Has your marriage been going through a rough patch? No matter how long you have known your partner, the lack of intimacy can be equally astounding in a romantic relationship. A relationship that’s fueled by both parties’ willingness to be open and expressive, can fall apart so easily due to the lack of intimacy. There’s a possibility that the lack of sexual libido or emotional connection on your partner’s end could be because of intimacy anorexia.
What Is Intimacy Anorexia?
Psychologist Dr. Doug Weiss coined the term and according to him, it is in reference to someone who actively withholds sexual, emotional, and spiritual intimacy. Intimacy anorexia is a condition categorized by the lack of intimacy in a relationship. Those who struggle with intimacy anorexia are either visibly against the idea of being intimate or find indirect means of avoiding it; making up excuses, lying, etc.
Here’s more on intimacy anorexia and how you can avoid this entire ordeal;
Intimacy Anorexia: 7 Red Flags Indicating Your Or Your Partner Might Have It
An individual who has intimacy anorexia might exhibit one or more of the following signs;
- He/she might spend way too much time at the office or while doing random things. It’s simply a way to avoid being intimate with a partner. A person of this sort will try and put in extra hours at their workplace, run errands at unusual times, try to bond with their kids for longer hours, etc. all because they don’t want to be alone with a romantic partner.
- Instead of communicating the way most adults do he/she will try to give you the silent treatment. The matter can escalate as far as a complete lack of communication where they’ll do everything except actually open up about what’s bothering them.
- They’ll fail at exploring their own patterns and put the entire blame on you. They can go as far as blaming you for the lack of intimacy in the relationship and paint you as the main cause.
- They can stop reciprocating love the way they used to do so. For instance; forgetting important romantic occasions; dinner dates, valentine’s day, anniversary dinners, etc.
- Contrary to how most romantic partners act, a person with intimacy anorexia might not even compliment you. They’ll fail at noticing your work while getting ready for them or show a lack of appreciation towards any of your efforts.
- They can show significantly less interest in physical intimacy. It won’t just be limited to sex, they can go as far as avoiding any other chances of physical contact; hugging, etc.
- It’s common for a person like this to have angry outbursts in which they criticize you or taunt you over the most minor things.
What Causes Intimacy Anorexia?
Here are some common probable causes that can contribute to the presence of intimacy anorexia;
Trauma is such a complicated thing and its impact can last for years on. How one seems to cope with his/her history of trauma varies and there’s no perfect way of tackling such intense emotions. For instance; some tend to cope with trauma in a more straightforward and positive manner by seeking the help of a healthcare professional.
On the contrary, some might try and cope through negative coping mechanisms which in turn affect their life. In no way are the people belonging to the latter category responsible for the pain they are in. Most of their actions are quite simply defense mechanisms that they’ve employed in order to withstand the pain they are in. A large majority of people that struggle with intimacy anorexia have a history of sexual trauma in the past.
Any events where they were assaulted, harassed, groped, or preyed upon in sexual contexts can alter the way they perceive intimacy even in consensual circumstances. Their negligence or disapproval towards any intimate acts is a way of coping with the memories of the past. Sometimes even the most consensual intimate acts can remind them of the times when they were taken advantage of or were approached un-consensually.
In addition to this, some start associating shame with any acts of intimate nature once something traumatic happens to them. Thus their sheer avoidance of intimacy can be an act of avoiding shame or embarrassment. It doesn’t make sense to someone who hasn’t been traumatized the way they once were but to them, it’s simply a coping mechanism.
If something burns you once, the next time around you’ll try your best to avoid it. Similar is the case for a lot of people with unhealthy attachment patterns and dysfunctional upbringings. Our primary caregivers and their show of affection towards us is the first instance of intimacy that we come across. As a guardian, they’re responsible for meeting all our material needs as well as emotional ones. Unfortunately, not everything goes well every time. Some children tend to struggle at the hands of a dysfunctional parental figure and the lack of intimacy in that relationship can alter their very definition of relationships.
If you or your partner avoid intimacy during most situations then it’s quite possible that your upbringing has something to do with it. If one never learned intimacy during the developmental stages of his/her life or never received it the way he/she was supposed to, they’d reciprocate the same way as an adult. Intimacy then becomes a foreign concept even when they’re very much in love with someone and intimacy anorexia can arise in such cases.
For some others who have grown up in similar circumstances, their lack of interest in intimacy can be an act of self-protection. They understand how begging for affection from their primary caregivers went unfruitful. Thus they want to avoid making the same mistake with someone else as that will save them from pain or embarrassment.
A child follows and mimics whatever happens around him/her. So growing up around a couple who rarely shows any intimacy toward each other will surely alter a child’s perception of love. If one’s parents aren’t as emotionally expressive as most couples should be, their kids imitate the same behavior in the later parts of their life. The lack of a positive role model that insists upon intimacy and the essentiality of opening up can determine the type of adult a child would become later on.
Should We Always Blame Intimacy Anorexia?
Now that we have determined some of the most common contributors to intimacy anorexia we have to set something else aside too. If your partner visibly reacts against the notion of sharing intimacy, then it’s very possible that intimacy anorexia isn’t the culprit behind it. It’s important to consider some alternative reasons before you pin the blame on intimacy anorexia.
A great example of this would be partners or spouses that aren’t faithful to their partners. Infidelity can be the reason why your partner doesn’t want to be as intimate as he once used to be. He/she is fulfilling his/her need for intimacy or emotional expression with someone else instead of you. This is why by the time you and your partner get to share a single space, they don’t have anything to offer to you and fail at reciprocating the energy you’re giving to them.
People also often tend to mistake intimacy anorexia for the much less impactful fear of intimacy. Intimacy anorexia can be much harsher as compared to a casual fear of intimacy. It’s possible that the reason why your current partner fails to exercise his/her emotional vulnerability is because of a failed relationship in the past. They haven’t healed their heart properly.
Thus they’re still in the happenings of the past and your partner could be fearful that you’ll leave them once they get intimate with you. Their fear might be leading them into believing that by being vulnerable in front of you, they’ll lose the control they have over their life. Some might also be fearing that you’re with them for the sake of sexual advantages and nothing more.
Consequently, their fear of intimacy could simply be the result of a failed relationship in the past. Over time they can open up and you can deal with this relationship by engaging in a couple’s counseling session. The bottom line is, sometimes the matter is much simpler than you’d like to believe. Just don’t let your thoughts run in the opposite direction and avoid landing on assumptions without getting a proper diagnosis.
How Does Intimacy Anorexia Affect One’s Life?
The consequences of having this condition can be rather life-altering. Some of the many ways having intimacy anorexia affect your life are;
- Those who struggle with intimacy anorexia might constantly feel troubled by the fact that there’s something inherently wrong with them. They can also feel ashamed and embarrassed in front of those that are aware of their troubles.
- Someone who’s much aware of his condition can constantly feel guilty about what they’re putting their partner through. They can constantly feel like they’re depriving their partner of a good life.
- Intimacy anorexia can permanently alter the way you associate with romantic partners. A large majority of people that have it, linger more towards the physical aspect of a relationship rather than the emotional one. Consequently, they’re more likely to indulge in casual relationships which can make them feel incomplete at most times.
- Contrary to what we have mentioned in the previous point, this situation varies for other folks. Those who have intimacy anorexia might also feel repulsed by the idea of physical intimacy that can inversely affect even long-term relationships. Having no physical intimacy can sometimes result in an early breakup which can cause emotional turmoil too.
- The result of an early breakup or divorce resulting from intimacy anorexia can make a person feel sad or lonely. The unsurmountable pressure of being left alone in the world to fend for yourself can be a lot to manage for some people.
- Some people go as far as depriving themselves of any chances of seeking love yet again. That’s because they believe they can’t simply provide for a partner, thus they should remain single.
- Intimacy anorexia can be viewed as a rather unserious disorder by those who aren’t aware of the damage that it causes to one’s life. Those who have it can often be ridiculed on the basis of their troubles.
How Can I Deal With Intimacy Anorexia?
Whether you’re trying to find a cure for yourself or for a partner it’s absolutely essential to be as informed as you can. Although there are plenty of helpful resources available online, one cannot understand the entire situation without the aid of a mental health professional. A good sex and relationship therapist can help you and your partner adjust to the new circumstances in a much smoother man.
Try searching for counselors that specialize in offering evidence-based approaches; imago therapy, the Gottman method, or emotionally focused couples therapy. Ideally, the one who’s seeking help should be consenting to this decision instead of being coerced by another’s partner to seek professional assistance. This ensures their honesty during sessions and an early conclusion to the process. Most of the cases, relating to this condition can be traced back to one’s past; most of the time it’s one’s childhood as we’ve discussed earlier.
Furthermore, if the trauma associated with your past seems to be the cause behind it all, then Cognitive behavioral therapy can be rather helpful in tracing your past and finding a solution. The bottom line, seeking professional help can be the best solution to this problem.
Those who find therapy too overbearing can try couples counseling at first. If you and your partner feel like talking in a setting like this can help you come up with a middle ground then there’s nothing better than that. If you feel more comfortable during individual sessions that even that can be arranged with your counselor.
Lastly, remember to be as comforting as you can be towards your partner under such circumstances. You must let them decide things on their own instead of emotionally manipulating them or coercing them into being intimate with you. Give yourself a chance to enjoy a more relieved relationship if your partner refuses to seek help despite the toll it’s taking on your relationship. Remember, you deserve to live a life that seems comforting to you.