One of the least talked about difficulties that comes with having an eating disorder is having to tell a spouse or partner about it. When you’re in a close relationship with someone who you’re spending the majority of your time with, living with, or otherwise sharing many aspects of your life with, it will become increasingly difficult to hide your disordered eating. Sooner or later they will begin to notice that something is going on.
Telling your partner can be uncomfortable because of all the negative emotions it arouses, including shame, fear, or defensiveness. You may be worried that telling them will make them want to end the relationship, or change their opinion of you. Remembering that everyone has their issues can be helpful in this situation. Sharing the fact that you have an eating disorder may open up a new dialogue between you and your partner, where there is more trust and intimacy. They may feel more comfortable talking about their own issues with you as a result.
Telling someone you trust about your eating disorder also opens the doors to the opportunity to heal. It means that you recognize that you have a problem, and need help. This is a big step for someone who goes to great lengths to hide their disordered eating habits from others. It is also a big step in your relationship. If your partner wants to get serious about being with you, chances are they are going to want to know more about the things you struggle with. Hiding from serious issues or denying that they exist will only keep a relationship from moving to the next level.
Once you have the discussion with your partner and the two of you are ready to move forward in trust, caring, and mutual support, the healing process can actually begin. The good thing about having someone who loves and encourages you during this difficult time is that they can play a part in the recovery process. Your partner can be there for any extra support that you may need, help you with any triggers or other stressful times, and just generally be there for you. Having a partner who can do these things is a big plus.
Of course, not everyone will be lucky enough to find that kind of support. There is always a possibility that telling a partner about your eating disorder will lead to the end of the relationship. That person may not be willing to understand or support you for whatever reason. It is definitely a test of the strength of the relationship. If the person you’re with decides to end things or doesn’t fully support you, then it’s time to leave them behind. Because recovery from any eating disorder is a lifelong process, you’ll need someone who wants to be with you through thick and thin.
Other things to talk about with your partner.
-Make sure they know your eating disorder has nothing to do with them. Some partners may take the news personally, or may think it’s their responsibility to “fix” you. explain to them that it’s not their job to control your eating habits – you simply need their love and support.
-Ask them not to talk about diets, counting calories, body weight, or anything else that can be a trigger for you.
-Remind them that your eating disorder is about the feelings inside of you, not food itself.
-Ask them how they feel and give them the opportunity to be heard.