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Spouse of the Anorexia Sufferer: Struggles, Challenges, and Hopes
Contributor: Article Contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Eating Disorder Hope
They say that love is blind. Even the deepest, resounding love cannot “overlook” the devastation that comes hand in hand with anorexia. Perhaps you are in a relationship with a woman or man who is suffering from anorexia, and you have felt your love tested.
It is likely that you have been among the first to observe or catch-on to the fact that something is not right. Maybe you have noticed your spouse becoming more distant or difficult to communicate with. You may have attempted to have a conversation and have felt as though you are talking to a wall.
A Lack of Intimacy
Or maybe your relationship has suffered with a lack of intimacy. Perhaps your spouse has been closed off to you or unable to engage in intimate acts of love.
Or you may have picked up on odd behaviors: excessive exercise or a seemingly love affair with a bathroom scale or mirror, ritualistic behaviors with food, or a fear of eating in general.
The Strain on a Marriage
As a spouse, it can be painstakingly difficult to be married to someone who is suffering with anorexia. The strain on your marriage may result from a lack of emotion or communication, lack of intimacy, disassociation, and more. Being on the outside can be confusing, angering, and overwhelmingly hopeless.
You may try to understand exactly what your loved one is going through or try to help in whatever way you can, but these attempts may feel futile. Your emotions might range from feeling angry at your spouse for inflicting this on you and your marriage, to sadness, to frustration that this is not something that they can just “get over”.
How can you be expected to stay married and endure this trial with your spouse when there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight?
Hope for Healing
The good news is that there is hope for healing, recovery, and restoration in your marriage. No matter what your journey has been, the future can be one that is promising for this relationship you have fought so hard to protect. Here are some common questions you may be asking as you journey with your spouse through the recovery journey from anorexia:
Is This My Fault? NO!
It is very important for you to understand that the development of anorexia is not your fault. You may feel that there are things that you did that influenced the progression of anorexia, but do not let your mind linger here.
Anorexia is an illness that develops from the interplay of many factors, including things that you would have absolutely no control over. Genetics and neurobiology play a large part in why a person in susceptible to developing anorexia.
Your spouse was likely predisposed to having anorexia, and this is not something you could have prevented. Letting go of self-blame is a key part to ensuring recovery and treatment can move forward.
Why Is He/she Doing This to Me and Our Family?
There are many actions and behaviors that a person with anorexia will exhibit that come across as selfish or self-absorbed. While it can be easy to take these actions personally, understand that many behaviors and thought processes are the direct result of starvation or malnourishment.
Anorexia is like a disease that your loved one has no control over, and the solution is to treat the disease, not the symptoms. It can be difficult to endure such actions in the interim, but as a person heals and nourishes their body, many of these habits will cease from continuing.
Will Our Marriage Survive Anorexia?
This is one of the most painful questions you may be asking yourself throughout this journey. There is always hope, and love can endure the most difficult trials. Try to remember the person you fell in love with through all of this.
Remember the memories you shared and hold on to hope for a future free of anorexia. It is also crucial that you seek your own help and support during this time. If your spouse in in treatment, become involved yourself.
Learn about how you can best support your loved one during this time. Consider marriage and family therapy as well as counseling for yourself. There are many wonderful support groups that exist for family members of anorexia sufferers.
Sometimes, having an outside perspective can be encouraging, or seeing others who have gone through a similar path can be supportive in your own walk.
Your unconditional love for your spouse is more powerful than anorexia. Though at times, you may feel despair or like giving up, hold on to the love that you share with your spouse. Though they may not be able to express or receive your love while in the throes of anorexia, it is exactly this that will enable them to recover and heal.
Community discussion – share your thoughts here!
How have you supported your spouse through the recovery process from anorexia?
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 21st, 2015
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com