Communicating the eating disorder struggles you are experiencing can be overwhelming. Even verbalizing the thoughts, feelings, and urges arising within your mind and body with eating disorder can be difficult to put into words, let alone verbalize to another person or partner.
When that person is a partner, you may feel even more intimidated or afraid. Despite this fear, remember that garnering support from your partner is something you are worthy of that could help immensely with your recovery.
Are You Actually Protecting Your Partner by Not Talking About Eating Disorder?
For many, withholding eating disorder concerns from their partner is motivated by a desire to protect their partner from worry and negativity. The concern that discussion of eating disorder urges, triggers, and behaviors will cause dissonance, arguments, and complications in the relationship are unfounded.
In fact, the opposite is often true, with couples reporting that relationship issues increased when these topics were not discussed. One study found that marital dissatisfaction in couples surveyed decreased with symptomatic treatment of eating disorder behaviors .
Hiding your struggles from your partner only serves to increase your distress in isolation.
Do Not Apologize for Needing Support
As someone that struggles with an eating disorder history, a key aspect of your relationship needs to be having a partner that is open to supporting you in moments of distress or recovery.
There is a great deal of shame surrounding eating disorder behaviors, diagnoses, and struggles. Shame flourishes in darkness and isolation, and you do not need to resign yourself to living in that.
Consider Getting Support for Both of You
Navigating the complicated emotions, behaviors, and thoughts that come with an eating disorder being part of a relationship is confusing and overwhelming. Getting professional help for either of you can improve communication and boundary-setting related to this topic.
For your partner, having their own therapist can help them process difficult and conflicting feelings that arise as they try to support you while maintaining their own mental health. For you, having a therapist is key to continued progress in cognitions, beliefs, behaviors, and coping.
For your relationship, having an objective third party can help to navigate difficult conversations and improve your ability to tackle the eating disorder together as a team. An eating disorder will steal anything from you that it can, but you do not have to resign yourself to it interfering with your relationship.
Letting your partner in, allowing yourself permission to be supported, and getting outside help can improve your relationship and the ways in which you tackle any obstacles as a united front.
Resources: Woodside, D. B., Lackstrom, J. B., Shekter-Wolfson, L. (2000). Marriage in eating disorders: comparisons between patients and spouses and changes over the course of treatment. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 49:3.
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 January 28, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on January 28, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC