HOUSTON, TX - One of the most basic needs of humans is connection. We need to know we matter and are loved by others. With technological advancement and blurred boundaries between work and home, we’ve used social media to bridge connection with each other. However, social media is limited in helping people achieve true intimacy and a deeper sense of belonging. Not taking time to emotionally connect shortens longevity and increases loneliness, anxiety, depression and health problems.
Parents obsessed with time commitments, who view sharing a cup of coffee with a friend or family dinners as an unnecessary waste of time are limiting quality of life for themselves and their family. Children learn what to value by watching their parents. If taking time for others without a screen is not valued, kids will mimic their parents’ pattern. Intimacy is a skill you lose if you don’t use it. It is not uncommon to see a child who has difficulty talking to someone without a screen. If you’re not exposed to face-to-face conversation, it begins to feel awkward and provokes anxiety.
If you have a child who has difficulty talking to you or others, it is common to put the focus on your child’s weakness. However, parents are the greatest influence, and there is a chance you have unknowingly modeled this. Let’s face it – texting is so much easier than talking one-on-one. Below are warning signs that you may fear intimacy as much as your child does. Awareness is the first step to changing an unwanted behavior:
- Do you appear or strive to always have your life together? When you appear flawless or perfect, others fear trusting you with their vulnerabilities. It helps you create distance so you don’t have to engage one on one with them.
- Are you always positive? No one is always happy and strong. Having that demeanor keeps people from connecting with you because humans connect on weaknesses – not strengths. If you can’t be vulnerable with your pain, others don’t trust you with theirs. This draws a line to keep others out so you don’t have to face your own struggles and be vulnerable with another.
- Do you have difficulty being still? People who are always busy always have a good reason to avoid meet-ups. Workaholics are usually extremely fearful of intimacy. When busy people aren’t busy, they often withdraw and feel anxious or lonely. They’ve never taken time to feel or acknowledge their own pain.
- Are you opinionated on most topics? Sometimes parents who fear intimacy with their teenagers or older children use their opinions to keep themselves from getting too close or looking fragile to their children. They end up pushing their children away because they want to maintain a strong, capable, and stoic appearance. Unfortunately, their children grow up feeling as though they weren’t worthy of their parent’s attention.
You can overcome a fear of intimacy, but you must be honest with yourself. Unless you admit you have a problem and talk to those who feel your absence of emotional connection the most (your children, partner, or friends), you’ll continue this unhealthy behavioral pattern.
Secondly, a professional counselor can help you explore the reasons for your fear of intimacy. Sometimes, this happens in addiction groups (it is impossible to not have a fear of intimacy if you suffer with an addiction) or in individual therapy. Most intimacy disorders begin in childhood.
Lastly, take the bold step of trusting someone. When you disclose your fear of intimacy to a therapist, your partner, or a grown child, you’re taking a huge step toward emotional health to trust someone with your vulnerabilities and failures. No one is perfect. Learning that our brokenness brings us together is a liberating and life-changing step toward emotional maturity. Take it for yourself and your children. –Mary Jo Rapini