The Top Seven Emotional Intimacy Problems

There are many factors that contribute to romantic partners avoiding closeness. Here are the top 7 that I’ve noticed in my practice as a psychologist and psychotherapist.

Now You Want Me,Now You Don't: Fear of Intimacy book

1. Denial of human needs for others


Fear of being needy: when you believe that it’s weak to be needy of contact with a loved one, then it’s hard to have intimacy. You spend all your energy on shielding yourself from the natural need to feel connected. You are so scared that you won’t get your needs acknowledged and met that you deny having them, and turn away any efforts from loved ones to be warm and close. Your human need to connect becomes your enemy and your relationships become sterile business like transactions.

Read Christy’s story in the book and get a close up of how her fear of being needy blocked emotional intimacy in her marriage.

Read the Afterword to learn how the fear of neediness develops in childhood and shows up in romantic relationships later in life.

Watch this video about the fear of neediness as one reason why your partner shuts you out


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 top seven problems in emotional intimacy in book Now You Want Me,Now You don't

 2. Avoiding feeling anything that would stir you up

If If you have a relationship where you talk about everything but how you feel when you interact with a loved one, you make sure that any emotional connection is off limits. Recounting struggles of your day, such as “I had a bad day.” is talking at someone, not with them. You give them the headlines and leave out the juicy bits of detail that are the life-blood on emotional intimacy. Yes, you avoid having to feel those bad emotions again, but while you are trying to protect yourself you cut off connections with loved ones who could detoxify your bad feelings and make you feel lighter and good about yourself.

Connecting in an emotionally intimate way would mean sharing your feelings about the events – your partner can then

relate to you by recalling similar feelings and that is the moment when you create emotional intimacy. You are no longer

alone but united and cared for through similar emotional experiences.


Watch this video that describes the fear that comes with the belief that there is only enough room for one person's feelings




Top seven emotional intimacy problems in book Now You Want Me,Now You don't! 

3.  Maintaining unequal positions in the relationship


 Many of my clients both individual and couples complain that their partner’s treat them like children, are bossy, or act irresponsibly like kids. Sometimes a couple will trade these perceptions so that the one feeling controlled today will be accused of being dominating the next.


I have noticed that when I suggest being equal and doing things together they balk at it. They actively avoid emotional connection and would rather play blame games than risk being emotionally intimate. Maintaining unequal boss/slave type relationships cannot be intimate because there is no place for sharing and togetherness. But doing things together creates a new dimension of connection through equal investment, commitment and action in the relationship. Equality allows for sharing of feelings in the moment and supporting each other as needed.

Read chapter 5 to see how I helped Rick to understand and use this strategy to get close to his wife.

Watch this video to learn more about the fear of feeling like a failure that threatens the loss of the relationship and prevents closeness





top seven emotional intimacy problems in book Now You Want Me, Now You Don't


4.  Hiding behind specific roles in the relationship

One of the most common complaints I hear from my clients is the sense of betrayal they feel when their partner steps out of their assigned role and messes up the game plan. Powerful but unwritten roles such as ‘you are the  planner and organizer and my job is to make you feel valued and needed,’ work against togetherness and  emotional connection. In fact it makes for a relationship that works like parallel train tracks – a protection against the anticipated crash that partners imagine would occur if they connected their activities.





 Top 7 Emotional Intimacy Problems in Book, Now You Want Me, Now You Don't!

5. Fear of Being Seduced and then trapped 

 Imagine your partner showing interest in you, and you loving the attention and care. You let your guard down and allow yourself to be the center of your partner's life. Then before you know it, your partner is speaking for you, making choices and decisions on your behalf as if there was no you – your partner acts as if both of you fused together into one. Your mind is now owned and directed by your partner. It feels wonderful at first, like you are soul mates and can finish each others thoughts and sentences. You are in perfect synch with each other, agreeing about everything.


But soon it feels suffocating. You don't want to be swallowed up whole and cease to exist as a separate person. You want your autonomy back, and so you struggle to disentangle yourself, tearing at that bubble that once felt so warm and cozy.


The fear of being engulfed by your partner is a real existential threat. You have to survive and the only way is to build strong defenses, put your armor on and prevent your partner from getting in and stealing you from yourself.

Emotional closeness is shut off and it's very hard for the fearful partner to trust that coming out again is safe. Building up your sense of yourself as a separate person with your own thoughts and feelings is one way to counteract this problem, but it means you have to tolerate having disagreements and different opinions from your loved one without it threatening the relationship. Then there are two of you to have a relationship, instead of a hybrid that has no one to relate to.

Read chapter 11 to learn how I showed Rick the moments when Christy switched from enjoying closeness to fearing for her autonomy and withdrawing again.

Watch this video about the fear of being wiped out when your partner tries to get inside the fortress



6. Speaking for long periods without stopping


 Have you ever noticed that some people talk and talk and talk until they have no breath left, oblivious to whether they are being heard and taken in or not.

That's a sure sign that they are afraid of you understanding and caring – because that would mean letting you in to witness their weaknesses and of course that it too shameful. So they but this barrier of a ton of speech out that blocks you from touching and connecting with them. You become a sponge absorbing their stuff, without being able to participate in a way that fosters sharing and empathy. You end up feeling weighted down and gagged while they feel safe staying safe behind the mountain of words. 

Real emotionally intimate discussions involve sharing what's going on inside you little by little, in the moment, so that your partner can tune in and identify with it, then respond in a way that connects your experiences.

Read chapter 26 to see how I helped Rick when he spewed out his big feelings without stopping  and made Christy sick

Watch this video to learn more about the fear of being contaminated




top seven intimacy problems in romantic relationships

7. Talking About Other People To Divert You From Reaching Them

People who fear intimacy usually talk about other people . " she said, s….."; "he did …………….." and so on. They take the spotlight and put it elsewhere so you can't get near them, feel for them, understand or be with them in any emotionally intimate way. They distract you and it works. If you try to bring them back to focusing on themselves and their feelings, they feel awkward and divert you again. They also talk about the past, so it's hard for you to go there with them.


Emotional intimacy means being in the moment, sharing what's happening in the moment, fresh, as it comes – then you can tune into them, and both of you are available for connections.









Read chapter 8 to see how I helped Rick deal with the strict roles he and his wife played in their marriage





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