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Confessions of an Intimacy Challenged Woman

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This is one of those blogs I write, and pause heavily before pressing that "Publish" button to send out to the world wide web. But, I can't help feeling by exposing my own flaws and fears I give a voice to others to do the same. So here goes...

"Nicole you are confusing!" exclaimed my friend Mike as we chatted over a glass of wine. He couldn't understand why I would lose interest in a man who Googled me and would prefer to be with someone who didn't. True to form, my lawyer friend argued that anyone truly interested in me would want to find out all they could about me, and Google me.

But, if you are someone who struggles with intimacy this makes perfect sense.

What do intimacy issues look like?

Meeting guys and dating has never been really a challenge for me. But, it is the development of a relationship where I've wavered. And I speak in past tense as this has been something I've been working on, and continue to improve on. But, like an alcoholic or a smoker I think it is something I will have to be mindful of for the rest of my life. My addiction is my struggle to allow someone to get incredibly close to me. There are few things that scare me more than being completely vulnerable. Being in a room full of tarantulas feels more inviting than letting my guard down and exposing my vulnerability.

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Intimacy doesn't refer to sexuality... rather, "an intimate relationship is one in which neither party silences, sacrifices, or betrays the self and each party expresses strength and vulnerability, weakness and competence in a balanced way." (Lerner, H., The Dance of Intimacy, p.3)

Being vulnerable demands the virtue of trust. Oh,TRUST!!! We all know how big that word is. Is there even a value you can attach to it? My fear of being vulnerable is akin to falling backwards and hoping someone is there to catch you, when in all likeliness there is no one, and you'd have a better chance hoping for the tooth fairy to magically appear to catch you! It's a paralyzing fear, which has ironically equipped me with a vast array of dating experiences, and the ability to whip up my non-expert relationship blogs as I offer lessons learned from past mistakes made.

If you have a fear of intimacy like me, you make it difficult for someone to get incredibly close to you, and develop a skill for attracting the wrong kind of guys. My weaknesses have typically been the emotionally unavailable man or someone who is less interested in me. In a reversal of roles, some intimacy-challenged women enjoy pursuing an unavailable guy. You'll make consorted efforts that are not matched/reciprocated, walk the line of approval seeking, make compromises, and possibly have a scent of desperation lingering -- all the while, the man of your interest may enjoy the attention but he is not really interested in you. I think, I've subconsciously reasoned, if I could somehow convert that uninterested guy into really liking me, than I could allow myself to be vulnerable with him. "This makes complete sense, doesn't it?" says the illogical thinker. This is a doomed relationship, with a shelf life shorter than non-refrigerated yogurt.

Ironically, the individuals who are truly interested in me, and who I should probably gravitate towards, are more threatening to me then food poisoning. They significantly heighten my fear of intimacy to an uncomfortable level, and make me want to run in the opposite direction. Women like me, may try to unconsciously sabotage such relationships early on, and be initially reluctant to reciprocate the same feelings, always looking for flaws. Discussion of intimacy (i.e. relationship expectations and feelings) can be as comfortable as sitting through a session of nails on a chalkboard. Honestly, I'd rather run a marathon and complete a triathlon in the same day, than have "the talk."

What is the fear really about?

At the heart of it, at least for me, is the loss and pain I may feel if I was to be completely vulnerable with someone and the relationship failed. We are surrounded by examples of failed relationships, never mind our own experiences. Furthermore, I struggle with the concept of unconditional love in a relationship. I know I can give unconditional love, but can I really count on someone else to do the same?

Funny enough, when I'm first dating someone, I like to reveal the worst side of me, as opposed to putting my best foot forward. I recently had one guy, complain that I dared to change into sweats and a hoodie in the midst of a date. I was trying to get comfortable, and at the same time probably create a distance. Guilty as charged! I guess I figure if you see me in an unfavourable light and still stick around, you'll be more than pleasantly surprised when you see how I am normally.

The problem with a relationship is it requires two people to be fully committed and devoted. I am incredibly rooted in my principles and values that loyalty is embedded in my very being. I only know how to be fully committed and dedicated in anything I do. (A function of being an elite athlete, I guess.) But, even if I'm fully committed I cannot control what someone else is going to do. And therein lies the problem.

I think in the back of my mind, that the chance of being let down by someone is high, and I'd sooner invest less of me, than to risk losing all of me.

In Recovery

Now, I did say I've been working on this handicap, and boy let me tell you, I have come a long way, baby! Though, I might find myself wondering down familiar patterns, I'll recognize and intercept them, while forcing myself to become comfortable being uncomfortable. So, I'm better at recognizing and dismissing someone who is emotionally unavailable or demonstrating less interest in me, as I am in them. Likewise, I'm learning to not push someone away who is genuinely interested in me. Admittedly, this is probably the hardest growth area.

Being enthralled by an intimacy challenged woman like me can be a challenge, or as my friend Mike so aptly put, "frustrating." But, if you can weather the storm of an intimacy challenged woman, there is definitely a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.