Sexual Anorexia and the Anorexic Marriage Lately I’ve been pondering something my husband said to me on D-day when I begged him for the reason why. Why? Why did you betray me? His answer at the time was that he missed intimacy. How well I remember my reaction! Intimacy? You miss intimacy so you have sex with an erotic massage therapist and then an affair with someone from Craig’s List? That’s intimacy? Intimacy has many definitions. Before D-day for me it meant being comfortable, warm and familiar with my husband. I regularly shave the back of his neck. I know his favorite foods, his favorite color, his likes, and dislikes. I know his family, his roots. We raised two beautiful children together. We’ve lived in four different states, bought and sold houses, made financial decisions, and enjoyed friendships, together. We’ve seen each other through surgeries. We’ve laughed, fought, reconciled and loved together. Everything that I considered “intimate” we’ve done together. But for my husband, intimacy meant sex. What he was really missing in our marriage was sex. First, he tried an erotic massage therapist. Next, he actively searched for sex outside of our marriage. When he found his AP on Craig’s List she asked what kind of sex he wanted. His reply? Just straight sex. Nothing kinky. Sex is what he wanted, it didn’t matter who it was with. I’ve explained in previous blog articles how our sex life had withered to practically nothing. We slept apart due to his snoring. We had become roommates instead of lovers. So instead of talking to me about his needs my husband explored sex outside of marriage for “intimacy”. He is not a sex addict. He is not addicted to pornography. After years of sleeping in separate beds, our sexual intimacy had dwindled to the point that we only had sex a handful of times a year. I was concerned only to the point that I know a man needs sex. So, I convinced myself that he would never cheat and was taking care of his needs in the shower. Stupid. I know. How did we get there? It undoubtedly didn’t happen overnight. Certainly our poor communication skills played a huge part in how dysfunctional our marriage had become. Rick has an excellent article titled The Anorexic Marriage: A Void of Intimacy. He explains that marriage has three entities, me, him and us. He warns that if both spouses don’t engage with one another there won’t be a healthy sense of “us.” It’s Rick’s next point that finally expressed, in part, how our marriage had lost intimacy. Rick explains that anorexia is a Greek word meaning without appetite. Bingo! I was a sexually anorexic, completely without appetite for my husband when it came to sex. As Rick states, “The sexual anorexic has a lack of desire for a relationship of a sexual nature.” I could care less whether I had sex with my husband or not. As a matter of fact, I really didn’t want sex. On those rare occasions when he would come to my bed seeking sex I never said no but I certainly didn’t encourage him either. Now I’m going to be brutally honest. From the time we were married sex with my husband was pretty much about him and his needs and desires. I remember in the first few years thinking that sex should be more than just making him happy. I was unfulfilled. Bored. Wishing for more. It got to the point that I just wanted it done and over with. We became masters at the quickie. I never told my husband how I was feeling. As we continued sleeping apart we were also having sex less and less. He never communicated to me his needs and desires. I was thrilled we were having less sex. I figured as long as he didn’t ask I didn’t have to offer. Yes, we were definitely disengaged not only from our own emotions but from the well-being of “us.” As my sexual anorexia progressed my husband developed ‘marital anorexia.’ In his article Rick defines this as “…a marriage where either one or both partners lack or are without appetite for the marriage." In other words, it’s a marriage where one or both partners compulsively withhold themselves from the marriage.” Rick’s article lists six characteristics of the anorexic marriage. My husband developed attributes of all six characteristics but the one he struggled with the most is his unwillingness to share his most intimate feelings. He does great sharing his day to day home and work concerns and frustrations but when it comes to his most intimate thoughts and feelings my husband hides himself from me and the world. As a matter of fact, my husband started his affair looking for sex but it became an excuse to try and get out of the marriage. He didn’t communicate. He had checked out physically and emotionally. What’s ironic is that Rick’s article warns about the anorexic marriage after discovering infidelity. It’s normal for the betrayed to hold back engaging in the marriage. But couples should not stay stuck there. For us, D-day and Affair Recovery woke our anorexic marriage up. EMS Online also helped us tremendously. My husband is working on learning to communicate on a deeper, more intimate level. His own ‘marriage anorexia’ slowly faded away. He engages in our marriage in ways he never has before. Before D-day my husband had stopped calling me sweet pea, an endearment he had used since our marriage nearly 25 years earlier. Now he uses it daily. He had also quit wearing his wedding ring. He couldn’t wear it at work because of machinery but he stopped wearing it on weekends as well. If asked why his answer was always the same, “I forgot”. Now, with a different job, he always wears his ring. Since D-day I’ve struggled with my own marital anorexia but nothing compared to the wasteland our marriage had become before. It’s been difficult to find the courage to trust again. Sometimes self-protection seems wiser than full engagement. Yet I made a conscious decision to forgive my husband’s infidelity and have a stronger, healthier and yes, more intimate marriage. As for my sexual anorexia, it’s gone away as well. Again, being brutally honest, for the first time in our marriage my husband is just as concerned about my sexual gratification as he is about his own. We actually communicate about our needs and desires in ways we never have before. Not just sexually but in many aspects of our relationship. Part of me wonders why it took an affair to wake us up to our sexual and marital anorexia. Why did it take the agony of an affair to shake us from complacency? I cannot change the past. But I can embrace the future. The closing paragraph in Rick’s article states it best: Whether the problem (marital anorexia) existed before the infidelity or was triggered by the infidelity, it has the potential to affect your most significant relationships for the remainder of your life. Please have the courage to come out from behind the wall of self-protection and begin to take the risk to both love and to let someone love you. If you or someone you know may be struggling from marital anorexia EMS Online is a great step by step process to begin healing and building a new type of marriage. Please do not spend the rest of your life robbing yourself of intimacy which we has humans so desperately need. I second Rick’s admonition. You deserve true intimacy. Now is the time to reach out for help. Stay strong. Have courage. You’re braver than you believe. Stronger than you think possible. Good luck.