Love Avoidant Strategies in Intimacy Anorexia: Too Busy for Intimacy

The intimacy anorexic uses busy-ness to avoid connection.

Too Busy for Intimacy? Those of you of my generation may remember the lyrics of the Guess Who song No Time ….

No time for the love you send

Seasons change and so did I

You need not wonder why

You need not wonder why

There’s no time left for you

No time left for you.

I got, got, got no time

I got, got, got no time

I got, got, got no time

No Time is the theme song for many love avoidant-intimacy anorexics. Intimacy anorexia is a term coined by psychologist Doug Weiss to describe a relationship pattern of withholding emotional, spiritual, and/or sexual intimacy from the committed relationship partner. Busy-ness is only one of many love avoidant strategies that characterizes intimacy anorexia – but it is an extremely effective one.

Chronic busy-ness seems to be a byproduct of modern life. Most of us are caught up in the hustle bustle of juggling jobs, homes, kids, and relationships. Protecting time to connect with our spouse requires some active prioritizing.

But what happens if your mate is unwilling to prioritize time with you, time for maintaining intimacy in your relationship? Worse yet, what happens if he or she uses busy-ness as a shield to actually sabotage opportunities for connection? If so, your relationship might be suffering from intimacy anorexia.

The busy-ness can come in a variety of forms: housework/yard work, work, business trips, children, reading, volunteering, golf, sports, hobbies, Twelve Step activities, and technology in all its endless versions: TV, gaming, reading, iPhone, iPad, texting, sexting, internet, cybersex, Facebook…. The busy-ness often leads the intimacy anorexic to assume roles in life that legitimize the busy-ness and hides the unwillingness to prioritize intimacy with the significant other. Whether the intimacy anorexic is on a mission to save the world or save the lawn mower, there is always a reason he or she uses to justify putting you last.

As a psychologist, I’ve encountered this in a variety of forms: from the pastor who selflessly gives to the congregation but never prioritizes time to minister to his or her own family; to the mother who avoids intimacy with her partner by stepping so deeply into the role of mommy she forgets she’s a woman; to the family of origin hero who is on call to rescue parents or siblings 24-7, all the while neglecting his or her own family; to the company man who has a stronger commitment to his work than his wife; to the sports fanatic or, my personal favorite, the fantasy sports fanatic who channels loyalty and passion to the team rather than the spouse; to the sex or porn addict who channels time, attention and sexuality to someone or something other than his spouse.

Regardless of the role played, the busy-ness is the shield the anorexic hides behind to avoid both intimacy itself and the responsibility for putting the spouse into intimacy deprivation. The deprivation may be overt – “I got no time” – or covert – time is reserved for you but since you’re last on the list the anorexic is too exhausted to genuinely connect.

The beauty of the busy-ness shield is that it’s so difficult to confront. Notice how often the intimacy anorexic assumes The Victim role – the guilt-ridden good guy or nice girl who is oh so wounded by letting you down – or The Victim’s close cousin, The Martyr, who guilt trips you for not appreciating the constant sacrifice.

The quantity vs. quality time debate is irrelevant in an intimacy anorexic relationship because chronic busy-ness eliminates the possibility of any quantity of time, and usually sabotages the possibility of quality time as well.  The intimacy deprived partner is slowly trained to accept crumbs of attention rather than true connection.

The end goal in intimacy anorexia is avoidance, and using busy-ness to kill the energy or flow of connection in the relationship is the means to an end. Using a sports analogy, in basketball the way to kill the momentum of the game and prevent the opponent from any real opportunity to score is to hold the ball and let the clock run out. To translate this into football terms for my Dallas friends, you know that the team who controls the clock controls the game. The intimacy anorexic knows that too!


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.

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, does not create a client-therapist relationship, and is not a substitute for care by a trained professional. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors, omissions, losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

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