Intimacy Anorexia is “the active withholding of emotional,
spiritual and sexual intimacy from the (partner).”
—D. WEISS, 2010
I believe that Intimacy Anorexia can be viewed from both an addiction lens and a trauma lens. When viewed from the trauma lens, it makes sense that Intimacy Anorexia is a trauma response exactly as addiction is. Addicts use Intimacy Anorexia as a way to control the distance in the relationship so that it enables them to keep their behaviors hidden. And it is that distance that is extremely confusing, painful and damaging to the partner.
To further the damage for the partner and the relationship, the Intimacy Anorexic can hold intimacy for others. In fact, they often make great friends and coworkers. They freely give to others what they intentionally withhold from their partner.
Think of a puppy. If you consistently feed, pet, play and talk with a puppy, he will grow to be a nice family pet. If you are inconsistent, neglectful, and depriving with the puppy, he is likely to grow mean, distant or aggressive. Where there is chronic deprivation in any relationship, it makes sense that a partner would respond with anger and rage or depression and withdrawal.
Intimacy Anorexia needs to be treated in much the same way that we treat any addiction. It is an intimacy disorder. Therefore, healing is about setting the stage for renewed and sustained intimacy by creating a loving and nurturing relationship through emotional connection.
Is your relationship struggling with Intimacy Anorexia?
Ask yourself these questions:
FOR THE PARTNER
Are you starved for affection in the relationship? Do you feel loved and appreciated, or deprived and neglected?
Do you feel as if you are married but alone in this relationship?
Do you feel locked out from his/her feelings or as if your feelings are unappreciated?
Does he/she shift blame to deny responsibility or avoid looking at his/her own issues?
Has your spirit and self-esteem been systemactically chipped away?
Do you feel rejected, unwanted, or unattractive to your mate?
Is he/she controlling about money?
FOR THE ANOREXIC
Do you withhold praise or affection?
Does your behavior communicate that you don't need your partner?
Do you guard your heart so your mate can't get in?
Do you play the blame game?
Do you use criticism to push your partner away?
Do you withhold or sabotage sex?
Do you control or use guilt or shaming to manipulate your mate about money?
Do you stonewall (withdraw or shut down) when your mate tries to communicate with you?
Do you use anger to shut down attempts to connect?
Do you feel more like roommates than lovers?