I see a theme with many couples I work with. This theme is that of intimacy anorexia, love, sex addiction and codependency. Traditionally, it has been believed and thought that a man struggling with intimacy anorexia is to carry the burden and blame for not pursuing his wife emotionally, relationally, sexually and spiritually. For the most part, I agree with this perspective, as the intimacy anorexic has neglected most of these areas, and his wife finds herself in a loveless, sexless marriage. She is not to blame and cannot change him or motivate him.
However, I have also noticed, for whatever reason, many passive anorexic men are married to strong, assertive, and dominate women. This dynamic creates an interesting system. A system in which a passive man meets and falls in love with an assertive woman. At the beginning of the marriage, this creates a codependent system which works for a while until what appeared to be a blessing now becomes a burden to them both.
She now begins to accuse him of being lazy, unloving, and never pursuing her. She is most likely verbal about it. He sees her as needy, controlling and mothering. Both begin to resent each other. She does not want to have sex, because her emotional needs are not getting met by him. He does not want to emotionally connect, because there has been no sex.
Underneath all of this is his intimacy anorexia which is fueled by his offended heart that is at war with her. Waring with her as she wars back only justifies his distance, so the dualistic dance begins of who is right and who is wrong. All or nothing, either/or, and him versus her. Most often, the passive intimacy anorexic man gets to burden the blame, thus, is the only one who needs to make some changes if the relationship is to survive.
To me, this thinking is much too simplistic and codependent‑to believe that if only he would change this or that she would open her heart while she does nothing. I believe both will need to make some changes and take responsibility for their own character defects.
The character defect of a passive, anorexic man is that he generally under communicates, if he communicates at all. He does not share his thoughts, feelings or ideas. Most often, he does not give the best of his time and attention to his wife but neither to God. At work, he is loved by all and good at his job. At home, he may act lazy and never uses his full potential. He may also allow his negative emotions about his wife dictate how he acts, such as fear, anger, disappointment, resentment or offendedness, which only fuels his intimacy anorexia.
For a woman who married a man like this, she is usually able to express her thoughts and feelings easily but also allows her negative emotions about her silent, non-assertive husband get out of hand at times. She does not experience this amazing man that is displayed in public. His passivity makes her anxious and insecure which creates feelings of worthlessness, resentment and offendedness.
He promises he will get things done around the house but never does since he is tired, and other priorities come first. However, this behavior shows her he has no integrity, is dishonest, and can’t be trusted. She may feel he is a liar. Most women believe if he is lying about small things, the logical conclusion is that he is probably lying about other big things.
He feels disrespected, so he may either over spend or restrict her spending. She also may not like the word “no,” especially around financial limitations or budgets. She may even feel he is “financially abusive” and uses money to control her, which only makes her more assertive due to this insecurity. She escalates to get her needs met. He then shuts down in silence and avoidance or meets her level of anger.
She feels unheard, invalidated and unloved. He feels suffocated, not good enough and disrespected. Both feel powerless, hopeless, and worn out. They may both want out. Both are offended, and both are deceived. [Read our book, Offended Deceived Addicted]
What is the solution? How does this get corrected? How do they reconcile? Many couples stay married and miserable, or they get divorced, because it’s just too difficult or too much work.
However, some seek restoration and reconciliation by seeking professional help. Stop fighting each other. Stop seeing your spouse as the enemy. Start seeing your spouse as a teammate Start fighting together for your marriage! Humble yourself and begin to take responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Stop asking when is my spouse going to change and start asking when am I going to change.
Take the offended assessment today.
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.