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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSONALITY DISORDERS
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Author Topic: BPD BEHAVIORS: Fear of Intimacy  (Read 50350 times)
Journey


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« on: August 15, 2008, 04:51:21 PM »

Is a fear of intimacy part of BPD ? 

I hope someone can help me out with this one.

Thanks,

Journey
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2008, 08:41:56 PM »

I think the fear of abandonment is so intense in BP's that they can't bear to get too close because that would make the pain even more intense if they were abandoned.  Does this make any sense?
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« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2008, 02:31:50 PM »

I think what makes one person feel intimate may not necessarily make another person feel intimate.  And re: sex, I think prostitutes are good examples of how one can disconnect that activity from feelings of intimacy.  So one can put forth the appearance of being intimate without actually feeling thus.

Journey, I can understand your rationale.  You are assuming that someone shouldn't fear abandonment unless abandonment is somewhat imminent.  That someone (like your BPD partner) shouldn't fear abandonment from their partner when their partner has demonstrated a complete devotion to them (as I'm sure your BPD partner demanded of you).  But that would assume that their fear is reasonable.  Someone with BPD has an unreasonable fear of abandonment.  They will fear real and IMAGINED abandonment.  And the only way they can be abandoned is if they allow real intimacy to take place.  This is why they make the connection of intimacy = abandonment.  And this is why they trust you less the more they become intimate with you.

Because of this dynamic in people with BPD, I've observed that partners with "compatible" disorders or issues can manage to stay involved with someone with BPD for longer durations (compared to people without). 

For example, someone else with a PD that precludes true intimacy such as BPD and/or NPD.  Or someone who has co-dependent traits;  I recall reading a description of codependency as someone who appears to fear abandonment but truly fears intimacy.  This more or less fits the description of my issues at the time that I was involved with my uBPDgf.  I was very hesitant to get involved with people (apparent fear of abandonment) but ended up getting intimately involve with someone who was incapable of real intimacy (true fear of intimacy).

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Skip
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« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2008, 07:45:25 AM »

I think the fear of abandonment is so intense in BP's that they can't bear to get too close because that would make the pain even more intense if they were abandoned.

I think many people fear intimacy... and for this same reason... rejection sensitivity.

People with BPD are impulsive (emotionally immature) and have a high level of rejection sensitivity.

What often makes it complicated for us to understand is that someone with BPD wants the intimacy and fears it at the same time.  They can prematurely (immaturely) get into intimate situations, but when the don't percieve a commensurate response in the partner, they get spooked.

This is further complicated because the "post honeymoon" phase in most relationships is a time each person in the couple define their own space and boundaries... this can be traumatic in any relationship... far more to a person with BPD.

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« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2008, 02:07:46 PM »

Just to clarify something that Skip wrote:

Quote
People with BPD are impulsive (emotionally immature) and have a high level of rejection sensitivity.

What often makes it complicated for us to understand is that someone with BPD wants the intimacy and fears it at the same time.  They can prematurely (immaturely) get into intimate situations, but when the don't percieve a commensurate response in the partner, they get spooked.

The key word there is "perceive":  That doesn't mean that there is necessarily anything you can do to allay the fear of intimacy and related fear of abandonment.  You can make sure that you are communicating appropriately (see the Communications Workshop) and you can validate the person (see the Workshops on Validation), but you have to maintain boundaries.  And that probably means that you shouldn't be with the person 24/7.  You might try giving them something to remember you with when you are gone..  something you usually wear or keep near you...  there are things you might be able to do.  But their perception that you are abandoning them and there fear of intimacy because of it is really within them.  They have to work through this with appropriate therapy and treatment. 

From an older post by Oceanheart, a BPD in recovery:

Quote
Here's a part from "Sometimes I Act Crazy: Living with BPD":

Dealing with fears of abandonment:

    * Understand and accept borderline anxieties: For the BP, living a life apart from her is abandonment: a husband who works late at the office, a girlfriend who spends time with other friends, a therapist who sees other patients, all may be perceived by the BP as abandoning. Such feelings are real [tho not TRUE] and must be acknowledged. Trying to use logic to convince the borderline that you are not abanding her is usually fruitless.

    * Respect your own limitations: While accepting the BP's need for constant reassurance, don't totally abandon your own interests. Establish compromises between the BP's needs and your own, and stick to them.

    * Don't try to play doctor: Interpreting behaviors in a clinical way may be perceived as controlling and can result in anger and greater defensiveness. During a conflict, never ask, "did you take your medicine today?" This will only reinforce an insulting implication that the BP is "crazy".

    * Prepare the BP for separation: For many BP's the future, particularly an unpleasant future event, doesn't appear on the radar screen. The hope is that what hasn't yet happened perhaps never will. However, ignoring it will only precipitate more severe hurt and anger when it occurs. Don't mention a weekend fishing trip with the guys two months in advance and then avoid discussion until the night before. Instead, remind her about it and propose some compensatory activity: "Don't forget, honey, next weekend I'll be out of town with the guys. I know I'm really going to miss you. Let's go out to a nice restaurant and show this weekend." Though you may be trespassing into self-serving strategy with this kind of reminder, it is better than intentional silence or avoidance of the issue altogether. Similarly, the therapist needs to periodically remind her patient about her upcoming vacation.

    * Utilize transitional objects: "Something to remember me by" - a picture, an audiotape, an article of clothing, or any possession that links the BP to another person of importance - can lessen the pain of separation.

    * Be consistent: Work for a compromise and stick to it. Ambivalence will only result in more pleading and conflicts later

Remember, fear of intimacy, fear of abandonment is within them.  There are things you can do that may help, but MAY is the operative word here.
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nick212
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« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2008, 02:17:55 PM »

This makes a lot of sense why my ex would get angry if I didn't spend the nite, or if I wasn't with her every minute. Also makes sense to why she still keeps our scrapbooks and all of that.
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A.J.Mahari
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« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2008, 08:26:13 AM »

Not only do people with BPD fear intimacy, they really aren't capable of any form of consistent intimacy. To be able to be intimate or emotionally close to someone requires being able to tolerate distance. Borderlines cannot tolerate the ebb and flow - the moving in and out - between closeness (intimacy) and distance. Intimacy, or being close emotionally, leaves the borderline stressed often with the fear of engulfment. Any shift in closeness, even a slight shift, is perceived or feared as abandonment and/or rejection.

BPD and intimacy are not compatible. Those with BPD do crave to be close to someone and usually that is driven by very child-like emotional neediness that revolves around borderlines trying to meet their needs through others and trying to get some sense of "self" through "other" to validate their own existence - have it mirrored back.

Intimacy is one aspect of adult age-appropriate relating that very much highlights the borderline's arrested emotional development and inability to maintain age-appropriate and situationally-appropriate relating in any consistent way. Often those with BPD will generate emotional chaos and conflict to create space, distance "other" in search of some temporary relief to engulfment fears which then quickly leaves the borderline feeling as if they have been or about to be abandoned. It's a classic no-win situation for the borderline and then of course by extension for the non borderline.

Fear of intimacy, as with so many things borderline is a manifestation of the polarized struggle to both find 'authentic self" and identity while needing also to feel individuated - within a connection or attempts at attaching or bonding that can give the borderline a container for all the emotions they cannot cope with or tolerate themselves. Borderlines have not worked through or completed the early childhood developmental phase of separation/individuation. Attempts at intimacy for the borderline can't help but lead to "I-hate-you, don't-leave-me" and to "get-away-closer" emotional chaos - the traditional borderline push/pull.

Borderline fear of intimacy, on the one hand, is as strong as borderline need, and desire for intimacy or for the kind of closeness that gives them an "other" to live through is on the other hand.

Borderline Personality Disorder and intimacy are not compatible in any consistent, age-appropriate or lasting way. Attempts to manage the emotional dysregulation of attempting to be close to and with someone (until and unless a borderline gets into serious therapy and gets on the road to recovery) is lost to the the primary defense mechanism of splitting.
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Christy2
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« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2008, 09:58:47 AM »

BPD and intimacy are not compatible. Those with BPD do crave to be close to someone and usually that is driven by very child-like emotional neediness ...Intimacy is one aspect of adult age-appropriate relating that very much highlights the borderline's arrested emotional development and inability to maintain age-appropriate and situationally-appropriate relating in any consistent way.

BPD is not a one size fits all package, so the intimacy issue varies too.  For me, AJ Mahari's comments above describe my husband.  He does like emotional intimacy, but on a very childlike level.   

The first few years of our marriage this worked because I had not yet worked through some psychological issues I had (though in retrospect it was hardly a healthy relationship  shocked).  However, at about year seven of our marriage I did some therapy and emerged with a huge transformation in my confidence, attitude etc. I then began to long for true adult intimacy.  I mistakenly assumed my husband would want the same thing for himself, but as it stands now - many years later - I have finally made peace with the fact that he is quite content with staying a "child."  Though I always hold out hope that someday he will emerge from this state, I now realize that it is neither my responsibility nor in my power to make that happen.

As for sexual intimacy, once certain medications took away the naturally occuring physical desire for that on his part, he had NO desire to be proactive in making that happen in other ways.  I used to be hurt by this - I no longer am.  I realize for him if there is not a physical need, why bother?  Understanding this has helped me also because I no longer have the desire to BE physically intimate with him. Being physcially intimate with someone who doesn't see it as a mature emotional connection is completely unappealing to me. Yuck!

So in the end, understanding his need for intimacy as being a childlike one has helped me in forgiving him and not feeling bitter and resentful as often as I used to.  I have a few close women friends whom I go to for advice and when I need to spill my guts (along with the wonderful women on this board).  Sometimes I enjoy having a mature conversation with a non-hypersensitive man too so I can get the "Mars" perspective on things.  In fact, one of the reasons I appreciate our message board here is it allows the opportunity to interact with men on some pretty heavy-duty mature subjects without the dangers that engaging in that sort conversations with men in my "non-cyber world" would pose.
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avex

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« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2012, 07:05:23 PM »

I appreciate the sharings. They give more more clarity and understanding to my issues faced at home. I used to think that intimacy will lead to stronger bonds and emotional connection between couples but now I understand that initimacy actually increases their primary fears of abandoment and as a result, a lack of it or when you have it, they almost expect something else in return immediately, a stronger sense of reassurance that they are not abandoned.

It's like a curse, they are always in a negative state and when they are occasionaly tipped to the positive state, they almost swing back to the negative state in equal force. Something like a unbalanced scale where the equilibrium is off center, but still subjected to the laws of physics. 

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veganozzie


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« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2012, 08:59:51 AM »

"'Frantic efforts to avoid abandonment' may mean 'running away first'." That really hits the nail on the head, I think, in terms of why my BPD ex broke up with me 2 months ago. We had not had any conflicts whatsoever for an entire month, were getting closer and closer and both seemingly very serious about this being a "you are the one for life" kind of relationship. We had even discussed wanting to get married at some point in the distant future, even though we had only been together since early July, and we had made firm plans to get together in November for the first time (it's a long-distance relationship that started on Facebook). She even told me as she was breaking up with me that things WERE going well, there was no issue with me and she trusted me and felt comfortable with me (but obviously not completely!), that she thought I was a great partner for her, the best ever, etc., but that she felt "full" and "tired" from having been in so many relationships in a relatively short time (7 in 3 years counting me) in which she claims partners didn't show deep love and commitment--but in every case, she's the one who broke up, so I wonder about her version of events.

In short, I think what happened with us is that increasing intimacy led to fear of how much it would hurt if I abandoned her, which led to her abandoning me first! Because it was such a complete shock (and to compound matters, she couldn't understand why I was so upset!), this was the most devastating breakup I've ever had. I'm still feeling its effects 2 months later.
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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2013, 09:09:22 PM »

So with a BPD male how do we balance:

-letting them feel safe so they know they won't be abandoned and don't have to cut-off, run away or abandon first

--give them this safety without making them feel engulfed and want to pull away.

I noticed as a VERY faithful person I gave him safety as I don't flirt with other men, I really kept a lot of my focus on him. At first he liked that as his exes cheated on him. But at the same time, it made me look too easy I think and he needs some sort of threat or competition to keep his interest?

How do you remain attractive, give him something to chase without making him fearful or trigger abandonment?


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« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2013, 01:19:22 PM »

Ok thanks. Can I ask would someone leave you because of this, like you are getting too close or they feel smothered?
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« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2013, 02:53:42 PM »

Ok thanks. Can I ask would someone leave you because of this, like you are getting too close or they feel smothered?

I think that is understandable. We all need a little space. It is healthy for relationships. The problem with a BPD relationship is their feelings seem to go to extremes and can change at a moments notice. Often their feelings aren't based in reality. In physical events that actually happened and you don't understand why they feel the way they do.
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« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2013, 02:59:25 PM »

Just strange, 1 week she wanted a serious relationship and made me commit to her,the next week she dumped me out of the blue,when she was having family issues.
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vickyw1980

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« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2013, 06:56:40 AM »

I can relate to this my partner is a BPD sufferer and she is only intimate for me, as much as she enjoys 'the moment' the problems and issues arise after the event and how guilty she feels...  Intimacy makes her feel dirty and disgusting and doesn't want me anywhere near her. Is there a way of combating such emotions? Whilst she doesn't believe she has been abused, she has very few childhood memories and I wonder whether this could be because she is subconciously wanting to forget about her childhood due to something bad that has happened to her hence why she has such issues about intimacy. Also what makes me believe she has been abused is what she enjoys in that area, myself without a mental illness could never want such things to happen to me

Any advice will be useful- thank you

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Changingman
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« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2014, 04:52:49 AM »

They seem to have no idea about 'weight' in a friendship.

My 11 year friendship with a girl ( platonic, sister style ).

( In the devaluation stage ) my friend asked me meet in a bar, I was finishing some work and would be a couple of hours. I said phone my girlfriend and meet her, she has just finished work and is nearby. I'll join you two later.

When I spoke to my friend she warned me that my girlfriend was treating her like her oldest and best friend and was amazed and thrilled that she had wanted to meet her.

There was obviously some inference about being a closer friend to her than me.

She had met my girlfriend maybe 30+ times in 4 years. Always with me.

They have no friends.

I think this is the intimacy issue, they seem to have no experience of what friendship is. Shallow knowledge and feelings, fear of abandonment, fear of closeness triggering fear of abandonment. No real love in their hearts. Broken and at stressful times psychotic, I realised any change in her working life would make her spiral into psychosis and she would seek out a sexual partner to ease the pain and gain some perceived safety or power.

To far away PULL, to close PUSH.

Eventually you feel this dynamic in the relationship, it feels like self sabotage. When things are going well they fear loss when they are going badly they fear abandonment.

If you become exhausted from the chaos they fear they are losing control, if there is peace they feel uncomfortable and empty.

They are controlling and manipulative, so they know something is steady in their lives. And abusive because they cannot regulate their emotions. And scream outwardly to SO. They enjoy the manipulation and feel like they have won, you can see t e smile on their face when they have fooled you.

Run and hide

They cannot resolve any conflict, it boils up inside, circular arguments, what the want must be manipulated from you. Their response seems to be to run and hide again, sexual partners, abandonment of everything you have worked to get. You are no good for them anymore and they go to find it elsewhere, they close down any feelings of guilt and you become a bad object to them. Just like good old mum/dad.

A fear of relationships would be a better wording. They want them and are unable to have them. Pulp romance, porn, these appeal to them for there facade. Real feelings? Not really their 'bag'.

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readytogo

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« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2014, 07:38:09 PM »

My wBPD tells me that 'sex is not love', and hence the love side is shelved.

If she is afraid now of intimacy and abandonment then pushing the partner away surely compounds the issue?

What then is the reasoning for say texting other men, is it excitement, fear of getting caught, or resorting back to the teenage life?

Is this a BPD trait?

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bajaloverz


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« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2014, 06:44:18 PM »

My wBPD tells me that 'sex is not love', and hence the love side is shelved.

If she is afraid now of intimacy and abandonment then pushing the partner away surely compounds the issue?

What then is the reasoning for say texting other men, is it excitement, fear of getting caught, or resorting back to the teenage life?

Is this a BPD trait?

My uBPDw has made sex so unbearable.  We stopped having sex completely in the last two to three weeks. I would lose interest at the mere thought of intercourse. Not that I already didn't suffer from ED.

So now sex is nonexistent.  So naturally since we aren't having sex, we don't have any communication.  I try to do my best but nothing from her.

She thinks what he have is a case that she is High Libido and I am Low Libido, in all essence a dead bedroom. 

There is a website that I introduced her to and she posts there about our "problem".  I never looked at her post history, wanted it to be private to her.  But looking at it now, it's eye opening. 

I have turned into having a lower libido.

She is entitled to having sex.  Sex is a right she has.  How can I deny it to her?







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« Reply #18 on: April 29, 2014, 05:51:03 AM »

My wife is giving me the cold shoulder for the past 4 months ! no sex at all, no intimacy - nothing !

She goes out every weekend or second weekend up to 3 nights in a row

Maybe she gets it there ?

What must I do ?

Been praying . . . . . .
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« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2014, 02:31:00 AM »

Oh boy...  that's not a good sign Fanie!  

Mine hated intimacy and almost faked how he enjoyed it, cry it was very underwhelming at the best of times. He got off on internet porn and taking women out from work half his age.

I'm so sorry to hear this, almost makes me want to cry thinking about how awful those times were!

It's also really disrespectful that she goes away, I hope you're handling that better than I would?

I think praying is all you can do and I hope God answers you soon!

One of the specialists would have a better answer than I, but I'll pray for you too.

Take care  Doing the right thing
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« Reply #20 on: September 13, 2014, 04:27:53 PM »

I held hand with my BPD ex, it was like helding a dead fish , absolutely no intimate contact ...
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« Reply #21 on: October 30, 2014, 01:59:09 PM »

My BpD partner keeps physically running away. Has anyone got any advice on what to do when their panic sets in?
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« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2014, 03:54:34 AM »

My daughter is 19 and has BPD.  She has an intense fear of intimacy, but is in a newish relationship with a lovey man.  I know they have been intimate as she has come to me in tears to talk to me and say she is so scared and wants to disassociate, during intimate times.  She is very scared he hurts her or she hurts him.  Please give me tips on how I can help her.  There is a 10 year age gap between the, but he really cares about her and wants to help. ...
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« Reply #23 on: December 10, 2014, 12:02:01 PM »

One thing that makes me wonder if my ex really has BPD is that I don't think she has a "fear of intimacy." If anything it seemed that she couldn't deal with any time at all spent together that wasn't intimate, and wanted to be together as much as possible (way more than I did).

For instance, over the course of the four month relationship we never once went to the movies together. She mentioned wanting to see this movie one time and I told her we could do that, and she told me "we only have the weekend to spend together (until the following weekend) and you want to spend time in a dark theater where we can't even talk?" It would have been an hour and a half out of a 48 hour weekend, what's the big deal? This was a conversation we had over text so I wasn't able to hear how she said it or see body language but I'm pretty sure she was angry that I even asked.

During the last month of the relationship something similar happened where the World Cup final match was on and I'm not even really a soccer fan but it's a big event and I told her we could put it on in the background while we were just hanging out around the house. She snapped and said something very similar to what she said when I asked if she wanted to see the movie... "this is our last day of the weekend together and you want to spend it watching a soccer game?" and was very angry. Of course, the following weekend we end up watching a marathon of stupid horror movies per her suggestion.

I also never really got the sense that if we got too intimate that she would pull away. It was my first relationship and maybe I just wasn't a "romantic" enough guy to elicit that response from her but if anything I felt that I was the one who was more afraid of intimacy in the relationship and that at times she may have seen that and gotten scared by it. The relationship was definitely a roller coaster and she would often tell me she didn't think it was working out and then take it all back and tell me to forget she said anything, but I really don't think any of this was ever the result of too much intimacy. I don't think she had any fear of engulfment either. In fact, I think engulfment is exactly what she desires and wasn't getting from me, because I tried to put up boundaries and see her less in the end. She wanted me to move in with her within the first few months...
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« Reply #24 on: December 10, 2014, 03:13:04 PM »

I see what you are saying. Perhaps a better way to think about it is "intimacy driven by fear," which isn't healthy love, but rather need. It explains the intensity of feelings and idealization, which is really objectification of the "non" partner.
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« Reply #25 on: December 15, 2014, 02:48:05 PM »

I see what you are saying. Perhaps a better way to think about it is "intimacy driven by fear," which isn't healthy love, but rather need. It explains the intensity of feelings and idealization, which is really objectification of the "non" partner.

That explanation makes much more sense to me. I feel like the phrase "fear of intimacy" shouldn't be used on it's own when describing BPD behavior and it should always be accompanied by "in the face of potential (perceived) abandonment" or something like that. It seems to be more the fear of the possibility of hurt due to the abandonment of an intimate partner than the intimacy itself, and you can't have one without the other.

I also feel like, at least with my ex, it was always the feeling that the intimacy was starting to subside for a time (which happens in every relationship) that caused her to perceive abandonment that wasn't there. This leads me to believe it's really just the abandonment that's the trigger, the intimacy just gives the abandonment the power to hurt. If it were possible to be present and intimate with someone 100% of the time I think she would never feel the abandonment, and therefore the intimacy really isn't the main issue, right?
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« Reply #26 on: December 15, 2014, 06:10:40 PM »

It seems to be more the fear of the possibility of hurt due to the abandonment of an intimate partner than the intimacy itself, and you can't have one without the other.

This is a good way to look at it.

It may be more generalized, though.  Fear of fire isn't the same as fear of my lighter.  A more generalized fear starting at a young age that would lead to a broader lifestyle and developmental changes.  For example, someone having fear of abandonment would have amassed relationship habits over a lifetime that are dysfunctional.
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