Intimacy disorders affect many Christians. These disorders create challenges for individuals and their relationships, including those within their family and church. But there is hope for those who experience fear, anxiety, shame, and other symptoms associated with intimacy disorders. You can heal from an intimacy disorder, and the first step is understanding how intimacy disorders affect Christians.
What is an Intimacy Disorder?
An intimacy disorder, then, is an inability to form emotional attachment with others. Sex, pornography, and masturbation addictions are all forms of intimacy disorders.
Vulnerability is necessary for a genuine, honest relationship and entails taking the chance of rejection to be accepted and loved for who you are. People with intimacy disorders often look for other ways to satisfy their emotional needs because they can’t let others see them for who they are. The fear of damage, rejection, and abandonment creates a fear of intimacy.
What is the Root Cause of Intimacy Issues?
Trauma is the root cause of most intimacy disorders, making it essential to understand the link between trauma and sex addiction. People feel the need to guard themselves from intimate relationships with others because they feel they are unsafe. They would rather keep people at an arm’s distance than risk being hurt or rejected by them.
“Unresolved trauma can lead to negative core beliefs that hinder a person’s ability to connect with others,” said Matt Wenger, MA, LPC, Clinical Director at Boulder Recovery. “It also causes them to engage in negative coping methods.”
This need to cope with unresolved trauma is how people develop sex, pornography, or masturbation addictions. They use sexual activity as a way to feel better, even temporarily. Soon it becomes a habit, and they find they can’t control it anymore. Their brain is wired to seek these behaviors to feel better, and they can’t stop. Along with the addiction comes fear, shame, and the desire to protect their secret.
“The person feels the need to hide this negative coping from others, thus widening the gap further and confirming to themselves the negative beliefs they already had,” Matt said.
The Importance of Intimacy in a Christian Relationship
Intimacy is a cornerstone of every relationship. God calls you to be intimate with one another and with him. Intimacy is essential in Christian relationships and is at the core of marriage. A marriage likely won’t survive without intimacy, which goes far beyond a physical, sexual relationship between husband and wife.
4 forms of intimacy in a healthy relationship:
- Physical. Sex is part of physical intimacy, but this type of intimacy can also be sitting together, cuddling, kissing, and even holding hands.
- Spiritual. Praying, studying scriptures, and worshiping God with others draws you closer to Him and the people you worship with.
- Intellectual and Experiential. Having an intellectually stimulating conversation or doing an activity you enjoy with others, like running or having a meal at a restaurant, also are forms of intimacy.
- Emotional. Sharing your thoughts, feelings, hopes, and views is an excellent way to be emotionally intimate. As relationships develop, you also may share your insecurities, fears, and anxieties. You have to be open and vulnerable with others to truly experience intimacy.
Physical intimacy enhances a marriage, and other types of intimacy are necessary for Christian relationships.
How Intimacy Disorders Affect Christians
Intimacy disorders affect Christians by making them feel removed and disconnected from the people around them.
People with intimacy disorders often experience shame, guilt, and fear, especially if the condition manifests itself in an addiction. These feelings cause them to be even more isolated and to miss out on much of the joy that life has to offer.
People with intimacy disorders experience:
- Negative self-esteem
- Trust problems
- Extreme emotional episodes
- Refraining from any non-sexual physical contact
- Difficulty initiating or committing to relationships
- Insatiable sexual compulsion
- Issues with sharing or expressing emotions, or a lack thereof
- Being overly private, social isolation
- Lying to trying to hide emotions or behaviors
Intimacy disorders can make Christians feel like they don’t deserve God’s love because they can’t connect with others the way He intended or hide behaviors they’re ashamed of.
How Can Christians Heal Intimacy Disorders?
Healing an intimacy disorder isn’t easy because you must first identify its root cause and recover from it. It’s probably best to seek help from a mental health professional to help you identify and heal from the trauma that resulted in the disorder. Then you can work to overcome your fear of intimacy.
Actions to take to heal an intimacy disorder:
- Assess Severity. Are there people in your life that you have close relationships with, or do you keep everyone at a distance? How does a lack of intimacy affect you and your relationships? The greater your fear of intimacy, the more work you need to do to heal.
- Evaluate Related Issues. Issues such as depression and anxiety may contribute to your lack of intimacy or vice versa. You want to get a full picture of what you’re dealing with, so you can be honest and informed about the steps to take.
- Communicate Feelings. It’s complicated for people with intimacy disorders to share their feelings with others. But choosing a trusted other, like your partner or a small group of people to talk with about your feelings and support you through healing can help.
- Strengthen Faith. People with intimacy disorders often feel like they have failed God because they aren’t the image of what they think He wants them to be. But God loves you unconditionally and wants you to be whole. If you’re struggling with intimacy issues, it can help to spend more time with God through prayer and Bible study.
- Rely on Support. Rely on your partner, friends, family members, and others who care about you, including small groups in therapy, to help you work through this challenge.
Addressing Intimacy Issues with Boulder Recovery
If your intimacy disorder is causing problems in your life and relationships, it may be time to seek professional help. If you want to heal in a faith-based environment, Boulder Recovery is here to help. We offer a 14-Day Christian Men’s Intensive to help launch your recovery and renew your faith. Contact us to learn more about our program.