If you’ve felt held back from dating or exploring a relationship further because the thought of getting physically intimate with someone makes you feel like there’s a pit in your stomach, you’re not alone. Even if you consider yourself a fairly sexual person, fear of intimacy is a fairly common issue for people seeking romantic and platonic relationships, according to mental health counselor and psychotherapist Gisele Liakos.
It’s also an issue that you can work to combat. Liakos recommends exploring any fears or mental blocks around intimacy with a sex-positive, licensed therapist. Here are a few ways to work through your fear.
Explore where your fear stems from.
It can help to ask yourself a few questions, Liakos says:
“What are you afraid of happening/feeling/doing?”
“Does your comfort level change when you are alone versus when you are with a partner?”
“What are your boundaries around physical intimacy and how do you feel about communicating them?”
Taking some time to seriously think about your fear will help you to express it to a therapist and potential partners.
Establish your boundaries.
When you take the time to think through your fears, this can also help you to establish clear boundaries that you can then set with both yourself and others. “Boundaries are there to help us feel safe and respected, which, in turn, can often make it easier to explore these fears whether alone or with a partner,” Liakos says.
Communicate your needs.
When communicating your boundaries, do so in a safe space, ideally, before those boundaries are crossed. A worthy partner will be understanding of your boundaries and willing to work with you through any of your fears. “Talk about your concern and involve your partner,” Liakos says.
“Check in with them and how they are feeling, and check in with yourself too!”
Explore intimacy alone.
Another piece of advice Liakos gives to clients whether they’re in a relationship or single: Masturbate. “Explore yourself first before exploring with a partner,” she says. “Learn what feels comfortable and what doesn’t. Give yourself permission to feel good.”