Intimacy Issues: 51 Common Signs of Intimacy Issues
Intimacy issues take on many forms and show up in many different ways in our daily lives. While we often associate intimacy with romantic relationships as you’ll see below, your relationship with intimacy itself plays out in practically every area of your life.
It’s important also to make note of the fact that when many people hear the word intimacy, they immediately think “sex”. While sexual intimacy is an important form of intimacy, it’s just that. One form. And, our sexual intimacy issues most often stem from our challenges and inexperience with other forms of intimacy.
With that being said, our level of comfort with intimacy itself, true intimacy, actually determines the quality of our lives. Our relationship to intimacy determines our access to real love by either opening us up more fully to its depth and power, or by closing off our hearts, leaving us feeling dry, alone, unsatisfied. With the freedom to fully embrace all types of intimacy our life becomes rich, juicy, and abundant with pleasure – not just sexual pleasure, but pleasure of the senses, pleasure of the heart –satisfaction of a life fully lived.
What are Intimacy Issues?
We can answer the question, “what are intimacy issues?” with one simple statement. Intimacy issues are any habit, pattern, behavior or energy that stand in the way of our ability to let another fully see, experience, and love us. Intimacy issues block connection, they prevent union.
Singles face intimacy issues too. Intimacy issues and the associated feelings of separation, disconnect, loneliness and unhappiness can arise whether we are in a relationship or not, whether we are healthy or not, whether we have a job we love or not. When we free ourselves from our resistance to and fear of intimacy, relationships flow with more ease, connections have an ongoing aliveness, conflicts end quicker or don’t happen at all. Most importantly, a personally intimate relationship with intimacy gives you access to the source of real joy, and ecstasy.
Below you will find a list of 51 common signs of intimacy issues in relationships and in life. No single sign included below means you or your partner have intimacy issues. However, if you find that many of these patterns or ways of being show up frequently in your interpersonal relationships and life interactions, then you might want to take a closer inner look.
Personal Intimacy Issues
- Trust. Trust and intimacy go hand in hand. Without trust you cannot have intimacy. Unfortunately, most people think this trust requires trusting another. Intimacy requires trusting you. Fully.
- Lack of Communication. Those who embrace intimacy consistently speak their needs, wants, desires, upsets, and joys in all relationships. (They are spoken before resentment and frustration show up).
- You don’t know yourself. You can’t experience intimacy with anyone, even your soulmate, if you don’t know yourself. Genuine intimacy requires you to know what makes you happy, what turns you on (or off), your dreams, your deal breakers, your boundaries and the like.
- Lack of self-confidence or low self-esteem. Being intimate requires courage, which requires believing in yourself, your worth, your beauty, your value. If we feel not good enough or question our lovability, we hide parts of ourselves – the very antithesis of intimacy.
- Perfectionistic tendencies. Almost always related to our self-esteem, perfectionism arises from a need to prove our worth, value, and deservedness. Any attempt to prove ourselves will block intimacy because intimacy requires us to be ourselves – the good and the not-so-good.
- Self-hiding. Intimacy also requires revealing ourselves. Yet, that would demand real honesty with ourselves about ourselves. If we don’t happen to like ourselves, or are afraid we won’t like ourselves, then we won’t relate to ourselves in a way that allows us to relate intimately with another.
- Isolating. Staying home, avoiding connections, walking away when we hurt, all indicate a resistance to intimacy. This is not the same as being introverted. Introverted people can often share the deepest intimacy.
- Little white lies. Anytime we bend the truth, we unconsciously attempt to manage the outcome of that experience. We try to manage it because we are not willing to experience the vulnerability of telling the truth, which inherently blocks intimacy.
- Addictive patterns. Similar to isolating, any addictive pattern – food, drugs, work, sex, shopping – supports us in avoiding emotions we don’t want to feel or share. It supports us in avoiding experiences that feel uncomfortable. Real intimacy needs us to get a bit uncomfortable, sometimes.
Intimacy Issues in Dating and Romantic Relationships
- Avoidant attachment. With avoidant attachment styles we push people away instead of opening up and allowing them in. inherently, whenever that avoidant pattern is at play, it makes intimacy impossible.
- Anxious attachment. Those with anxious attachment styles tend to chase those they care about, grasping for reassurance, especially when they feel their partner taking space. In the chasing and grasping they often try to do whatever they think the partner wants in order to keep them close, yet this kind of closeness doesn’t equate to intimacy.
- People-pleasing. If we’re afraid to tell the truth about our needs, wants and desires for fear that our partner won’t embrace them, we will feel the need to set ourselves aside in favor of keeping our partner happy. And, by definition, because we’re not sharing the truth, we are not intimate..
- Self-abandonment. When we are afraid of intimacy, when we question our lovability, when we try to prove our worth, when we people-please, ultimately we self-abandon. This means we are not being ourselves nor honoring ourselves, and that makes true intimacy impossible.
- Serial dating / Serial Monogamy. A telltale sign of intimacy issues appears when we find ourselves in the wash, rinse, repeat cycle of dating and relating. The biggest reason soulmate relationships don’t last is because we haven’t found the courage to dive into the intimate depths of wide-open-heartedness or the willingness to navigate the discomfort of conflict.
- Craving being seen. If we crave being seen by a partner, we might be surprised to realize it’s not that the partner doesn’t see us. It’s actually that we won’t let the partner see us because of our own internal intimacy issues.
- Commitment issues. A fear of commitment or an avoidance of commitment often arises from an inability or an inexperience in navigating the uncomfortable, yet intimate, communication required to create and maintain both freedom and unity in a relationship.
Intimacy Problems in Conflict
- Getting loud. One of the ways we avoid vulnerability (a prerequisite for intimacy), is to get loud or inflate our energy in an attempt to defend, deflect, or judge during an upset. It takes courage and vulnerability to consider our part in an upset, such that it contributes to a quicker resolution
- Walking away. Another way that we avoid vulnerability, and hence intimacy, during a conflict or upset happens when we simply walk away and remove ourselves. This walking away eliminates any possibility of an intimate and authentic conversation, with mutual understanding.
- Withdraw. Similar to walking away, our body might remain present during the conflict or uncomfortable conversation, but we withdraw our energy and our words. Our quietness makes us unavailable for the intimate conversation necessary to resolve our upset consciously.
- Withhold. Distinct from walking away or withdrawing, another way we reveal our intimacy issues is when we don’t speak or share information that our partner might feel pertains to this conversation or situation. The withhold happens because of the fear of how it might be perceived and received.
- Avoid / Ignore / Deny. When our intimacy issues creep into our approach to conflict, we avoid conflict all together. While it might seem like a way to maintain connection, it unconsciously destroys the very connection we seek to hold onto.
- Silent treatment. The silent treatment is a quintessential indicator of intimacy issues. Silent treatment erects a wall between you and your partner. Intimacy of any kind becomes impossible when we close ourselves off.
- Resentment. Resentment occurs as a result of the many intimacy avoidance “techniques” we explore here. Rest assured that the mere presence of resentment means you face intimacy issues.
Lack of Emotional Intimacy
- Can’t speak feelings. When anyone responds to the question, “how are you feeling?” with thinking words instead of feeling words, we definitely need to address our relationship with intimacy. Emotions are the language of love and intimacy.
- It’s hard to identify emotions. In order to share how we feel, we must know what we feel. Intimacy necessitates that we understand and recognize our own emotional flow. Your intimate connections will be served by developing your emotional vocabulary.
- Never cry (tears are weak). Too many men and women alike have been conditioned not to show tears. Yet many an intimate bond has formed through the intimacy of our tears. Sharing our tears indicates strength and not weakness.
- Hide emotions. Maybe you’ve learned to recognize your emotions but believe you you should hide and stuff them. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can only access the ecstatic emotions of an emotionally and physically intimate relationship, if we also allow the uncomfortable emotions.
- Avoid anger. Even if we allow some emotions, many have been conditioned to believe that anger does not serve. Yet, conscious anger shows us when something is out of alignment with our soul or incongruent with our values. We must recognize and honor this anger in ourselves and speak it intimately, consciously in our relationships.
- Getting angry. Another way that we avoid, deny and resist intimacy shows up when we use our anger defensively. Most often, especially in an intimate relationship, our anger masks the vulnerability we feel underneath. Honoring instead of defending that vulnerability creates intimacy.
- Depression. While depression absolutely has physiological components, repression of emotions can create an experience of depression. Honoring, acknowledging, accepting, and embracing our emotions is an act of self-intimacy.
Lack of physical intimacy in relationship
- Avoiding touch. When it comes to physical intimacy, our relationship to touch offers great insights into our capacity for all forms of intimacy. We must feel safe, safe within ourselves, to trust touch from another. An intimate and honoring relationship with ourself will set the stage for our capacity to receive touch.
- Avoiding eye contact. The eyes are known as the windows to the soul. Allowing someone to look into, gaze into, truly see into our eyes is one of the most vulnerable and intimate experiences we can share with another. Even more intimate than sex itself.
- Sleeping separately. While sleeping separately may be necessary for some couples, our beds are a place where all forms of intimacy, not just physical intimacy, frequently take place. Even if you don’t stay together for the whole night, regular time spent in bed together (awake) cultivates intimacy.
- Never showering together. Sharing an occasional shower can be a deeply bonding and intimate experience for a couple. Letting another person wash your body without a sexual overtone invites us to confront any body issues we might hold. Our body issues impede true intimacy.
- Sitting separately. If, in your relationship, you always sit separately, finding that you rarely touch each other, your intimacy might be served by a curiosity into what’s “between you” as a couple. Are there unspoken words? Unexpressed hurt? These create strong barriers to intimacy.
- Cuddling isn’t your thing. Cuddling is an experience of continuous closeness and intimacy and closeness go hand in hand. If the idea of that much closeness makes you squirm away, you might gently explore any feelings, stories, or beliefs that could create intimacy issues for you.
- Never holding hands. Holding hands can be both an expression of I see you and I’ve got you. Simply put, these feelings build trust which, in turn, builds intimacy.
Sexual Intimacy Issues
- Sexual Conditioning. Our sexual conditioning tells us what’s good, what’s bad. It tells us what we should be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Yet shame, guilt, judgment, or the Good Boy / Good Girl Syndrome all stand as barriers to emotional, physical, romantic and sexual intimacy – as well as happiness, joy and pleasure.
- Non-Orgasmic. If you or your partner find it challenging to orgasm, you could benefit from exploring how intimacy issues might play out in your couple dynamic. Orgasms require deep trust, especially for the feminine. That doesn’t mean one partner isn’t trustworthy, it just means that there might be a need for even more trust.
- Fast. Moving fast anytime, but especially in our lovemaking, is a sure way to avoid feeling and to avoid intimacy. Fast and friction block deep feeling. Slowing down, while that might sound weird or boring, sets the stage for profound intimacy, and hence truly mind-blowing pleasure.
- You’re not talking about sex. Talking about sex happens to be as intimate, if not more intimate, than having sex, depending on your approach. It takes courage and vulnerability to talk about sex, which you now know are two key components of real intimacy. If speaking about this intimate topic isn’t easy, it’s important to learn how to talk about sex.
- Lust. If your approach to sex takes on a quality of “gotta have it” and the need for sex overpowers any attempt or bid for connection, exploring other aspects of intimacy, most especially emotional intimacy could truly serve. When emotional and physical intimacy pair up, or said another way, when heart and sex unite, the passion can go off the charts.
- Not knowing your turn-ons and turn-offs. We alluded to this above and it’s worth mentioning again here. To be physically and sexually intimate, with real pleasure, both partners need to know their own turn-ons, turn-offs, needs, and boundaries when it comes to sex. Knowing these might start with your own authentic intimacy with you.
- Lights out sex. Similar to our mention of body image above, having sex with the lights off or under the covers will automatically reduce the level and depth of intimacy either of you can experience. Intimacy equals exposure – exposure of heart, mind, body, spirit and soul.
Fears in Intimacy
- intimacy itself. When we don’t understand the truth about intimacy, when we haven’t repeatedly felt its blessing, we may find ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, afraid of the very thing we seek. The best way to dissipate the intimacy issues created by this fear is to get intimate, to get up close and personal, with your beliefs about intimacy.
- Rejection. If we fear rejection, we’ll tend to act in ways that protect us from any possibility of feeling rejected. Unfortunately, to protect ourselves from rejection, we often pretend to be something we’re not, which, as you know by now, makes intimacy impossible.
- Failure. Although we cannot actually fail when it comes to love or intimacy, many fear we can. Once again, if you try to prevent failure in relationship you will also prevent success. As you defend against failure, you defend against authenticity, a prerequisite for intimacy.
- Abandonment. Like rejection, our fear of abandonment will drive us to do, say, and be things we are not. In order to avoid abandonment by another, sometimes even someone that isn’t the best for us, we find ourselves playing out the insidious ways self-abandonment harms relationships.
- Embarrassment. Let’s face it, If we play full out in life and love, every once in a while we are going to fall on our face, do something worthy of laughter. Yet, again, the avoidance of embarrassment will block not just intimacy, but love and joy as well.
- Being alone. A fear or resistance of being alone might seem like the complete opposite of intimacy issues, yet an avoidance of being alone is an avoidance of intimacy. The intimacy with ourselves sets the foundation of our intimacy with anyone – everyone – else.
- Vulnerability. You simply cannot have intimacy without vulnerability. The truth is that all intimacy issues are vulnerability issues. Your heart, your mind, and your relationships will deeply benefit from your willingness to make friends with vulnerability.
It’s been said here already and it bears repeating, intimacy takes courage. Most families don’t teach us to be intimate or vulnerable, quite the opposite in fact. Our society, in general, teaches us not to feel, even though emotions are the language of intimacy. We have all, in one way or another, been conditioned to show up in ways that others like and approve of, rather than as ourselves.
Intimacy is freedom. We are liberated when we find the courage within ourselves to be real. Yes, that realness is vulnerable, but it’s worth it. Whether subtle or significant, once you move beyond your own intimacy issues, and discover the true ecstasy of intimacy, you’ll never go back.
So, be gentle with yourself and the one, or ones, you love. Intimacy can not be forced. It requires safety. Take your time, and consider getting support, as you find your way into the depths and pleasures of intimate love.
*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.