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Boyfriend of a woman with an eating disorder

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Old 02-08-2011, 01:52 PM   #1
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fluff14 HB User
Boyfriend of a woman with an eating disorder

Hey everyone,
I have come on this website for some advise and knowledge from the people within it.
Currently, I am in a long distance relationship with a woman who has an eating disorder. We have currently been going out for 11 months and I first realised that she had eating issues within the first or second month.
Although my girlfriend has an eating disorder, she is not at a weight were one might not consider her overly skinny. She weighs 53kg but as a woman of 5' 7', this makes her BMI borderline underweight.
Her condition can involve restricting her food intake to 0 calories a day to throwing up anything she has ate. This can happen for weeks every month. The reason I am posting is because I need help and advise, and to get this off my chest.
After seeing my girlfriend put herself through all this, causing arguments and stress along the way, I managed to convince her to speak to her doctor last month. When we went together, she was 100% convinced that the doctor would side with her and that I have been fretting over something that didn't exist. But of course the doctor said that she was anorexic with bulimic tendencies.
Our conversation straight after the doctor was that while we are apart, she doesn't want to speak to anyone but will do when we move away in 6 months. She then proceeded to ask me "Could I just not put up with it?" insinuating that I just accept that she continues to restrict her food intake and vomitting while I sit back and allow it to happen. I told her no.
I feel bad, as each time she does something, I get upset and sometimes angry that she is hurting herself. She has suffered depression previously and from conversations I found she may have been sexually abused when aged 14. This did not extend to anything penetrative but rather inappropriate touching. I believe this is the reasons she does these things to herself but she refuses to accept this and says its just about control and wanting to lose weight.
And as I understand that she has a problem, I still struggle to cope as alot of our conversations revolve around her wanting to throw up, feeling constantly sick or her refusing to eat.
This is very difficult as our conversations are over the phone so I can't be with her and I can't talk her around to my way of thinking. So knowing she is hurting herself while I am away causes me to be stressed.
We have had plenty of conversations about her situation and she still refuses to admit she has a problem and can't understand why I get so upset.
I am here to ask for help and any advice you may have. Recently I have considered leaving the relationship as I feel it isn't moving anywhere and physically our relationship hasn't moved anywhere as she struggles with any loving acts. I don't believe she will be able to progress in our relationship without some counselling.
Now, I don't want to portray myself as selfish here and I am very conscious of how I am. I care for my girlfriend so much and this is why I get so upset and angry at her when she hurts herself. But I don't know what to do, should I stay in a relationship that is so difficult for both of us?
Also, she has made me promise never to speak to her parents which, if broken, she would break up with me and never forgive me.
I can't talk to anyone about it and it is a relief to even type on this website.
The thought of breaking up really hurts me but I don't know if it is best for me.
Can you give me advice on how to handle this situation?
I am sorry for such a long thread. I am at an end and need someone to talk too.
Thanks a lot.

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Old 02-08-2011, 01:57 PM   #2
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Re: Boyfriend of a woman with an eating disorder

You're smart to think about leaving the relationship.
she needs therapy, she needs more help than you can give her. it's not as simple as just "eating"'s probably frustrating because you just want her to eat and keep the food down, but she has serious mental health issues to be doing this in the first place. They need to get to the root of her problem. I hope if you decide to end this relationship, you also decide to inform her parents about what she's could be saving her life.

Old 02-08-2011, 04:31 PM   #3
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Re: Boyfriend of a woman with an eating disorder

Your situation reminds me a lot of what I went through with my ex. I think that if your gf doesn't agree to therapy, your best option might be to end this. You can't control what she does, not even if you were physically near each other. I hope things work out for you two so she can continue to enjoy your support. You clearly care about her very much.

Old 02-08-2011, 04:37 PM   #4
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Re: Boyfriend of a woman with an eating disorder

It is unusual that she'd discuss her bulimia with you to the extent you describe.
Many women are open about the fact that they're on starvation diets, but few blather nonstop with their significant others about their desire to make themselves vomit. Most bulimics consider this practice slightly shameful, and try to hide it to some degree.
It sounds like a cry for help. Keep pushing.

Good luck.

Old 02-09-2011, 11:58 AM   #5
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fluff14 HB User
Re: Boyfriend of a woman with an eating disorder

Hey everyone,
Thanks for the advice so far. It is good to see other people's views.
Last night, my girlfriend and I were talking and she again started talking about her weight etc and not wanting to put on more.
She asked me why was I getting annoyed and I said because it seems like this cycle has lasted so long and that every night we are talking (or arguing) about food, weight etc and it is getting to me because no matter how much I say, you won't think my way.
I upset her saying this and she has now decided that she can no longer talk about food to me (or is considering whether she can talk to me about it).
And this in its own way is nearly worse than her not talking to me at all! Because of the distance it would be difficult for me to know how she is and I think it will put more strain on the relationship. I conveyed this to her but she isn't budging.
Can anyone shed some light on what I should do? And what your opinions are on this new development?

Old 02-09-2011, 02:40 PM   #6
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Re: Boyfriend of a woman with an eating disorder

You can't be an enabler.
Tell her you can no longer support her emotionally if she intends to continue to destroy herself physically.
Tell her your emotional support of her is contingent upon her 1. admitting that her eating behaviors are physically dangerous, and 2. making an effort to stop.

Old 05-16-2011, 10:53 PM   #7
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Re: Boyfriend of a woman with an eating disorder

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.

Like you said, all of our conversations tended to revolve around the ED. He even came to therapy with me, which was a disaster because it made him feel more justified in his position and he ended up becoming even more of what I called my "food police." I always felt incredibly guilty for causing him so much stress and anguish, and for the fact that I recognized that I was choosing my ED over him. I knew that it was destroying our relationship, but I was so consumed that IT was more important than anything else, including him. Admitting that is so painful, because I truly loved him and felt that he was THE one for me.... but it really shows how gripping this disease truly is, for it to have come between me and the man I loved so much like that.

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.

P.P.S. There was a book that I wanted my ex-boyfriend to read, when we were living together. He didn't read it because he felt like it was all too much already, and reading was his only escape and to read a book about anorexia would be too much for him to handle. After we had broken up, though, he got and read the book and told me that he wished more than anything that he had read it when I asked him to, because it helped him to understand me so much more. My mom and others who have read it have all said the same thing. It's called "The Secret Language of Eating Disorders" by PEGGY CLAUDE-PIERRE.

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