How Can I Overcome My Insecurity About Intimacy and Dating?

Reader’s Question

I have great insecurity when it comes to intimacy and dating. The idea of getting romantically intimate with anyone makes me want to flee. I haven’t dated in seven years. I don’t want to stay single forever. Please tell me what makes someone so insecure about intimacy, and how do I deal with it?

Psychologist’s Reply

Insecurity related to dating and intimacy is not uncommon. When you describe wanting to flee with “the idea of getting romantically intimate” — that suggests that you are highly anxious in anticipation of that part of the dating process. Anxious individuals often forget that the situations they fear are often:

  • many steps away from the beginning of an experience,
  • occur normally and naturally as a result of the experience,
  • are reached when a variety of other experiences are present, and
  • are not as catastrophic as we imagine.

It’s like worrying about a divorce on the first date. In reality, romantic intimacy is one of multiple experiences that gradually and affectionately occur as the relationship grows. Couples are rarely surprised when romantic intimacy begins in the relationship — although they may be surprised where it occurs.

Your insecurity may be a fear or apprehension of the romantic process, those steps of:

  1. first contact,
  2. obtaining a date,
  3. first-dates that seem like a job interview,
  4. first physical contacts,
  5. sharing personal information,
  6. developing a personal relationship with someone, and
  7. moving in the direction of physical/sexual intimacy.

People often fear the romantic process for several reasons:

  • Individuals who are normally shy, introverted, or have limited social experience find the process challenging and anxiety-provoking.
  • Individuals with low self-esteem and/or low self-confidence are often fearful of the possibility of the relationship not working, being rejected, or otherwise failing.
  • Individuals who have been emotionally hurt in prior relationships are often traumatized by the “emotional memories” of those relationships that didn’t work. A fear of being humiliated, hurt, used, and abused can keep people from dating.
  • A lack of dating experience makes us apprehensive, feeling unprepared for the requirements of dating at this time. In truth, dating is very similar at all ages and in all generations, still producing those 16-year-old concerns of “Do they like me”, “Did I say something silly?” or “Was I dressed OK?”

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Romantic intimacy tends to take care of itself, as once you reach that stage in the relationship most of the really hard issues have been resolved. I’d recommend a focus on establishing friendships, improving communication, and improving the social skills you would use in a romantic relationship. If you have specific issues or concerns, professional counseling might be helpful in providing strategies to address those points. If you’ve dated before, you can date again.

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