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.


Hi Angel,

Hi Angel,

I haven't experienced what you're going through, but I can only imagine that it's very difficult. ED affects so many other people in addition to the person who is suffering from it!! It sounds like you are both very close to each other, and that she means a lot to you, even if, as you say, you feel frustrated or like you are being kept at arm's length. By the way-- all of this is very normal!

Something I think might be helpful is the NEDA Navigators- they are trained volunteers who have experienced an ED, or their loved ones. They might be able to offer you some additional support. More info here:

You're doing the right thing by reaching out. It takes courage! We are definitely here to support you and listen as you go through this! You're not alone!

Hello Angel,

Thank you for posting your story here on the forums. Like PianoGirl said, EDs affect not just the individual, but also everyone who cares about the individual. It's clear from your post that you really care about your girlfriend; you're doing your research, you're working hard to try and understand her situation, and you're respecting her boundaries. You're in a tough position, but it sounds like you're doing a good job, especially considering you're both in a long-distance relationship at the moment.

In addition to checking out the NEDA Navigator program, I recommend reading NEDA's Parent Toolkit. It's not just for parents of people with EDs, it's for any loved one or friend. It has some great information that might be helpful for understanding what your girlfriend is going through: .

Is your girlfriend currently seeing a professional of some kind to continue ED treatment? Seeing a psychologist or therapist could be helpful for managing ED symptoms, as well as related issues, including intimacy and body image. You mentioned your girlfriend is currently in grad school; her university might have free (or low-cost) options for counseling services for students. If your girlfriend wants help finding resources in her area, she can call the NEDA Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 (Mon-Thur 9am-9pm EST, Fri 9am-5pm EST).

I'm sorry the ED is putting such strain on your relationship. I hope you're able to connect with people who are going through a similar situation through NEDA. Please know that you can post here anytime you need support. We all want the best for you and for your girlfriend. Good luck, Angel!