Imagine meeting your future wife at a church activity! They are asking for volunteers to help serve others. You notice hers is the first hand to go up! In fact, you recall that she is always the first one to offer to help others. She is always there early to help and she is often the last one to leave, helping to the end.
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Withholding: The Silent Marriage Killer: Intimacy Anorexia Series Part 2
She is attractive, friendly, and seems well-liked! She makes it a point to reach out to others and offer them a kind word. She readily accepts opportunities to help out including volunteering at the last minute to teach a class, serve someone, or take someone a meal or help. She seems like quite the woman.
You ask her out on a date. She seems so easy to talk to when you are with her! She talks of her loving family, how her parents are always serving and helping others. The more time you spend with her, the more you admire her willingness to serve. This is so attractive to you! You had hoped to find someone who is dedicated, selfless, and caring.
Well, the dating continues. Often, your dates turn into helping others. You even plan dates to serve at a local food pantry or volunteer together to take a meal for someone. It is so enjoyable to help together, serve together, and do good together!
While enjoying this, you talk often about what you want to do in the future. Much of it is continuing the theme of your dating. And the attraction grows. Soon, you start holding hands, then you kiss, and it is wonderful. Imagining a future together becomes easier. She wants to be with you and dreams of this future together. You cannot stop dreaming of her.
Because you are a committed Christian, you are resolved to not live together or be sexual in any way. So, you continue building enjoyment and connection together–talking more and more about a future. You talk of kids, family, and service to God and the community. It seems there is so much before you to enjoy and love! Soon, you are engaged to be married!
The excitement continues and you find yourself swept away in it! Her family is enjoyable all seemingly just like her–ready and willing to lose themselves in service to others. You feel like you scored the biggest jackpot in finding her! You watch her family and determine she came from a great stock! You are excited!
The wedding day comes and it is pretty much all you expected it to be. It is a wonderful celebration with many friends and family! It is wonderful and you feel like the luckiest man on earth. You have just married the most wonderful, selfless, attentive, service-oriented, devoted, and caring woman you have ever known. Wonderful!
Then, the marriage begins. Something feels off and odd. When you get home just days after the wedding, she does not even get off the couch or turn off the tv to say hello to you! She does not even seem interested that you are home. Thinking it must just be a fluke, you go up to her and lovingly greet her and try to give her a kiss. She seems annoyed and you don’t understand. So, you go and cook dinner for yourself and her and hope it is just a rough moment.
However, this happens day after day. She is more interested in television than you! You heard that Newlyweds want to have sex a lot and you are kind of interested. However, she has her head in a romance novel and does not pay any attention to you. You try to help her by cooking and cleaning, thinking this will surely help. It makes the house look nice, but she does not show any renewed interest. At times, she seems to want sex, but she pays no attention to you and only lays there expecting all the attention.
On Sundays, she ignores you while you get ready for church. However, as soon as you arrive at the Church, she immediately brightens and rushes to great others. She is warm, nurturing, offering to help and comfort. You see her again and fall in love! “There she is!” you think to yourself and you feel like everything is okay! But, when you leave and get in the car, she suddenly seems cold, distant, and aloof. She has little or no interest in talking, seems preoccupied, and you go home and she separates and does her own thing.
You are so confused. What happened to the outgoing, selfless woman you fell in love with? You saw a glimpse of her just there at church, but it disappeared as soon as you were alone again. This confusing experience continues every day and every week. Everyone else sees the wonderful, outgoing, selfless woman you fell in love with and married, but she is not here in the home anymore.
You work hard to try to earn her attention! You serve her more! You cook the meals, clean the house, and offer to help! She accepts! You try to be romantic. You make sure to take her on a weekly date where you plan something like what you did when courting. You make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day and holidays. You try in every way to romance her, spend time with her and on her, and make her feel special. She seems to enjoy these moments, but nothing changes. You feel like you are invisible!
Imagine this continuing for years and years! You are committed and never wanted a divorce, but you feel like your marriage ended right after it started. You are married, but you feel all alone! You have a partner, but you feel more like a roommate. You are repeatedly forgotten. You never hear compliments, you never receive affection. If there is sexual contact, it is void of any intimacy or connection or closeness at all.
The romance novels continue to be more of a focus than you! You are confused about how someone could read about and love that kind of book, yet have no interest in sharing those things with you! You find pornography on the computer and you ask her about it. She blames it on the babysitter. You try to talk to her about it and she either turns it on you, blames you, or falls apart and says she is a failure. You ask family and friends for help, but none of them can see (nor do they believe) what happens behind closed doors. Nobody gets it and you feel hopelessly and totally alone.
She engages in addictive behavior including excessive gaming at all hours of the night. She repeatedly and regularly binge-watches Netflix shows especially during times you could be together. If she helps with the chores, she waits to do it until you get home saying she is too busy to spend time with you. In fact, it feels to you like she is saving the chores until you get home to avoid spending time with you. She struggles with masturbation (something against your Church teachings) but does not want to be sexual with you. She neglects the children and regularly forgets their doctor appointments and has even forgotten to pick them up from school because of gaming
She controls and manipulates you using money. If you spend anything, she demands it to be approved by her and within the budget. Yet, she can spend whatever she wants. You talk and it seems to go well as you agree on things together, then she goes and does just the opposite when she is on her own. In fact, you see that in every conversation you have where there seems to be agreement on something, she goes and does the opposite. You agree on how to handle something with the finances and she does the opposite. You have a plan for the kids and she does something else. If you say anything, you get blamed and shamed. You feel like you have no power to change anything. In fact, you don’t. She is in control of everything. And you feel more and more alone.
You wish you could be a stranger because she is nicer to them than you! She never remembers your birthday and has no idea what you like or love! She demands you are there for her and that you have to be a great husband, but she never reciprocates! You try to ask, but you never get a response. You beg for connection and closeness! You are starving to feel loved, to feel special, and to be remembered, but it never happens.
You ask her what happened and what changed and she says, “Oh, I only said and did those things because I wanted to get married.” You ask about her family and what you thought you saw, and she says “Oh, we never did anything together as a family. We were only together because you were there!” She said her parents and family were always serving others, but never each other. You feel betrayed and even more alone!
If you feel any of these torturous feelings, feel married and alone, and feel like you would like to be a stranger in order to be loved by your companion spouse, you are probably married to an intimacy anorexic. This is one of the most difficult things to experience. When marriage is supposed to bring companionship, closeness, celebration, intimacy, connection, support, love, and nurturing, and it is full of emptiness and isolation, this is a terrible torture. Being married and alone is one of the worst feelings ever.
This is such an interesting series, Jim.
I am wondering how all this looks through the lens of the intimacy anorexic person? Do you have a complementary story to share?
Thank you for reading this series, Charlotte! You ask a great question! There are more articles in this series coming and I love the idea of exploring it from their perspective! Thank you!