Excitement fills your heart when you prepare to marry the one you love. Maybe you fantasized about the many happy and blissful years to come, or dreamed of the backyard barbecues, annual vacations, or simple cozy movie nights you would one day share with your significant other.
However, most engaged or newly married couples tend to ignore the fact that marriage takes hard work and a lot of dedication. There will be days in a marriage when you and your spouse just simply cannot and will not get along. Hardships and arguments are a part of every relationship.
Remember, no marriage is perfect, and a few bumps and divides along the way are perfectly normal in any relationship. However, one thing can prolong and widen what could have been a temporary divide between you and your spouse: actively withholding connection from one another, whether emotionally, spiritually, or sexually. I call this intimacy anorexia.
Intimacy anorexia significantly impacts a couple and their relationship. It stunts growing and flourishing relationships, and causes them to become cold and toxic.
While an argument may only affect most couples for a few hours or days, the emotional pain and isolation attributed to intimacy anorexia will continue as long as the intimacy anorexic continues his or her behavior.
It is important to know whether your marital relationship is being hindered by intimacy anorexia or merely going through a rough patch? Here are ten symptoms and telltale signs of intimacy anorexia in action.
(1) It seems as if everyone is busy, whether due to work, taking care of the kids, PTA meetings—the list goes on. However, an intimacy anorexic will continually stay busy in order to withhold quality time from his or her spouse. Continually putting a busy life ahead of one’s spouse is the first symptom of intimacy anorexia.
(2) Just as no marriage is perfect, no person is perfect either. That said, an intimacy anorexic will take this further by blaming his or her spouse’s imperfections for most, if not all, the problems in the relationship.
(3) The intimacy anorexic will also use ongoing criticism toward his or her spouse as a way to wedge an emotional divide.
Busyness and blame are the first symptoms of intimacy anorexia. The next four symptoms involve withholding. Whether the intimacy anorexic is (4) withholding love, (5) withholding praise, (6) withholding sex, or (7) withholding spirituality, he or she leaves his or her partner without the love, praise, intimacy, or spiritual connection needed for a healthy relationship and marriage.
(8) An intimacy anorexic is typically unwilling to share his or her feelings with his or her spouse to advance a disconnection. In a healthy, intimacy-filled marital relationship, sharing one’s feelings is a part of the daily routine. Sharing one’s feelings is important to a flourishing, growing emotional connection.
(9) An intimacy anorexic will use anger or silence to control his or her spouse, and the relationship.
(10) This last symptom is control of money. Though it is the least common, intimacy anorexics will use money as a way to control their spouses and the relationship.
On their wedding day, no one expects the person they have decided to share the rest of their life with to become unwilling or unable to share the simplest aspects of their relationship: love, praise, feelings, and time. Though you might never have suspected it, if you are experiencing intimacy anorexia in your marriage, the relationship that was once overflowing with love and intimacy may have changed dramatically. It is important to recognize the signs of intimacy anorexia and deal with the changes together, whether through an emotionally therapeutic discussion, or a professional mediator.
Through the Intimacy Anorexia book or DVD, a telephone session, or a 3-5 day intensive, I have seen even the most distressed marriage relationships transformed—like the pair that was once so alienated they had no sexual intimacy for over ten years. Countless others experienced a happily ever after greater than they ever dreamed could happen.