Characteristics, continued…

  1. Withholding Spiritually. Intimacy anorexics can be very religious by attending church and sometimes even being the pastor or spiritual leader at the church. At home they rarely pray with their spouses, or worship, or read the Bible together. Individually they do their spiritual thing, but they withhold their spirituality from their husband or wife.
  2. Feelings. Intimacy anorexics are unwilling or unable to share their feelings with their spouses.
  3. When it comes to feelings, they will avoid these conversations or go blank or silent when feelings come up.
  4. Criticism. Ongoing or ungrounded criticism is another characteristic of intimacy anorexia. This characteristic can flare up if the couple is getting close, or when closeness would be expected, like on vacation.
  5. Anger or Silence. An intimacy anorexic can use anger or silence to control the other spouse. I know couples who literally didn’t speak to each other for weeks. I also know other anorexics who use anger to keep the other spouse at a certain distance.
  6. Money. This is the least common feature of intimacy anorexia, but when it’s present, it is strong.

The intimacy anorexic will use money to control the spouse. This can happen in several ways, including giving the spouse an allowance, making the spouse have to ask for money, intentionally keeping the spouse ignorant of money issues, or letting him or her buy anything as long as they don’t ask for intimacy.

Take the Test

Often intimacy anorexics are in denial about these behaviors, so I have a unique way in which I want you to answer these questions. The first set asks how your spouse would rate you on the following characteristics. Would your spouse say yes or no if they were asked these questions about how they believe you relate to them? On a separate sheet of paper, write out what their responses would be.

My wife would say:

  1.  I stay so busy that I have little time for her.
  2. When issues come up, my first reflex or response is to blame her.
  3. I withhold love from her when issues come up.
  4. I withhold praise from her.
  5. I withhold sex from her or am not present during sex.
  6. I withhold spiritual connection from her.
  7. I am unwilling or unable to share my authentic feelings with her.
  8. I use anger or silence to control her.
  9. I have ongoing or ungrounded criticism (spoken or unspoken) toward her.
  10. I control or shame her regarding money or spending.

Second, I want you to answer these questions about your spouse. Use a separate piece of paper and just put yes or no on it.

I would say to my wife:

  1.  Stays so busy that she has little time for me.
  2. Blames me as her first reflex when issues come up.
  3. Withholds love from me.
  4. Withholds praise from me.
  5. Withholds sex from me or is not present during sex.
  6. Withholds spiritual connection from me.
  7. Is unwilling or unable to share her authentic feelings with me.
  8. Uses anger or silence to control me.
  9. Has ongoing or ungrounded criticism (spoken or unspoken) toward me.
  10. Controls or shames me regarding money or spending.

Count the number of yes answers that you put down on your score for her, and also her score for you. If one or both of you have five or more yes answers, you have probably been dealing with intimacy anorexia without knowing it.

If you and your spouse scored low, great! Just being aware of this information can make you more helpful to other couples from here on. If, however, this does apply to you, please get informed by reading helpful materials or getting professional counseling.

I love seeing men get clean. Some need to put the brakes on the sexual acting out, but also put their feet on the accelerator to reconnect and stay connected to their wives. Many Christian men’s books on this topic seem to want to minimize sexual addiction rather than eradicating it. But once you know what sexual addiction is, you can get and stay clean. My prayer is that you would find solutions if either of these two-sided issues fit for you. Regardless, I hope I can in some way encourage you to be part of the solution for your local church.

Adapted from the book, Clean by Douglass Weiss.

Copyright © Douglas Weiss PH.D, published by Thomas Nelson, used with permission.

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