Here Are The Mind-Blowing Factors Behind Your Fear of Intimacy

Male fear of intimacy

Believe it or not, there exists a scale to measure your Fear of Intimacy called Fear-of-Intimacy scale (FIS). Also, it is even more intriguing to note that now every individual can assess their own Intimacy in a relationship and that is known as Personal Assessment of Intimacy in Relationship (PAIR) (Schaefer & Olson, 1981). I will discuss how you can measure your personal assessment of intimacy in a different article. In this study of psychological dimensions behind your fear of intimacy, I will show you the factors that drive your fear of intimacy (FI) and can determine the fate of your long-term relationship prospects.

In a study conducted in the year 2000, psychologists of the University of Missouri Columbia and the University of California has found out that it is the males who suffer more from fear of intimacy compared to women. [0]

The Fear of Intimacy

For a long time, psychologists have believed that a satisfying intimate relationship is an important predictor of a sound psychological and physiological functioning. Psychologists like Erikson (1963) [1], Sullivan (1953) [2] and Weiss & Lowenthal (1975) [3] have suggested that an impaired ability to form intimate bonds with others may have negative consequences. Some psychologists like King & Christensen (1983) [4] has suggested that this fear can inhibit the growth of any potential relationship. Some other psychologists (Wilhelm & Parker, 1988) [5] have gone one step ahead and said this can start a neurotic disorder.

In 1991, Descutner and Thelen [6] has defined Fear of Intimacy like this –

“This is an inhibited capacity to share thoughts and feelings of personal significance with another individual who is highly valued.”

Even though in the above definition opposite sex or dating relationship is not specifically mentioned, psychologists hypothesize this fear to be related to dating relationship in some way.

Infant and Adult Attachment

In 1987, Hazan and Shaver [7] have classified intimacy in children in three basic categories – secure, avoidant and anxious/ambivalent –

Secure (S)– The extent to which an infant feels comfortable with closeness and intimacy. Infants want to explore the world without fear with their mother (or any other individual). Experts call this secure form of intimacy where infants get intimate with a secured relationship.

Avoidant (Av) – When the attachment develops with/without the attachment figures – like when the infant knows that their attachment figure (mother/father) will be available when needed.

Anxious/ambivalent (Ax) – When infants become anxious about their being abandoned or unloved.

Extending the same work in 1990, Collins and Read [8] developed an 18-item self-report inventory known as the Adult Attachment Scale (AAS). They considered three underlying factors in an intimate relationship these are

  • Comfort with closeness
  • Confidence in the dependability of the other, and
  • Fear of abandonment

Subsequent studies revealed that the Adult Attachment Scale was associated with relationship quality as measured by the quality of communication, trust, and overall satisfaction.

Factors of Adult Attachment

In this study, Collins and Read [8] found two different important parameters of closeness that mattered to genders. “For women, the extent to which their partner was comfortable with closeness was the best predictor of relationship quality, whereas the best predictor for men was the extent to which their partner was anxious about being abandoned or unloved.”

They found an 18-point scale that is behind our fear of intimacy. These factors are also derived from the basic factors driving intimacy in children as found out by Hazan and Shaver (1987). These are the 18-factors that these researchers found relevant were –

Depend

  1. I find it difficult to allow myself to depend on others.” (Av)
  2. People are never there when you need them.’ (Av)
  3. I am comfortable depending on others. (S)
  4. I know that others will be there when I need them. (S)
  5. I find it difficult to trust others completely.” (Av)
  6. I am not sure that I can always depend on others to be there when I need them.” (Ax)

Anxiety

  1. I do not often worry about being abandoned.” (S)
  2. I often worry that my partner does not really love me. (Ax)
  3. I find others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. (Ax)
  4. I often worry my partner will not want to stay with me. (Ax)
  5. I want to merge completely with another person. (Ax)
  6. My desire to merge sometimes scares people away. (Ax)

Close

  1. I find it relatively easy to get close to others. (S)
  2. I do not often worry about someone getting too close to me. (S)
  3.  I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others.” (Av)
  4. I am nervous when anyone gets too close.” (Av)
  5. I am comfortable having others depend on me. (S)
  6. Often, love partners want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.” (Av)

So, the researchers related each of their 18 factors to the three fundamental factors affecting intimacy in children and showed how they are related to adult intimacy.

In conclusion, these social scientists have recommended that “To fully understand adult relationships, we must learn how they are guided by the models we hold about ourselves and others and how these models are shaped by early experience.”

So, we find that the early experience of an individual becomes important here.

Interpersonal Theorists on Fear of Intimacy

Interpersonal theorists suggest that we choose our partners who allow us to sustain our interpersonal dispositions (Sullivan 1953, Swann 1983) or those who have complementary attachment patterns (Hazan & Shaver, 1987). In other words, we choose partners who share the same demographic and personality characteristics, values, attitude, opinions, intellectual desires etc. It is said that persons with High fear of intimacy would like to date with persons with high fear of intimacy because then the pressure of intimacy would be less for both of them.

It is also found that the fear of intimacy is negatively correlated with the degree of actual and desired intimacy in a current dating relationship. In simple words, if your actual intimacy in your current dating relationship is high then it is less likely that you will have a high fear of intimacy. On the other hand, if there is no intimacy in your current relationship, then you are likely to be averse to relationships in general or have a high fear of intimacy.

Similarly, it is also found that when you have low fear of intimacy and your partner also has low fear of intimacy you enjoy a greater bond compared to when you date a person with high fear of intimacy.

Gender Division in Intimacy

Can there be a difference in intimacy in two genders? Study finds that there indeed exists a difference. According to a study by Collins and Read (1990) [8], interesting facts about the gendered perspective of intimacy has come up. They found that women whose partners were comfortable with closeness reported more satisfaction, less conflict, better communication in their relationships.

On the other hand, men’s evaluation of their relationships revealed better communication, more self-disclosure, more trust and more predictability if their partners were comfortable with closeness.

Two different studies have found that females are more likely than males to terminate relationships because of concerns about intimacy. Another research (Hill et al 1976) [11] found that a woman’s feelings towards her dating relationship were a stronger predictor for the relationship to survive than that of a man’s feelings. So, these researchers concluded that female fear of intimacy would have a stronger association with relationship endurance than that of a man’s fear.

Another important and interesting finding was that for men, FIS was correlated equally with both actual and desired intimacy but for women, it was more with the actual intimacy than the desired ones.

Factors of Sustaining Relationships

It is found by the researchers that the fear of intimacy was related to three basic Adult Attachment Scale (AAS) factors – comfort with closeness, confidence in the dependability of others and fear of abandonment. Research done by Prager (1991) [9] found that couples with high intimacy could resolve their internal conflicts much better. Similarly, another study found that people with high FIS scores reported briefer relationships. (Descunter and Thelen, 1991) [6]

It is found that as the relationship progresses, the degree to which a partner provides comfort and emotional support becomes an important factor for long-standing relationships. (Reedy, Birren and Schaie, 1981) [10]. So, couples who self-disclose more are likely to have a sustaining and fulfilling relationship. Similarly, unequal involvement and different levels of seeking intimacy lead to poorer conflict resolution and shorter relationship duration.

Conclusion

From the above literature study, we understand that even though the recipe of a successful relationship is often complex, it is not unknown. In the modern era, as MRAs often portray, we find the legal terrorism against men due to gender-biased laws add to this fear of intimacy for men that the researchers have so far ignored. The understanding of the fear of intimacy scale (FIS) and its relationship with our relationship future can, however, revolutionize our partner search and make sure that we engage with right people most of the time. This is the reason this study becomes significant for every person seeking a long-standing and fulfilling relationship.

***

References

[0] Mark H. Thelen, Jillon S Vander Wal and Robert Harmon (Univ. of Missouri Columbia); Ann Muir Thomas (Univ. of California, Irvine); (2000)

[1]. Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

[2]. Sullivan, H. H. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: Norton

[3]. Weiss, L., & Lowenthal, M. F. (1975). Life-course perspectives on friendship. In M. F. Lowenthal, M. Thurnher, & D. Chiriboga (Eds.), Four stages of life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

[4]. King, C. E.,&Christensen, A. (1983). The relationship events scale: A Guttman scaling of progress in courtship. Journal of Marriage and Family

[5]. Wilhelm, K.,&Parker, G. (1988). The development of a measure of intimate bonds. Psychological Medicine

[6] Descutner, C. S., & Thelen, M. H. (1991). Development and validation of a Fear-of-Intimacy Scale. Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 3.

[7] Hazan, C. & Shaver, P. R. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52.

[8] Collins, N. L, & Read, S. J. (1990). Adult attachment, working models, and relationship quality in dating couples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58.

[9] Prager, K. J. (1991). Intimacy status and couple conflict resolution. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 8.

[10] Reedy, M. N., Birren, J. E. & Schaie, K. W. (1981). Age and sex differences in satisfying love relationships across the adult life span. Human Development, 24, 52-66.

[11] Hill, C. T., Rubin, E.& Peplau, L. A. (1976). Breakups before marriage: The end of 103 affairs. Journal of Social Issues. 

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