I've been with my girlfriend for 3 years. I love her but fear that I waited too long or was not forceful enough in addressing with her the problems she has. If I could give one piece of advise to anyone is DONT wait too long in really discussing the issues around ED and its effect on the relationship. Largely its a thankless task unfortunately and you will at some point have to think about yourself as a carer. You may then be lucky and make her see she must change for herself first and that in turn will allow everything else in your relationship to have a chance. I eventually got through by explaining what her alter ego was doing to me and was amazed to find out after all this time that she was blissfully unaware of the stress and heartache watching some you love fade away can inflict on a person. Sadly though I think its too late as I've come to really resent / hate the alter ego that makes her do this to herself and feel that I've failed the real her. My issue now is that I know I must leave but fear for her well being as I still love her. Don't know what to do for best. Anyone had similar experience?
Hi Brunaction - I'm so sorry that you have been in this position for so long. First of all I have to say that you're right, people with eating disorders do not consider the effects their disorder has on others. How long into your relationship with her did you know she had an ED? I went through my eating disorder alone and I would have NEVER wanted a single soul to know. I never had a boyfriend through the worst of it. However, when I did date a guy for a couple years and I gained weight from being on the pill, I started throwing up once in awhile. Since bulimia had such an impact on me in the past, one day I told him about it - that I used to throw up...and that I still did every so often. After you've told a boyfriend, the boyfriend becomes concerned and all of a sudden you have a pillow to fall back on when you're sick. The boyfriend is not a support, but in a strange way, it's a romantic thing that the man wants to save you....It's weird. I think having people around who know encourages the person with an ED to continue their behavior. Does she know that you're considering leaving her? My advice would be to leave her because she is taking you for granted. I'm sorry to say but in this case, tough love might be the only way she's going to wake up. It's kind of a sick twisted game for the person with an eating disorder. I dated someone once who's ex-girlfriend would tell him that if him and I didn't break up, she was going to keep throwing up. He felt so guilty and I wanted to shake her and say "THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS!!!" Girls can use it against guys...but that's another problem in itself! I dealt with it all on my own. So when I see people with ED who have someone to lean on, it makes me so mad that they brought someone else into it. I couldn't handle having others worry, so I had to be so tough all alone.
I'm sorry that I keep blabbing on and on, but you are in a tough position. Your assistance only encourages her. She likes something about you worrying.
Thanks so much for replying to my post, in answer to your question I knew almost from the start that there was something wrong, but only found out the full extent of it when we moved in together after 6months. I started to try and reach her and help almost straight away but was constantly pushed away and dismissed for being 'controlling' when all the while it was the illness that controlled the two of us. The point you make about being a pillow to fall back on is something I've come to realise. After nearly 3 years of trying I've finally given up, can't do it, can't stand by and watch, so got to leave. Its my birthday today last night I sat down and told her how I feel. Everything came out. I don't know who's more messed up over this her or me. I've asked her to let me go and sort herself out on her own, putting a distance between us might help, she says she will get help and I should stay. It's not that I don't believe her, think she genuinely thinks she will, but I know from experience this could be just words. Trust not there, if its not there then
that's it. This post is really here to help me, but also other people in similar situation. Don't fall in love with someone with ED it will break your heart.
Thanks so much for replying to my post also. For you to be going through your recovery and be so candid shows I think a hugely caring nature. What I do know is that no matter who it is these things take time, and often people talk about hitting rock bottom before they start to get better. The other reason I can't stay is that I've been a carer already,for my Dad with cancer, and the thought of doing that role in any respect as things get worse I've said to GF that its not that I won't do it, I just can't. I would like to hope that a time apart from my GF would allow us to get back together later when she is stronger and on the road to recovery but maybe this is a bad idea. You sound like someone who will win their battle. I wish you well.
Brunaction - When I read that you mentioned "rock bottom" in your reply to the post above, it make me think of something. Yes, it's true, a person with any addiction has to be completely over it in order to start to come out of it. Having people around you who love you and care and worry, does not make things better. I NEVER wanted a single person to know because then they would always know me as "The girl with the eating disorder" or "the girl who once was bulimic". Because so many people didn't know about this and because I don't admit it to anyone, I am not seen as some freak who ate a ton of food and puked it up all of the time. Rather, I'm just a normal wonderful girl who's seen for all of my good qualities (or so I hope!). I tell people that I had it really tough for a while, but I do not elaborate. I couldn't imagine the awkwardness of having people know!! I probably felt that way because my parents and brothers looked at me like I was a weirdo when they suspected things. Had I had a compassionate response from my family, I may have felt different. However, having a compassionate family does not help someone with an addiction either. You might be wondering what made me get better. Well, it was a combination of a few things. The first sign of hope was that a really good friend of mine moved to the college I was going to...so we were able to laugh together and have a good time. I was still sick, but it was helpful to have a good friend around. And the biggest and final push was when I became a teacher. I just turned 22 and was working in a town far away. I had a boyfriend who I'd see every weekend because he lived 3 hours away, but he didn't know yet. One day, after throwing up and feeling gross and laying on the bathroom floor afraid that my heart was going to give up on me, I thought, "What would my students think of me if they found out this is how I died?" It was a small town, so people would talk about finding me dead on the bathroom floor with puke all over. Gross - it scared me. It was almost like a "motherly instinct", I was going to put the children first. My health HAD to get better. I couldn't stand how the kids would not be able to comprehend what I was doing and they might lose respect for me. So, I reduced the amount of times I was throwing up to a point where my heart wasn't hurting anymore and my face wasn't too puffy. It still took about 5 years to break out of it after that, but that was the rock bottom push to move up. Another thing that makes it hard to recover from an eating disorder is that you want to look slim and you need to learn how to eat healthy and control yourself. It took me awhile to get to a weight I was happy with and to find foods that I could eat and enjoy and keep me looking pretty BUT, I am afraid of gaining weight. So, I'm sure I would start throwing up again if I did.
I'm sorry that you have been dragged through this. She may have a better chance at recovery without you. She doesn't have to be a role-model to you. If she had someone to be a role-model for, maybe she could get better. So don't take it personally.
Wow, that line "Don't fall in love with someone with an ED, it will break your heart," hit me in two ways. 1) I am in recovery from Anorexia. 2)I had a boyfriend with an addiction. I can understand your side because I had to leave him because he was in love with his addiction, not me. But on the other hand, I didn't recognize my eating disorder was so bad and that it affected my loved ones so much, until later in therapy, I asked them about. They were honest and told me how it hurt them and I couldn't believe it. She can't see now what she is doing to you or herself. In recovery, she will come to know that. The best thing now for anyone is for her to get help. If things sort out, she will come to be the person you knew or most likely, a stronger person. But relationships and ED's do not go together, because someone with an ED is already in a relationship--there's no room for anyone else. Take care of yourself, and I do hope she gets helps.
I know I'm a bit late, but I feel the need to respond to this posting and share my experience, as the honesty and earnestness of your post really moved me.
I started developing my ED a couple years prior to meeting my boyfriend, but it did not become a serious problem until shortly after he and I had started dating. We were quite serious from the start of our relationship, but I lived 90 minutes away so we mostly only saw each other on weekends. Six months into our relationship, I told him about my problem. I had never told a single soul prior to that, and the reason I told him was out of desperation-- I knew by that time that I was powerless to do anything to fix it on my own, and I needed somebody to know. I started therapy, but I feared that letting him in on this secret would forever change the nature of our relationship...and i was right.
We stayed together for another year, during which I briefly stabilized, but then ended up getting sicker than ever. I would restrict myself severely during the week, to compensate for having to eat normally on the weekends when I was with him. I felt I had to do this because of how he reacted to my ED symptoms. It was not good. I always blamed myself-- after all, this was MY problem and if I didn't have this problem, WE wouldn't have this problem. But in therapy, I was given mixed messages: "It's not your fault that you have this disease," as well as "You are going to lose him if you keep this up." He and I fought about food everytime we were together. He didn't seem to understand just how difficult it was for me, but at the same time I couldn't expect him to. I won't say much more than that-- he is a wonderful man, but unfortunately my ED destroyed our relationship. It also destroyed everything else in my life: I had to take a medical leave of absence from graduate school, and give up my apartment and move home. I stayed with him briefly, while I was at my absolute worst and was trying to find treatment. I know it was the most difficult thing he has ever been through-- having me live with him, not eating anything but walking miles and miles each day, being completely empty-- not myself at all- just this empty shell of a person. He stuck with me through it all, but somehow he was just never able to be there for me in the way I needed him to. I do not blame him for this-- I never did and never will. We broke up ultimately, although for awhile he tried to reconcile things. I was not the one who initially ended the relationship, but at some point I recognized that I had to be away from him. Anytime we fought about my ED (which was basically every time we were together), it caused me to retreat further into my disorder. It was only after separating from him that I was able to make any progress toward recovery. I feel horrible saying this, because I know it implies that he was not good to me-- but he was. He was wonderful to me and I have no doubt that he loved me immensely. He wanted more than anything to help me and be there for me, but he just couldn't. It destroyed him (I know, because after we broke up he had a complete emotional breakdown and had to seek therapy for himself). I cannot say anything bad about him at all. I ultimately just had to take it as a sign that we, as a couple, did not handle difficulties well together. There was something there that just didn't work with us in that way.
Now, I am not recovered at this point. I did end up making significant progress, but relapsed and am not at a good point at present. But I do have a new boyfriend. He entered things with me knowing full-well what I was struggling with, as he knew my previous boyfriend and was warned extensively about how "completely f*ed up" I was. Likewise, I did not hide it from him. He and I had known each other before and had a bit of a history, and he asserted that he was willing to deal with that part of me. While things have not been going too well for me with my ED, I have to say that the relationship aspect is completely different. I made a decision and a promise to my current boyfriend that I would never lie to him about this stuff. At times, I have wanted to, but I never have.
The biggest thing that has helped me to stay honest with him is just his nature-- he is very laid back, and has told me that he just doesn't get overly stressed about things. We are at the point now where our relationship is quite serious. He told me he loves me (and at age 29, I am the first real relationship and love he has had), and I do not doubt his feelings. But it helps to know that no matter how bad I get, while he may worry, it's not going to cause him to get overly stressed or upset (just because that is his nature). He still doesn't understand a lot (and I have recommended some books for him to read to help that), but somehow he knows how to react. He just always supports me, no matter what. Yes, sometimes he will be confrontational and say "you need to start eating" but he never presses it, and always says that he knows I can do it-- that it is hard, but will get easier, and he believes I have the strength in me. While he does ask me if or what I have eaten on a particular day, I feel like I can be honest even if the answer is "nothing" and he will not get upset or make me feel like I'm in trouble.
With his support, I have been able to find strength within myself. I don't know how far I have to go, or if I will end up needing to seek more intensive treatment (such as inpatient or residential), but he helps me to want to be better. While most of the time when he and I talk about how I need to eat, the conversation ends with me suddenly turning into a child and just saying "No. No. No. No. NO! I'm not going to eat breakfast tomorrow" etc, he allows me to voice my ED rationalizations, and counters them with his rational arguments, and occasionally stumps me, which I do think about later. It helps. I want to be normal because I want to have this not be part of our relationship anymore. I want to start eating normally and just be a normal girlfriend and gain some weight and have this not control me anymore. He helps me to believe that i can do it.
So- that's my story. I hope things have worked out for you since your last posting. I am happy to answer any and all questions, if you or anybody should have them.
P.S. I guess I didn't specify, in case you wondered-- my diagnosis is Anorexia Nervosa- restricting type.