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How to Help a Spouse Overcome a Fear of Intimacy

By Ava ; Updated June 13, 2017

According to Matthew Kelly, author of "The Seven Levels of Intimacy," “We all yearn for intimacy, but we avoid it. We want it badly, but we often run from it.” Fear of intimacy can be a wrecking ball for your marriage, since it pushes away the person you care about most, and keeps you from attaining that deepest connection that we all long for with our spouses. The upside is you can help your spouse overcome these issues, and you can create the marriage you both want and deserve.

  1. Explain to your partner how you are feeling. Explain your feelings without accusation and with the focus on how it affects you, and the connection you long for.

  2. Support your partner in exploring what may be causing his intimacy fears. It could be past abuse, neglect, infidelity in a previous relationship, or even a lack of intimacy modeled during childhood. Be aware that you could be the cause of some of these issues, and be prepared to make changes to support your spouse’s emotional needs in ways that you may not be currently aware of.

  3. Work on building trust with your partner. Trust your partner with how you are feeling in the situation, and ask him to do the same with you. Do new activities together, in and out of the bedroom, which will foster trust and increase positive feelings toward each other.

  4. Be patient. Whatever has caused these fears likely did not happen yesterday, so you cannot expect them to disappear overnight. Communicate how committed you are to spending the time and energy to work on these issues to develop the bond you both deserve.

  5. Don’t be afraid to seek counseling. There is nothing weak about seeking counseling, and a successful marriage often needs some help along the way. You may need a third party if there is outward hostility, denial, a medical issue, or you simply don’t know how to bring the problem up with your partner. You or your spouse may also benefit from counseling as individuals, which may also ultimately increase your ability to be intimate with the other person.

  6. Tip

    A fear of intimacy can manifest itself in many ways. Some couples may feel lonely and disconnected, despite being married and having a family for many years. A spouse with intimacy issues may be distant, self-centered, overly busy or even outwardly hostile. She may withhold or fear sex, or in some cases be very sexual and flirtatious, but without much emotional intimacy. As a result, the spouse with intimacy fears keeps a safe distance from where she can protect herself from feeling too emotionally vulnerable or dependent. You, on the other hand, feel denied of the full depth of intimacy you crave and deserve.

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