Chronic Illness in Marriage, Marriage Help & Resources, Mental Health, Mental Illness in Marriage, Sexual Integrity

Feeling Alone and Unloved in Your Marriage?

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7 Tell-Tale Signs Your Spouse Has “Intimacy Anorexia”

You may never get the love you need in this relationship.

While most of us love to be in love, tragically, you will find countless men and women who put up walls, refuse to nurture their relationships, and keep themselves in deep emotional isolation deliberately. This behavior is commonly referred to as intimacy anorexia (a concept coined and defined by Dr. Doug Weiss) and those who suffer from it restrict love and intimacy in the same way their namesakes restrict food.

If you find that you always feel lonely in your marriage or that your spouse is much more of a roommate than a lover, intimacy anorexia may have something to do with it. As per Dr. Weiss, you may need to dig a little deeper should your spouse exhibit the following behaviors:

1.  They are ALWAYS WAY TOO BUSY to connect:

When your partner is constantly running from one thing to the next and is always too busy for connection and intimacy, there is possibly more to it. Many intimacy anorexics will go out of their way to keep themselves overly busy by spending all of their time doing things for themselves and others, but their spouse is never an equal priority.

For instance, a husband may volunteer time outside of the home to help others, work overtime, plop down in front of the T.V, or play on his cell phone, or just goes to sleep once he gets home. In other scenarios, a mom who has been carting kids around all day may settle in for the night and also claim she is just too tired or perhaps even worn out to engage with her husband. These situations happen to everyone, however, it is when they become the norm (not the exception), that there is a serious problem.

2.  They play the “blame game”:

When a person with intimacy anorexia talks about issues in his or her relationship, it’s always the other person’s fault. The intimacy anorexic will never acknowledge the role that they play and will constantly criticize their partner. When this behavior is brought to their attention, they generally become hostile and defensive.

3.  They withhold love, praise, and even sex:

Since intimacy anorexics have no desire for intimate encounters, they will often withhold acts associated with affection, caring, and nurturing. This is especially true when the couple is in private, as many individuals with intimacy anorexia are very good at playing the part in public. They rarely give the outside world indications of the issues that lie within their private lives.

This problem can go far beyond simple withholding and may even reach the point of intentionally sabotaging moments of connection, especially when such moments may lead to sexual encounters.

4.  They refuse to express their emotions:

Whether they are unwilling or perhaps, even if they feel incapable, intimacy anorexics will often refuse to express their emotions. Rather, they internalize their emotions and often act as if they are able to read their spouse’s mind.

Rather than asking what their spouse is actually thinking, the intimacy anorexic typically assumes negative motives as well as allows those unjustified assumptions rule their response and behavior

5.  They constantly criticize:

It does not matter if it is the clothes the spouse of an intimacy anorexic is wearing or the way in which she’s interacting with the kids, an intimacy anorexic can find fault with EVERYTHING. While it may well not happen in public, at home, the intimacy anorexic is often belittling and degrading of his spouse.

After a while, this causes the non-intimacy anorexic spouse to withdraw; as they feel they just cannot do anything right, and their self-esteem begins to plummet.

6.  They use the silent treatment:

As with other anorexics, the intimacy anorexic is always striving for control and one way they achieve it, through the silent treatment. Whenever upset or angry, rather than sitting down and talking about it like a mature adult, the intimacy anorexic will shut down and go into silent mode.

It’s not just because they want to withdraw. Rather, it is a toxic way to control their spouse’s behavior and emotional and psychological status. This lets the anorexic feel as though they have the power in the relationship, (and they really need that power).

7.  They use money to control:

Another form of control an intimacy anorexic relies on centers around money.  Oftentimes they will ensure that their spouse’s access to money is extremely limited, or perhaps spending becomes a foundation for shaming their spouse (even when the purchases fall within a mutually determined budget).  Even though this characteristic is not as common as the others,  it’s presence in the relationship, it is likely to come off strong and overwhelming.

If any of these behaviors are plaguing your marriage, take heart, there is hope.

Intimacy anorexia is a topic discussed more and more these days, and you will discover that there are many wonderful therapists who specialize in working together with the unique needs of these couples. By developing intimacy skills, proper coping mechanisms, and deepening your connection to each other, intimacy anorexia is completely possible to overcome.

To learn more about overcoming the devastating effects of intimacy anorexia, I highly recommend reading, Intimacy Anorexia: Healing the Hidden Addiction in Your Marriage by Dr. Douglas Weiss  

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