I remember feeling like an invisible wall was surrounding me and separating me from the rest of humanity the day my husband dropped the bomb of infidelity on me. Everything shattered. I remember going blank and realizing that one sentence completely shook me to my core. Who are you? How could you? Who am I to you? Are the kids safe? Do I have an STD? What’s real? Do I even know you? What the heck? Where are you, God? Jesus! Nothing is making sense!

And the wall! That stupid invisible wall! To the outside world, The Thompsons were a great Christian family. What was I supposed to do? Who can I tell? What do I tell? It was like there was this invisible barrier between myself and the moms at my kids’ private school, at sports, at family get-togethers, at church, with the neighbors…I was alone and emotionally dismantled. I was hiding behind that stupid wall of uncertainty and when I would try to walk through it (only Jesus has been able to successfully walk through walls on this side of Heaven), I would have to wear a mask to hide my pain.

That stupid mask. It kept me feeling ashamed for his behavior. The mask was making me carry the weight of his guilt, his shame, his betrayal, and kept me thinking that if I could get him to recover, then I would be fine. But it was all a lie…and one that I don’t want you to feel like you need to carry, sweet sister. Take it from me, it’ll do neither you nor your husband any good to wear it. Pretense is pretend. There’s no reason to wear a mask to hide your pain, masks are for mannequins, not Masterpieces. But for me, the mask goes further back than that…

I was wearing the mask prior to D-day. I wore that stupid mask for years. You see, not only was Aaron a sex-addict, but he was an extreme intimacy anorexic as well. Since I had never studied or had any reference to intimacy anorexia, I had no idea what I was dealing with when it struck our marriage. After years of studying psychology, obtaining a doctorate in the field, and then being a psychology professor, I still had never ever heard of intimacy anorexia.

Apparently, it often goes hand-in-hand with sex-addiction, even at the pornography level. Intimacy anorexia is the active withholding of intimacy physically, emotionally, and spiritually from one’s spouse. Oftentimes, the spouse believes that there is something wrong with her, so she will do a number of things to obtain her husband’s approval. She’ll change her social life, make/lose friends, change her appearance, get or leave a job, relocate, etc… She becomes a different person with a different life than she had at the beginning of their relationship, but the catch is that she becomes less of herself and more of what she thinks he wants in a wife.

Intimacy anorexics have a variety of characteristics including the following:

  1. Critiquing one’s spouse on ridiculous things (ex. how you fold a towel)
  2. Blames the spouse for problems/issues in the relationship.
  3. Plays the victim
  4. Tries to shame or control the spouse with finances
  5. Withholds praise from one’s spouse
  6. Withholds love (how she receives love) from one’s spouse
  7. Doesn’t want to talk about one’s feelings (unless he is wanting to prove he’s the victim)
  8. Sometimes, withholds physical touch and starves the spouse sexually
  9. Withholds having spiritual conversations with the spouse
  10. Tries to control the spouse by using anger or the silent treatment
  11. Oftentimes, makes the spouse feel more like a roommate than a spouse.

All it takes is five of the above characteristics to predict intimacy anorexia occurring in one’s relationship. It’s difficult to diagnose with therapists who have no training in this because after a single encounter with your husband, the therapist is questioning your mental stability and health. You see, the intimacy anorexic will only display the above-mentioned characteristics toward you. To everyone else, they’re Mr. Perfect. Their image is everything. So, chances are, if you, too, are married to an IA Spouse, then you understand the frustration of trying to figure out why you keep getting rejected by your spouse in some form or another, begin to try really hard to make them happy, and then find out that the entire time they were criticizing you, they were being unfaithful to your relationship. It’s like a double jab at your heart once everything sinks in, and the devil will come in and whisper deceptive lies into your mind stating that there really is something wrong with you or you are partly to blame for his behavior, but I promise you, Sister, you are not to blame. The notion that it takes two is just not true. It takes one. It takes one person to step out of a marriage. It takes one person to betray a marriage, to break a covenant, to lie, to cheat, to destroy, and bring emotional torture. If you have ever felt the pain of infidelity or think you may be dealing with an intimacy anorexic or both, I would love for you to know that you are welcome to heal with us at the Slay Sister Table. You’re welcome here. We’d be happy to pull up a chair for you. Together, we will make the devil regret he ever encountered our marriages.

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