Why am I so Afraid of You?

by annie

My husband and I were sitting in the counselor's office one day discussing the lack of intimacy in our relationship. That's part of why we were there. My husband, Tim, didn't know how to really share his feelings with me, and that scared me at times because I was afraid there might be some hidden anger toward me that some day would come crashing down'on me. (Tim is not violent with me. However, my family of origin was, and so that is what I'm used to.) But this day, the counselor looked at me and said that I was keeping Tim at a distance--I was afraid of intimacy. My first thoughts were, "I'm the one that keeps pushing for more closeness. Even with our problems, Tim has been my best friend for 27 years. He has known more about me than anyone else in the world. How can you say that to me!" It just didn't make sense that someone could dare say I wasn't intimate with him.

Since that day, I have looked at my relationship with Tim and have become aware of the fact that I am indeed scared to death of that kind of closeness. When we begin to work on our relationship, I run. Oh, I wasn't aware I was running. Things would just 'come up.' Like some friend or family member needed my help, or I had to work overtime because there was so much to do, or I would be tired and need to just 'veg out' in front of the TV or with a good book. And it is very easy for me to say, 'Sure, no problem!' when Tim calls asking if I mind if he works late.

It was so easy for me to go along thinking the problem was his. Now, I'm facing the difficult task of trying to be aware of the ways I avoid intimacy. Distance feels safe to me. It feels good. I even like being alone now, but too often I become isolated. When I was first given the intimacy test on page 3 (this was originally in a newsletter), I didn't even look at it. In fact, I didn't read it until I had to type it into this issue of the newsletter. There's a part of me that still fights it. I like my comfort-zone...at least I tell myself I do.

Now I have decided to make this my personal recovery goal for this year. I want to get beyond my fears by facing them. I want to find out what I'm missing by keeping Tim and others at a distance. You see, I've discovered that just being open about what I've done isn't letting someone in that close. For me, being close means letting someone see how I feel at that moment, about life, about him or her, about the relationship, about my secret thoughts, my dreams, my fantasies. I struggle with letting the inside me out.

In these last couple of months, I have let Tim see me cry. He's heard me cry before, but in the dark with my head buried in his chest. Now he's seen me. That was a fear I had, and we talked through it at the time. He didn't tell me I was ugly when I cried. He didn't mind my red swollen eyes. Instead, I found comfort in being able to let the hurt out then and there. Normally, I don't talk to him about anything painful until I can detach from the feelings and talk about it as though it happened to someone else.

I've also had the experience of letting him see my hurt and anger about some disturbing things in our relationship. I was angry enough to withdraw, but I talked it out and found I made a giant-sized step toward real intimacy. Instead of damaging the relationship, facing the problems strengthened it. He was grateful that I shared with him how I had been feeling for some time, although I wasn't even aware of those feelings until the 'lid blew off the pressure cooker.' But in hindsight, I realize I also have to take responsibility for the growing distance that I was blaming him for.

And then there is the issue of sexual intimacy. It's so much easier to space out and not deal with it. But I have begun taking steps to work on this as well this year. I've talked with Tim about the fact that I do space out, and so does he, and we are working on ways to keep us both in the present. I now realize I've been missing out on what could be a wonderful experience between two people who love each other. I am determined to learn what it is like to have a sexual experience with my husband that is emotionally, as well as physically, fulfilling. In our case, sex is complicated because we both have our issues from being abused that interfere with this part of our life, but we are willing to work on it together.

I wish I could say I was 'there' now. But I'm still afraid. I'm afraid of rejection, being hurt or misunderstood. The message is, 'If you knew what I was really feeling or thinking, it might hurt you, or you may get angry with me or even not like me anymore.' Being vulnerable feels like losing control and giving the other person too much power. But I also know that Tim and others that I now have in my life are trust worthy and would not deliberately hurt me. I'm better now at choosing safe people and at setting boundaries. I didn't know about boundaries in the past and so I ended up feeling rejected, hurt, etc.

My desire is to face my fear and let the inside out and really find out who I am and let others know too. Some may not like the inside me, but I think I can handle that now. I can now visualize a more complete, fulfilling life ahead for me as I face this fear of intimacy with Tim and also with others.

  • Reprinted from Survivors & Friends newsletter - 1996 - volume IV: No.2: All rights reserved.