What to do When Your Spouse Relapses into Bulimia

Spouse supporting spouse

The emotional pain of watching your spouse struggle with Bulimia Nervosa (BN) can be awful. Even more painful is watching your spouse relapse into bulimia habits.

Feel Your Feelings

There is no need to sugarcoat it – having a spouse fight BN can be frustrating, for you and them.

It is natural for feelings of frustration, disappointment, and even resentment to build throughout this challenge. You are not a bad person, or partner, for feelings these things.

However, giving into these feelings or not expressing them may cause them to fester and create division between you and your spouse. It is okay to be open and honest about your feelings and having your own individual outlet might help you to do so.

Talking to a therapist, a trusted friend, or a support group might help you to process your thoughts and feelings so that you can work through them as well as communicate them supportively and effectively with your partner.

Maintain Strength in the Relationship

The battle against an eating disorder is like any other war – it does not exist in a vacuum. It will not only challenge the individual struggling but every aspect of their lives, including your marriage.

As you and your spouse navigate their relapse and recovery, maintaining a strong relationship and a united front is key but difficult.

Whether it be through couple’s therapy, meetings with their treatment team, family therapy, or support groups, find a way for you and your spouse to keep lines of communication open.

One study specified, “partners have the potential to be an important therapeutic resource…building on strengths in the relationship, encouraging a more open dialogue around individual needs, promoting a shared understanding of their partners’ difficulties and developing a congruent response to coping are potentially valuable [1].”

Support Them in Getting Help

Husband and wife discussing how spouse relapse into bulimiaIt is a huge and overwhelming, undertaking to find appropriate eating disorder treatment that is accessible and affordable.

Helping your spouse in navigating this can help to give you both a sense of control, togetherness, and hope for a future of recovery.

Allow Yourself to Get Help

It is just as important that you take care of yourself and process your thoughts and feelings about this experience as it is for your parents to do so.

Many partners report they do not reach out for help, feeling that their spouse “needs it more” or that they cannot reach out due to their partner being secretive about their relapse [1].

Your mental health and well-being are valid, too. Do not sacrifice yourself for your spouse, as that can cause relationship challenges that are difficult to overcome.


[1] Huke, K., Slade, P. (2006). An exploratory investigation of the experiences of partners living with people who have bulimia nervosa. European Eating Disorders Review, 14, 436-447.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.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 July 8, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on July 8, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.