National Eating Disorders Association

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eddie
partner with ED -im having hard times with behaviors

Hello Community . My partner and I have been together for 4 years. when we met she was in an in patient for her bulimia. she has been in OA for years and does her work , which i admire and try to support. I struggle with behaviors that she has and I suspect are related to her ED but am unsure - hence I am here. She tends to make "small lies" and has a hard time taking responsibility, as she collapses into shame. This makes me angrier and more critical with her. I try not be codependent and just make these behaviors "ok". Have other people encounter these with their spouses? any help will be appreciated

Anon25
I wish I had words of wisdom

I wish I had words of wisdom to offer, but I will say I'm glad you're reaching out. Welcome to the Boards.

It's important to remain supportive of her recovery but also free and confident that you're feelings are valid too. I always want my girlfriend to know that honesty about her ED struggle is very important to me, even if she ends up telling me that she purged or restricted, etc. She experiences feelings of shame with that, of course, but I appreciate the honesty. I never agree that it's okay, but do my best to not make her feel as if I am judging her for it. The most important thing for me has been recognizing the validity of my feelings ABOUT what she is doing, and finding the courage to share some of that with her. If you are in a partnership, she will have to know that this affects you as well. If the two of you are not in a place to process that together, individual counseling for you could be a great thing to have!

I might be wrong in what I've said, as I am fairly new to this journey and all relationship dynamics are different. Best of luck. Thanks for reaching out.

eddie
thank you

thank you for the note Anon25. This is good advice. We are both in therapy and in couples therapy. I am aware of the inner critic and its attacks, and have compassion but... I find myself struggling with wondering when is compassion just enabling? I have shared with my partner that her little lies to hide shame and her difficulty in saying " im sorry i realize my X makes me treat you poorly" hurt me and make it hard to trust her, but I dont see change. The shame is strong... Maybe you are right and I should just keep saying it and if nothing changes ...

BobJ48
"Not good enough". :(

Hey Eddie,

One theme that seems to run through all EDs is the "not good enough" theme. People can work on their behaviors, as your partner is admirably doing, but their minds can continue to be plagued by thoughts of "not being good enough'. Not good enough with their weight, not good enough in the efforts they are making, and just plain old not good enough as a person.

This may explain some of the shame that she feels, even if she seems to be making progress, and may explain some of the small lies as well. Only someone who was not good enough would find themselves slipping up, you know ? Even though it's only human to slip up now and then, particularly when it comes to recovery.

Self-forgiveness is an important aspect of recovery, but when people hold themselves to high standards (or even what they feel are low ones) it can be hard for them to forgive themselves in the ways that they will often need to, when it comes to the rough road of recovery.

"Dare to be imperfect" you know ? That's an idea that people in recovery need to practice with too.

Bob J.

eddie
thank you BobJ. I am aware of

thank you BobJ. I am aware of the inner critic and its attacks, and have compassion but... I find myself struggling with wondering when is compassion just enabling? and when do I say that this recovery may take YEARS ? I have shared with my partner that her little lies to hide shame and her difficulty in saying " im sorry i realize my X makes me treat you poorly" hurt me and make it hard to trust her, but I dont see change. The shame is strong... Maybe you are right and I should just keep saying it and if nothing changes ...

BobJ48
Eddie : Compassion.

Eddie,

"..and her difficulty in saying " im sorry i realize my X makes me treat you poorly" hurt me…."

I get what you're saying alright. It's all well and good to be a font of compassion for our partners, as we like to think of ourselves as compassionate people. But at the same time, it's supposed to be a relationship, and in relationships it's not wrong to feel that we deserve something too.

As someone once said, in relationships, by definition, we only have 50% of the thing that's within our control. But we need to do 100% with our half.

If the other person doesn't seem to be doing 100% with their half as well, how are we supposed to feel about that ?

I'm not sure that compassion equates with enabling. Or where compassion turns into enabling. I guess if we keep saying that it's OK that they don't seem to be taking the risks that they know that they need to be taking….maybe that's where the line is ?

Whatever the case, I don't believe that it's selfish to hope that we will receive what we need from relationships too.

Anon25
NEEDS!

This is something I too have been struggling with, big time. I feel as though my needs are not being met by the relationship at times, and that's hard for me to process. On the one hand, my partner is currently in a treatment program and I am very thankful and supportive. But it also drains her emotionally, mentally, and physically, so there is little room for me (I feel) to have my needs met, whether they be physical, emotional, or mental.

We actually just had a very hard couples session where she laid out several things that have been very harmful for her recovery that I've been doing (around initiating intimacy when she doesn't want it, making her feel guilty when I hurt her feelings, etc) and it was hard to hear. I am now in a process of deciding whether or not our needs can match up now, and in the future if things never change. She has been adamant that I am not obligated to stay with her, and that she can't promise me that she will ever be different than she is right now (which saddens me, because she is different from the girl I met when we started dating and falling for each other).

That being said, there is definitely a fine line that we walk when we are the support system. Things that I wasn't necessarily considering to be a "big deal" were heavily impacting her walk toward recovery, and that is something I don't want to impact. I have to work on my own emotions and responses because she can't be held responsible for them. That is something I've been learning (which is HARD!) - we are responsible for our own emotions. Yikes.

Eddie, when your partner hides and lies, it does hurt, and that is valid. My partner's therapist reminded me yesterday that, at times, it IS going to feel like an imbalance, and it IS going to feel unfair, and it IS going to feel one-sided. As hard (and unfair) as that sounds, it is the truth when you are in a relationship with someone who is suffering from and/or recovering from an ED (or any mental illness, really!). It is also OKAY if that is too much for you. You need to keep yourself sane and safe, and that may not be possible if you are in a relationship with your partner. Not saying that extreme will come, but if it does, know that your feelings, needs, etc. are valid.

You said that the two of you are in couples therapy, has this been brought up? If so, how did your partner react? Was it positive, negative, encouraging, insightful?

Thanks for keeping us updated!

BobJ48
Anon : Sensitivities

" ….she laid out several things that have been very harmful for her recovery that I've been doing (around initiating intimacy when she doesn't want it, making her feel guilty when I hurt her feelings, etc) and it was hard to hear."…

" Things that I wasn't necessarily considering to be a "big deal" were heavily impacting her walk toward recovery…"

As you are seeing, EDs can cause our loved ones to become irritable as well as extra-sensitive to things which might not have effected them so much in the past. It can be upsetting to think that we're making things worse, when in truth, we're actually trying to help things instead.

So we often can find ourselves "walking on eggshells" around the person, in ways that we might not have needed to do in the past. This can be wearing on a person it's true, having to second-guess things like this. And it certainly doesn't add to our own shifting feelings of uncertainty.

Still, once a person has a better idea of where this is all coming from, hopefully it can help us be more tolerant. As you mentioned, we rightfully have our own needs too. Which we can sometimes set aside in the interests of harmony. But then again, how long should we expect that to go on for ?

On top of it all, a person often has to deal with hearing things like this : "She has been adamant that I am not obligated to stay with her… "

Statements like these are quite common in situations like this, and are, in part, an aspect of the - "If I made some kind of major change in my life, then that might fix things " - line of thought that so many people with EDs find themselves caught up in. If they…moved across the country, or got rid of their partner, or made some other sort of significantly large change in their current situation…somehow or other a big step like that might serve to magically help fix things.

It's also a part of the "I don't want to be a burden on my loved ones" thing of course. But the "big change" idea plays a role in it too.

In the end, of course, breaking free of an ED takes considerably more than relocating to the Bahamas, or removing one's self from a caring partner, but when people find themselves backed into an emotional corner like this, one can understand where a part of themselves might start to believe that some big change or other might be just what they need.

Which rarely works out ( unless they actually are in some legitimately toxic situation ) but even so, it often sounds like a good idea to them at the time.