Intimacy doesn’t come easily for me. Although I’ve come a long way from how I used to be, my natural inclination is to shut down my deeper emotions and to only let myself and others see so far into myself. It’s taken a lot of work to get to a place where I can recognize my issues regarding intimacy; effective introspection has taken me years to develop and it’s still a work in progress.
Somewhere along the way I learned to disconnect sex from intimacy and love. I learned to make it primarily physical. Casual sex comes easily for me- I don’t have to open myself up very much to enjoy that kind of connection. I can have physical closeness with someone without risking a serious heartbreak, both on their end or mine. Not that there’s anything wrong with safe, consensual casual sex; I’ve had some wonderful encounters that I wouldn’t have done any differently, and I’m sure I’ll have more in the future in the right context, especially given my non-monogamous nature (look up polyamory or relationship anarchy if you aren’t familiar with mutually consensual non-monogamy). But casual sex isn’t a replacement for deep intimacy and love.
One reason I fear getting too close is because I worry that I’ll break their heart. I have a deeply empathetic personality that can’t bear the thought of causing others severe pain. I’ve caused that kind of pain before, and it devastated me. I still bear those scars, and likely will for a very long time. The thought of being truly intimate with someone makes me apprehensive because I know from experience that love doesn’t always last forever, despite what our romanticized societal ideals may portray. Love can and does fade sometimes, and it’s not always fixable despite our best efforts.
Every time I see memes that talk about “true love overcomes all”, “every relationship is fixable”, “back in my day we didn’t throw relationships away but we made it work” and so on, I cringe and feel society’s never-ending guilt trip for failing to accomplish that. I know I’m not a failure, but some days it feels like it when these narrow ideas of relationships and love are promoted as though they’re attainable for everyone.
And like many others, I also occasionally harbour doubts that what I have to offer is something that other people will want. If only I were more like this, and less like that. If only I didn’t do this all the time, or forget to do that. If only, if only. But we can’t live our lives on “if only’s”; at some point we have to fix what can be fixed and learn to make the most of what we can’t change. We have to transform those “if only’s” into opportunities for positive self growth, instead of letting them make us feel unworthy of love.
None of this means that I don’t desire or intend to pursue intimacy and love, because I do. Facing our fears and learning to heal the wounds of the past is a vital part of personal self growth. I greatly desire intimacy and love, despite my fear that I won’t know what to do with it if I find it. Coming to terms with my hesitations and fears is the first step in being able to have the kind of connections that I need and want. It’s also vital in becoming the kind of partner that can contribute to a healthy relationship.
Writing about and sharing my journey with others has proven therapeutic many times before. Trying to break down what’s in my head to explain it to other people forces me to dig deeper within myself, and hearing about other people’s similar experiences in response often makes me feel less isolated. And I know from being on the other side that reading about someone else’s journey can be a catalyst for our own self-reflection.