How to Have a Relationship With Someone Afraid of Intimacy & Commitment

Good relationships are built on sharing feelings without judging.
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Intimacy and openness come naturally to many people, but for others the process of learning to trust is long and painful. While some people are naturally reserved, those who are truly afraid of intimacy are often reacting to past hurts. Although it can be tough, try not to take your dating partner’s fear of intimacy personally. Instead, focus on making the person feel comfortable and helping her learn to trust you.

1 Learn About Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a critical part of intimacy, but the fear of vulnerability can run deep, notes psychologist Emma Seppala in the Psychology Today article "Vulnerability, the Secret to Intimacy." A fear of appearing vulnerable is ultimately a fear of rejection. Yet the fear can lead people to present a false front, which other people read as fake. This perceived fakeness can then lead to the rejection that the person fears. This vicious cycle might have played out numerous times before you ever entered the picture, causing your loved one to retreat further and further behind a self-imposed wall. Understanding what the other person is facing is the first step to helping that person overcome it.

2 Model Openness and Relationship Security

To help your boyfriend learn to trust you, demonstrate your own willingness to be open while creating a judgment-free zone. Of course, someone has to go first. If he is afraid to be vulnerable, help him feel at ease by showing your own vulnerability first. Tell your date if you are nervous, shy or uncomfortable. Encourage him to express his feelings, and accept them without judging them. If something goes wrong on a date, accept it and move on rather than harping on it. Show your date through your actions and words that you are accepting and kind.

3 Practice Authentic Validation

People have a basic need for acceptance. When a person is able to express themselves and feel like they are understood, it helps them feel safe. When your date expresses anxiety, sadness, or another negative emotion, suppress the desire to jump in with your own story or to pick her feelings apart. Let her talk until she is finished, summarize what she said, and let her know that her feelings are normal and reasonable from her perspective. You do not need to agree with what was said, instead focusing on the fact that the feelings are valid and acceptable.

4 Make It a Team Effort

Good relationships are built on sharing feelings, giving and receiving without keeping score, listening and supporting each other, notes the Teens Health article "Love and Romance." Like any skills, good relationship skills take time and practice. Working together toward these common goals fosters a sense of teamwork that can help your boyfriend feel more secure. Acknowledging your own weaknesses can break through his fears, while feeling like part of a team naturally builds the trust needed to work through intimacy issues.

Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.