The word intimacy often makes people think of romance and physical attraction, but intimacy is about more than a romantic connection. It is also far more than a synonym for sex.
Intimacy is a close personal connection that is emotional, physical, or both. It requires vulnerability and the offering of the authentic self to another.
Intimacy impacts your relationships with your spouse, family, friends, and coworkers. This widespread impact is why intimacy issues can be daunting for Christian men.
An intimacy disorder or fear of intimacy can impact more than your relationship with your wife. It can create friction in every aspect of your life.
You could be dealing with an intimacy disorder if you struggle to develop or express appropriate levels of intimacy.
At Boulder Recovery, we help men who struggle with sex or pornography addiction. Most men we help engage in destructive behaviors to avoid or cope with their intimacy issues. Treating underlying mental health issues, such as an intimacy disorder caused by unresolved childhood trauma, helps men build healthy and lasting emotional intimacy with themselves and others.
Types of Intimacy Issues
There are different types of intimacy. Connections with everyone are not the same.
Intimacy manifests in four main ways:
Physical intimacy is about more than just intercourse. From holding hands to a pat on the back, physical connections can be a part of platonic or nurturing relationships. For example, an upset child comforted by the warm embrace of a parent is enjoying physical intimacy.
Does physical intimacy make you uncomfortable? Do you brush away your spouse if they try to initiate a kiss or your child reaching to hold your hand? Avoiding intimacy could be a sign of an intimacy disorder. This hesitance around physical intimacy could indicate a boundary was crossed early in life that resulted in confusion or a lack of physical nurturing that makes makes physical touch uncomfortable or strange.
Spiritual intimacy is about how you share your faith in relationships. We are sometimes taught that our relationship with God is personal, despite the fact that relating to God is shown to be grounded in community through out the Bible. Dealing with the struggle of bringing the personal aspects of our walk with God into our community requires trust and closeness.
At Boulder Recovery, spiritual intimacy is at the core of our 14-day treatment program. We believe men can have transformative experiences by gaining a connection to God through vulnerability and honesty. Creating a safe, supportive, and shame-free environment encourages honest sharing. It also fosters spiritual intimacy. In this environment, men can start to see past their shame and self-doubt.
You don’t have to compete on Jeopardy! to have intellectual intimacy. Laughing at a shared joke, talking about your favorite hobby with a friend, or working on a group project all require intellectual intimacy.
If talking about more than the weather with coworkers is challenging, an intimacy disorder could be making it harder for you to open up.
Our culture does a horrible job of encouraging men to talk about their feelings. People often view emotional intimacy as a weakness. Talking openly about your feelings is a core foundation for a successful relationship, especially with your wife.
Sex and Intimacy
Intimacy is a necessary part of a good sex life. You’ll feel a stronger connection and have a more satisfying sexual relationship if you can establish all four types of intimacy with a partner. Sex can be the consumation of romantic intimacy but it is not it’s definition.
Suppose you’re constantly searching for your next partner, even in a committed relationship, or find partners boring quickly. In that case, you’re chasing the intensity of a new sexual relationship instead of establishing and enjoying real intimacy.
Sex with out real intimacy can be traumatic for a partner, damaging to the relationship and lead to objectifcation of the partner as an object for sex rather than a whole person. Sex with out intimacy is also damaging to those caught up in addiction as the addict dissociates from themselves within sex and further loses contact emotionally with humans (acting out partners or spoouses). This can add new layers of trauma to those suffering from trauma based sexual addiction.
Your relationship could lack intimacy if:
- Most of Your Physical Contact is Sexual. You don’t touch your partner outside the bedroom, such as holding hands or snuggling on the couch.
- Not Talking About Your Feelings. You avoid talking about your emotions with your partner.
- Feeling Disconnected From Your Partner. In Genesis, the Bible says husband and wife should “become one flesh.” If your partner feels distant, you lack the emotional intimacy to feel connected.
- You Don’t Look to Your Partner for Guidance. You never ask for your partner’s advice. If you can’t discuss issues from work or other aspects of your life with your partner, it could mean you’re missing emotional intimacy.
It could be a sign of an intimacy disorder if you’re driven by intensity and not establishing authentic connections. People with unresolved childhood trauma often avoid intimacy as adults.
Examples of situations that could lead to intimacy disorders include:
- Loss of a parent
- Emotional neglect
- Physical or sexual abuse
Humans learn about connections and intimacy at a young age. A child can grow up insecure about relationships if something disrupts their attachment to a parental figure. The trauma they experienced as a child causes them to avoid intimacy as an adult. This avoidance is because they fear they will be hurt again.
The fear of intimacy and getting hurt can be so intense it causes people to push others away or sabotage their relationships.
What are the Signs of an Intimacy Disorder?
Friends and romantic partners often mistake fear of intimacy for indifference, anger, or coldness. That isn’t the case.
Symptoms of an intimacy disorder include:
- Low self-esteem
- Acute shyness or awkwardness
- Extreme fear of judgment
- Avoidance of social situations
- Being overly sensitive to criticism
Treatment Options for Intimacy Issues
God wants you to have meaningful and intimate relationships — especially with your spouse. If fear of intimacy makes it difficult for you to maintain relationships and drives you to compulsive sexual acts, our 14-Day Men’s Intensive can help.
We’ve designed a program that helps men process and resolve childhood trauma so they can enjoy all types of intimate relationships. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you restore authentic connections with yourself, God, and your partner.