National Eating Disorders Association

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Anger issues

Hi, my wife has a binge- eating disorder that 10 years ago became so bad she lost her job. As a mom with a toddler, it made sense for her to stay home with the child. But sHe has enormous debt related to her weight issues that we cannot afford to pay down, which adds to our stress. (Her credit cards, not mine. She does not let me see the monthly statements but most of it stemmed from buying food during her binges. Because they are maxed out, she can no longer use them much.)

Now that our daughter is a teenager, my wife is spending most of her days doing self-care. I get our daughter out to school as my wife sleeps. When she's home alone she sleeps, reads, watches TV, makes political Twitter rants, does daily yoga, and visits with her mom or aunt. She takes an Uber for her daily food shopping for herself to make her own special meals, as part of her food ritual, while I cook for my teen and myself when I get home from work. Sometimes she picks up freelance work.

When she has income coming in from occasional side jobs, I don't know how much she is bringing in, vs. how much she is using it at the drive-thrus and convenience stores. But she also says she hasn't binged in a while and I trust her that she is telling me the truth. However, she is using the money for Ubers and for her meals. We argue a lot about how I believe that she could work from home or outside the home and earn enough to pay her credit bills, while she says she needs to focus on her recovery. I'm not sure if this is truly valid. I'm not calling her a deadbeat. I'm just not sure she is pushing herself enough, and being realistic. Or maybe she is smart enough to know her limitations. Again, I'm not sure.

We equally do the housework. She takes our daughter to appointments, and I attend school events and meetings. She is a responsible and loving parent. I'd say more than 75 percent of her day is dedicated to creating a calm atmosphere for herself, or reacting angrily when something minor disrupts it (traffic, a thoughtless neighbor, a barking dog, breaking a dish.)

I love her, and I don't mind that she spends much of her time with self-care. But the creditors call daily. We have discussed bankruptcy, but can't afford the legal fees to do this. And anyway, until I'm sure the credit cards won't be rung up again, I'm reluctant. Her dad has bailed her out several times financially, and the credit cards fill up again. We talked about canceling the cards, but she hasn't done it yet for fear of an emergency. I could work weekends to pay off her bills, but I don't want to do that right now. I want to spend time with our family before our daughter goes off to college.

This year she seems to be doing much better with her own self-control, but she is extremely sensitive and this leads to many arguments. I think i understand that it has to do with anxiety and depression and self-esteem issues but when we have an argument, she knows all the buttons to push to get me angry. For example, if I say, not angrily, 'Did you pick up my dry cleaning?" She might say, "I forgot, why are you so critical, why do you have to ruin our night?" I will say that i'm not angry, she's blowing this out of proportion, and then over several hours, she then brings up 10 or 20 issues she has with me, most of them invalid, or I say that we can discuss those other issues another time, I just want to stick with this one issue, or end this argument. When she keeps pushing me, telling me how selfish I am or mean to her, eventually i get so angry that I bring up the 10 years of her illness and the effect it has had on us, that she needs to seek out more support. Sometimes in anger I call her selfish. When I'm thinking more clearly I believe she throws a lot of stuff at me to deflect problems she has with herself, and that she is testing me to see if I will leave? Like, saying "See? I knew you didn't love me! I knew you resented me!" Eventually she calms down and apologizes. But I'm left shaken.

I hate it when our daughter hears us argue. And it is true, when i'm pushed I can't forget that my wife's actions have greatly impacted our family.

We talk about seeking couples counseling, but I think she should first seek help, and then once she has someone else to work out issues, she can then bring up what she and her therapist have discussed at our co-meeting? But she doesn't want her own therapist. She says she has tried therapy but no one understands her. SHe says as her partner I should be able to listen to her vent, understand her problems, etc. I keep saying I am not a therapist. But it feels like an endless cycle. If she isn't willing to seek help on her own. I cannot force her, because she won't be receptive to it. And we have both heard the adage "by the time you're headed to couples therapy, the relationship is probably over."

I'm so tired of being the "pillar of strength." She keeps asking me to be more patient, and I try. I don't want to end our relationship. I love her, and she still has a lot she contributes to our relationship when things are good; then some times I say I'm done, and she pleads for me to not leave, and that gives me hope and I stay. I know it's a disease, but I'm frustrated that she isn't doing everything she can to make this better. She may indeed be so exhausted with her own self-care, that she doesn't have much left for us.

My therapist says that I should expect her to seek out her own support, that she is indeed testing me, that I am a husband and not a therapist, and because she is keeping me away from her financial side of things, she is being passive aggressive, not accepting responsiblity for her actions, and should seek out solutions to deal with her credit card problem. But I don't know enough about ED and I'm not sure my therapist does either, so I thought I'd post this here for your feedback. Any suggestions?


It's a difficult situation I know, and at the risk of going for a simple answer, I'm going to agree with your therapist. Granted, she may be working hard at creating a self-caring atmosphere at home, but that may also mean that she's not doing the hard work of confronting her issues.

As was also said, it's hard to avoid the responsibility issue. Not so much for the financial aspects, but as far as recovery goes. On the one hand, I know that you don't want to shame her, but at some point she's going to have to take the bull by the horns with this.

Which means the possibility of her failing, of course. She could see a therapist of her own, and things still might not work out. So it will mean being willing to take some bigger risks than she's taking right now.

And you are right - There's just so much you can do, and trying to be her therapist is not one of those things. The two of you are too close, for one thing, plus you have responsibilities of your own to attend to.

She may claim that no therapist can understand her, but that's taking things a little too far I'm afraid. Eating disorders are not all that uncommon, and the inner issues that people with EDs struggle with are often the same. She may be right in thinking that "no therapist can understand the "I can't do it" " part, but a good one will understand that part too.

So I think you are right about her needing her own therapist. Someone who's not yourself, and not with the sorts of entanglements and deflections that come with sharing a home life with that same person.

You'll want to watch out of the shame thing though. She probably feels a lot of shame as it is. How she ends up resolving that shame is going to involve dealing with the whole of the issue I think.

The idea of seeing things straighten out may feel overwhelming to her, but taking some risks in getting help for herself may help her feel a little more hopeful as well.

Keep writing ?