Fear of Intimacy

Fear of Intimacy

Today, we are unpacking a seldom-discussed, but deeply relevant issue within the gay community: Fear of Intimacy. 

Many men grapple with the challenge of opening up emotionally and forging meaningful connections. Often, we find ourselves settling for superficial encounters while yearning for something more meaningful. Today we’re discussing how the same emotional walls that protect us from getting hurt can also leave us feeling isolated and lonely.  

In this episode, we are going deeper into the fear of intimacy – its roots, its impact on our relationships, and how we are overcoming these barriers. Some of the topics we’ll be covering are:

  • Signs of having a fear of intimacy 
  • Why we fear the thing we want 
  • Social conditioning
  • The impact of past relationship traumas  
  • The power of vulnerability 
  • Attachment styles 

Join us as we share our own experiences with this topic in an effort to shed light on this important issue and dismantle the internal barriers to the deeper connections we truly deserve.  

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[00:00:05] Michael Diiorio: Welcome to Gay Men Going Deeper, a podcast by the Gay Men’s Brotherhood where we talk about personal development, mental health and sexuality.

Today we are your hosts. We have Matt Landsiedel. He is a counselor and facilitator specializing in healing and empowerment.

Reno Johnston is a spiritual life, love and business coach. And I am Michael Diiorio, a life and wellness coach sponsoring specializing in sexuality, relationships and self-confidence.

We each have our own private practice and, in this podcast, we’re sharing all of our best stuff.

And today we are talking about the fear of intimacy, the questions we’ll be discussing today, what makes it hard for you to get close to someone, and why do you think that is?

And what has helped you become more comfortable with intimacy.

We’ll be continuing this discussion in the last Thursday of the month in the Gay Men’s Brotherhood sharing circles. We also have our connection circles on the second Thursday of the month, which are smaller, more intimate breakout rooms where you can discuss the topics of the podcast with other members of the community.

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Okay, the theme of this month is facing your fears. We did a great episode a couple weeks ago on the fear of rejection, and today we’re talking about the fear of intimacy.

So, another word to describe this is intimacy avoidance. We use that word a lot here in the podcast. So, um, this isn’t the first time we’ve talked about it, but it’s the first time we’ve had a full episode about it. And simply put, if you’re wondering what this means, the most simple definition I can come up with for you is a fear of emotional closeness.

I just want to make a note that this episode, we’re talking about emotional intimacy. There is also such a thing as a fear of physical intimacy as well. Uh, but we’re focusing on the emotional piece today, which may or may not be linked to a fear of physical intimacy as well. They could very much overlap, for sure. Okay. All right, so some of the key points I want to make on the fear of intimacy to help you set the stage for our episode today is that oftentimes the sphere of intimacy isn’t overt or conscious. Sometimes it’s lingering beneath the surface. We don’t know what’s there.

Other people might say, oh, no, this is for sure me. I know I have this. Either way, you’re welcome to join us on this. This will be a great episode for everyone.

So, people can often crave intimacy and closeness, but then push people away when it becomes available or very real. And that might be one of the signs. And I’ll go over some signs later on. Or you could end up sabotaging really good relationships, which is unfortunate, because it leaves you feeling jaded, lonely, and feeling like something might be wrong with you, or that you’re fundamentally flawed, which is not the case. And that’s why I think it’s really important that we talk about this. My hope today is that our discussion will help you recognize if you have any resistance to intimacy within you and so that you can do something about it, but also you can recognize it within others, and so you can develop a deeper understanding of why they may be pulling away from you and so that you can better relate with them.

So, yeah, let’s talk about some common signs. And before I do this, I want to note that these are not exhaustive. And having any one of these or a few of these does not necessarily indicate a fear of intimacy. There could be other underlying issues that are not related. Okay. But these are just a few signs.

Difficulty trusting others, or you’re generally suspicious of those who want to get close to you. You just generally have a suspicious mind, getting defensive or guarded when people ask you personal questions.

You may prefer casual relationships that come and go over, developing a long-lasting commitment. So, this could be something like serial dating, going on one or two dates and calling it quits, um, or preferring just casual sexual relationships than, you know, getting close with somebody.

Uh, it could be preferring, connecting with people online on apps versus actually going on dates and having in person connections.

It could be, um, having a lot of acquaintances. So, you might have a lot of people in your life, but very few close friends you could actually turn to for emotional support.

If you don’t like opening up to others about your innermost thoughts and feelings, if you feel a resistance to that, that might be a sign.

Or like I said, you tend to push people away when they want to get closer to you emotionally.

Or when other people show you their vulnerability, you may want to withdraw and become distant from them. So, when other people express their emotions, you kind of like, pay, panic, freeze, don’t know what to do.

And as I said earlier, you maybe have a history of sabotaging relationships. When things start to get serious, you may call it intense or serious, or you might have another word for it, but you’re like, I don’t know, I got to go. Can’t do this, right? And you back away. Or you sabotage the relationship somewhere.

So, at the core of the fear of intimacy is vulnerability. And Brene Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. So, we’re going to carry that thread with us throughout this episode today.

At the core of emotional intimacy is an avoidance of vulnerability. It’s an unwillingness to want to be vulnerable. So, vulnerability is at the key here.

We don’t let that guard down. We don’t want to let people in. We don’t want to expose, I love that word, our truest feelings, fears, desires, experiences with another human right. And there are a lot of reasons why I think we find it hard to be vulnerable or authentic, specifically for gay men.

And that is, as we talked about in the last episode, a fear of rejection and abandonment. So being vulnerable, that emotional exposure, opens us up to the pain of rejection. We’re pretty much asking for it, not asking for it, but opening up to the possibility of it.

Very similarly, it’s a fear of being judged or ridiculed by having that vulnerability, by exposing yourself emotionally. There’s also a lot of societal and cultural conditioning around masculinity that tells us that vulnerability is a weakness and that men should be stoic. We shouldn’t show our emotions.

There might be a fear that you will lose your autonomy and independence. So, although lone wolves out there, we become very self-sufficient, perhaps. And the idea of letting someone else in threatens that safety.

And then don’t forget that when we’re in the closet, being in the closet for a long period of time teaches us the opposite of vulnerability and authenticity. It teaches us to hide who we truly are. We are. We learn how to keep others away from learning too much about us. We literally have to stay in the closet for our own safety. But that teaches us to keep people away. Right? So, we kind of have this learned behavior of hiding now and coming out of the closet doesn’t mean that you leave all that behind you in the closet. That that doesn’t disappear overnight. That tendency stays with you. Those behaviors tend to stay with you unless you’re very conscious of them. And then the biggest one, I would say, is past traumas, such as childhood or past relationships. So, if you’ve been betrayed, if you’ve been hurt, if you’ve been rejected, if you’ve been abandoned, if you’ve been hurt by others in the past, obviously the tendency is to armor up going forward, okay? Going to be resilient. We’re going to armor up, and we’re going to build that wall. And I think there’s quite a few of us that fall into this category. Some kind of pain from the past, whether that is in childhood or relationships or maybe even both. So, it’s instinctual and seems like a good idea to protect yourself and guard yourself against further pain. So, we learn not to let people in. Keep your cards close, build those walls. And that’s how you get guarded and suspicious, even. And you find it hard to trust because you have been hurt. It makes perfect sense. Nothing has gone wrong here, right? But that armor that’s meant to keep you safe gets heavy over time and actually keeps people away, keeps you isolated and feeling lonely, on one hand, yearning for a deeper connection, and then on the other hand, keeping, wanting to keep yourself safe. So how do you find that balance? Right. So, you might find yourself with many superficial or casual relationships, keeping people at an arm’s length. Close, but just close. Not close, but not too close from developing closer bonds because it feels safer that way.

So, let’s get started into the conversation, guys.

I think I’ve set the stage good and well.

So, the first question we have is, what makes it hard for you to get close to someone? And why do you think that is? And let’s start with Matt today.

[00:10:00] Matt Landsiedel: I knew it was coming. I knew it was coming.

Really good job, Michael. You walked.

I felt very seen, very exposed. I was like, okay, yeah, I check off a lot of those, or at least have in my past, but still check off some of them.

It’s really hard to have this conversation without talking about attachment, really. Attachment is that, like, if there’s any attachment injuries or wounds around connecting with people, this. The fear of intimacy will form out of that. So, for me, I had a fairly challenging childhood, lots of volatility in the home. Both my parents had experienced trauma, and then that was passed on to me. So, it was like a very, very challenging home life.

And I developed a fearful avoidant attachment style, which is otherwise known as disorganized. It’s a very confusing attachment style to have because I want closeness. But then everything in my development taught me that closeness leads to pain and heartbreak and these sorts of things. So, I shelled off and I built up all these, like, mechanisms and walls around me. And that’s what I’ve been really working on for the last 20 years, probably on, you know, healing this attachment style. I didn’t realize it was, it was attachment trauma until probably nine years ago, something like that. I.

Yeah. So, I’ve been doing a lot of work on this, and there’s. I want to use a framework to offer up some information today, and I’ll try and relate myself to it personally. But there’s a practitioner, his name is Doctor John Van app, and he has a model of attachment which includes five stages.

And the way he teaches this is he teaches that in order for you to move from one step to the next, you have to have completed this first step and then you move on. I might have taught this at one point. We’re so many episodes now, I can’t even remember. But, um, if not, I think this is a very important model, and I use it a lot in my own personal life. So, the first step is to know, to know somebody. The second step is to trust them. So, once we know somebody, we can then trust them. Once we trust somebody, we can rely.

Once we can rely on somebody, we can commit. And once we commit to somebody, we can have touch.

The last step for me is where I don’t necessarily agree. I think touch can be bled in through all of them. So, I kind of like the fourth stage with the fifth being kind of bled within whenever it feels safe. But for some people, they need to have that commitment in order to feel safe to share their body with somebody. For some people, they don’t.

Most of my life I did touch, and then I would try to commit, and then I would, you know, I did it backwards, to be completely honest and then I would get to this no stage and be like, wait a minute. I’ve committed to you, I’ve relied on you, and I’ve tried to trust you, but yet I don’t even know who you are, right? And that’s where I kept perpetuating this injury of getting hurt and attracting people. And so, I’m trying to go through each one and I’m going to answer the question directly. And what makes it hard for me to get close to someone in each stage, really. So, in order to get to know somebody, I struggle that the person isn’t going to be who they say they’re going to be. And a lot of my life, I think I confused people’s potential for the reality of who they are.

And that likely comes from childhood trauma. Right. I almost, like, had a tolerance to red flags from my childhood. So, like, when I would go on dates or start dating people, I wouldn’t be able to see these things because they were just so normal and natural from my upbringing. And once I would get involved with them and I would start to try and move beyond this stage of, like, trying to trust them, I didn’t feel like I knew who they were. It’s almost like my filter was skewed or my, I had blinders on or something. So, I have. So, I carry a lot of fear in that one. Like, really, it takes a lot for me to, to let somebody into my sphere, and I really take time to get to know somebody, but, and then under the, under the trust area, I think for me, I carry a strong fear of being betrayed again. Like, there was stuff that happened in my childhood where the people that I was supposed to be protected by and connected to, and they were supposed to take an interest in me and love me and protect me. I didn’t feel like I had that right. So, it’s almost like I carry, I’ve carried this belief a lot of my life of, like, well, if those people weren’t there for me to support me, then why on earth would Joe blow that I’m dating, right. I carried this very strong belief, and I actually still carry this with me. And I’m doing a lot of work on trying to heal this.

And then that bleeds into rely. So, I have, again, this core belief that people aren’t going to be there for me in the way that I need them to be, being empathic, intuitive, and sensitive. As a young child, this is where I also have compassion for my parents because I was quite a complex kid and my parents didn’t know how to support me. But I still carried that wound of, like, no, nobody’s there to support me. No one really gets me right. And so, I shut down. I tried to fit in or be normal or any sorts of things, but really, I was just denying who I was. And that part of that comes with being gay too. Like, being gay was a very complex thing that I had to navigate. We all had to navigate as young boys, and it was really challenging, so.

And then when it comes to commitment, I think I carry a pretty big fear around.

Like, what if I fall madly in love with somebody and they x, y and z fill in the blank? Like, my mind goes to all these places. Like, what if they don’t feel the same way about me? What if they leave me?

What if they cheat on me? These sorts of things. So, I carry a lot of this, like, fear, which, again, fearful avoidant attachment style, right? It’s like it’s characterized by this hot, cold, like, I want it, but I’m scared of it kind of thing. Um, and then I would say touch. I had a hard time with this one because, um, I think all of these precursor ones, being a demisexual, like, these really, really set the stage for me feeling, like, safe and secure to want to share my body with somebody. Um, so I feel like I’ve actually reversed these now. And I do, actually do that for the most part, like, you know, the odd time. It’s not like I need, like, full commitment from somebody to share my body, but I want to know them, I want to trust them, and I want to know that they’re somewhat reliable. Do I need to have a commitment with them? Not necessarily, but I think the first three steps are really important for me to feel safe, to share my body. Uh, but I do notice that I carry some fears within this area around. Is my body enough? And feeling like we come from quite a hyper sexualized, very body centric community. And it’s like, I don’t know, I have this judgment towards the community that it’s like, it’s not enough. One body is not enough. Like, there’s the whole thing about novelty and variety, and it’s like, you know, so I really would want to attract a partner who’s monogamous and can see beyond this notion of, like, I need ten bodies to feel satisfied. It’s like they are more heart centric and I think they want more. Like they’re going for the heart. So, when they’re making love and they’re connecting with my body, they’re like, feeling my heart and my soul. So that would be enough. So, I think there’s this energy around, like, I would want to be enough. So, the fear that I carry in dating would be, am I enough? Am I enough for this person? So, I’m always assessing that, you know what I mean? And it’s a heavy thing to carry, right. Because I think part of that comes from my own insecurities of not feeling like I’m enough. And I think that’s one of the things I’m really working on right now, is, like, finding that true, deep, deep worth where I know I’m enough. And even if it did happen, worst case scenario, that I would be okay and I would be enough for myself, you know?

So, I think the top five that I see in myself, as far as fears that really affect me, getting close to somebody and being intimate, would be the fear of not being enough, the fear of abandonment, the fear of betrayal, and the fear of rejection, which should be very much about coming at me, those things coming towards me and me having to experience that. But one that’s really big for me is the fear of hurting somebody. Because in all of my relationships, I’ve always been the one that’s ended it. And in a couple of them, I fell out of love with the person or I lost attraction to them. So, the relationship ended. And being an empath, the pain that I could feel in that person that I hurt, it was almost just as painful for me. Right. So, I do carry that a lot, is I don’t want to hurt people, and it’s very much a codependent thing, but it’s also a compassion thing. I really just have a lot of compassion for human suffering, and I don’t like to see people suffer. So, yeah, that’s my best take at it. Like you said, this is so alive. There’s so much stuff in this area for me because I carry quite a big fear of intimacy.

But I also want to acknowledge, and then I’ll wrap up here, I want to acknowledge that I have done a tremendous amount of work in this space for myself personally. And I have a ton of security in my attachment style as well. And I don’t want to dishonor that. I feel like I know how to show up and be vulnerable. I know how to take relationships to that next level. I know how to respect my body and really take it slow and lead people into me. I think I’ve learned a lot, and I feel like I’ve come a long way, so I really wanted to just bring voice to that as well.

[00:20:06] Michael Diiorio: Yeah, yeah. Thank you, Matt. That’s a great, great show. And I love that model. I think, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you taught that in the building better relationships course. Did you do that there?

[00:20:17] Matt Landsiedel: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I did. Yeah.

[00:20:18] Michael Diiorio: Yeah.

[00:20:19] Matt Landsiedel: Good point. That’s where I taught it. So, I don’t think I taught it in here, but I think I taught it in the, in the course material.

[00:20:24] Michael Diiorio: Yeah. It’s one of the lessons there for anyone who’s interested.

[00:20:26] Matt Landsiedel: Yeah, yeah. It’s a great model, in my opinion. Yeah.

Reno, what about you?

[00:20:34] Reno Johnston: There’s a lot there.

[00:20:35] Michael Diiorio: Yeah, yeah.

[00:20:36] Reno Johnston: Right. You know what? I feel really raw for some reason, and it’s interesting. I’m not really sure. Maybe it’ll come through, but it’s like, I feel like if you poked me, I’d probably cry right now for some reason. Yeah. And I don’t know what that’s about. It’s really interesting, though, and I’m comfortable with it, and I’m comfortable sharing it, but there’s, like, a tenderness around this topic for some reason. You know what’s interesting is when I read the first question, my immediate response was, well, I don’t really feel like this is something that I struggle with. And I think that that’s, I’d say that’s pretty accurate now, but when I was younger, not so much. Um, I’m really just going to speak from my heart in a big way here and say that what I remember was this little boy who was so open, and so this is probably why. Okay. My heart was telling me things before I even got speaking. Um, I just remember this little boy who was, like, so heart open, eyes open, arms open, like, available to the world, ready to, like, try things and connect with people. Super curious, full of wonder. And.

And there were times where, like, that was met and nurtured and nourished and honored, and then there were times where it really wasn’t. And all of those beautiful qualities that I think gave way to the potential for intimacy were, were at least taken for granted. And at most, how would they say, like, they made me a target.

They made me a target.


And so, yeah, I think that’s where the struggle with this question comes from, because I think I’ve always excelled at intimacy. And it wasn’t until I started to recognize that it wasn’t safe for me to engage in that way that I started to pull back.

And then what, what would happen is I would test people.

I became a bit sharper, a bit more prickly and specifically with men.

They would come into my life and I would test them, and I would test them to see if it was safe for me. I would ask them to see if they would stick around. I would test them to see if I could be intimate as well.

And I imagine in their own way, I see this now. Maybe I didn’t in the past, they might have been doing the same as well.

I can look back at some of these people in my life, and I can have, I can hold them in forgiveness and empathy and compassion because I know that those people themselves were deeply hurting. And I actually can sort of recall in some ways an awareness of what was going on behind the scenes in their own lives and why it might have been really hard for them to be intimate. And what’s interesting is that I can remember one of my best friends when I was a child.

He went from my bully to my best friend.

And, you know, what I saw was that in his household, there was a lot of volatility, a lot of volatility. And it really broke my heart to see. And he came with this toughness in the beginning. And as time went on and we got close, this, yeah, there’s so much emotion here. But we became really, really good friends and we opened up to each other. And I just got to see this beautiful, softer, kinder side of this person as a result. And I really think that this has been a big part of my life’s work and my life’s journey.

Life seems to either place me with or place with me, these men who, in my experience, come in struggling with intimacy themselves.

And maybe I am, too. I’ll own that as well, that there are situations where certainly I am as well. And over time, it seems like those walls start to come down and we start to open up and reveal more and more of ourselves gradually. And then there’s something really beautiful and amazing that happens. And what we start to find is we have so much more in common than we don’t.

And so that’s been really amazing. And I didn’t know that I was going to answer this question this way. It’s really interesting. I made some notes and I just, the whole time we were gearing up to have this conversation, I was like, there’s something going on in the background right now, and I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to listen to it and I’m just going to let it speak. So, the other thing I’ll say is, yeah, I definitely used to push people away sometimes, you know, and that’s part of that testing piece. And I think it wasn’t until there’s two pieces to this. One is.

One is, and I guess I’ll talk more about this in the next question. But I became at home within myself. You know, I think that was like, a huge piece is like, I became at home within myself and I started opening up more. And I met people who were curious about what was happening for me when those walls came up. And that was really helpful. Rather than taking it personally, they met it with curiosity and they met it with compassion. And that allowed me to kind of tease that out and sort of explore, like, okay, what is going on here? I remember someone explicitly, one of my former partners, who’s like one of my best friends in the whole world. Like, he’s my ride or die. It’s amazing. And, you know, I remember we were in the bedroom one time and he sat up and he said to me, what’s going on with you right now? Like, what’s happening? And it was genuine, you know, and I just thought, wow, it snapped me out of this trance and I just started sharing.

And that was one of the first times that someone had met that pain with curiosity and compassion, and it allowed me to begin a healing process that took actually months and maybe even years. But there was progression, and it was very visible and very obvious. And I feel like I’m.

I’m a very, very different person than I was previously, and I think that might be all that I want to say.

I guess I would rather saying. I listed some things around experience, rapport, trust, shared values, reciprocity, mutual interest and respect, past experiences, judgments, projections, environmental factors, identity and ego as things that would get in the way of intimacy. That’s just sort of a list that I had written down. I don’t need to go into detail, but, yeah, I think I’d leave it there. There’s probably so much more I could say. It’s such a juicy topic, but, yeah, thank you for the prompt.

[00:29:17] Michael Diiorio: And Michael, they always are juicy, juicy topics on this podcast. That’s why we love it so much. Right? Thank you, Reno, for sharing that. And thank you for kind of being heart centered and really going with your intuition there and having that very vulnerable moment with all of us and in many ways practicing intimacy.

[00:29:36] Matt Landsiedel: Yeah.

[00:29:36] Reno Johnston: Thank you.

[00:29:37] Michael Diiorio: Thank you.

Um, what was the question? I was so wrapped up in the story. What makes it hard for you to get close to someone? And why do you think that is? Okay, um, I would say historically, I have done I mean, I have done a lot of work on this in the last 1010 years especially. But historically, it was a, I don’t want you to see the things that I was most insecure about. I don’t want you to see my pain. I don’t want you to see my loneliness. I don’t want you to see my imperfections. I don’t want to see my shame. So I would kind of keep people away.

And I was the guy who, when I was talking at the beginning about, um, having casual or superficial relationships and not getting closer, that was me, because it’s relatively easy for me to meet people. It’s relatively easy for me to connect with people. But once things started to get close, I was like, right, I’m out here.

I’m just not doing it. And so, before I was aware of all of this, all of the stuff about intimacy, vulnerability, attachment, um, all those things I would attempt to satisfy my need for intimacy with sex because in my mind, those were the same thing.

Because sex was easy enough to find. And I thought, okay, this is the same thing. But it obviously was leaving me wanting more, because the kind of sex I was having was not necessarily the emotional, was not necessarily an emotionally intimate experience. It could have been, but it was not what I was doing. I was basically binging on sexual encounters while starving for the thing that I truly craved. And I didn’t understand why, and I didn’t know. I didn’t know what was going on. Um, but once I made that distinction, and I’ve talked about my story a lot here, that light bulb went off, and I was able to adjust my behavior, right? So, less chatting on Grindr, more in person dates, less quick gym sex with a guy whose name I don’t know, more cuddle sessions on myself over hours at a time with somebody that I am getting to know. And so now I would say that’s my. That’s maybe, like, me. My past. Now that I have a clear understanding of what I’m craving, I can align my actions according to, in accordance with what I’m trying to satisfy. Because sometimes I do just want the quick stuff, and sometimes I do want the emotional intimacy. And. Yeah, so that’s that. That was then, though I think it’s important to share that because I do think there’s a lot of people who might resonate with that and that that might be there now. Right.

But then when I asked this question, it’s funny, because I came up with this question. Then when I went to go answer it, I’m like, I don’t know how to answer this.

So similar to you guys, I had a really hard time thinking about this. And so, you know, I think what it is for me now is more of that maybe going back a bit to that lone wolf tendency within me.

I’m very discerning and protective of my time and energy as I get older, and I don’t want to waste my time. So, it’s not so much about a fear of letting someone else in, because I’m afraid to be vulnerable. I’m afraid for them to see my flaws and my insecurities and my failures and my shame, because, I mean, I talk about it on a podcast to thousands of people each week. So that’s not. That’s not the same. I feel like I can do that. It’s more about a fear of them messing up a good thing that I got going on. I know that makes sense. So, like, it’s not that I’m afraid to be vulnerable, it’s just that I’ve built a great life for myself, and I’m very protective of letting someone into that space, uh, for fear of them disrupting the good thing I’ve got going on. So.

Yeah, sure. Like, maybe it’s like, you know, you let someone in and then they betray you and then they. They do something. So. So there is that aspect of it. It’s. I guess the rejection isn’t there as much, but it’s more so, like, things are good. Don’t mess it up. That’s kind of like what it is. So, if we’re going with Brene Brown’s definition, she had said, um, risk and uncertainty, that’s what it is. Its more so the risk of someone coming in and fucking things up and then the uncertainty of them being in my life as well. Not as much the emotional exposure piece. So, a great example of this was it hit me in a big way while I was in Mexico in the winter.

You guys know, I was there by myself, working remote, doing my thing all over. Mexico was great. One night in particular, I went for a beautiful walk on the beach in Zipoliti. For those of you who’ve been, you know, there’s huge waves crashing on the shore. It’s a quieter spots, there’s not much light pollution. There’s a lot of stars in particular that night. And I was just like, it was one of my first nights there, and I was just walking along the beach, just admiring and as I do, expressing gratitude for my life.

I have a good life, pretty much happy, healthy, effectively living my dream. And then in that same breath, I said, I wish I had someone who could enjoy this moment with me.

So, I want the thing.

I want that person. I want that man. But at the same time, I feel like I put up a lot of barriers in a way of, like, just, you know, Matt, you went to your, going back to your model. I feel like my model has become bigger and longer as I’ve gotten older. Like, it’s harder for me. Not harder. I’m just maybe more discerning. I think that’s the word I want to use to trust and let people in. And that’s what it is. It’s not that I’m afraid to show myself. I would love to. I definitely want that. I know I want that. But it’s, uh, is it worth the risk? That’s where I’m at.

So, this takes us really nicely into our second question, which is shifting gears and saying, what has helped you become more comfortable with intimacy?

[00:35:13] Matt Landsiedel: There’s so much here, guys. I’m like, where my brain’s running and, like, oh, my God, where do I take this? I want to just say to Reno, thank you for sharing that. It’s such a beautiful, like, inauthentic relating. That’s what we do. We take from the background and bring it to the foreground. The front. The foreground is always what we think people want. And then when we talk from the background, it’s always, like, the truest part within us. And it was really beautiful to witness that in you. So, thank you.

[00:35:37] Reno Johnston: Thank you. I felt really held by both of you guys. I appreciate it. Yeah.

[00:35:41] Matt Landsiedel: And I heard myself in your story in two ways. Within myself, yes. But also, within our dynamic. When we first met, it was a lot of stuff. We mirrored things to each other, and it was like everything you shared was. And it’s cool to hear that because we have so much insight now that this relationship between you and I has really gifted us. If we didn’t go through that, we wouldn’t have seen certain things that we mirrored to each other. And I think for that, I’m just, I’m super grateful. And it’s nice.

[00:36:10] Reno Johnston: I may touch on it a little bit later, too.

[00:36:13] Matt Landsiedel: Feel free.

[00:36:13] Michael Diiorio: Yeah.

[00:36:14] Reno Johnston: Okay. I’m glad I have your permission, because you brought that up. It definitely came to mind, and it’s been beautiful.

[00:36:21] Matt Landsiedel: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And then I wanted to comment on what you said, Michael, because you said your stages are more drawn out and longer. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think that’s a good thing. And I think as we get older, we have more trial and error, more scar tissue. We can slow things down more and not just anyone will do. So, this whole point of, like, are they going to come in and disrupt my life? Well, I want to take it slow and make sure that they aren’t a disruptor, that they’re going to come in and compliment my life. So, I think it’s just a testament to your work and your maturity. So. Yeah, yeah.

[00:36:55] Michael Diiorio: Thank you.

[00:36:56] Matt Landsiedel: And, you know, I talked a bit about attachment style in this episode, and I wanted to just point out for those of you who have not taken our attachment style quiz, it’s in the show notes. Go and take that and find out what your attachment style is because that’s how I would answer this question. Like, what has helped me become more comfortable with intimacy? Step one for me was learning my attachment style. Yes, I’m disorganized. I’m fearful avoidant. Okay, what do I need to do? What are my fears? How do I need to mitigate them? How do I need to get my needs met in these new ways?

Huge, super huge for me. And I think, like, the fear of intimacy is one of the greatest intimacies that or one of the greatest fears that lurks in the shadows. It is so elusive and it’s hard to put our finger on it because there can be a lot of stuff in there that’s like the ego is trying to protect us from feeling that fear, right? So, it takes a lot of awareness and, like, discernment in these things to really track what that fear is connected to. At least for me, it was a lot of fucking work to try and pinpoint it. And then once I pinpointed, I was like, oh, my God, I have to go into these deep, deep trenches to do this deep trauma work to heal this, right? Which was really challenging for me.

So, the biggest one for me, what has helped me, I would say slowing things down, right. If I was confusing somebody’s potential for the reality for who? Of who they are. Again, slowing things down and getting to know somebody. Well, guess what? If I slow things down, get to know somebody, and I’m not fucking them on the first date, then it’s like it for me, that’s a big thing that helps me get closer to somebody without going too far, activating my fear and then having to pull back. My attachment is fearful avoidant. I go in and then I pull back. So, if I go in slower, there’s a less likelihood I’m going to pull back. Right. I really got to slow down. That’s been the biggest one for me. And that’s actually really hard because human desire, arousal, attraction, these impulses that we have as human beings, it can be challenging to do that. So, for me, it’s a learned skill. I’ve had to learn how to slow things down and take my time and let each stage gradually unfold. And maybe that’s also why I’m really into courting. I like being corded. I like kind of, you know, this slowed down process of, like, dating because it’s like, it’s yummy. Why would I not want to, like, indulge and, like, kind of like, you know, enjoy the progression as opposed to just being so impulsive, which is how I was in my twenties. I was very impulsive. I would move towards the physical right away, and I wouldn’t really get to take the time to know somebody. So, um, and then you spoke about this, Michael, about vulnerability. I think vulnerability for me is, again, it’s a skill I’ve had to learn, and it has helped me tremendously to, you know, again, all of the past partners that I’ve had within the last five years have known my attachment style. I lead with it. I go in, I’m like, okay, here’s my pattern here. I have this file in my phone that says attachment. And I’ve got all the stuff on fearful avoidant. I usually send it to people as we get to that stage in the relationship so they can understand my patterning and they can help me, right? They can support me. They can. We call it like prefacing core wounds, right? If you have a core wound of abandonment, can you advocate for the person to reassure you that they’re not going to leave? Right. That’s how we can, like, as partners, we can help support each other and, you know, help each other with, with some of these fears and with, the only way we can do that is if we lead with vulnerability and share that we have these insecurities, right?

And then that’s one piece. The other side is like shadow work, like doing my own work, because I can’t expect somebody to always hold this stuff. Like, I have to also be able to hold myself and, like, take care of my own needs and address those sorts of things. So, the shadow work for me has really pointed out again my upbringing, like my wounds, my scars, the things that I endured as a child that put the walls around me, right? I had to, I had to meet those parts of myself, my inner child, my inner teenager. I had to go back to these parts of myself, and I had to integrate, which I’m still doing that work. I’m still trying to integrate that little one and that teenager.

But the more and more I do that integration work, the more and more I’m at peace with myself, and I can start to come into intimacy, and then the last thing I’ll say is self-compassion. I’m a late bloomer in this area. I’m just learning what true self compassion is at this stage of my life. And it’s.

It’s a gift. It really is a gift of spaciousness and patience and understanding and kindness towards myself that, yeah, I had some shit that I had to deal with when I was younger, and it’s shaped who I am in a big way, and that I can hold those parts of myself and say, you’re doing good. You know what I mean? It’s okay. It’s okay to carry fears in love, in relationships, because most of us do. And I think that’s the energy that I’m bringing into. Into myself now. And it’s helping. It’s helping a lot. So, yeah, intimacy is so beautiful. I don’t. I don’t want to miss out on it. You know what I mean?

[00:42:02] Reno Johnston: Yeah.

When I heard you say that last bit about compassion, I always. There’s this, like, mama archetype of me that comes up, and I just want to be like, come to mama. Come lay on mama’s chest. I got you. I got you.

[00:42:17] Matt Landsiedel: That’s sweet.

[00:42:18] Reno Johnston: Yeah, yeah.


Yeah. What? What? Like.

Well, first, I guess I want to say, like, I really appreciate that you brought up our dynamic map, because something that I want to say, something wants to speak to with regard to it, is that, like, I think. And who knows? Maybe. Maybe one day we’ll get on here and do, like, a. Like, a two-way podcast episode or so, and maybe it’s three on, just on that alone, because it was such a transformative experience for me. You know, it’s like I came into the community and, you know, and, like.

And then we connected, and there was this whole unfolding that took place, and I feel like there were ways in which I had sort of projected onto you. It was like playmate, crush, leader, like, all these different sorts of projections, right? And then I think over time, as we got closer, you know, there was sort of this. Like, there was sort of this mess. Like, my stuff came up. Your stuff came up. And we worked through it. And, like, that’s simplifying it because it was really challenging, but look at, like. Look at where we are. Now. And I think this speaks to intimacy because, like, I have so much trust for you. Like, I hold a lot of. There’s a lot of trust in our relationship and in our dynamic. And I feel like that has so much to do with the fact that we went through so much shit together that. And came out the other side still connected and still supportive and even closer, I would say.

And so, it’s like, intimacy is easier. You know, the trust is there, the rapport is there. So, it’s pretty amazing to see. I think it’s quite a testament to what’s possible for people, you know, in general. Yeah.

Did you want to.

[00:44:24] Matt Landsiedel: I want. Yeah, I want to say something.

[00:44:25] Reno Johnston: Go ahead.

[00:44:26] Matt Landsiedel: Strong, intuitively. And I wanted to share it, and I’ll speak it from an ownership place. I don’t want to put it onto you.

[00:44:31] Reno Johnston: Yeah.

[00:44:31] Matt Landsiedel: But, like, I grew up in a chaotic home. Okay? So how I got my intimacy needs met was I would create chaos, or I would participate in chaos, and then it would. Everybody would be thrown. Thrown off, and then we would try and come back together. So, I learned that chaos and conflict actually lead to intimacy. And it’s interesting because we played out that dynamic. And why I said I didn’t want to project that onto is because I feel or perceived that you had a similar upbringing where chaos, intimacy. So, we played out that dynamic, which was. That’s what I learned from our relationship the most, is like. And I would be like, how dare you reno? Like, how dare you play this out? And then I realized I’m so triggered by this because I did it, too.

[00:45:11] Reno Johnston: Yeah, right? So that’s really powerful. Someone said that to me once, too. They were like, there was someone else. They said to me, you know, like, you don’t have to create drama in order to have intimacy and connection. I was like, damn, okay.

Because I didn’t know. I got. It’s like, it was. It’s just. It was second nature to me. I didn’t know. You know, I didn’t know. And I was like, oh, wow. I can just. I can just ask for it. Wow. Who knew? You know? I just want to be close to you, period. Right?

Yeah. Wow. Actually, that’s interesting because, I mean, I think it ties into. Yeah. The last question was, like, what helped you become more comfortable with intimacy? Yeah, I think, like, what came up was I one. One thing is I stopped making myself responsible for someone else’s experience, and I started holding and honoring and prioritizing my own it. Like, I became home for myself and within myself and because I was able to, like, because I’ve become more capable of holding and trusting. It’s like everything that I’m looking for in them in order to be safe, let’s say, to be safe, to be comfortable, to be at home within myself, I’ve cultivated within myself so that I can just come, like, home in myself, connected to myself, whole in myself. So, it’s like, you know, previously what I saw was there was this, like, push pull, hot, cold dynamic, you know, fear of losing myself, fear of being trapped or, like, loss of freedom.

Fear of losing them, you know? And now it’s like, I’m not afraid to lose them because I know I’ll be okay, you know? And. And I just became comfortable with just, like, being. Just being within myself and just being with what is. And that. That has been a game changer. There’s. What’s really alive for me right now is I met this guy, and he’s a dear friend now. And it’s amazing how quickly we’ve become close. Like, some of my friends were like, who is this guy? Where did he come from? And what’s the deal here? And I’m like, I don’t know. I just.

What I said was, I met him, and I felt like there was a connection there. And then I just decided that I love him, you know? I was just, like, I just decided to love this guy. You know, it’s like, he’s awesome. I just really appreciate him, all his quirks and, you know, and there’s, like, there’s so much. There are layers there. Like, we’ll sit for hours and just get, like, into it deep, and it’s really, really beautiful and really special. And the other night, like, he came over, we made dinner together, we hung out, and then we spent the night, and we cuddled, and we’re just friends. And then the next morning, I woke up, he was leaving the room, and I came out later, and he was in the kitchen making chocolate dipped strawberries, figs, and bananas. And I was just like, this is so sweet. And we just spent the morning together and part of the afternoon. And, you know, I was talking about, like, romanticizing our friendships and how, like, I don’t feel like I’m at a loss when I’m single because I romanticize my friendships and not in this, like, you know, I feel the need to, like, clarify what that means, but it’s just, like, I don’t know, all the stuff that I would do with a partner, minus, like, the sex. Let’s say it’s like, why can’t I have that in my relationships with the people I’m close to? Who decided that? Who made that story up? If it’s possible, if it works for both of us, then why not? And so, yeah, I think that has also helped me become more comfortable with, you know, with intimacy. Is just like, giving myself permission to be prioritizing my experience, you know, and, like, doing the work, I guess. I know that’s, like, a loaded statement, but it really is, like, doing the work. I think a lot of the work is just like, there’s a quote, and then I’ll shut up. St. Thomas says, if you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. And if you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you. I’ve said this quote on here so many times because they’re. It’s just like, words to live by. And so, for me, that’s been, like, my practice constantly. Just, like, bring it forth. Bring it forth. So, yeah.

[00:50:31] Matt Landsiedel: I love that. Thanks, Rina.

[00:50:33] Michael Diiorio: It’s beautiful.

And if this gentleman wants to come over and make some food at my place, he’s more than welcome to leave it alone.

[00:50:41] Reno Johnston: No, I’m just kidding.

There’s plenty of him to go, right?

[00:50:45] Matt Landsiedel: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:50:47] Michael Diiorio: Okay.

Yeah. You guys, as always, said all the great things. I want to underline that self-awareness. Huge one. Huge, huge, huge one.

[00:50:56] Matt Landsiedel: Yes.

[00:50:56] Michael Diiorio: Having the awareness to know, like we talked about in the beginning, to know if this is you is a good chunk of the battle, as they say. And what Reno was saying about loving himself. And that self-compassion piece which you both talked about, I think two of the biggest ones for me, if we talk about intimacy, and that definition is exposing yourself to the emotional risk. Right? If you’re going to expose yourself to emotional risk, you have to have the skill of loving yourself, having your own back, and believing in yourself, self-compassion, all that stuff which we’ve talked about previously.

[00:51:29] Matt Landsiedel: Yeah.

[00:51:30] Michael Diiorio: So when I look at it, for me, going back to my example of, like, why would I let somebody in my life is so good? Um, I have to believe it’s worth the risk.

I’d. I have to remind myself, and this is true for me, but sometimes I don’t always believe it, but it is true. I’d rather have the joy of a beautiful love story that ends in pain than living in fear of the pain and not having the love story.

[00:51:59] Reno Johnston: That.

[00:52:00] Michael Diiorio: Is true for me. And I’ve proven that through having. I think I’ve told you I’ve had several relationships, and they’ve all been, like, years at a time. And I see them all as these beautiful little books, beautiful novels, beautiful love novels. And they’re all very different, and they’re all different ages of my life, and they’re all different things. And I’m single now. And, like, I know that there is another love story out there, but I have to believe that that love story is worth the pain of it ending. Not to say that it’s going to end, but we don’t know. I can’t guarantee anything, right? So, I have to believe for me that it’s worth a risk.

The way I look at it, in typical logical me, is like, okay, my choices are guaranteed living in fear or the possibility of pain.

I’m like, well, obviously it makes it very easy for me to choose. I’ll choose the possibility of pain then. Guaranteed living in fear of potential pain, right? Because I know that I can survive emotional pain. I know that. I mean, I have and I will continue to. And we have the tools and I have the support to survive it. And yes, it sucks. Pain sucks. Emotional pain is awful. Um, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been rejected, abandoned, betrayed, whatever your pain is. But when you believe in yourself and you have the tools of self-compassion and you have the support around you, um, it makes it a bit bearable. And then it has to be worth it. That’s. That’s how I have become more comfortable with it. Like, I just. It has to be worth the potential pain and the potential risk. Putting yourself out there. You know, we talked about in previous episodes how I will put myself out there. I will go approach somebody. In the last episode, we talk about rejection because I have been rejected so many times that for me, it’s like, okay, it’s just a bit of rejection. Now, that’s not the same as this kind of pain where, like, you know, you’ve exposed yourself emotionally to someone and then they abandon you. That is a much, much deeper wound there. But it’s the same idea of the.

It’s something you can learn and you can have belief in yourself.

[00:53:53] Matt Landsiedel: Yeah.

[00:53:54] Michael Diiorio: Yeah.

Anything that you guys would want to add?

[00:54:02] Reno Johnston: Well, I felt like, I think I drove it home, but I just want to make sure. And it was the piece earlier around cultivating within yourself what you are seeking in another.

And then. And then secondly, going first, you know, because I just. I guess what I see so much of, and it’s such a barrier is, you know, it’s like, well, I’m not going to bring. I’m not going to bring courage and authenticity and vulnerability unless they do first. And then you’ve got two bitches with their backs against the wall, you know, and it’s like we’re not getting anywhere, you know, I’ve been to that nightclub. It’s like everyone’s waiting for someone to come over. No one’s coming over, you know, so it’s like, go first.

[00:54:53] Michael Diiorio: I’m the someone.

[00:54:55] Reno Johnston: What’s that?

[00:54:56] Michael Diiorio: I’m the someone.

[00:54:57] Reno Johnston: Right, exactly. Yeah, yeah. And then. And then, yeah, I think just, yeah. Cultivating within ourselves what we’re seeking in another, you know? And that can be really hard to hear. It was hard for me back in the day. I was like, what do you mean? What do you mean? But I understand it now. And you have people like us and podcasts like this to help walk you in that direction.

[00:55:24] Matt Landsiedel: Yeah, yeah, I like that. And I would also even say it’s even enough to cultivate the courage to enter a relationship where you can say, I don’t have these things, but can we cultivate them together? Because certain things are relational and you can’t really cultivate them on your own. Like, you know what I mean? Like, for me, it’s like learning to trust somebody in love. Like, I. You can’t do that unless you do it right. Like, you’re. It’s just part of it. So can I cultivate the. The capacity to fall back on myself and my worthiness and the compassion I have for myself if it doesn’t work out? Yes. But I think there’s certain things that we need to do relationally. And I think that’s. That’s what makes it so scary, you know? But also, so beautiful when you find it and it. And it feels good. Yeah.

[00:56:07] Michael Diiorio: Intimacy is a beautiful thing. I think it’s one of the. One of the most human things about this human experience is that feeling of connection, emotional connection. So, yes, it comes with a risk, but it has to be worth it. And it is. It is. Yeah.

[00:56:21] Matt Landsiedel: Yes.

[00:56:23] Michael Diiorio: Okay, guys, thank you, Matt, thank you, Reno, for your vulnerability and actually showing us what intimacy and vulnerability look like.

[00:56:31] Reno Johnston: I love you. Ho. I love you.

[00:56:35] Michael Diiorio: For our viewers and listeners, thank you for sticking with us on this episode.

Reminder to join us in the sharing circle. The Gay Men’s Brotherhood. Sharing Circle and Connection circles. They happen on the second and last Thursdays of the month. Get on our mailing list. We’ll send you all the information there. If you’re watching us on YouTube, go ahead and tell us what you think of the episode and give us your own thoughts on fear of intimacy in the comments. And thank you so much. We’ll see you next time. Bye.