Welcome to “Love and Sex Today.” I’m Dr. Doug Weiss, and today in volume three we will be discussing “Married and Alone and Intimacy Anorexia.” Now, if you feel married and alone, you’re going to want to listen to this podcast or read this transcript for sure. If you’re feeling unwanted or disconnected, if you feel starved in your marriage, if you feel like you have to beg to be praised, to be touched, to be wanted, if you feel like you are more of a roommate than a lover, you’re probably married to someone who has Intimacy Anorexia.
You might not have ever heard that term before, but today it may totally change your life. I can’t tell you how many thousands of people all over the world, Asia, South America, Europe, Canada, all over the U.S., who heard the term Intimacy Anorexia, looked it up on the internet, saw something on YouTube, or saw one of our posts somewhere or our TV show and instantly connected to that.
I had someone recently who heard two professionals talking about Intimacy Anorexia, and that’s a term that I coined. It’s a term I came up with after seeing couple after couple frustrated and not getting better. It gives a language, a paradigm for what the problem is and how to get better. They watched this clip and they said, “That’s me.” They showed it to their spouse and they said, “Yeah, that’s you.” They got on the plane and came to my intensive, and their lives are dramatically changed, having connected sex. I can tell you it’s happened again, and again, and again.
What is Intimacy Anorexia? Let’s walk through this. The definition of Intimacy Anorexia is, “the active withholding of emotional, spiritual, and sexual intimacy from your spouse.” This does not show up in any other relationship. People in your neighborhood think your spouse is great. People at their work think they are a great person. Their other communities think, “Wow, you’re lucky to be married to that person,” whether it’s a man or a woman. “Bob,” or “Barbie’s wonderful.” When they come home, they’re on the phone, they’re on the computer, they’re in the garage, they’re volunteering somewhere, they don’t connect to you. It’s like when they come home they’re a different soul, because you’re their primary relationship. Intimacy Anorexia will only show up in marriage, generally speaking.
Let me walk through the characteristics and if this sounds like you, get a pen and paper. Let’s be very practical today, and just mark a Yes or No for every characteristic I’m talking about. As you check these off, I’ll let you know at the end how many you need to do some research on Intimacy Anorexia. If you’re living in this, you’re married and alone. You’re in pain. You feel dry inside. You feel alone. You feel confused, because nobody would understand, and nobody would believe you, but you know.
Characteristic #1: BUSY
Let’s go through this together. Number one, I’m going to give you a keyword and explain that keyword. The first keyword is busy. The Intimacy Anorexic is too busy for their spouse. They’ve got plenty of time for people in their virtual community, their political party, their neighborhood HOA, and for their kids, but they don’t have any time for you. I mean dating you? Not really that important. Okay, spending quality time with you? If you make them. Okay, so busy.
Characteristic #2: BLAME
Number two, blame. They will blame you for all the problems in the relationship. “Well you made me do that. If you would have done that, I wouldn’t have done this.” They rarely say, “I’m sorry,” rarely say, “I’m wrong,” because they can’t be bad. It’s like if you even try to insinuate that their judgment wasn’t perfect, they’re going to turn it around on you and blame you. “Well, you’re so critical.” They’re too busy for you and they blame you.
Characteristic #3-5: WITHHOLDING LOVE, SEX, PRAISE
The next keywords are withholding love. Withholding love is unique, because they will withhold love exactly in the way you want to be loved. I know this, because I’ve worked with thousands of couples and Intimacy Anorexics. Let’s suppose the Intimacy Anorexic’s this guy, and he marries his first wife. She receives love by gifts, but he won’t buy her gifts. Even on her birthday and Christmas, he will ignore gifts, which is so painful. Then he divorces her … well, she divorces him usually … and then he marries Carole. Carole likes to be touched, but he won’t touch her. Even though he touched his first wife, he won’t touch this one, because it would make them close. The whole objective of Intimacy Anorexia is to create and maintain distance with their spouse.
They’re really married to themselves. They’re really married to the idea of being safe, not necessarily married to the idea of making it safe for you. They withhold love exactly in the way you like to be loved. You’ve told them, “Love me this way, do this. This would make me feel loved by you.” They won’t do it except when they’re in serious trouble, or the marriage is threatened. They will show up for around seven to ten days and they’ll be the best.
You’ll think, “Oh my gosh, they really have changed.” As soon as you get to where you relax, they disappear again, withhold love, withhold praise. They might praise you in public, but privately when you’re at home, very rarely will you get, “You’re awesome. You’re amazing. You’re creative. You’re intelligent. I’m so glad I married you. You’re beautiful. You’re handsome. You’re strong. You’re such a good provider.”
You won’t hear nurturing coming from your spouse at home. If you’re in public, maybe with some friends or family members, they might say something nice about you, but that’s to make them look good. It doesn’t feel like they’re trying to really nurture you. So the Intimacy Anorexic indicators are: busy, blame, withholding love, withholding praise, and withholding spiritually. Even if they’re the medicine man, rabbi, pastor, or some kind of spiritual leader in their community, no matter what community that is, they won’t connect with you spiritually. They won’t pray with you or share spiritual ideas with you, or whatever the rituals are in their community. They’ll do it with others, but not with you.
Sex. Withholding sex can show up in a couple ways, because some men are willing to have sex with their wives, but not be intimate during sex. So sex feels like you were used, like you’re alone. They might be in a fantasy world. They might just be disconnected. It feels very lonely. That’s one way of withholding sex, by not being present.
The other is by withholding certain behaviors, or withholding sex itself, where they really don’t want to be sexual with you. Oftentimes, they’re either doing porn or other things, but they don’t want to be sexual with the real soul. So they avoid you, blame you, push you away, or make you even feel bad for wanting sex. There’s that type of withholding sex.
I had a couple recently that had gone twenty years without being sexual. They came and did an intensive here in Colorado Springs at Heart to Heart Counseling Center, and within weeks they were having sex. They have really changed their marriage, and are having a good relationship right now. So the indicators are: busy, blaming, and withholding love, praise, spiritually, sex, and feelings. They are unwilling or unable to share their feelings with you.
You might catch them on the phone talking about a feeling, but you don’t get to hear their heart. It can take hours for you to find out what they’re feeling. That’s really painful.
Characteristic #6: ANGER & SILENCE
Anger and silence will be the next keywords. They use anger or silence as a way to control their relationship. They won’t talk to you sometimes. I had one couple that didn’t talk for a week. They slept in the same bed, but didn’t say a word. He would not talk to her. This can happen as a woman too. She can control with rage or silence. Intimacy Anorexics can try to control with feelings, anger, silence, and criticism.
Criticism has two ways of going. There can be ongoing criticism where it’s kind of like nitpicking and constantly going at the other person’s heart. Or, it could be ungrounded, totally untrue. Anorexics don’t need truth. They have what we call “the story.” It’s usually this negative narrative. Your spouse is Darth Vader in some way, and there’s always this negative narrative about them. They never read your mind in the way of believing the best about you and the best motives you have, which are usually the truth. They really create these negative narratives.
They don’t need any facts for criticism. It can be totally ungrounded—“I know that you’re jealous, or I know that you’re controlling, or I know that you’re this, and that’s why I didn’t approach you. I knew you were angry at me, so that’s why for the last five years I didn’t have sex with you.” I’m like, “Okay, come on now, five years? She wasn’t angry for five years. There might have been a good day here and there.”
It doesn’t have to make sense. Intimacy Anorexia doesn’t make sense at all. It’s totally emotional. We got busy, we got blamed, withholding love, withholding praise, withholding spiritually, withholding sex, feelings, anger and silence. Some control with money. Not often, but when they do, it’s really vicious. If you have five or more of these, you are probably living with someone who has Intimacy Anorexia.
Characteristic #7: ROOMMATE
The last characteristic is roommate. If you feel like a roommate, you’re probably living with someone with Intimacy Anorexia and that’s why you feel married and alone. “Hey, let’s try to do this. Hey, let’s try to spice it up.” All of this content comes from my “Married and Alone” book. You can go to the website “Love and Sex” today, click Books, and “Married and Alone,” or “Intimacy Anorexia,” and that will get you the content we’re talking about today. There are DVDs on that as well.
You feel like a roommate. Actually, you would feel better if you had a roommate, because a roommate would actually care. You feel like they would consider you. With Intimacy Anorexia, you feel alone, and if you’re in a religious system, that can make it even worse. Who do you talk to? Who do you say, “You know, I know you think Barbie’s wonderful, but she doesn’t connect with me. She hasn’t asked me for sex in five years. She’d never ask. She makes me feel weird because I want to have sex.” “I know you like Bob, and Bob’s a great guy, but you know he hasn’t touched me in like months. He hasn’t said a nice thing about me since last Christmas.”
The person who lives with Intimacy Anorexia is the person who pays the bill. The Intimacy Anorexia is perfectly fine with the relationship, because they are safe, and as long as they’re safe, everything’s fine. What it costs you is not really a concern to them, so they’re not going to take the aspirin for your pain. If you’re married and alone, you’re the one who’s going to have to take the first step. Let’s walk through some of that.
The first step is getting educated. Find out what Intimacy Anorexia is. Find out if that applies to you. See if that is what’s going on in your relationship. If that is what’s going on, then there is a protocol, workbooks, groups they can go to, treatment they can get. You can start walking down the road, but oftentimes, they’re in denial about what they’re doing. They think they’re wonderful people, even at home, even though they ignore you and they’re disconnected most of the time.
They are sabotaging you, criticizing you, and then blaming you. It feels insane. I can’t tell you how many people have told me the exact phrase, “Dr. Weiss, this feels crazy. I want to have a relationship with my spouse, but they won’t have one.” I know exactly what they’re talking about. That pain is horrible. It’s so hard to lie next to someone you feel who doesn’t love you. They say the words sometimes, but there’s not the sense of when they touch you that they want to really be connected to you.
It feels empty and alone, those little pecks on the head, and the cheeks feel like more discounting and dismissing than passionate and reinforcing. If that’s where you’re living, you want to first get information on that. Secondly, take steps for yourself, because you can get the Intimacy Anorexia video. Sometimes it will open up the doors for conversation about this. You might want to get some support. If you call the Heart to Heart Counseling Center, 719-278-3708, they can give you the support group information on this, or lead you to a counselor.
This is serious. Maybe you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, “Wow, this is the first time someone actually identified what’s going on in my relationship. My marriage has been painful. We look good on the outside, but we are so far apart on the inside.” For you, I would say, take the first steps. Get information. Get support for yourself. If you need help for yourself, do that. Then start taking the steps as far as addressing the issues.
Make sure you have clear boundaries, and set some for yourself. For example, “If you’re going to be silent with me, I’m not doing X, Y, or Z.” Learn how to have boundaries in this relationship, because Intimacy Anorexia is like an addictive process. We treat it in an addictive way. We have twelve-step groups. We have workbooks. We give them a community, because really, it’s almost like they’re addicted to withholding. It’s kind of like the food anorexic who’s addicted to withholding food from themselves, which makes no sense. Neither does saying, “I will love you, honor you, and cherish you, and then withhold love from you.” Sometimes it even starts on the wedding night, or usually within the first year. It’s like, “This is not the person I was dating. It feels totally different.” If that’s you today, I really hope you got some help.
I want you to go to loveandsextoday.com. Subscribe there, then go to iTunes and write a review. Out of those people who write a review, one of you is going to be chosen to have an hour conversation with yours truly, Dr. Doug Weiss. We’ll talk about your life, your relationships, how you can take the next step to get to a next level for yourself. Don’t forget the free chapter this month from “The Ten Minute Marriage.” I think it’s called “Dinner’s Ready,” but it really should have been called something like, “Never Argue About Sex Again.” It’s a great chapter on how to be in agreement sexually, and how to do that. As always, we want you to have the best love and best sex today.
If you want to learn about this topic in detail along with other great insights on marriage, check out the Ten-Minute Marriage