Fear of Emotional Intimacy
Dr. Jeanette Raymond is a psychologist and psychotherapist with a private practice in Los Angeles California. Born in Calcutta, India, she was educated in Great Britain, getting her M.Ed before beginning her career as a child and educational psychologist. After settling in America, Dr. Raymond obtained her Ph.D. in clinical psychology and switched her focus to helping adults establish more secure relationships. She contributes to training courses for psychotherapists and offers insight and relationship advice on a regular basis via her blogs and videos. She is the author of, Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t! Fear of of Intimacy: Ten ways to recognize it and ten way to manage it in your relationships. It was a delight to interview Dr. Raymond on Last First Date Radio about fear of emotional intimacy and how to manage it in your relationships.
What are the most common mistakes men make in trying to get emotionally close to their partners?
The most common is by trying to woo her by being very romantic; he buys flowers, takes her to dinners, spoils her. He thinks the woman will soften and let him in (emotionally). He’ll then become the only one on her radar. He believes the romance will take down her barriers, and then he’ll be able to penetrate her wall so she takes care of his emotional needs. If you think about it, buying things and spoiling her is a barrier to intimacy. You can’t get close to food, spa excursions, dinners. She may love the gifts but not want to get close to a man. It feels like he wants to get something from her. In essence, he’s saying, “Look at what a good boy I am”. She thinks, “He’s not a man. He’s not an equal, a partner.” A healthy relationship is about being equal together and having an intimate connection.
When you’re starting the dating process, how do you lay down the groundwork for emotional intimacy?
Do you have any expectations for how someone should be on a date? Many people go in with so many criteria, because they want to eliminate the bad guys on a date. Being open is a good place to start. Share things about yourself as a person rather than your achievements. If you can do that, your date will share similar things. It’s not about who had the worst childhood, or what you each have achieved in life. That becomes a shield that’s hard to penetrate. If you’re a little nervous you may talk a lot. That builds a wall between you and your date, and they don’t get to share and invite. Give a little snippet of yourself and invite him to do the same.
How do these fears develop?
Many people have had difficult childhoods where they haven’t learned to read people and understand their intent. They end up very anxious and insecure. They fall in love and think that partner is the answer to their emotional needs. The person they love just pushes them away. They need to understand what they went through as kids and empathize with the other partner who isn’t there in therapy. He tries to be close to her by being her savior and by being a good boy. In therapy, I help them to mentalize the intent of each other.
How can you make your partner feel safe enough to let you get close?
Begin with the least intrusive way. Share little chores together. Share things that create intimacy – cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc. That sense of togetherness creates a sense of here and now. It weaves a connection of the present with the past. You are not being intrusive. By sharing these activities, your body releases the oxytocin hormone so you bond.
The next way might be to think about sharing your reaction when your partner says something to you. If you were rebuffed or misunderstood, say “I’m feeling hurt.” or “I’m feeling like you don’t want me to be around you anymore.” Many people resort to name calling instead. “You are impatient, you’re horrible.” Letting someone know how we both feel is a strength. If we both want to get close, we have to understand each other. It’s not needy to need people. The essence of emotional intimacy is allowing interdependence. If your partner can’t understand where you’re at, they can’t be with you and hold your hand through that journey. You have to have a need for closeness and be comfortable sharing your vulnerability.
To listen to the entire episode, please click here.