How to Overcome Fear of Intimacy? Discover Whether Your Marriage Should Survive

June 12, 2024

As a men’s life coach, I work with a lot of men who are afraid that they are on the brink of divorce. They are terrified! And because they are terrified, they can not think straight. Their fear of losing, their fear of being honest, and their fear of intimacy have left them paralyzed. 

Much of the initial work we do is getting these men to calm down. We do this by offering a grounded perspective that comes from the wisdom of experience, and through meditation and breathwork, among other techniques. 

Once they have calmed down, the real work begins.

Worst-Case Scenarios Are Imagined

Generally speaking, we create most of our problems through the stories we tell ourselves. When it comes to a shaky relationship, our fears can cause us to imagine many very creative and horrible stories. The problem for us is that none of these stories are actually true. They are imagined. So, what would happen if we looked closely at these stories and put them under a microscope to see what the truth really is? In other words, what would we discover if we challenged the premise of each story, talked through the worst-case scenarios, and then see how we feel, and consider our options? We would probably feel much more grounded and be able to confidently move into our future.

So let us take a closer look at these worst-case scenarios. What if you got divorced? How would you tell the kids? What about custody? What would happen with the living arrangements? What would happen with the assets? How would it be starting over and dating?

If you can talk all of this through, and get to a place where you are no longer terrified, you can begin to think a bit more clearly about how you feel, and what your next steps can be. Thinking through the worst-case scenarios can help you to move through the fear and successfully address the challenges. You will also have a much clearer vision of your relationship and be able to authentically commit to the direction you would like to see it go. In other words, you will know whether this relationship is worth working on, or if it is time to make a change.

The Reality of Your Relationship

First of all, let us chat a bit about the reality of your relationship. Oftentimes, your wife is waiting for you to come to the table to talk about things—things you have been afraid to say because you were afraid of upsetting her, afraid of telling your truth, afraid of the potential fallout.

Let me tell you about women and divorce: when women truly want to get divorced, they will get divorced! But if you are in a relationship where divorce has been threatened over the years, but she is still there, it usually means that she does not really want to go anywhere—she really wants things to improve. This is good news for the relationship. When you do come to her, when you do have the courage, when you are confident about the importance of having these tough conversations, she will participate with you. I have seen it time and time again.

On the other hand, you and your wife may have already had all of the conversations you are going to have, and she has retained a lawyer. Maybe you were not really paying attention and were surprised when you were served papers. Whatever the details, you are now facing an inevitable change in circumstances. This is when the fear really kicks in and this is when that fear can create debilitating stories.

Everything is going to Be OK

Essentially, what I want you to understand is this: everything is going to be ok. Walking through worst-case scenarios, and realizing that even if they do come to pass that you would still be ok, allows you to relax a bit and to walk through other worst-case scenarios you may have about the potential for divorce.

Fear of Intimacy

So how does your fear of intimacy play into all of this? When we think of intimacy we generally think about romance and sex. But intimacy is much more than that. In fact, you will rarely see the sex you want if you neglect the deeper form of intimacy that is so essential for a loving relationship.

Intimacy requires you to be vulnerable, to communicate openly, to have difficult conversations, and to be a great listener who does not get defensive when he hears something he does not like. Intimacy means co-creating a relationship where you both feel safe, both feel seen and heard, and both have the freedom to ask for whatever is wanted or needed. This sounds great, right? Unfortunately, this level of intimacy is often absent from marriages. And if you are looking at the possibility of divorce, intimacy has most likely been absent in your relationship. 

One of the worst-case scenarios that is probably in your head reflects your certainty of how this is all going to end up. Fear is powerful. Our minds do what they can to make sense of the emotions. And in doing so, our minds will come to conclusions that, though not desirable, help us to make sense of what is happening, or what will happen.

The truth is, the mind does not know. You think you know what the end result is going to be. You do not know. What you need to do is move through the fear, and prepare yourself to have the conversations that need to happen. When you push through your fear of intimacy to have those vulnerable conversations, you will be doing the work necessary to either make the relationship what you want it to be—together, or decide on a new path. Either way, you are going to be happier—better off—for having done this work. When you communicate honestly and discover both your truth and her truth, the imagined worst-case scenario vanishes. You now have good, solid information. You can now make informed decisions.

Solid Information Kills the Fears

The more information you can gather, no matter the situation, the more confident you can be in making good decisions. It works in business, and it works in relationships. It is especially important when fear creeps in.

Because the process of divorce is scary and the details are a mystery to the uninitiated, it can be very helpful to have a conversation with a divorce attorney. Even if you do not want to get divorced, the information you receive will help you understand the process and prevent your mind from creating more ill-informed worst-case scenarios. You can discuss the details of divorce, how and when to make the choice to live apart, what custody options exist, and how assets are allocated in your state.

Likewise, it can be very helpful to consult with a relationship coach, life coach or counsellor who can help you through this difficult time. They can guide you when trying to repair your relationship, keep you grounded through the divorce process, and support you in building a new and healthier life and relationship. Conversations with a coach can help you prepare emotionally for your new parenting situation, deal with your ex, heal from the process, and prepare to start a new relationship.

To see if life coaching is right for you, schedule either a free 15-minute consult or book a 90-minute BetterMen Evaluation & Coaching session with me at BetterMen Coaching.