Intimacy anorexics are black belts in avoiding love connections with their primary partners. As such, I view intimacy anorexia as a particularly pernicious form of love avoidance that involves the intentional use of distancing strategies that sabotage the emotional, spiritual and/or sexual intimacy with his or her mate.
The intimacy anorexic uses a lot of different strategies to manipulate the distance with the primary relationship partner. Criticism is a great manipulation tool. The criticism is usually either ongoing or unfounded. It may be overt or more subtle, spoken or unspoken. However, the end result is that it creates distance in the relationship. The intimacy anorexic may use it as a club to put a wedge in your efforts to connect, or use it more subtly so that you create the distance. Either way, you’ve been manipulated.
The criticism may come in the form of an ongoing commentary – a low grade stream of negative feedback. Sometimes its openly acknowledged as criticism, but somehow justified in the anorexic’s mind. Sometimes it’s framed as “helpful” feedback, but nonetheless it begins to set in motion a trickle of doubt in your self-esteem. It might be couched as “constructive” and only meant to provide feedback. This might be believable except for one glaring fact — you don’t get the opposite, the constructive feedback on all the ways you are awesome or all the things you are doing right.
You may get caught in the game of defending yourself against unfounded criticism. This type usually blindsides, then confuses you as to how the intimacy anorexic could perceive the situation, perceive you, so differently than your own experience of reality. The more you try to understand how your mate came to that conclusion, the more you try to defend yourself , the firmer your spouse stands in his or her conviction.
The craftiest form of unfounded criticism is the type that the blends elements of truth with distortions and falsehoods. There’s just enough truth to cast a shadow of doubt about the distortion. You might think to yourself, “I didn’t purposefully forget to go to the bank but I did try to explain to him why he was mistaken about it being deliberate. Maybe I really am defensive.” That’s a masterful double manipulation. First the anorexic punches you with unfounded criticism , then blames for trying to block the punch.
Whether the criticism is like a slow but continuous drip or a strategic gush when a deeper connection might be expected like Valentine’s day, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, vacations or moments of special significance to you, it whittles away at your desire to connect. In doing so, the intimacy anorexic stays in control of the level of intimacy in the relationship. Over time the intimacy anorexic doesn’t have to work so hard to keep you at a distance because now you’ve been trained to do it for him or her.
Dr. Janice Caudill is the founder and Clinical Director of McKinney Counseling & Recovery. MCR offers individual, couples, group therapy and multi-day intensives for partners of sex addicts and wounded hearts struggling with sex addiction, infidelity, love addiction or love avoidance, intimacy anorexia, or relational trauma in the McKinney, Plano, Allen, Richardson, Frisco, Carrollton, Lewisville, Dallas and surrounding areas.
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