While most of us love being in love, there are people who set up barriers, refuse to nurture their relationships, and keep themselves in emotional isolation deliberately.
This behavior is caused by your partner having a deep fear of intimacy, which makes it difficult for them to embrace love and connection, and may even end up with them withholding affection because they’re afraid.
Another term for this behavior is “intimacy anorexia,” which is a concept coined and defined by Dr. Doug Weiss. Those who suffer from intimacy fears or “intimacy anorexia” restrict love and intimacy in the same way their namesakes restrict food.
If you find that you consistently feel lonely in your relationship or that your partner is more of a roommate than a lover, your partner’s fear of intimacy may have something to do with it.
According to Dr. Weiss, you might want to dig a little deeper into any potential problems being intimate if your partner exhibits these 7 behaviors.
Here are 7 Signs your partner has intimacy anorexia:
1. They’re always too busy to connect.
When your partner is constantly running from one thing to the next and is always too busy for intimacy and connection, there’s possibly more to it.
Many people suffering from “intimacy anorexia,” or who struggle to express love and affection make themselves busy and spend time doing things for themselves and others, but their partner is never an equal priority.
For example, a husband may volunteer time outside the home to help others, stay late at work, or just plop down in front of the TV and ask for alone time once he’s home.
In other situations, a mom who has carted kids around all day may settle in for the night and claim she is too tired or worn out to engage with her partner. These situations happen to everyone, but when they become the norm (not the exception), there’s a problem.
2. They play the “blame game.”
When a person with intimacy issues talks about problems in his or her relationship, it is always the other person’s fault.
They will never acknowledge the role they play and will consistently criticize their partner. When this behavior is brought to their attention, they generally become defensive.
3. They withhold love, praise, and even sex.
Since those with fears of intimacy have no desire for intimate encounters, they often withhold acts associated with caring and affection.
This is especially true when the couple is in private, as many people with intimacy anorexia are very good at playing the part in public. They rarely give the outside world indications of the problems that lie within their private moments.
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This problem can go beyond simple withholding and may reach the point of intentionally sabotaging moments of connection, especially when such moments may lead to sexual encounters.
4. They refuse to express their feelings.
Whether they’re unwilling or they feel incapable, they often refuse to express their feelings. Instead, they internalize their emotions and often act like they can read their partner’s mind, too.
Instead of asking what their partner is thinking, they typically assume negative motives and let those unjustified assumptions rule their response and behavior.
5. They constantly criticize.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the clothes a partner is wearing or how he or she is interacting with the kids, an intimacy anorexic can find fault with everything. While it may not happen in public, at home, they’re often belittling.
After a while, this may cause their partner to withdraw; as they feel they can’t do anything right, their self-esteem begins to plummet.
6. They use the silent treatment.
As with other anorexics, the intimacy anorexic is always striving for control, and one way they achieve it is through silent treatment. When angry or upset, instead of sitting down and talking about it, they shut down and go into silent mode.
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It’s not just because they want to withdraw. Rather, it’s a toxic way to control their partner’s behavior and emotional status. This lets someone with a fear of intimacy feel as though they have the power in the relationship (and they need that power).
7. They use money to control you.
Someone who is afraid of being intimate may use money to control their partner. They might ensure their partner’s access to money is extremely limited, or spending becomes a basis for shaming their partner (even when the purchases fall within a mutually determined budget).
Although this characteristic is not as common as some of the others when it’s present in the relationship, it tends to come off strong and overwhelming.
If too many of the behaviors are showing up in your relationship, there is hope.
A fear of intimacy is a topic discussed more frequently these days, and there are therapists who specialize in working with the unique needs of these couples. By developing intimacy skills, proper coping mechanisms, and deepening your connection to each other, it is possible to overcome intimacy anorexia!
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Argie Spuck is a counselor and therapist who wants to help you create the relationship of your dreams.