Understanding Sexual Anorexia
Sexual Anorexia is a term coined by Dr. Patrick Carnes. It is when one or both partners in relationship are addicted to safety, instead of sexual intimacy.
Safety from intimacy becomes the focus - and the avoidance of sex, talking about sex, or acts of sexual intimacy, is what the person who is sexually anorexic actively pursues, at the expense of their sexual relationship with their partner.
The need for safety or security over intimacy
In their need to avoid sexual intimacy, a person suffering from sexual anorexia may give their partner the cold shoulder, the silent treatment, or punish them in some way, should they broach the subject of sexual intimacy. Often the person who is sexually anorexic may have no idea why they are acting this way towards the person they love.
The sexually anorexic person may have a healthy sex drive
The sexually anorexic person who suffers from this addiction to safety and avoids sexual intimacy may have a very healthy sex drive, and find outlets for that drive which doesn't include their partner, from fantasies, to pornography, to frequent masturbation.
There is nothing wrong with the sex drive of someone who suffers from sexual anorexia, and frequently, even the start of the relationship can be very sexual indeed.
Sexual anorexia - belongs to intimate relationships
It is over time, when intimacy and deep relationship patterns come into play - and real intimacy is threatened, that the person who suffers from fear of intimacy and compulsion for safety may go out of their way to avoid sex with their partner and sabotage this aspect of their relationship.
This stops their most intimate relationship from developing in a healthy, nurturing, exciting, bonding and thriving way, which magnifies their sexual connection and fun, and from enhancing their relationship and life together. Just imagining every time you mention sex - it's an off-limits subject - or you get some barbed comment! Or disinterest.
Or a person who is afraid to give their heart in sexual intimacy with their partner may find themselves running down and blaming their partner. They may not understand clearly what the issue is themselves. How could it be them? They may ask, when their sex drive is perfectly healthy.
Sexual anorexics may abstain from sex except when they are intoxicated. They may be very rigid and avoidant of normal sexual expression in their relationship, but when inhibitions are lowered they may "binge" and allow themselves and their partner an oasis of sexual intimacy.
Origins of sexual anorexia
There can be many causes for the avoidance of sex and seeking safety through sexual anorexia - from experiences in childhood where the sexual anorexic could not bond with the opposite parent because the parent was either distant, abusive, or unavailable.
Or if one parent was particularly cruel and supported by the other - the imprinting of this relationship upon the child can convey the message that relationships between men and women - deeply intimate relationships - are not safe.
This can easily be generalized as a subconscious "message" that intimacy and healthy attachment with the opposite sex in general is not safe. This is why sexual anorexia is not about the person they are with, but about intimacy.
The past sexual relationships or a person suffering from sexual anorexia may often be of a sado-masochistic nature keeping real sexual intimacy at bay. However, if these relationships were emotionally and physically abusive - in retrospect their past sexual experiences may amass memories and lead to shame and self-loathing being carried either consciously or subconsciously into the new relationship.
Other types of issues may arise out of particular cultural or religious attitudes which see sex as shameful can also contribute to this problem.
It is the sexually anorexic person who has the issue
It is important for the spouse of a sexually anorexic person to realize that their partner will have this issue whoever they are in a relationship with. If it was not with them, then it will be the next partner, and the next - however many partners down the line, until this issue is identified, understood, and resolved in a healthy sexual and emotional relationship.
Sexual anorexia will affect the couple, but it is not a couple issue. The person who suffers from sexual anorexia is responsible for their own issue. It is never the spouse who is to blame.
The upside of this is that once the person who suffers from sexual anorexia identifies and addresses the problem, their relationship can change unrecognizably to one of sexual fulfillment and mutual connection and happiness.
Solutions for individuals and couples suffering from sexual anorexia
If any of these issues ring a bell with your relationship, it is possible to overcome sexual anorexia and develop a program which builds up sexual and intimate connection in your relationship.
Identifying and naming the problem is halfway towards a solution. The rest of the way is being committed to understanding and resolving the roots of this issue as it may be for the person suffering in this way, and taking action to change and build their current relationship as they increase risk, heal themselves and build their sexual life together with their partner in exciting new and intimate ways.
An understanding partner who accompanies you on this journey will also probably rejoice at the opportunity to have a real,intimate, growing, sexual and emotional connection that enriches their lives and your relationship - and that allows them to give and receive the gift of intimacy with the person they love.
We are experts at helping people work through sexual anorexia and re-connecting with their partners to create a relationship which is not only strong, but thriving.
Call 0800-024-8647 to re-kindle sexual intimacy and re-build your relationship today.
John Donlon provides London couple counselling and relationship coaching to couples in crisis. Call today to discuss how John can help you to improve your relationship.
THE RELATIONSHIP EXPERTS International Relationship Experts John Donlon and Linda Connors have over 30 experience between them. They offer powerful and life changing relationship couple counselling and personal development programmes. They work with individuals and couples in the UK, America, Europe and Australia. If you are in relationship crisis are ready to take the first step into saving your relationship you can contact us on 0800 024 86 47.
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