Mandi Newton

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dr. Sheryl Boblin


Intimacy is considered an essential aspect of 'ideal' marriages and romantic relationships. Western culture in particular, encourages individuals to seek intimacy within their romantic relationships and maintain it through consistent effort. Intimacy as an area of inquiry in romantic relationships has remained largely unexamined for women with anorexia nervosa (AN) despite a growing body of quantitative research signifying deficiencies in their romantic relationships as compared to women without the disorder. With this in mind, this dissertation sought to describe experiences with romantic relationships and intimacy for women with AN through phenomenological inquiry. A purposive sample of 11 women participated through in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Analysis revealed that these women engaged in diverse relational experiences characterized by dialectical themes of engagement and distancing, which acted as basic drivers of relational change and maintenance. For many women, their desired level of intimacy exceeded what was present in their relationships, with intimacy precluded by incongruent disclosure with their partner and the women's lack of physical desire. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that the women's relational experiences did not contradict generalized theories. Rather, like other individuals in relationships, the participants' relationships involved behavioural patterns, motivational dynamics, and situational environments in the context of their lives, which in their situation happened to include an eating disorder. This study suggests that understanding relationships for women with AN should not be limited to a disease framework, but should be explored within a normativee relational framework. Within this perspective health care professionals can tailor interventions specific to patient ways of relating.

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Nursing Commons