18 Habits of People Who Are Secretly Afraid of Intimacy

18 Habits of People Who Are Secretly Afraid of Intimacy

We all crave connection, yet some people seem determined to push love away. If you find yourself drawn to those who specialize in emotional unavailability, this article is for you. Here are some of the hidden fears driving their self-sabotaging behavior and the subtle clues that betray their longing for intimacy.

1. They’re serial daters, but they struggle to move past the casual stage.

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They crave the excitement of new romances, but as soon as things start feeling real, they get that familiar sense of panic and bolt. For these people, fight or flight is real, Harvard Health explains. It’s like they’re always trying on relationships, never actually settling into one. Maybe somewhere deep down, they’re scared they’ll find someone they truly like… and then what?

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2. They’re masters of the casual hookup.

A no-strings-attached approach seems ideal – physical closeness without any messy emotional entanglement. Yet, it leaves them feeling empty. They tell themselves it’s what they want, but that gnawing sense of loneliness just won’t go away.

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3. Being overly critical of partners is their defense mechanism.

Finding flaws in everyone is a way to self-sabotage. They convince themselves no one is good enough rather than risk getting hurt. Honestly, it’s exhausting—for them and their dates. Maybe one day they’ll realize that perfection doesn’t exist and get off that nitpicky hamster wheel.

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4. They dive headfirst into work or hobbies to avoid dealing with their emotions.

Beautiful latin couple talking and smiling looking happy while having a coffee date at a beautiful cafe

Staying constantly busy is a distraction technique. There’s no time for messy feelings or vulnerability when there are emails to answer and projects to finish. Sadly, they know, deep down, that those 16-hour workdays aren’t fixing the real issue.

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5. They’re always the “strong” one in their friendships.

Young couple sitting at the table with cup of tea and talking to each other during their date in cafe

Everyone else leans on them, but they rarely confide their own troubles. Playing the reliable friend who has it all together keeps others at arm’s length. They might be everyone’s rock, but who’s gonna be there to lend them a shoulder?

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6. They either overshare or clam up completely – there’s no in-between.

awkward first dateiStock/nd3000

Word vomiting all their anxieties is a way to push people away or test their loyalty. Or, they withdraw completely, offering zero personal information. It’s a confusing game for everyone involved, and it makes building a genuine connection almost impossible.

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7. They disappear during tough times, just when you need them the most.

When a friend is struggling or life gets messy, they’re suddenly MIA. They don’t know how to handle difficult emotions, so avoidance feels easier, per Verywell Mind. But ghosting your friends in their time of need? It makes it really hard to trust them when things are good again.

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8. They have commitment issues that extend way beyond romantic relationships.

It’s not just boyfriends or girlfriends; they struggle to commit to plans, projects, even where they’ll live long-term. It’s rooted in a fear of being tied down. This kind of non-committal attitude can make them seem unreliable to friends and family, no matter how much they actually care.

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9. “Needy” people make them deeply uncomfortable.

Anyone who expresses normal levels of emotional neediness sets off their alarm bells. It reminds them of their own fears of intimacy and dependence. They haven’t learned yet that needing someone is normal, and sometimes the best relationships are built on a healthy sense of interdependence.

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10. They’re always planning their escape route.

Even in happy situations, there’s always a nagging voice in the back of their head strategizing how to get out if things get too intense. They’ve mastered the art of the Irish Goodbye and have a million excuses ready for making a quick exit. It’s like they’re always wearing invisible running shoes, just in case.

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11. They idealize past relationships… the ones that safely ended.

A finished romance has less potential for hurt. They romanticize what’s gone instead of risking a new, potentially messy connection. It’s like they’re holding onto a faded photograph of an ex, convinced it was the truest love they’ll ever know.

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12. They’re attracted to unavailable people.

Partners who are emotionally distant or already committed? Perfect. That way there’s no expectation of genuine closeness. They almost get a thrill out of chasing the impossible because deep down they know it’ll never really work out.

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13. They constantly analyze every interaction for “red flags.”

Hypervigilance is their superpower. They’re on the lookout for any reason to prove their suspicions that this person, like all others, will let them down. One missed text? That’s it, relationship over! It’s like they’re looking for trouble instead of simply trying to enjoy the moment.

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14. They feel suffocated very easily in relationships.

Sweet gestures or expressions of affection feel more like an obligation than a gift. It fuels a worry that they’re being trapped. Suddenly all that attention feels like a weight on their shoulders, instead of something to be cherished.

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15. They secretly envy people in happy, committed relationships, but also can’t imagine it for themselves.

There’s a conflicting mix of longing and cynicism. Part of them wants what they fear they can never actually have. They watch those couples who seem totally in sync, and it sparks both a sense of sadness and disbelief.

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16. They have deeply buried past hurts that drive their intimacy fears.

Childhood experiences, past betrayals, or failed relationships have built a wall around their heart. They haven’t fully processed those wounds. It’s like they’re still carrying around old emotional baggage and expect anyone new to add to the pile.

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17. Love feels more like a battlefield than something safe and joyful.

They’re always braced for conflict, waiting for the other shoe to drop. They don’t truly believe in the possibility of healthy, lasting connection. To them, relationships are all about pain and disappointment, and they’re always arming themselves for the next fight.

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18. Deep down, they long for genuine connection but don’t believe they deserve it.

A core belief of unworthiness fuels the fear. They worry that if anyone truly knew them, they’d be rejected. It’s a heartbreaking cycle: desperately wanting love but pushing it away the moment it gets close.

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Originally from Australia, Emma Mills graduated from the University of Queensland with a dual degree in Philosophy and Applied Linguistics before moving to Los Angeles to become a professional matchmaker (a bit of a shift, obviously). Since 2015, she has helped more than 150 people find lasting love and remains passionate about bringing amazing singletons together.

Emma is also the author of the upcoming Hachette publication, "Off the Beaten Track: Finding Lasting Love in the Least Likely of Places," due out in January 2025.
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