National Eating Disorders Association

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Advice for a guy whose girlfriend is married to Ed?

Hey, guys. My name is Angel. I was hoping to get some advice from anyone, whether it's guys or gals going through an eating disorder, recovered, single, in relationships, anything.

Quick bio - I'm a 23 year old guy. I've been in the Navy for 4 and a half years. I love football, traveling, and cooking food. I can get over-emotional. I am kind of a control freak. I am very affectionate. I have a strong sense of myself and others around me. And I'm in love with a girl with an eating disorder. Anorexia, to be specific.

I've known her since high school. We weren't close at all during those years, but once I enlisted and we started writing each other while I was in basic, we've grown very close. To spare you guys from any a long-winded description of our lives, I'll put out a handful of things to give you an idea of my situation.

She's 23, she's been to inpatient and released, but is still struggling.
She's not at her ideal weight, far from it.
I'm stationed in Washington state and she lives in Arizona (working on her master's in Psych, she's such a brainiac!)
We lost touch for a long time while I was on deployment a couple years ago and while she was at inpatient in Cali, and it was actually her aunt that reached out to me a year and a half ago to help her.
I've seen her three times in the last year. For a total of about 20 days.
I knew I was in love with her last year, when I flew her up from Phoenix to Seattle to visit (in response to her aunt reaching out to me)
I realized I fell in love with her a long time ago.
She is terrified to be in a relationship, but has been in a couple since she developed an eating disorder. She has also been intimate with other guys since developing an eating disorder.
In high school & college specifically, she's been through emotional and physical abuse via boyfriends.
Her father wasn't a large part of her childhood (retired army vet) and her mother wasn't there to support her all the time (addicted to pills, emotionally distant), but they support her now and were with her during inpatient
Her last boyfriend was a 30-something year old guy who was with her almost every day during inpatient, she's been intimate with him, and he was really involved with her ED (making her eat, keeping tabs on how much she's eating, etc etc)
She has told me she wants to try to be in a relationship with me before, but then she relapsed and went back to her ex-boyfriend, and then has recently re-connected with me, resulting in our last 2 visits with each other.
We are not intimate. We've never had sex. She can barely hug or kiss me or sit next to me on the couch. We either sleep in separate rooms or across the room on different couches, or I'm on the floor. She tells me she hates the idea of people touching her. She tenses when I touch her back, shudders when I give her a kiss on the head. She can hold my hand approximately for 3 seconds before she has to leg o. She's often distant with me.

Okay, sorry, that was more than a handful of things. Apologies! Moving on -

I really don't know how to do this. To be a good companion, I guess. I've read some books, I've watched the documentaries, so I know that she can't show me she loves me because she doesn't love herself. She tells me it's just her. I know ED is a heavy contributor. I know her physical and emotional abuse from past boyfriends does it, too. I know her self loathing and depression are apart of it. But sometimes I just get frustrated and jealous when I know she's been close with other guys. But we have a really honest relationship, and she tells me almost everything, from what she ate that day to how she feels.

I'm not like her last boyfriend - I don't know everything about her ED, I don't force her to eat or keep track of her intake, or do the 12 steps thing. I am trying to learn and understand, but I'm also trying to be a good boyfriend, a companion. I know she's trying. God, I know she's trying. I just get so freakin' frustrated sometimes, when she can't even touch me.
I guess I'm just looking for any advice I can to support her, support myself, and stick with this thing.


Hey, Angel!

Hey, Angel! Thanks so much for sharing your story here on the forums. I will give you some advice here, but you might want to consider posting in the "Partners/Spouses of Sufferers" forum to hopefully get responses from people who can relate more closely to your situation and your stresses.

So, you clearly love this young woman a lot, and you've already started to try to educate yourself on EDs, which is really great. Continue learning as much as you can about EDs - that's important for anyone in a support role to be truly supportive. Have you been encouraging her to seek help for her illness? Does she have a treatment team in place already? If she doesn't have professional help yet, that's definitely something that needs to happen first and foremost; ED-specialized help is the most educated on EDs and should be her number one source of support and guidance in recovery. You can contact the NEDA Helpline (1.800.931.2237) 9am-9pm M-T, 9am-5pm F EST for a wealth of information on EDs and assistance in finding resources and treatment centers.
The NEDA Navigators ( might also prove to very helpful on your recovery journey together!

Now, to you - you sound clearly distressed, frustrated, maybe a bit helpless... I understand what it's like to see someone you very much love suffer through an eating disorder, and it's surely a painful sight. And then to try to support them, in a relationship? That's tough stuff, and you shouldn't have to find your way through it on your own. If you're able to, consider seeking some help for yourself - there is absolutely no shame in finding a therapist to help you deal with the stressors in your life. That way, you can be an even better support for your girlfriend.

I know things probably seem dark and gloomy now, but rest in the knowledge that these times can't last forever. WIth the love of those who support her, hopefully your girlfriend is on her way to better, happier, healthier days.

Please keep us updated on how you are doing on these forums! (And remember the "Partners/Spouses of Sufferers" one).
Anna Naomi