What Causes Barriers in an Intimate Relationship?

Fear of staying in a committed relationship can cause emotional barriers.
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People often construct emotional barriers out of fear of intimacy. These barriers can have a variety of consequences for your relationships. For example, your relationships might start off intensely and then come to abrupt halts, suggests couples therapist Alec Wilson, in his article, "Fear of Intimacy/Commitment." In other cases, your barriers might cause you to stir up emotional turmoil whenever the relationship seems to be at peace, he warns. Learn the causes of these emotional barriers to enjoy a successful, intimate relationship.

1 Ball and Chain

Some people fear the perceived loss of freedom that can come with a relationship, suggests assistant clinical professor of psychiatry Srini Pillay in the Psychology Today article, "Afraid to Love: 7 Fears And Ways to Overcome Them." For example, you might fear that even after you are in a committed relationship, your eyes will wander and you'll crave romantic experiences with other people. Rather than feel the need to choose between cheating and denying yourself what you really want, you might choose to erect emotional barriers to keep romance at bay.

2 Fear of Loss

Trauma from a past relationship can make a person afraid to love again, suggests clinical psychologist Seth Meyers in the Psychology Today article, "Fear of Intimacy in Men: Cause, Relationship Problems, Tips." For example, perhaps a past girlfriend cheated on you and then abruptly dumped you. Or, perhaps a parent died or walked out on your family when you were a child. This trauma makes you fear the potential of another loss.

3 Disapproving Glances

The fear of disapproval is enough to make some people avoid love altogether, suggests Pillay. This potential disapproval doesn't necessarily come from the person you are romantically interested in, but rather from outside forces. For example, perhaps your parents disapprove of interracial couples, so you throw up emotional barriers to keep yourself in line with their standards. The same can be true for same-sex couples or for any situation in which society or someone close to you disapproves of your romantic choices.

4 Keeping Secrets

Some people guard themselves from intimacy out of fear of their secrets being discovered. For example, perhaps you have depressive symptoms, and you are ashamed of the condition -- or the condition itself limits your motivation to keep a relationship going, suggests Meyers. Shame is also likely to accompany other conditions such as anxiety, addictions or sexual disorders. You might find that you erected barriers and sabotaged your own relationships to avoid embarrassment or rejection from a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Mitch Reid has been a writer since 2006. He holds a fine arts degree in creative writing, but has a persistent interest in social psychology. He loves train travel, writing fiction, and leaping out of planes. His written work has appeared on sites such as Synonym.com and GlobalPost, and he has served as an editor for ebook publisher Crescent Moon Press, as well as academic literary journals.