If you’re worried about sexual performance, you’re not alone. Roughly 17% of people experience intimacy issues. Learn more about the psychological causes of performance anxiety and how to overcome your fear of closeness.
Attachment is the emotional bond we form with another person. It starts as early as the womb and can have an impact on your relationships for life.
Attachment theory explores how the parent-child relationship develops and shapes your adult relationships. There are four attachment styles, namely:
- Secure: trusting, comfortable, and independent while expressing affection with their partners.
- Anxious-preoccupied: wanting reassurance from their partners and often seeking more intimacy and closeness before their partner is ready.
- Dismissive-avoidant: reserved, uncomfortable with emotional intimacy, and pull away from others if they feel rejected or hurt.
- Fearful-avoidant (disorganized): a blend of anxious and avoidant, often confused, and alternates between pushing partners away and craving more connection.
How Parenting Affects Intimacy
When a child feels safe with a parent yet confident enough to explore the world independently, they tend to develop a secure attachment style.
On the other hand, children develop attachment issues when a parent neglects or avoids them. Even if this behavior isn’t abusive, it can still cause intimacy issues later in life. Furthermore, we accept some of these parenting practices as normal. For instance, a detached parenting style was encouraged to develop independence for several generations.
In some cases, an overly emotional or fragile parent can cause a child to avoid expressing themself for fear of pushing the parent over the edge. Similarly, “helicopter parenting” and over-reacting to a child’s experiences may teach a child not to talk about those experiences.
What is a helicopter parent?: A parent who wants to be involved in everything aspect of the child’s life. They often don’t allow the child any independence and interferes too quickly or over-reacts when a child becomes emotional.
When a parent consistently responds to neediness or negative emotional display with annoyance, intolerance, punishment, or rejection, children avoid asking for attention, comfort, and help. Because the parent doesn’t lower distress, avoiding negative emotions is the only way for a child to cope.
Additionally, parents who only show affection towards a child when they achieve something may also cause intimacy issues later in life. A child starts believing achievement leads to acceptance, and if they fail, their parents won’t love them.
As these children become adults, they fear vulnerability and continue to fight or suppress their emotions. What’s more, these patterns are often so ingrained you might not recognize them. You may only become aware of them if your partner tries to address these issues or needs your emotional support.
Overcoming Intimacy Issues
The first step is to recognize the issue or identify your patterns and behaviors in intimate situations. Remember to be patient because these are lifelong habits that will take time to change.
Here are some tips to encourage intimacy and connection:
- Pay close attention to your feelings. If you feel a sense of fear or anger, don’t submit to it. Instead, acknowledge the emotion and let it go.
- Listen to your partner’s concerns surrounding your intimacy and trust issues.
- Your calm exterior may make your partner feel dismissed, anxious, or invalidated. Learn to recognize and express feelings such as fear, sadness, or anger to your partner, rather than suppress emotions.
- Ignore your inner critic. Remind yourself you are worthy of a deep emotional connection, love, and sexual intimacy.
- Take time to relax before sex.
- Connect with your partner outside the bedroom. Cook dinner together, go for a walk or start a hobby both of you enjoy.
- Vulnerability is a skill that you need to practice by trying new things, standing up for yourself, or expressing your opinion.
- Try reading your partner’s emotions, then check with them to see how accurate you are.
What to Do If Your Partner Has Intimacy Issues
- Realize when your partner shuts down and becomes dismissing, they are anxious and trying to stifle their emotions. Try not to take it personally.
- Remember, your partner is afraid of strong negative emotions. If your partner withdraws, shuts down, or becomes overly analytical in the conversation, let them go for now.
- Don’t chase after your partner if they need to get away from the situation. Give your partner enough space and the chance to feel anxious on their own.
- Learn to communicate what you think your partner feels in a non-confrontational way and why you think so. This way, you provide an emotional mirror that will help your partner obtain more personal awareness.
In short, your attachment style defines how you show love, feelings of jealousy, and how you deal with rejection. These patterns take years to evolve, and it will take time and patience to change. The good news is you can change these patterns. Fear of emotional and sexual intimacy doesn’t have to control your life.
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