For most couples, intimacy is a key part of the relationship and plays an important role. While both mental and physical intimacy are critical components of a happy marriage, for the moment, we’ll focus on physical intimacy. For some people, it’s hard to achieve. There are barriers they face that often include fear.


Sexual intercourse isn’t the only way to express physical intimacy, but it’s certainly what many people focus on. Often, it’s women who find it a problem—they feel like they’re rushed and unable to enjoy physical intimacy. Sometimes it’s helpful to turn the focus off of sex and onto other intimate activities, like swimming together or taking a jacuzzi or simply caressing each other’s body. Taking the time to enjoy one another is a good precursor to physical intimacy.


If you feel apprehensive about a particular aspect of sexual intimacy, it’s often easier to ignore it than to talk about it. But unless you identify what’s troubling you and you face it, you’ll continue to feel turned off, blocked, or otherwise unable to enjoy sex.

Marriage Counseling, Relationships Therapy, Couples

Just what is it that you fear?


Afraid of physical pain. Some people, often women, are afraid of physically being hurt. Perhaps they have experience that has shown them sex can be painful. They need to be assured their partner will behave considerately, with the utmost care of their comfort and feelings.

Afraid of mental pain. No one wants to feel used, but it’s easy to see that casual sex can make one feel emotionally abandoned and not worthy of being loved. If both parties enter into a sexual relationship looking for nothing more than physical pleasure, then sex can be satisfying. But often it’s a lopsided equation, with one person left behind.

Afraid of being touched. If you grew up in a home without physical demonstrations of love—hugging or holding hands or other forms of physical contact—then you’re probably not used to being comfortable being touched.

Afraid of losing control. Truly intimate sex involves giving yourself up to your partner and abandoning yourself to pure physical enjoyment. This means letting go, which sometimes takes practice for those who find it important to always be in control. The prospect of not being in control can cause anxiety.

Afraid of becoming pregnant. Even with birth control and contraceptives that are readily available, fear of pregnancy can run deep for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy are so ingrained in your mind, that no matter what precautions you’ve taken, you still fear sex.

Afraid of feeling guilty. This may have to do with a religion that you grew up practicing in your home, or a taboo of sex that is perpetuated by your family or peers. Even long after such influences affected you, you can still feel guilty or be afraid of being condemned.

Afraid of STD’s. This is certainly a realistic fear, especially if your partner has engaged in sex with others and is not practicing safe sex. Of course, being tested and practicing safe sex can alleviate this fear.


Overcoming Fear of Sexual Intimacy


If you find one or more of the above fears something you experience, you have made the first step toward overcoming your obstacle to enjoying sexual intimacy. Identifying why you find sex difficult to enjoy will help you be more comfortable, and give you a way to talk about your issues with your partner. Once your fear is acknowledged, you can begin to understand how to overcome it.


Taking things slow and easy is often a way to begin. Have an understanding with your partner that you both can say “no” when you need to. You can also give yourself permission to say “yes” when the time is right. The key is for you both to feel comfortable. That’s when you have the best chance of mutually enjoyable sexual intimacy.




Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: