When people are polled, especially in North America, most still dream of getting married and loving one special person for the rest of their lives. Romantic and forever love is still the stuff of poets, musicians, and artists. One can hardly go a day on social media without seeing some post that references true love, soul mates, and romance and passion.
True and devoted love is one of the sweetest of prizes to claim in this life. I believe that we all are hard-wired to want this kind of love! I believe this drive and desire is planted in us by a loving God who wants us to experience all of the joys of life. Many of these joys can only come by dedicated, committed, life-long, and covenant married love.
Imagine with me every love story you have ever heard. Two souls meet in some wonderful circumstance of fate. They court each other, date each other, romance each other. Then, together they decide to pledge themselves and enter into holy and sacred matrimony. Beautiful!
Then, everything changes. What was once blissful connection and closeness suddenly changes–maybe even at the honeymoon. Where there was once dedication, loyalty, and single-minded attention, there is emptiness. One partner is drastically and suddenly different. She has pulled away and seemingly taken away everything that was once held dear. He has become distant, selfish, confusing, and so much more.
What was once so close and wonderful has become married and alone. It is terrible! It is more common than you think! The cause? It may be Intimacy Anorexia.
Trying to make sense of what happens when everything seems connected and right and wonderful in courtship, but becomes empty and alone in marriage, Dr. Doug Weiss identified what he has called “Intimacy Anorexia.” I fear with increased distracted living, social distancing, and things like pornography, this challenge is more common than we know. It even seems likely that it is increasing in this digitally fascinated world where virtual reality is becoming more of our reality.
This series is to help others to see, understand, and feel helped if this is their experience.
Dr. Weiss has defined Intimacy Anorexia as the “hidden addiction.” He says, “Intimacy Anorexia is the active withholding of emotional, spiritual, and/or sexual intimacy from a spouse or significant other. This active withholding impacts the spouse or partner significantly causing emotional trauma, pain, and anxiety. However, intimacy anorexics continue their patterns of behavior regardless of the hurt they are causing” Intimacy Anorexia).
Here are the common characteristics Dr. Weiss has identified in Intimacy Anorexia. If your marriage is experiencing most or all of these, you may be among those married to someone with Intimacy Anorexia. If you exhibit all or most of these, you may struggle with Intimacy Anorexia.
- Being Busy: She stays too busy to spend time with you! She saves work and chores and other tasks and priorities for a time when she could spend time with you. You will feel like she is too busy or too preoccupied for you. She fills her days with activities that do not include you and that keep her too exhausted to spend time with you.
- Blame: This characteristic causes the person with intimacy anorexia to blame all of the problems in the relationship on their partner spouse. When issues come up, he always blames his spouse for the problems. The anorexic spouse needs to be “the good guy” all of the time.
- Withholding Love: The spouse with intimacy anorexia actively withholds the kind of love her spouse most wants. This is intensely painful because the anorexic knows what kind of love their partner wants, but actively withholds it from them. If his love language is quality time and acts of service, she (the anorexic) will not offer this kind of love. It is intentional withholding of love like the spouse wants to be loved.
- Withholding Praise: The anorexic partner with not give praise to their partner–especially in private and often not in public. Words of affirmation and affection are constantly and consistently withheld.
- Withholding Sex: Some intimacy anorexics withhold all sexual and physical contact–some even as early as the honeymoon and throughout the marriage. Others do not stop all sexual contact but withhold all intimacy during sexual contact. There is no emotional connection or closeness with an intimacy anorexic. If there is sex, it is purely physical and usually all about their pleasure, not yours.
- Withholding Spirituality: The anorexic, in this case, may, in fact, be very spiritual in public–even a leader or teacher in church. However, they actively withhold spirituality in the relationship. She will withhold connection with the companion spouse on all things spiritual in the home.
- Withholding Feelings: The anorexic is either unwilling or unable to share feelings with their partner. This can be intentional and so painful as part of withholding love for the spouse.
- Criticism: Ongoing and unfounded criticism of the spouse that leads to distancing in the relationship. This is an intentional strategy of categorizing weakness and shortcoming and blame of the companion spouse so as to avoid all closeness and connection.
- Anger: The anorexic in this case uses anger as a way to avoid intimacy. It can be blow-ups and harsh treatment. It can also be subtle like silent treatment for days and weeks on end. Not all anorexics use anger, but when they do it is quite destructive to their partner.
- Money: When this characteristic is present, the anorexic uses money in manipulative and controlling ways including spending money however they want while punishing and controlling their partner for any spending at all, making their spouse ask for money, or controlling all aspects of spending.
- Roommate/Stranger: The spouse of an individual with intimacy anorexia will feel like a roommate. They live together but feel like strangers. They share the same world but are not connected. Many spouses of those with intimacy anorexia find themselves wishing they were a stranger because their partner will engage emotionally and intimately with others but not with them. Spouses feel more like roommates rather than lovers.
Dr. Doug Weiss, who first coined the term and identified treatment approaches has said that if you can identify 5 or more of these characteristics in yourself and/or your relationship, you may be struggling with Intimacy Anorexia. You may want to reach out for help! Please start by going to www.IntimacyAnorexia.com and get connected with Dr. Weiss and his team. There is great help here!