We might say we want that The Fault in Our Stars-level romance, but when it comes down to it, we’re not willing to do that The Fault in Our Stars-level communication. Many of us have a fear of emotional intimacy because it threatens to leave us looking unreasonable, dramatic, and foolish in the eyes of someone we deeply admire.
And to be honest, that’s perfectly reasonable. It makes sense to not want our hearts chewed up and spit out by the mouths we kiss (sorry, you can’t un-see that). But the reality of it all is that sometimes we have to put our most vital organ on the line for an inkling of a shot at true love.
Here are some reasons you might be scared of doing that (apart from the obvious – blended heart bits? Gross.) and some ways you can combat the fears nonetheless.
Increased comfort with emotional distance
Despite social media’s intention to unite remote friends and generally encourage human connection, its ubiquity might be diminishing the value of these relationships.
On average, we have easier access to our contacts and spend more time interacting with them than at any other point in human history, but does the frequency of our interactions equate to the measure of their quality and depth? Can the fact that we’ve grown so accustomed to superficial internet “catch-up” banter be conditioning us to avoid more difficult, emotionally-weighted conversations?
More likely than not. And as a result, we have become increasingly comfortable with emotional distance, and increasingly less comfortable with emotional closeness.
If we are to overcome our fear of intimacy, however, we must learn to accept vulnerability. Which leads me into my next point:
Discomfort with vulnerability
Vulnerability breeds connection. Research shows that revealing our insecurities, fears, and/or failures to others encourages them to do the same, in turn creating emotional closeness.
Unfortunately, allowing ourselves to admit potentially alienating, uncomfortable things to someone else can be incredibly difficult. We fear being misunderstood, judged, and rejected, particularly if we’ve had unfavorable experiences opening up to someone in the past.
However, being emotionally intimate with our partners requires us to be vulnerable — there’s simply no way around it. We cannot achieve satisfying connection until we’ve delved beyond the superficial.
If you struggle with this, try testing the “vulnerability waters” with your partner. When you feel ready, start opening up about something important to you, and gauge their reaction to it. You might be surprised at their reception of your admission — people are often much more understanding and compassionate than we give them credit for.
If you feel comfortable with this exercise, urge yourself to try it again. But on the second go-around, maybe reveal something of greater emotional value to you. In this way, you’ll gradually move towards building that intimate bond you’re looking for.
Societal pressure to remain unemotional
To show emotion is to show weakness… That’s what we hear the moment we sob after seeing Toy Story 4 (I’m convinced that Pixar hired people to cut onions during this movie at every theater in the nation) or sulk after losing a particularly intense game of Scrabble.
Although we should inarguably enforce behavioral boundaries for both public and private settings (i.e. don’t throw breadsticks at the waitstaff when they get your order wrong, don’t put your sister in a headlock when she takes your favorite sweater without asking, etc), we have to understand that *cue chorus* vulnerability breeds connection!