Why Do We Avoid Intimacy?

When asked, “What does your spouse do to avoid you?” the answers are often legion. The fact that so many couples go to extraordinary lengths to avoid intimacy is puzzling. Most of us want intimacy. So why do we avoid it? Read what this famous couples counselor has to say, here.

Why do we avoid intimacy? There are two very good answers: anger and fear. Why the anger? In the romantic stage of a relationship, people find it relatively easy to be intimate, because they are filled with the anticipation of wish fulfillment. Their partners seem to be Mommy and Daddy and doctor and therapist all rolled into one. Later, when they come to the realization that their partners are committed to their own salvation, not theirs, they feel angry and betrayed. They erect an emotional barricade, in effect saying, “I am angry at you for not meeting my needs.” Then they begin to seek pleasure and satisfaction of their needs outside the relationship.

The other reason couples avoid intimacy is fear, specifically the fear of pain. On an unconscious level, many people react to their partners as if they were enemies. Any person who is perceived to be a source of need gratification and then appears to be withholding that gratification is catalogued by the old brain as a source of pain, and that raises the specter of death. If your partner does not nurture you and attend to your fundamental needs, a part of you fears that you will die, and it believes that your partner is the one who is allowing this to happen.

There is, however, encouraging news: these old patterns can be changed. To find out more about Harville Hendrix’s groundbreaking couples work, go to www.eomega.org.

Adapted from Getting the Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix, PhD (HarperPerennial, 1990). For information on the Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt workshop March 4-11, go to: www.eomega.org.


j A4 years ago

healthy reminders

Patricia H.
Patricia H.4 years ago

thanks for sharing

Jennifer L.
Jennifer L4 years ago

The article is sort of bare bones, but it raises a good topic. Sylvia B. makes some good points in her comment. I'd also like to point out that a couple's "fighting style" (as they say nowadays) also factors in with intimacy and fear. It's hard to share yourself with someone who will use what you say against you, even just to hurt you, later on. Trust has to be there.

Samantha Shira
Samantha Shira5 years ago

thanks for sharing

Marianne Barto
Marianne B5 years ago


Sung Il Chung
Sean Chung5 years ago

Thanks, Annie.

Robert O.
Robert O5 years ago

Thank you Annie.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Bon L.
Bon L6 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Sylvia B.
Sylvia B7 years ago

I think this article is a good start, but there needs to be more added to it, as it seems incomplete. For one thing, most people equate intimacy with sex - and nothing else. Intimacy is a level of closeness that can be achieved with friends, family and other people besides the significant other. Another thing is that some people, especially if they are from dysfunctional backgrounds, confuse intimacy with intensity, and thereby get drawn into relationships where tings seem "passionate", but in reality is a lot of "come-here-go-away" stuff going on. Unfortunately, most developing relationships tend to foster this kind of thing, and leave many people confused as to what a heck happened regarding the demise of the relationship. I am sure there are other points that other people can point out.