Love one another

active-1853657_640A few weeks ago we celebrated Easter – an annual reminder and celebration that Jesus died on the Cross and rose again. Jesus suffering and dying on the Cross was the ultimate demonstration of love. He was willing to sacrifice his own life to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin, save us, and restore us to a relationship with God.

Christians are called to do the same, to love sacrificially, yet those of us who struggle with intimacy anorexia are so self-focused, so isolated, and so enamored with ourselves that we rarely show selfless love towards others.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

Selfless love starts in the home. We chose to love and serve our wives. We chose to give her priority and demote our own needs, wants, and desires. We learn to listen to her heart and do that which encourages and helps her grow as a woman of God. We affirm her and speak life into her soul. We give up our own life through service in order to lift up our wives and encourage her. This is loving one another (our wives) as Jesus demonstrated.

Likewise we chose to love our children. To sacrifice our desires, free time, and energy to develop a relationship with each of our children. We commit our efforts to train up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). We speak life into our children and encourage their unique talents, interests, and personality. We help them learn how to bear fruit in their lives. This is loving one another (our children) as Jesus demonstrated.

Further, as recovering intimacy anorexics, we serve other men who need us to walk beside them and hold them accountable to right thinking and behavior. This too is a sacrifice of love. We give up our own agenda in order to connect with other men, even men who are needy and difficult. We listen to their stories and childhood wounds. We point them to the healing power of Jesus as we travel together on the journey of life – filled with peril as well as victory. This is loving one another (other men) as Jesus demonstrated.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16

Jesus chose us to follow him. He appointed us to bear fruit. What is this fruit? How do we do grow it? By loving one another as Christ loved his disciples and us. By sacrificing our own needs, desires, and agenda in order to serve our wives, family, and friends. By looking outward to the needs of others – being selfless rather than selfish.

Jesus has claimed us as his friends in order to bear fruit, we do this by loving one another. To overcome intimacy anorexia, we must look outside ourselves (instead of inward) and meet the needs of those around us and point them to the Father of life.

Seeing is believing?

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There is an old adage that “seeing is believing.” With this adage, it is customary that for a person to believe something, there must be some sort of visual proof.  Yet our world is filled with many unexplained phenomena and spiritual truths that only a well-tuned eye will see.  This well-tuned eye must possess an element of faith.

As an intimacy anorexics (IAs), we have allowed doubt and cynicism to dominate the way we think and view the world. We know that we lie, and thus we doubt that others are telling the truth. Our own failures are obvious to us, and thus we don’t trust the actions of others either.

Anorexics carry this lack of faith and trust into our relationship with God. We can’t see or touch God, so we don’t believe He has the power to change our lives. The Apostle Thomas illustrated this in his response to the resurrected Christ. Although he had walked with Christ for several years and listened to the teachings of Jesus on a daily basis, Thomas still doubted when told that Christ was alive after the crucifixion. Thomas wanted physical proof that Jesus was alive. (John 20:25)

Many of us who struggle with addictions do so because of a lack faith.  Faith that something unseen exists and that this unseen has power to change our lives.

“Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” -  Step 2

The second step in a 12-step recovery program requires that the IA come to believe in a higher power. This higher power is a spiritual being; a being not constrained by the physical, as we humans are. This spiritual being is capable and willing to restore us to sanity – a healthy, productive, connected life. This higher power is the one true God, who sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us.

Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.    Hebrews 11:6

Christ calls us to faith – to believe and take action without physical evidence. This faith rests in a conviction that Christ is who he claims to be, and faith that he is able to touch and restore the lives of all men who diligently seek him.

In this walk to freedom from anorexia and addiction, we must earnestly seek God and wholeheartedly believe that He can and will heal us.  The intimacy anorexic who wants “sanity” restored in their life must take the first step in faith.  After taking the first step, we must continue to walk each day along the path of faith.  Our actions, the small decisions we make each day along the way, must reflect this growing faith.  A faith in a God who is greater than what we can see and hear and touch.  A God who is a marvelous and infinite spiritual being, but also a God who loves so much that he sent his Son to earth to live and die amongst us.

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”    John 20:29

Hiking with my friend

Colorado Springs to the left.  Cheyenne Mountain to the right.

My view: Colorado Springs in the far left. Cheyenne Mountain rises in the distance.

Yesterday we had 10” of snow here in Colorado Springs. The mountains looked beautiful dressed in white. I had to get out and hike my favorite trail.

With all that fresh, wet snow (when it stopped snowing, the temperature had risen above freezing), I realized that this hike was going to be a bit more challenging, so I decided to bring my friend along. He was in the back of my car waiting for me to take him along on any hike. You see, in this case, my friend was my trusty hiking ice ax. It is a great tool to bring along while bushwhacking or hiking on difficult terrain. With the slippery trail, I thought I needed a friend to join me.

My hiking ax in a foot of snow along the trail.

My hiking ax in a foot of snow along the trail.

We all need friends.

There are three characteristics that my hiking ax possesses that makes it an extremely valuable hiking companion. These same characteristics are what make our real friends important as we journey through the ups and downs of our lives here on earth.

First, I lean on my hiking ax. When I hike up steep terrain, leaning on my ax allows my arms share the burden that my legs primarily carry. If the footing is loose, the third point connected to the ground that the hiking ax provides helps me retain balance.

Likewise, we all struggle on occasion. Life throws us a curve ball once in awhile. Dark times may happen or the road we are traveling gets slippery. This is when we need friends – to help share our burdens – to help us remain on the straight path – someone to lean on in our times of trouble. It is one of our responsibilities as Christians, to share one another’s burdens. Life is challenging; we need to develop strong relationships.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.   Galatians 6:2

Second, my ax helps maintain balance and perspective.  As I hike, I shift my ax between my left hand and my right depending on the terrain. If the mountain slopes up to my right, I place the ax in my right hand. If the mountain slopes up to the left, I switch hands. My ax helps keep perspective with respect to the big obstacle before me: the mountain.

Over a foot of snow along the forest trail.

Over a foot of snow along the forest trail.

Our friends should do the same, help us keep perspective. As we journey through life, we can easily become narrow-minded or fixated on one course of action (tunnel vision). Our friends are here to shed light on our situation, and help us see the broader picture. Some times we are too conservative. Our friends on the left help balance our opinions. Some times we swing too far to the left. Our more conservative friends help steer us back towards the right. We need a friend to speak words that help us gain perspective in life.

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.    Isaiah 30:21

Thirdly, the hiking ax is safety tool. If while hiking along a slippery path, I lose my footing and start sliding down a steep slope, I can use my ax to “self-arrest” and stop a dangerous, uncontrolled descent (and avoid serious injury).

One of the sharp obstacles along the trail - covered in snow.

One of the sharp hazards along the trail.

Likewise, friends can be a safety net for me if I find myself going down the wrong path. Other godly men who I have invited into my life through connection and relationship will hold me accountable. They check up on me to see if I am doing well. They are close enough to me to recognize when I have stumbled down a bad path. They hold me accountable to the right path. They reach out a hand to keep me from falling into a pit.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!      Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

We all need close friends in our lives. We are designed for relationship. Men who have fallen into addiction and/or are intimacy anorexics have done a good job of avoiding close relationships. However, God in His mercy and grace provided an antidote to help us along the trail to face the challenges of life: good friends – someone who will help us up when we fall.

How about you? Do you know someone who could use a good friend? What can you do to reach out to others and help them along this journey we call life?

Setting captives free

setting captives free

At the onset of His earthly ministry, Jesus made a very clear statement of His mission and purpose. Quoting from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus stated what He was about to do and how His life fulfilled this ancient prophecy.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captive and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.    Luke 4:18-19

One extremely important declaration lies in Jesus’s words.  His missions was to proclaim liberty to the captives.

What is a captive? Who are the captives in our world today? A captive is someone restrained or imprisoned against their will. Today we see these people all around us. Their captivity is in their minds, spirits, and souls. Many people are ensnared by sin, their own sin or the sin of others. Many are imprisoned in their minds; they are held captive by lies that they embrace. They are blind to see the truth. There are many who are held captive by their past. They are unwilling or unable to release the chains from their past that hold them back from growing and maturing.

Jesus came to set these captives free. He is still able and willing to do so today through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What is holding you captive? What lies are you embracing? What pain from your past is enslaving you today?

If you had a dysfunctional family in childhood (as many of us did) or if you had abusive or absent parents, you can be set free from the captivity that lingers in your life today.

Did you lead an indulgent, sinful life? Have you committed many wrongs? Jesus came to set you free.

Were you attacked, beaten, injured, abused, or abandoned? You can be healed and made new. Jesus came to set you from the captivity of your past.

I have met many men who suffer from intimacy anorexia. They withdraw from others to avoid becoming intimate and vulnerable. By keeping their emotional distance from others, and especially a wife, the intimacy anorexic believes that he can protect his emotions and hidden inner self. Most, if not all, intimacy anorexics have suffered some sort of emotional trauma in their past. They have wounds that left deep, emotional scars. They are captives to the emotional dysfunction of their past. Jesus came to set these captives free as well.

Setting captives free – this was Jesus’ purpose as He walked the earth, and it is still His purpose today. He proclaimed good news – it is possible to be set free and have a new life – even in our minds and emotions! Jesus came to set at liberty those who are oppressed and imprisoned.

If you are captive to your past, Jesus can set you free and transform you! Your mind and your emotions can be renewed. We can lay our burdens down and release ourselves to the love and care of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness and cleansing and healing are available in abundance to all who seek it. This is what Jesus was all about and is still doing so today. Another prophecy of Isaiah makes this very clear.

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.     Isaiah 1:18

What do you think? Are you struggling with your past and need to be set free? Do you know someone who needs the help that Jesus offers?

Dealing with strong emotions

emotions

Photo courtesy of Pamela Logan.

God created us in His image. This image includes our emotions and desires. Emotions are a part of our human experience, a gift from God. Emotions are an essential aspect of being human.  Some emotions are pleasant and welcome: happiness, joy, contentment, while others hit us like waves on the rocks: grief, anger, or shame.

The intimacy anorexic has learned to suppress his emotions, especially strong or extreme emotions, in order to avoid appearing weak, vulnerable, or foolish. For an unhealthy individual or an intimacy anorexic, how did we react when experiencing a strong emotion such as anger, grief, or fear? In the old way (the pattern of this world), we suppressed our emotions, stuffed them, and did not validate them. In response of these pent up emotions, we eventually acted out in wrong behavior, hurting ourselves and pushing away those closest to us.

We avoided acknowledging and resolving our emotions.

What is an honest, healthy way to deal with strong emotions?  First, one must step back, recognize and identify the emotion. For example, “today I feel scared.” Next we have to rationally explore what lies under that emotion. We must ask: “What is causing this emotion? What unmet need is contributing to this emotion?” It may take time to honestly dig deeper underneath the surface of our apparent emotion.  This step is difficult, but to truly heal from emotional dysfunction, one must do the challenging work of identifying one’s unmet needs.   This process is the “renewing of the mind” that Paul urges.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.     Romans 12:1-2

When you realize that you feel out of control, your unmet need may be more order and control in you life. Now you must dig even further. You must identify the lies you are believing, such as “the future is uncertain, dangerous things await around the corner”. Then, with each lie, you must counter it with truth. God’s Word is TRUTH. God loves you. He holds your future in His hands. He will never leave you or forsake you.

This is the renewing of the mind that brings transformation in our lives. When faced with strong emotions, the intimacy anorexic doesn’t know how to handle the emotion and lacks sufficient tools to do so.  Eventually these emotions become overwhelming, and thus the intimacy anorexic must act out to “self-medicate” the emotion (this is the root of addictive behavior). He did not recognize the unmet need and seek to find a safe, healthy way to meet that need. When faced with a strong emotion, even to the point of suffering, a thoughtful, transformed man will recognize his need, call on God’s truth in the situation, and chose to meet his need through a right, healthy action.

Those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do what is right.      I Peter 4:19

Through this mental and emotional discipline, we test and approve God’s will, and draw closer to Him. We begin to understand how He created us in His image. We take action that offer our bodies as holy sacrifices to God (through righteous acts rather than selfish sins). Our emotions become something to embrace as a precious gift from God rather than some evil to avoid and suppress.

What do you think? Do you know someone who struggles to acknowledge and deal with their strong emotions?  Take action today to help them see the TRUTH in their situation!

Should I admit I have a problem?

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If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

Admitting our faults, flaws, and wrong behavior is a difficult thing. As men, we want to be seen in a good light. We want to be perceived as strong. We want to be considered the “nice guy”.

However, men who suffer from intimacy anorexia want to protect the walls that we have built up to protect our inner selves. We don’t want to be vulnerable. Our egos and pride prohibit us from admitting our wrongs, our faults, and our sins. If we do so, it calls into question all that we have built up until this point. If we admit our flaws, we would become vulnerable and weak. Someone might attack us and expose us for who we really are.  We will no longer be seen as the “nice guy.”

Intimacy anorexics do not want to face the pain and shame of exposure.

Ironically, the opposite is the truth. By admitting that we have done wrong, that we have a problem, and that we are weak and helpless, we open the door to forgiveness and a new start in life. We become stronger. Becoming vulnerable actually allows us the freedom and ability to connect more authentically with others.

Vulnerability and confession demonstrates that we are all flawed and that we need each other.  This is the way that Christ prescribed healing among his people.

Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.        James 5:16

When we admit we need help, we begin the process of healing. The intimacy anorexic has been sick for a long time. He or she has learned how to protect their hearts, their emotional center, and has constructed a façade around themselves. By breaking through this false protection and seeking help and forgiveness does one truly begin to be healed. By exposing our weaknesses and the wrong we have done, we open the door to the healing offered by Christ, and in doing so we become stronger. For the intimacy anorexic vulnerability is a painful and difficult step to take. But those things in life that are the most worthwhile are also the most challenging to undertake.

What do you think? Would you benefit from admitting your wrongs to another? What can you do today to be more vulnerable in your most important relationships?

 

Weak and selfish

weak and selfish

I was listening to a friend in recovery discussing what he had recently learned and one of his phrases caught my attention. He described his past behavior as “weak and selfish.” I jotted it down and meditated on that phrase.  It is poignant.

Weak and selfish” aptly characterizes men living in addiction.

An addict is weak, not strong. He can’t make tough decisions; he takes the easy way out of trouble, conflict, or adversity. He can’t handle emotional pain; instead he medicates his pain the easy way, through whatever his chosen addiction is: acting out (drinking, drugs, porn, overwork, etc.) or through acting in (emotional withdrawal, criticism, shaming, and blaming). When temptation comes, the addict easily succumbs, because he is weak.  He can’t resist. He doesn’t possess strong defenses or boundaries. Further, he has no strong alliances to help him in his struggles and temptations.

The addict and especially one suffering with intimacy anorexia is “selfish.” He wants to protect his own interests. He will do anything to avoid exposure – lie, cheat, and steal – all extremely selfish acts. The intimacy anorexic withdraws and pushes away his wife, children, and close friends in order to indulge his selfish behavior. He rarely looks at the needs and concerns of others – their emotions, their feelings, and their heart. He rarely shares in the burdens of others.

A baby is born into this world “weak and selfish.” A baby can do nothing for itself or others. It takes loving, patient, and caring parents to grow a child into maturity. No parent ever wishes their baby to remain weak and selfish and never grow to maturity.

Likewise men need to grow and mature. When we nurture our addictions, we remain as a child, “weak and selfish”. It is not what God designed for us. It takes other mature men to grow boys into men. Men who will provide guidance, accountability, compassion, direction, objectivity, and sometimes a swift kick in the pants, when necessary.

As iron sharpens iron, so do men sharpen each other. It takes adversity to forge raw material into a strong, hardened, alloyed steel, which then can be shaped into a useful tool. Men of faith need to walk alongside each other to provide strength to overcome the enemy. A great picture of this cooperation is the ancient Phalanx, used to attack the enemy’s strongholds.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.     I Corinthians 13:11

As Paul says in the above quote, to become a man one has to give us childish ways. Men make numerous small decisions each day to give up childish ways – we offer grace instead of taking offense, we turn off the computer instead of looking at sexually suggestive material, we plan for the future instead of blaming others for our circumstances, we confess our wrongs to one another when we make a mistake, we listen to our wives’ heart in order to connect emotionally. These are a few of the marks of a man who has chosen to give up childish ways.

In Genesis it states that God created man in His image.  I am convinced that God is still in the business of making men. Paul affirms this in opening of his letter to the church at Philippi:

I am confident of this that He who began a good work in you will continue it until the day of Christ Jesus.     Philippians 1:6

God did not create men to remain weak and selfish and living in addiction. He wants us to mature and grow. He has shown us how to mature. He had given us each other to sharpen and strengthen us. We must walk beside our brothers, shoulder to shoulder, to encourage them and help them grow to maturity.

What do you think? How can you help other men mature and grow? What small decision can you make today that will move you towards maturity as a man?

Our thoughts

our thoughts

Recently I was watching an old science fiction television show. During the episode, the intrepid crew of our technologically advanced space ship was visiting an alien planet. During the visit with this alien civilization, one of the crew members was arrested for having “evil thoughts”. This alien species had laws not only against evil behavior and acts of violence, but also had laws against evil thoughts and thinking about violence.

It is interesting to study the teachings of Christ and find the same prohibitions – that our thoughts are just as important, and even more so, than our outward acts and deeds. Three examples from the teaching of Christ come to mind, and I am sure there are more.

I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.      Matthew 5:28

For thousands of years, the seventh of the Ten Commandments forbade the act of adultery. In God’s order, marital faithfulness and the family are of high importance. Technically, adultery is an outward act. A behavior that could be seen and evidenced. Jesus turned the tables on the interpretation of this important moral law. His standard was much, much higher. Thinking lustfully about another is a violation of this important moral law, just as was the physical act. Jesus was concerned about matters of the heart and the mind, what we think about and feel. It is in the heart and mind that the battle for righteous living begins.

It was not just the seventh commandment that Jesus expounded upon. How we interact with other people was most important to him. The Commandments say do not steal and do not murder, but Jesus takes this moral code to a much higher level.

I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire.    Matthew 5:22

What we feel and think inside our hearts and minds is of utmost important. Just because we don’t strike another or steal his possessions nor say evil words doesn’t mean we have the correct moral behavior. Rather, Christ calls us to forgive our brother, even though we may have cause to be angry. He calls us to speak words of compassion to our brother, even though we feel he doesn’t deserve such kind treatment. Christ even goes as far as condemning a man to the fire of hell for slandering another. Our thoughts and our words are important. Christians are called to a very high standard of moral behavior. It is not just our acts and behavior that matter, but our thoughts and spoken words are extremely important.

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person but what comes out of the mouth …. What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.    Matthew 15:11,18

The religious leaders during Jesus’s walk on earth were more concerned about tradition and ceremonial cleanliness. Jesus corrected their wrong thinking about righteous behavior, and this teaching holds true for the modern Church. In many places we expect a certain correct “outward” behavior in our churches, and yet neglect the more important matters such as compassion, charity, and forgiveness.

Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.      Philippians 4:8

What do you think? How can you transform your thinking and be more deliberate about adopting Christ’s thoughts rather than focusing on outward appearances and behavior?

Shame

shame

Last week I introduced the concept of intimacy anorexia. To follow up on that subject, this week I will discuss shame.  Many intimacy anorexics and those recovering from addiction unnecessarily suffer with immense shame.

I have known many men who have come to realize their wrongful ways and are  overwhelmed with the burden of shame (of course, shame is something woman experience as well). These men are burdened and overwhelmed by the reality of all the wrongs they have committed and the pain they have caused themselves and others. Guilt, pain, and shame becomes very real and very tangible to those on the road to recovery. In the early stages of recovery from intimacy anorexia, it is common for men to feel overwhelmed by shame and unable to move forward with appropriate healing.

Guilt is a necessary emotion. It helps grab our attention. Guilt motivates us to change our behavior. However, like any emotion, guilt can get out of control and become immobilizing and counter productive. This is what shame does. It becomes and unbearable burden.

Shame pulls us down. Through shame, we feed on the lie that we have committed so much wrong that we are unworthy of forgiveness, redemption, or future blessing in our lives. Through the use of shame the Enemy propagates lies which isolate men from each other and the path to healing and recovery. Shame causes men to labor to try to “do right” when what we need is grace and compassion.

Jesus offers a better way. If you study the life of Jesus, you NEVER see Jesus using shame to judge someone or call them out. He is direct and strong with those who are hypocritical, but to those who are faithful and seek healing, Jesus is compassionate and gentle.

A great illustration of Christ’s compassion is the account of the woman caught in adultery found in Gospel of John chapter 8. The religious leaders at the time tried to discredit Jesus by publicly shaming and bringing to Jesus a women caught in the act of adultery. However, Jesus gently and effectively turned the situation around. He did not shame the woman, but rather offered her immense compassion.

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”      John 8: 10-11

Jesus reaches out a hand of compassion when we are weary and heavy laden. He does not shame us when we do wrong.  He gentle leads us to repent. He takes away our shame and washes us clean.

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.     Matthew 11:28-29

What do you think? Do you know someone who may overwhelmed with shame? Is there a way that you can offer comfort?

Intimacy anorexia

intimacy

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.    Genesis 1:27

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God…     Genesis 3:8

Over the next few weeks I will be writing about a condition known as Intimacy Anorexia (IA). Similar in concept to the eating disorder of anorexia in which the patient starves the body by not eating, a man or woman with intimacy anorexia chooses to starve their emotions and avoid closeness in a relationship.

I am not a medical professional or licensed counselor, but have learned much about the condition as I have struggled to overcome it over the past few years and have worked with men struggling with the same. For this discussion, I will use my own working definition of intimacy anorexia, which some professionals also refer to emotional anorexia.

Intimacy anorexia is the condition in which an individual actively withholds emotional connection with the people in their life who most deserve such a connection.

For whatever reason of development or childhood conflict, the adult with intimacy anorexia does not demonstrate their emotions in a healthy way, especially with people whom they should be close to.  Instead, the intimacy anorexic does everything he can to protect his emotional center.  He pushes away or withholds closeness from the people that deserve intimacy, primarily his wife and children, but also other important relationships such as parents, siblings, and close friends.

The intimacy anorexic will demonstrate some very clear behaviors, known as “acting in” that withholds intimacy and an emotional connection while pushing away the other person. Cory Schortzman, a counselor and Executive Director at Transformed Hearts Counseling Center, has written extensively concerning this condition. He defines several common acting in behaviors:

  • Withholding love
  • Withholding praise and appreciation
  • Controlling through silence or anger
  • Ongoing or ungrounded criticism causing isolation
  • Withholding sexual intimacy from one’s spouse
  • Unwillingness or inability to discuss one’s feelings
  • Staying so busy in order to avoid relational time
  • Controlling or shaming another about money
  • Making problems or issue about another (blaming) in order to avoid owning up to one’s own issues

I believe that intimacy anorexia is truly a spiritual condition. It originates in our deep wound of being separated from God. We each were created in God’s image to love and enjoy a close intimate relationship with God, to walk with God in the garden in the cool of the day. However, we have each chosen to rebel against God and suffer the consequences of our sin – the cutting off of an intimate relationship with God. This breakdown was so severe and God’s desire to restore intimacy was so great that God sent His One and Only Son to achieve reconciliation with his lost people.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.    Romans 6:23

Humans were created to for closeness and intimacy. We each have a strong desire for closeness and intimacy, it is fundamental to our nature as humans. However, many of us don’t have the skills and knowledge how to do so. This has broken our relationships with each other. My upbringing and background cultivated my intimacy anorexia and is typical for many men.

One of the younger children in a large family, I tried my best to keep out of trouble and be a peacemaker. I did not learn healthy ways to express my emotions, and thus as I entered adolescence, I became adept at stuffing my emotions, rather than dealing with them. This became more of a problem as a young adult serving in the military and then later in marriage. When another one of the guys on the submarine did something to offend me, I didn’t go up to the other guy and say “Hey, what you just said hurt my feelings, can we talk about this? “ Nope, didn’t happen that way.  I stuffed my emotions rather than dealing with it directly through open and direct dialogue with the other guy.  This pattern reinforced itself over and over again until it was part of my nature.  Most importantly, iIntimacy anorexia prevented me from connecting with my wife and children. Instead, I acted in repeatedly in order to protect my emotional center and the façade of a fortress I had built around my emotional core.  My most important relationships suffered.

Fortunately, God was gracious to me. He gently led me to a place in life where I had to deal with my emotional starvation. He provided other men to safely walk with me through this journey of recovery and provided tools to help me learn how to acknowledge and express my emotions in a proper way. It has been a great journey of recovery and walking in emotional strength.

I think that intimacy anorexia is more common that we would like to admit. I intend to use this forum to help educate my readers about this condition and hopefully be able to point some to recovery and health.

More to follow in the coming weeks.

What do you think? Do you know someone who may be suffering from emotional/intimacy anorexia?