Emotional Starvation-Insight to Intimacy Anorexia
Is something wrong in your relationship or marriage? Can’t quite put a finger on it, or is it blatantly obvious that your spouse shuts you out on purpose? Maybe your spouse is very likeable and popular out in public, with co-workers, neighbors and the community, yet once the door closes, this spouse has nothing to give you. Your heart is like a dried up sponge due to the emotional neglect, verbal outbursts and lack of intimacy. Most likely, you are wondering what is wrong with YOU?
Are you often subjected to blame, shame, silent treatment, and anger outbursts? Maybe you are being shamed or controlled by money. You are told you make too little money, spend too much or you are sent on a guilt trip because your spouse may be the bread winner and controls every penny in the household. Most likely love and sex is being withheld also. Your spouse may make excuses, sabotages sex or plainly rejects you. Are you feeling more like a roommate in your marriage? Some people also state that they sometimes feel more like an employee than a spouse.
So what is going on here? It may be that your spouse is an Intimacy Anorexic. The Intimacy Anorexic is normally viewed as a superstar in the community and you are labeled as the “crazy” one. You may actually think that you are crazy because the Intimacy Anorexic has probably told you so. That is one of the weapons in the IA’s arsenal. Purposefully, you are emotionally starved and the Intimacy Anorexic can slowly start chipping away at your self-esteem. Why? Because the Intimacy Anorexic can still stay in the “Good” box and you will be in the “Bad” box- making the Intimacy Anorexic look really good in the eyes of others.
Intimacy Anorexia is often the result of childhood neglect and/or abuse. It can also be due to the claws of addiction, especially sex addiction. Sex Addiction and intimacy anorexia may go hand in hand for some, though not all addicts are anorexic. Just like recovery is a choice, so is Intimacy Anorexia. This is purposefully withholding or sabotaging love, sex, praise, emotional expression, and touch from one’s spouse. If you are in an anorexic relationship, reach out to others to work through the pain and emptiness this has caused you. Work with a therapist who has training in this area and seek out a support group. I would also recommend reading the book Intimacy Anorexia by Dr. Doug Weiss to jump start your healing. Although Intimacy Anorexia and Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not the same thing, some people also find it helpful to read books about living and healing from life with a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), such as the book: Crazy Makers by Paul Meier, M.D. and Robert L. Wise, Ph.D.
As a spouse of an Intimacy Anorexic, you have probably tried many things to feel loved, and in hindsight, you will probably notice that your attempts have failed. Maybe you have been told that you are too heavy, you lose the weight, and then you are told by your spouse that there is something else “wrong” with you and so it goes. You can’t “win” here. Either the anorexic works a recovery program and chooses to stop emotionally starving the spouse, or they choose not to. Regardless of what the Intimacy Anorexic spouse decides to do, you deserve to be heard, understand that this is not about YOU, and work on boundaries that will empower, protect and heal you.
Written by: Ingela Edwards, MS, LPC-Intern, National Certified Counselor, McKinney, TX.
Supervised by: Debra Larsen, MS, LPC-S
Ingela Edwards, LPC, NCC, SRT, CCPS is an individual and marriage therapist