Intimacy is a choice to open yourself up to others and share who you are and your experiences so that you can create lasting, strong connections. When you put yourself out there and have that trust returned, you develop intimacy.
If those efforts are rebuked, or you’re rejected in some way, you may withdraw. Fears of being dismissed, spurned, or hurt may lead you to separate yourself from others.
Ultimately, this can lead to low self-esteem, which may make you even less likely to venture out to develop relationships or new friendships.
Erikson believed that in order to continue developing as a healthy individual, people need to successfully complete each stage of development. Otherwise, they’ll be stuck and may be unable to complete future stages.
For this phase of development, that means you need to learn how to develop and maintain healthy relationships. Otherwise, the remaining two phases of development may be in jeopardy.
Isolation is often the result of a fear of rejection or dismissal. If you’re afraid that you’ll be turned down or pushed away from a friend or potential romantic partner, you may avoid interactions entirely.
This can ultimately lead you to avoid all future attempts at forming relationships.
Erikson believed that not fulfilling any stage of development would present problems in the future. If you weren’t able to develop a strong sense of self-identity (stage five), you might have a hard time developing healthy relationships.
Trouble at this stage of development might prevent you from nurturing individuals or projects that will “leave your mark” on future generations.
What’s more, long-term isolation can be detrimental to more than your mental health. ResearchTrusted Source shows that loneliness and social isolation can cause cardiovascular disease.
Some people may be able to have a relationship, despite not building strong, intimate bonds. But that might not be successful in the long run.
One studyTrusted Source found that women who were unable to develop strong intimacy skills were more likely to be divorced by midlife.