s an attractive man in many ways. After I told him how I felt, and asked him what he wanted, he just disappeared. Never heard from him again. So much for us having ever been friends. I ceased to exist after that. This is not an exaggeration. I was saddened, but not surprised by it. I’ve never seen him treat anyone badly; it’s more in his attitude, than anything else. It’s like he cares, but only so much. Very confusing.

    No one ever wants to believe bad things about someone they care about, but I eventually had to face the truth. I’m not excusing his behavior at all. I don’t think his fear is a license to treat others badly. Believe me, I will be much more wary next time.

  4. After reading this article it seems to me that intimacy-phobia is a little similiar to social phobia where they want to make friends and be social but are so afraid that they cannot bring themselves to do so.

  5. I tend to think it’s also related to different attachment styles, such as avoidant and anxious. I try to accept the other person’s need for space and understand that this is how they cope. I try to be very gentle and never push. I think the key is allowing them to take of themselves in the way that they need while you also take care of yourself in the way that you need. People have different ways of relating and different needs in relationships and that’s okay.

  6. What a great article. I wish I would have seen this 18 months ago when I became friends with a man who started blowing hot and cold. I had never experienced this before with anyone, so it was very puzzling and very painful for me. After months of research online, I was able to finally “fit the puzzle pieces together.” This article states the facts about intimacy-phobic people in a honest, educational and humane manner. I found it very uplifting, and refer to it whenever my friend starts blowing cold. I’m starting to be able to see this as his problem, and to not take it personally, and simply come from a place of love and understanding. That’s helped tremendously.

  7. I am in a (kinda, sorta, i think)relationship with a guy who is terrified of intimacy. It is clear where the fear comes from. It is clear the fear is there. He runs hot n cold and it takes so much work not to get hurt myself. I wish i knew if, given the time, he will step out of it, or if he is simply incapable of letting go. This is so confusing

  8. This may as well have been written about me. I am male, almost 50, been single for 8 years although had three long-term relationships in the past which all seemed to fall to bits in the end due to my problems with intimacy and committment. My mother passed away when I was 12, father remarried very quickly and my stepmother showed no warmth or efection towards my sisters and I, despite the awful loss of our mother. I’m sure this is the root of my problems, I just find it nearly impossible to get emotionally close to women, show effection or any sort of commitment, feels too risky, I’ll only get hurt again. The only time I can get physical with women or even speak to women I find attractivs is when I’m very drunk.

  9. It breaks my heart to read this because it’s me and I don’t like the reality. I pick men with problems so mine are more hidden. I create issues in relationships to ensure distance. I’m lonely and want love, yet I hurt others to avoid commitment. They have no idea of the pain I feel inside. I only feel normal if I drink, which I’ll occasionally do. I am even detached from my siblings who probably think I am weird.

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