The Great Pretender: Intimacy Anorexia Series Part #4

I grew up with the great music of the ’50s and 60s!  I believe the best music ever came from those two decades!  It is harder to listen to as the so-called oldies stations seem to believe that the ’70s and ’80s are old now!  There are no other oldies for me but the 50’s and 60’s!


The Case Study: Intimacy Anorexia Series Part 3

One of my favorite songs from those decades was The Great Pretender, released in 1955 by The Platters.  Here, in part, are the lyrics to this classic:

Oh yes I’m the great pretender (ooh ooh)
Pretending I’m doing well (ooh ooh)
My need is such I pretend too much
I’m lonely but no one can tell

Oh yes I’m the great pretender (ooh ooh)
Adrift in a world of my own (ooh ooh)
I play the game but to my real shame
You’ve left me to dream all alone
Too real is this feeling of make believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal

Ooh ooh yes I’m the great pretender (ooh ooh)
Just laughing and gay like a clown (ooh ooh)
I seem to be what I’m not (you see)
I’m wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that you’re still around
Yeah ooh hoo
Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal.

This is a great song.  However, it has a sad message for the spouse of someone with intimacy anorexia.  It is sad because you are married to the great pretender.

The individual with intimacy anorexia is the biggest pretender in the dating period.  This is when she is highly motivated to be engaged in a relationship.  She desperately wants a relationship and will do anything to secure one.  Her need is so much she pretends she is doing well.  She will say anything and do anything to get commitment.  She is so lonely and “adrift in a world of (her) own” and she plays a shameful game when she dates.  She will give everything a partner wants before the wedding.  Sadly, this is just an act.

The intimacy anorexic will act so devoted and attentive.  Often, she is publicly the most spiritual, outgoing, pleasant, well-mannered, and devoted.  She hides her inner shame and fear of commitment and relationship.  She will be open and conversational when dating.  However, she is just “wearing her heart like a crown.”  The things you feel while dating her are only part of the act!  A terrible and cruel act.

The intimacy anorexic might also be hiding secrets during this time.  The façade of the pretending anorexic might be concealing a world of negative behaviors.  Many are sexually addicted (pornography, romance novels, infidelity, etc.) preferring a cheap counterfeit to the real thing.  In fact, they may cope by retreating to these things after putting on a good show on a date.  It is “too real when (they) feel” so they engage in their secret behaviors.   Other addictions are common including gaming, media, and substances.

The intimacy anorexic has to pretend because they fear the shame and hurt of being rejected or alone.  They cannot handle the thought that someone might reject them.  So, they have to pretend.  The intimacy anorexic will do almost anything to get a relationship–desperate for love and connection, but scared to death to get it.  When they do get it, they are terrified, for they fear intimacy.  Their shame and fear are overwhelming.  They have to work hard to conceal it.  They are great pretenders.

That is the irony of the intimacy anorexics’ actions–they desperately want closeness and intimacy and will say and do anything to get it.  Then, as soon as they have it, they take all that intimacy and closeness away.

Everything they did to get the relationship disappears.  It is replaced with withholding, emptiness, distance, avoidance, addiction, blame, and more.  This is startling, confusing, and ultimately devastating to the duped partner.

Even after marriage, the intimacy anorexic has to continue the charade.  Only now, the stage changes.  The intimacy anorexic is no longer seeking the love of the companion spouse.  No.  They have done all they needed to do to get that.  Now, the intimacy anorexic has to prove to the world that they are the best spouse.  So, they continue to pretend.  It is all about hiding what really goes on.

So, the intimacy anorexic is friendly to everyone else.  She gives service, love, attention, praise, caring, time, and more to everyone but her husband.  She is warm, eager to volunteer her time, and caring for people outside of the home while withholding it in the home.  She is often publicly spiritual and committed, but empty of the same in her own home.  Hence, many spouses of intimacy anorexics find themselves wishing they were a stranger because they witness their partner’s pretending and wish it for themselves.

The great pretender is so destructive to their partner and the marriage.  The partner is often emotionally destroyed by the loss of all that was dear and wonderful in the courtship.  Then, they are destroyed all the more by the active withholding of all a marriage is supposed to have in it.  They are being starved of love, affection, caring, gentleness, tenderness, intimacy, praise, and more.  In its place are blame, emptiness, broken promises, and feeling unknown, betrayed, and unloved.  It is a terrible torture for the companion spouse.

There are treatment options as more and more professionals are being trained to treat the intimacy anorexic.  That treatment will address this pretending.  The anorexic has to come to be real.  It is hard work, but it can be done.  With effort, the spouse with intimacy anorexic can learn to face the fears, the shame, and get help for this hidden addiction.  Without that help, there is little hope for the marriage.

For how can you hope to have a strong marriage to the great pretender?


Jim R. Jacobs
Jim R. Jacobs
Jim R Jacobs is a brave creator who strives to do mighty things! Jim is a Certified Daring Way Facilitator helping others to live more brave and authentic lives! He is the author of Driving Lessons For Life: Thoughts on Navigating Your Road to Personal Growth. Jim speaks professionally, and coaches others to success and living with integrity. He is a counselor, educator, innovator, father, and friend. Please check out Jim R. Jacobs and Driving Lessons For Life and find Jim on social media! Let's connect and dare mighty things!

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