National Eating Disorders Association

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Coping, Fostering Recovery

I met my girlfriend last July and we started dating a few months into college. When she told me she had an eating disorder (a month or so into our relationship) I decided that I was going to work my hardest to be a support for her. I've read a lot about different strategies to be a support and foster recovery in your partner. Some days I feel more prepared than others. Especially the days when she recounts past behaviors such as bingeing or over-exercising. Does anyone have any advice on how to cope with hearing these things as a partner? They rip my heart open to think about.

Additionally, my girlfriend made some pretty significant strides in terms of weight recovery and emotional recovery throughout the school year but now that we've both gone back to our hometowns for the summer she's been struggling much more. She is surrounded by friends who promote unhealthy behaviors to manipulate weight and her parents are obsessed with diet culture.
I'm trying my best to encourage her with frequent reminders of how she doesn't need to compensate for food through over-exercising or restricting her food intake, amongst other reminders.

We talk every day and have a lot of conversations about food, her struggles, and her body. I always try my best to make her feel heard and understood. I just don't know what else to do. I'm mostly worried that she will work herself back into the state she was in when we started college. I've read that the most effective recovery tool is therapy so I've suggested that a few times but she's having a hard time getting comfortable with the idea of participating in therapy. Is there any other way I can help her?


To be honest, it seems to me like you're doing a wonderful job. Yes, I know : it's easy to wish that somehow our words, and our "wonderful job" will result in the person recovering. But given how ingrained, and how intimate EDs are, that's probably more than we can reasonably expect from ourself. Even so, that doesn't mean that we're not being effective.

One significant milestone to keep in mind is that she's not really alone with her ED anymore. Someone else knows and feels trustworthy and is being supportive. This really is a pretty big deal, so you already are involved in something quite positive, even if she's still struggling with behaviors, and with triggering experiences at home.

" I always try my best to make her feel heard and understood. "

That really is it - That is your role in all this. When it comes to support, "People want to be heard and known" is a phrase that I often use, so it was good to hear you say the same thing

"Things must be difficult, I know". "It must be hard to feel in control of things, or to even know what that means sometimes". Statements like that go right to the heart of the matter I think.

When it comes to the idea of recovery, or the idea of getting therapy, I tend to acknowledge that that's going to mean taking some risks. Because it will, you know? Things might not work out, they might not click with their therapist. They'll probably get asked if they really feel like getting rid of their ED or not.

So yeah, at some point they are probably going to need to take some risks for themselves- Risks that (for any number of reasons) they may or may not feel ready to take right now; risks that can feel uncertain and scary.

So the risk-taking theme is one that you may want to keep in mind, when it comes to the "understanding" part.

Anyhow, just some thoughts.

Keep writing ?

Reply to BobJ48

Considering the risk-taking aspect of someone with an ED going into therapy is something I didn't think of. However, I know how scary starting therapy or even switching therapists can be as I've done it for my own mental illness. It's something I'll keep in mind. Thank you for your reply, it was so helpful. I will continue to post on here when I need advice.