There are many roles and dynamics we prepare ourselves for when entering into relationships but having a knowledge of how to support your partner with a Binge Eating Disorder is not often one of them. These disorders are confusing and frightening, especially to those that have never engaged with or learned about them before.
If you are feeling overwhelmed in supporting your partner with Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and unsure of how to be there for them, you are not alone. You will strengthen your skills over time, but some of these tips are a helpful place to begin.
Seek Professional Support
It is important that you seek the support of a professional for both yourself and you and your partner together as you navigate this dynamic. You are only human; therefore, it is inevitable that you will feel a slew of emotions as you support your partner.
Not only that, Binge Eating Disorder involves a great deal of secrecy which will likely breach the trust you have in your partner. Individual therapy will allow you an opportunity to explore the impact of your partner’s eating disorder on your mental health and well-being in a safe environment and effective manner.
Couples therapy will allow you to communicate these aspects more effectively as well as address how both of you can approach fighting Binge Eating Disorder as a united team. It is important that this couples therapist be educated in, preferably certified, in eating disorders, as a marriage and family therapist without this experience might not have an awareness of the unique dynamics involved.
There is no shame in seeking the support of an experienced outside team to strengthen your relationship and self in this journey.
Maintain Connection Outside of Binge Eating Disorder
BED is a frightening eating disorder that often brings with it chaos, depression, anxiety, fear, overwhelm, treatment, specialists, and overall negativity for both the individual struggling and their loved ones. With all of this going on, it can be difficult to connect with your partner outside of the disorder. Many people become so afraid of losing their loved one to this disorder that all they can focus on is behaviors and treatment.
Amidst all of this, the things that brought you both together in the first place can become lost. This results in disconnection and relationship issues, with studies showing that women with Binge Eating Disorder experience comparable or worse marital dysfunction than women struggling with other psychiatric disorders .
Support your partner by remembering who they are outside of their eating disorder and reminding them when they forget. This can be done through open communication, validating statements, and planning dates. Experiencing this can amplify their identity and your relationship outside of their disorder.
Encouraging Them to Fight for their Own Recovery
Truly, the best thing that you can do for your partner is to practice being effective support, which differs from support in general. Effective support involves you practicing validation and compassion when needed while also acknowledging that you cannot recover for your partner.
They must make the decision and take the actions to recover on their own, and nothing you do, no matter how hard you try, will allow you to do it for them. Acknowledging this will help you to balance support and accountability as well as keep you from burning yourself out attempting to do the impossible.
Again, attending couples therapy can help you to navigate how to maintain this balance. Above all, remember to have compassion – not just for your partner, but for yourself.
Resources Whisman, M. A. Et al (2011). Marital functioning and binge eating disorder in married women. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45:3.
About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published March 29, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on March 29, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC