Fear of Intimacy - Relationship Phobia
By Robert Burney
"Codependence is a disease which involves the
being's emotional defense system being dysfunctional to the extent that
it breaks our hearts and destroys our ability to Love and be Loved, wounds
our souls by denying us access to our Spiritual Self, and scrambles our
minds so thoroughly that it causes our minds to become our own worst enemies."
(All quotes in this color are from Codependence:
The Dance of Wounded Souls)
As I mentioned in last months column, I am going to be sharing how my
fear of intimacy caused me to sabotage my latest romantic relationship
which in turn led to me opening my heart in a Truly magnificent way.
In order to lay the groundwork to explain the great breakthrough I had
in my personal growth process - which also turned into the single most
excruciatingly emotionally painful experience of my recovery - I am this
month going to share a summary of my relationship patterns which were driven
by my fear of intimacy issues. The fundamental dynamics of both extremes
of my issues - as well as the prominent themes - were recreated in the
transformational relationship experience that began for me in December
For most of my adult life, I effectively had a relationship phobia.
The extremes I learned in childhood were completely unavailable (my father)
and completely enmeshed (my mother.) In my first sexually and emotionally
intimate relationship (not any true emotional intimacy because I was incapable
of it then - more accurate would be to call it emotional attachment) I
got completely enmeshed with a woman I met in college. She was the
one who really initiated me into being sexual. We got engaged to
be married. I caught her in bed with my best friend - literally,
caught them in bed.
I realized in retrospect in recovery, that she had almost certainly
been the victim of incest from a young age - and was a sex addict.
The pain of that experience, was to say the least, incredible. I
was so much in denial of my feelings, and so codependent, that I stayed
engaged to her for another year and a half.
I did not again in the next twenty years, make the mistake of getting
involved with someone who was available enough to have the power to hurt
me like that. I pursued only unavailable women. I always had
someone unavailable that I was obsessing over, trying to figure out how
to get her to see how wonderful we could be together. (This was completely
unconscious and something I only realized looking back at my patterns in
The other extreme for me, was allowing myself to get physically involved
with women I did not really want to be with, with women I did not feel
a strong attraction / energetic connection to. Then I would be the
It was actually less painful for me to be alone, obsessing about someone
who was unavailable, then it was to be the unavailable one. In those
interactions, the evidence seemed to indicate that I was incapable of loving.
The other person would often accuse me of exactly that. Being able
to blame someone else for my feelings of abandonment and betrayal was less
painful than blaming myself for being defective. More bearable than
the pain of that little boy who felt he had failed in his responsibility
for his mother's feelings and well being.
It was my emotional incest issues that really dictated my emotionally
intimate relationships. Obsessing about someone who was unavailable,
feeling betrayed by their inability to see our potential, feeling abandoned
when they rebuffed me, was the less painful of the two extremes that my
spectrum in relationship with romantic relationships involved. The
result which would have been more devastating - in my subconscious emotional
perspective of the options available to me - was getting into a relationship
with someone who was available and being revealed for the shameful, unlovable
being that I felt I was.
I was terrified of being responsible for another persons feelings, for
their happiness. I had failed in my responsibility to my mother -
and was certain (subconsciously) that I would fail again, because something
was obviously wrong with me. Any woman who felt available,
was someone to run away from, or push away. I was terrified of being
smothered, of being engulfed, by a woman's emotional needs - and then being
betrayed because of my defective being. This is one of the effects
of emotional incest.
The excruciating pain of finding my fiancé in bed with my best
friend was the proof of, and felt like punishment for, that unworthiness.
It was only in recovery when dealing with my emotional incest issues, that
I realized how my mother had betrayed me. She always told me how
wonderful I was, how special and gifted - she acted as if the world revolved
around me. But she never protected me, or herself, from my father.
My mother was my first love. She was my Goddess. The fact that
she allowed my father to terrify and traumatize me - she who was perfect
in the eyes of that little boy - obviously meant there was something wrong
I got in touch with the fact that my mother betrayed me early in recovery
- but it was only a few years ago in processing about my fear of intimacy
issues that I saw the connection between the two betrayals. My fiancé's
betrayal was just a repeat of my earliest experience of loving a woman.
Both situations involved betrayal by the primary woman in my life, and
the primary man. The excruciating pain I experienced as a young adult
was only a fraction of the devastation felt by that little boy. That
poor little boy. His first experience of love, the first loves of
his life - his God and Goddess - punished him. Terror of intimacy
is a pretty appropriate response.
In my latest relationship experience I went from the unavailable one
to the one who was available because of my breakthrough. Then the
woman that I opened my heart to Loving became the unavailable because of
her fear of intimacy and betrayal issues. That caused her to react
to her issues by getting involved with another man - which left me feeling
abandoned and betrayed. A wonderful opportunity for growth.
I will be talking about the lessons learned in this relationship experience,
and the dynamics involved in coming months.