Obstacles to Intimacy Series
~Exploring God’s Gift of Intimacy~
How Do We Become Intimacy Anorexics?
In the Obstacles to Intimacy Series, we discussed Obstacle #1: Sex Addiction, Tips & Tools to Overcome Obstacle #1, and Obstacle #2: Intimacy Anorexia. In the last article, if either you or your partner answered yes to more than five of the intimacy anorexic behavioral questions, it may indicate the presence of intimacy anorexia.
So, how do we become an intimacy anorexic? There are a few common causes for intimacy that I’ve included in this blog.
- Sexual Addiction
- According to a study completed by Dr. Doug Weiss, 29 percent of the general public sex addicts are also intimacy anorexics. Through our practice, 62 percent of sex addicts seeking professional help are also intimacy anorexics.
- Remember, a sex addict can have a fantasy world where they are not required to emotionally or spiritually connect with their fantasy partner. There is no intimacy. Since it isn’t real and is false intimacy, there are no expectations from their partner, no complaining, no requests, no needs and no emotion. Therefore, intimacy anorexic behaviors become common among sex addicts. If your partner is also a sex addict and the sexual addiction is not addressed, the intimacy anorexic behaviors will also not be resolved.
- Attachment Issues with the Cross-Gender Parent
- An intimacy anorexic may have experienced attachment issues with the opposite-sex parent, who may have been absent, emotionally cold or unavailable, disconnected, neglectful or abusive. They may have been unable to attach to their parent, disregarded or shown a lack of attention or care. They may have never seen a healthy relationship modeled between a man and a woman and, therefore, cannot effectively maintain a healthy relationship. An intimacy anorexic may be more apt to suffer from what my husband refers to as “the mother or father wound,” which is an emotional or mental enmeshment or boundary issue with a parent or any other individual for that matter. Enmeshment is a term used to describe two individuals within a family or a relationship who become highly interdependent upon each other. They may feel a strong loyalty or allegiance to one other and develop extreme closeness with very few boundaries. They may be unable to make decisions without the consent or blessing of the other. They have very little self‑sufficiency. Some families are enmeshed as a means to protect themselves from pain, which can become extremely toxic. This protection can become a negative influence to where neither the child, nor the family, can mature. For example, this individual may be enmeshed with a parent of the opposite sex, fulfilling the role of the opposite sex gender, experience low self‑esteem or abandonment issues or may have mood disorders, as well as numerous other possibilities. Some intimacy anorexics may have grown up in a home where emotions were not displayed on a consistent basis or allowed to be expressed. Individuals who grew up in these circumstances may have been conditioned to withhold emotional responses throughout their life.
- Sexual Abuse
- Many intimacy anorexics may have also been sexually abused. Some of us have experienced mild to severe emotional, physical or sexual trauma in our past. This may have affected our ability to give to another individual emotionally, physically or sexually, especially if something significant was taken from us. Many of us who have experienced emotional, physical or sexual trauma struggle with the ability to trust another human being. We tend to turn off our emotional responses as a form of self‑protection to shield us against more pain and hurt. Intimacy makes us vulnerable to wounds, so we do our best to avoid it.
- Through my personal traumatic experience, I realized I did not trust my spouse, nor did I have a desire to give myself to my spouse. I didn’t want to allow another individual to wound me in a similar way as someone in my past had.
- Emotional Abuse
- Some intimacy anorexics may have also experienced emotional abuse, which can be experienced as guilt and shame to compliance or a double bind.
- A double bind is “a dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, with one message negating the other; a situation in which successfully responding to one message means failing with the other and vice versa, so that the person will be automatically wrong regardless of response. The person can neither comment on the conflict, nor resolve it, nor opt out of the situation. A double bind generally includes different levels of abstraction in orders of messages, and these messages can be stated or implicit within the context of the situation, or conveyed by tone of voice or body language. Further complications arise when frequent double binds are part of an ongoing relationship to which the person or group is committed.” (“Double Bind” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)
- Many intimacy anorexics may have grown up in an emotionally abusive or manipulative home. This can continue after the child leaves the home, making the child feel as though they can never do anything right. The home is often chaotic and unstable. The child does what was requested of them, and then the rules change and become unpredictable. In essence, the parental figure would say one thing and do the opposite.
- A less noticeable form of emotional abuse is when the parental figure in the child’s life is controlling and manipulating their will upon on the child. This can follow the child well into adulthood. Parents may use guilt, shame or anger to manipulate their children. They may say, “You’re going to do what? Are you sure you want to do that? If you loved me, you would … You should not marry her. She is not good enough for you.” They are often negative with their comments and make cutting remarks. They have been well trained in treating people as objects and not people, because that is how they were raised and conditioned. Oftentimes, the child feels judged, and judges others as less than, which can become a key part of intimacy anorexia. Intimacy anorexics may be very judgmental of others. Oftentimes, they are quick to see the faults in others but are slow and self-righteous in the ability to see their own character flaws.
- Living with an Intimacy Anorexic (Reactive Intimacy Anorexia)
- There are those of us who I believe simply become intimacy anorexics from living with another intimacy anorexic. If one partner is demonstrating a number of addictive anorexic acting-in behaviors, the other partner oftentimes withdraws from emotional and sexual intimacy as well. It is very difficult to be intimate and share your life with someone who is not sharing in return and who may have no emotional attachment to you. We tend to turn inward or outside of the marital relationship to find fulfillment of our emotional, spiritual and physical needs.
- In the process of my partner becoming healthy, I discovered I had fallen into some intimacy anorexic acting‑in behaviors myself. Much like a plant that needs water and nourishment to grow, so does a relationship. If the relationship is not nourished with many of these important needs, you may begin to notice yourself falling into some of these behaviors, dying a slow death.
Excerpt from Ashes to Beauty.
In my next blog article, I’ll be discussing reactive intimacy anorexia.
Kerry Schortzman is the Director of Operations at Transformed Hearts Counseling Center as well as an author and speaker. She has traveled the road of recovery alongside her husband through the wildfires of intimacy anorexia. She has a heart and passion to see healing and restoration in relationships and marriages as well as to bring public awareness to eliminate sex and human trafficking. Kerry has been married since 1998 and lives in Colorado with her husband and four daughters. She and Cory have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.