Obstacles to Intimacy Series
~Exploring God’s Gift of Intimacy~
Most people have heard of sex addiction; however, most have not heard of intimacy anorexia. Similar to food anorexia, which is the withholding or starvation of food, intimacy anorexia is the starvation or withholding of love or intimacy.
There are a few common characteristics of intimacy anorexia. As you read through the following list of behaviors, consider if they apply to you or your partner. If the statement is true more often than not, mark yes. If the statement is false more often than not, mark no.
THE 4 WITHHOLDINGS
Behavior #1: Withholding Love from Your Partner
Withholding love from your partner is intentionally disconnecting from the emotion of love toward one’s partner. This behavior ties in closely with the remaining behaviors we will be addressing in this blog. Withholding love does not necessarily indicate withholding sex. It is the withholding of intimacy, emotionally, physically or sexually. Withholding love can be displayed in many forms by lack of verbal praise or affirmations toward your partner, not communicating effectively with your partner, criticizing or slandering your partner, lack of healthy sexual touch, an inability to be emotionally intimate, not ensuring quality time for the relationship, controlling, shaming or blaming a partner or even a lack of the emotion of love.
An intimacy anorexic may not express love or appreciation of their partner or even value them as a person. In other words, they may not love you for who you are, but they may “love” you for what you do or at least enjoy what you do for them since intimacy anorexics generally appreciate the appearance of having things together. Due to the inability to express love, a partner of an intimacy anorexic may eventually become like that of a dried flower, wilting, that has never been watered or nourished.
Behavior #2: Withholding Praise or Appreciation from Your Partner
This behavior appears to be common among many couples. In the beginning, we may praise and appreciate our newfound love, but eventually, the praise and appreciation becomes obsolete. Unfortunately, we tend to be good at using our words negatively or even remain silent with our words, rather than use our words to provide encouragement through the praise and appreciation of our partner.
Whether or not we think negatively about our partner, take them for granted or just elect to stay silent rather than verbalize our praise and appreciation towards them, it all amounts to the same unwanted feeling of rejection. We need to continuously let our partner know we still need, love and desire them. Most partners long to hear words of affirmation, even if it is not their primary love language. We all desire to be consistently affirmed about what we do, who we are and who we are becoming. Encouragement is a vital aspect of our desire to achieve and be successful in life.
Oftentimes, those who find relationships outside of their marriage tend to also find praise and appreciation from the one whom they are attracted to. Therefore, it is critical that we provide the praise and appreciation our partner wants and longs to hear.
Behavior #3: Withholding Sex from Your Partner
An intimacy anorexic may withhold the act of sex for days, weeks, months or even years from their partner. However, they may also be willing to engage in the physical act of intercourse but unwilling to engage their heart, body, mind and soul into the sexual act. The majority of intimacy anorexics fall into the latter behavior. They tend to neglect the emotional, intimate connection they could receive through their sexual experience.
Partners may feel as though they are just going through the motions but not connecting with their partner on an emotionally intimate level. They are just having sex, rather than experiencing the joy and intimacy of making love. Sex may be viewed as a duty, not something desirable and enjoyable for both partners.
Generally, men have a stronger desire to be sexual than women. However, men also have a strong desire to have their partner initiate and enjoy sex as well. As a partner of a intimacy anorexic, you may realize you are the only one initiating sex. You may also feel shamed just for the desire to have sex with your partner, or the intimacy anorexic may even make the sexual experience unpleasant or unrewarding for you in order to prevent intimacy in the future. An intimacy anorexic desires to be in control to keep you at a distance.
For those of us who have intimacy anorexic tendencies, it is important we begin to learn how to effectively initiate the act of sex with our partner. We must be able to ask for sex, as well as be able to hear the possibility of no as a response.
Behavior #4: Withholding Spiritually from Your Partner
An intimacy anorexic may withhold spiritually from their partner. They may not wish to pray with their partner. Or if they do, they may use prayer to shame and blame their partner. Again, this is another form of self-preservation to protect their heart.
THE 2 CONTROLLING
Behavior #5: Controlling Your Partner by Silence or Anger
Many of us also use silence or anger to control or manipulate our partner. An intimacy anorexic will purposely initiate arguments, situations or circumstances that cause friction with the sole purpose to disconnect from their partner. They may even intentionally create tension during times of planned intimacy to ensure their partner remain at a distance.
Behavior #6: Controlling or Shaming Your Partner with Money Issues
An intimacy anorexic can oftentimes be controlling or shaming regarding money. They do not hold the same standard of spending as they do for their partner. In other words, they can spend money but tend to make their partner feel guilty about spending money, even when it is money their partner personally earned themselves. This is another behavior that is common among many couples. Unfortunately, this one has led many to divorce as well.
THE 2 UNAVAILABLE
Behavior #7: Staying so busy there is no Relational Time for Your Partner
An intimacy anorexic will find numerous ways to remain so busy they have no relational time for their partner. They may find quality time with others but can manage to stay so busy they will not have any relational time for you, the most important person in their life, their partner. If your love language is quality time, which mine happens to be, living with an intimacy anorexic will be an agonizing experience for you, because they may not speak the same love language as you and may do everything in their power to prevent relational time.
Behavior #8: Unwillingness or Inability to Discuss Feelings with Your Partner
An intimacy anorexic may be unable to clearly identify and effectively communicate and express their feelings to their partner. They may be underdeveloped emotionally. We refer to this as emotional constipation.
Depending on our past experiences and how we filter our current experiences, we may tend to feel drawn inwardly or prefer to keep our emotions and feelings to ourselves. However, in a healthy relationship, one must learn how to express their feelings and emotions in a positive way. We must learn how to share ourselves with another human being.
THE 2 OFFENDED
Behavior #9: Ongoing or Ungrounded Criticism Causing Isolation
An intimacy anorexic tends to constantly criticize their partner, no matter how great they are, to prevent themselves from experiencing intimacy with their partner. As the honeymoon stage wears off, we begin to view our partner through a different lens, the spouse lens. Somehow, they no longer appear to be as great as we once thought they did initially. An intimacy anorexic will find a way to criticize their partner in as many ways as possible, cleaning the house, cooking, clothing, parenting, etc. They may even publicly criticize their partner in front of others.
Oftentimes, intimacy anorexics are driven by their own guilt and shame, which may be conscious or subconscious. It takes much more work and character to encourage and build someone up than to tear someone down. This is true with most things in life, as building always takes longer than tearing things down.
Behavior #10: Making Problems or Issues about Your Partner
An intimacy anorexic will find an opportunity to shift the blame to their partner on a consistent basis. Blaming only pushes our partner further away from us. An intimacy anorexic enjoys being able to isolate and be alone to avoid others, so blaming their partner becomes a natural tendency in order to achieve this goal.
As humans, we tend to find it very easy to shift the blame to others instead of being responsible for our own behaviors. We need to begin to own our failures, whether it is a coping mechanism for us or whether we purposefully inflict harm or shame upon someone else.
A FEW OTHERS
Behavior #10: Making Your Partner Feel like a Roommate
Many partners of intimacy anorexics feel like a roommate. I thought it was appropriate to mention it here, as another behavior to base your findings.
Behavior #11: The Good Guy/Gal
An intimacy anorexic wants others to view them as the good guy or gal, and many others outside the marital relationship may view them with a high regard. However, in demonstrating the other behaviors, they neglect their partner.
My husband knows I love Reese’s peanut butter cups. At our Annual Couple’s Conference, he will distribute them to everyone BUT me. This is similar to how a partner of an intimacy anorexia will feel. Their partner will be the “good guy” to everyone else but intentionally withhold from them.
Take our Intimacy Anorexia Test.
Excerpts from Ashes to Beauty.
In my next blog article, I’ll be discussing how we become intimacy anorexics.
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.