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Fear of Marital Intimacy

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I struggle with deep-seated fear of marital intimacy and am unsure of how to overcome this repulsion. I am in a committed relationship with a wonderful guy. My boyfriend and I are hoping to be married within the next year and a half. We both don’t want to be sexually active until marriage. However, despite my love for him, I am still repulsed by the idea of sex. The thought of sex either makes me feel guilty or causes me to tense or freeze up. I am afraid I will feel used, undignified, dirty, guilty and animalistic. I’ve never been sexually abused but two of my siblings and three of my best friends have. I also grew up in a very restrictive environment that didn’t allow dating even among college-aged adults and looked down upon healthy signs of affection between a couple such as hand-holding before marriage. Several years passed before I was open to dating and a couple more before I could convince myself it was okay to hold my boyfriend’s hand and give him a kiss. I still feel guilty sometimes when we cuddle close just to watch a movie. My boyfriend is aware of my fear and extremely and understanding. I just really want to kick this repulsion before marriage. I don’t want this fear to hurt my future marriage. (From the USA)

Fear of Marital Intimacy

Answered by on -


This isn’t what I would identify as fear of intimacy as much as a fear of sex. The reason I am making this more specific is that the fear of sex has a very different origin and implication than fear of intimacy.

It is hard to know for sure, but the kinds of reactions you are having and the reasons you give would lead to a classification of one of two conditions. Of course, this is in no way diagnosing what is going on, but these would be the first two things I’d think of if I heard a patient come in explaining their situation in a way similar to yours. I would want to rule out genophobia and tokophobia.

Genophobia is also sometimes referred to as coitophobia. This term covers the physical or psychological fear associated with sex, sexual relations or sexual intercourse. In its extreme, it will cause trouble in romantic relationships. This is what I mean by saying it is most likely a fear of sex rather than a fear of marital intimacy. It isn’t the marriage, the partner, or getting closer that is the issue — it is the fear of sex, when it is genophobia. Included in this diagnosis is the fear of any sexual contact.

Tokophobia, the fear of pregnancy and childbirth, is a fear woman may have. Here is a 2012 study on the subject. Here is an article with more description and additional information about it.

It sounds more to me like you’d want to get an opinion first on if genophobia or tokophobia may be part of what you are struggling with. The key here is to identify what it is and seek treatment from a mental health professional that has some experience. You may want to ask the OBGYN community who they refer to for this.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Fear of Marital Intimacy

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). Fear of Marital Intimacy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Apr 2020 (Originally: 23 Apr 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 21 Apr 2020
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