It’s fair to say relationships and Eating Disorders aren’t the easiest mix. They’re hard. In friendships, family relationships, intimate relationships etc. They can either pull you close together or pull you apart.
It’s incredibly common for the partner to feel completely lost and helpless watching their loved one battle an eating disorder. I know. But please know we don’t expect you to get this. Essentially Eating Disorders are proven to cause a lot of separation and isolation. Being obsessed and preoccupied with food and weight is just a little part of it, underneath you’re striving for a perfectionism that drives you quite insane. It consumes your thoughts and before you know it the rest of the world has been forgotten.
You sometimes feel like the Eating Disorder is your partner or best friend. When really you’re pushing away the ones who actually care. You’ll put up a very defensive wall in fear of rejection or shame of yourself.
I wanted to write a post from a suffers point of view, to anyone out there who may love and support anyone dealing with an Eating Disorder. I’m more specifically focusing this on boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands/wife’s but it’s also for the mums/dads/sisters/brothers, as I’m sure you’ll be able to relate. It’s for the people who don’t really know what to do or say.
It can be so hard to try and understand. It requires a hell lot of patience but together you can get through it.
Don’t be a therapist.
The last thing someone dealing with an Eating Disorder wants is our partner suddenly becoming our therapist. You’re not there to solve our problems, you’re there to support. To be a friend. Don’t tell us how much we should eat or what we should be doing.
Sometimes all we need is a hug and someone to listen.
Don’t give ultimatums. One of the worst things you could ever say to someone dealing with an Eating Disorder is ‘it’s your disorder or me’ Nu-uh. Do not go there. Sadly anyone with and Eating Disorder, doesn’t choose to have it. Why would we? Don’t make us feel guilty. Don’t make us choose our relationship or our Eating Disorder. We’re not choosing our Eating Disorder and by that we’re not ‘giving up’ on you. Instead take a step back and look at how you can move forward together.
Encourage. Like I said above, It doesn’t always work telling someone what to do. Eating Disorders are based around control. It’s what we’re striving for. Instead show encouragement, let us know you’re there, show positive language and if we’re in need of professional help try and encourage us to do so.
Show reasons to keep going. When living with an Eating Disorder it consumes your every thought and affects a lot of your decisions and moods. You crave something else to preoccupy you. I always try and encourage myself with reasons why life can be wonderful but sometimes in the whirl wind of thoughts, you need someone else to do that for you. Show other reasons for life, treat us as if we were like any other normal person and be patient. Show us how great life is and can be together.
Sometimes it isn’t me. I know sometimes an Eating Disorder can feel like the third wheel in a relationship. It can completely over take your personality and allow you to portray something which you are not. Again requiring a lot of patience, remember we more than likely don’t mean the way we act or things we say. It’s hard to understand but the support you do show is sometimes the one thing that can truly help. Understand it’s not the way I am choosing to be.
It’s more than just food. An Eating Disorder despite what you may believe is so much more than just food, so never ever treat it as a ‘just eat‘ case. There are so many aspects to this and recovery can be a very time consuming and a complex process. Hence why it’s so important talk to us about other things rather than food, even if it’s down to simply how our day has been.
Intimacy is hard. When your Eating Disorder is taking it’s toll, I hate to break it to you, it can be hard. Showing the vulnerable side of you, in your rawest form, it can be one of the scariest things. Sometimes it’s not an issue but sometimes it can be so hard to see that someone can accept you if you don’t accept yourself. It may cause you as partners to feel helpless, rejected and alone. But the truth is if you truly love us you’ll be patient, give it time. You’ve have to be patient with each other. Try not to push each other away.
The Eating Disorder wants me to be alone, I don’t!
With time you’ll probably pick up on any isolation techniques. It’s important to respect space but don’t let us slip too far. Usually someone with an Eating disorder will claim they want to be left alone, when it really isn’t the case. Really all we’re striving for is some freedom but we’re not really sure what that freedom may be. Being in isolation only allows the Disorder to take control and we lose sight of why we’re actually fighting.
Like above, continue with encouragement. No matter the arguments and struggles, help us face fears and realise we’re worthy of love. We don’t have to battle this alone.
Through everything remember that none of this is ever your fault. Things will take time but with patience, love and honesty things will get easier. And remember that you’re equally important, strong and brave. Despite the difference, you too have chosen to fight this and your feelings are valid.
We understand you’re doing you best, and we’re here for you as much as you’re here for us.
We all deserve love.