Recovering from sexual addiction can be a long and painful journey for the addict as well as for those who love them. However, recovering from intimacy anorexia or sexual anorexia can be even more challenging. Like food anorexia, which is a starvation of nutrition, intimacy or sexual anorexia is a starvation or the withholding of love from one partner to another.
Generally, intimacy or sexual anorexia can only be accurately diagnosed in a marital relationship by the partner of the intimacy anorexic. Marriage is the only covenant institution that requires, if not demands, the total giving of yourself (mind, body, soul, spirit, and heart) to another. The very thing that helped most adults survive as little boys and girls are the very things that dismantle the marital fabric.
It wasn’t until after I started recovery that I was able to identify behaviors caused by intimacy anorexia in my marriage. I began to see the same behaviors in many of the couples who came to our office. A young couple falls in love. Then, fast forward 20 years (now days, it can be less than 5 years), and intimacy anorexia has plagued the marriage since they said “I do.”
It’s been said that “prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So I began to think, “What if I could predict and provide a list of behaviors that I have seen in my own life and in the lives of my clients that might warn others that even though appear to be in a “good” relationship, they are about to enter into a nightmare once married. Intimacy anorexia will rear its ugly head, and they will say “I wish…I had not.”
Below are some warning signs I have observed that might help you avoid staying in a relationship with an intimacy or sexual anorexic.
Note: The following list does not guarantee that you, your son, or daughter are in a relationship or are about to marry an intimacy or sexual anorexic. However, if you notice 10 or more of these in your relationship, you are in danger.
- He/she has a very close relationship to his mother/father. You might feel like the third wheel when you are around the two or three of them.
- Your partner’s parents guilt or shame them into doing things for them or coming to visit them. They have a difficult time setting boundaries with their own parents and saying “no” to them. This is also known as codependency.
- One or both of your partner’s parents have a history of addiction or addictive behaviors. Your partner’s physical, emotional or relational needs were neglected.
- Most everyone likes them. They appear to have no enemies. They have many acquaintances but few, if any, close friends.
- Your parents really like him/her and can find nothing wrong with them. In fact, they wish you were as pleasant and charming as they are.
- They experienced physical or sexual abuse/trauma as a child.
- They have shown signs of a sexual addiction, such as porn use and/or masturbation.
- They have never expressed feelings of anger around you or allowed you to see them angry.
- If you have seen them angry, they withdraw and shut down in silence.
- They appear cool, calm and in control of their emotions. They are never too happy or too sad. They appear emotionally cold or detached.
- They appear to have it all together and have life figured out. Image is important to them – how they look, dress and what others think of them. They are not involved in drugs or alcohol, as they do not like losing control.
- They may be very active in their faith practice and seem to over spiritualize life.
- They are busy at work and at home. They have difficulty finding time for you, and their reasons for not having time for you appear to be justified.
- They did not date much, or at all, before meeting you.
- You met them online. Much of your relationship has been long distance.
- When together, they have difficulty making simple decisions, such as where to eat or what to do during a date. They make everything a question, “Do you want to go out for Italian or Mexican?” They have a difficult time making assertive statements, such as “I want to take you out for Italian tonight.”
- They show resistance or awkwardness toward non-sexual touch, such as hugs, holding hands, and cuddling.
- They make you feel guilty or shame you for spending money or question how your family spends money.
- They blame others for the problems in their life. They have a difficult time owning their mistakes or apologizing with sincerity.
- They act differently in a group, as they may be the life of the party and socially involved. However, when alone with them, they are reserved and have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings. They might also accuse, blame and criticize you in private.
Taken from Out of the Darkness by Cory Schortzman
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.