“Cory you make way too much of this sex addiction and intimacy anorexia stuff. I mean really men are going to notice women other than their wife, view pornography and masturbate. It is just what men do. I don’t mind watching pornography every so often myself with my spouse. It brings some spice into our bedroom. Besides, I masturbate myself every so often. And with this anorexia stuff, what man doesn’t have trouble sharing his emotions, working long hours, being away from home or is too tired to have sex with his wife? This is just normal in our world today… just accept it.”
The above is just one example of the responses I receive from John and Jane today. Well, I refuse to accept it. I believe the world has desensitized us to what is healthy. Sex is used to sell everything today. It is almost inescapable. Pornography is everywhere in the media, TV, billboards, online and in line while at the checkout lane at your local grocer. If you carry a smart phone, it’s in your pocket and in your purse, accessible if you want it. If you want to be healthy sexually, emotionally and relationally, you are going to begin to be abnormal, because I believe that normal is sick! If you know of or have ever been married to a sex addict or intimacy anorexic, you know these addictions are very real and unhealthy.
As a recovering intimacy anorexic, I have found some tools that have helped me overcome my own anorexic behaviors and the clients that I work with.
First, an intimacy anorexic (doesn’t matter if it’s the husband, wife or both) generally does not pursue their spouse very well or at all. An intimacy anorexic needs to begin to share their emotions with their spouse and allow their spouse to share their emotions with them by using this simple exercise. This is not the “you made me feel _____ when you did _____,” or “you made me feel ______” exercise. Instead, find a list of feeling words online and pick one word to share. Then, share when you recently felt that word in the present as well as when you felt that word in the past and provide specific examples. Each person takes a turn and shares two words each day, which will create a safe, non-judgmental environment. Be sure to give each other your full attention.
Next, dating your spouse on a weekly basis is also a way to pursue each other when intimacy anorexia is present in your marriage. Each partner can take responsibility alternating weeks and planning a date in regard to what you are going to do and where you might eat, scheduling childcare, etc. This can be intimidating for couples struggling with intimacy anorexia in their marriage, and this the very reason I wrote 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You.
Sexual intimacy is the third area that we encourage couples to pursue each other. This can be very intimidating for couples who have not been intimate in years. The simple act of initiating sex by verbalizing a sexual need can be very difficult. In my experience working with couples, I would say the majority of couples have never talked about sex, sexual pleasure, likes or dislikes. Sex is usually initiated with a passive touch, look or code word. We encourage couples to be assertive using the following 3 statements: “I want to make love to you,” “I want to be sexual with you,” or “I want to be intimate with you.” This can be a very painful topic for couples. (We have more information on sexual intimacy; however, I do not have enough room to address everything around this topic, so visit our website for more information or call our office at (719) 590-1350.
Overcoming Being Offended
Intimacy anorexic men and women are masters at being offended and remaining the victim. In fact, I call this an “addiction to being offended.” believe this could be the core to anorexia and many other addictions. It allows the offended individual to never have to change, as it is always someone else’s fault. The person takes up an offense, real or imagined, from an event they experienced. The event may or may not have been negative. However, their negative thoughts begin to take hold, leading to negative feelings and, finally, negative behaviors. Intimacy anorexics live much of their time in their heads. As we say in recovery, “If you stay in your head, you’re dead.” To learn more, take our offended self-assessment.
Begin taking Responsibility
The final key for an intimacy anorexic to begin to overcome this issue is to begin taking responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Intimacy anorexics are experts at accusing, blaming, and criticizing their spouse and making excuses as to why they cannot be intimate. The first step is naming the behavior and speaking it out loud when anorexic behavior is present. A spouse can say, “Anorexia is present,” “You are being anorexic,” or “The elephant is in the room.” Whatever vocabulary the couple wants to use is fine as long as both understand what it means. More importantly, we encourage the anorexic to be assertive, take responsibility and state or follow these 4 steps:
- “I’m feeling anorexic (H.A.L.T. = hungry, angry, lonely, or tired) right now.”
- “It’s not your fault.”
- “I’m responsible for what I am thinking, feeling and doing right now.”
- Take an action step: “I am going to take a time out and will be back in 20 minutes.” “I am going to call my sponsor.” “I am going to call a group member.”
Each of these tools is not a cure in and of themselves over anorexia, however, working them together is a very good start. Intimacy anorexia is a very difficult addiction to overcome on your own; and generally, professional help is required. We also offer support groups for intimacy anorexics and their partners.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry 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. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
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.