National Eating Disorders Association

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Husband with eating disorder

Hi all.

First time poster here. My husband has had severe binge-eating disorder since we married (gained and lost a lot of weight). We've been together for 26+ years now and there have been at least three cycles of recovery and relapse. I'm educated about the disorder and am currently receiving therapy to help decide what I want to do next. Our marriage is in bad shape. I've hit my limit of tolerance and, despite knowing his behavior is a result of the disease, I am having a difficult time being a loving supportive spouse. I just need him to try to take care of himself and he won't do it. (Hence the therapist for me, so I can decide what to do next.) This disorder is ruining our lives financially and emotionally. I don't even care about the weight... He has become impossible to live with. Mean, secretive, and entirely consumed with making things appear ok so he can continue to binge. Conversations about anything meaningful are a fight. I'm fed up.

I'm reaching out today to see if anyone else has this situation and what you did in it. I'm wondering if anyone here got to the point of just walking away and how you did that. (We have a 14 year old son.) I love him, but I hate coming home any more. I am tired of managing our relationship while he spirals out of control. Everyone is held hostage by this... I can't imagine another 20 years of this.

Thanks very much!


Dear Zenda,

With all you've been through, I really do believe that you've educated yourself about the matter. Part of ourselves likes to believe that when we are educated about a problem, then somehow we'll be able to step back and insulate ourselves from it's effects. But I guess you've seen how lacking in truth that can be. When someone we love has a problem, it's our problem too, no matter how wise we may be.

If I'm reading things correctly, the glaring issue seems to be that he's unwilling to get outside help. You're taking responsibility by getting help yourself, but if it's how it seems from here, for him it's still framed as some sort of internal personal control type of battle ?

In situations like this we want to be supportive, but the person needs to provide us with something to support, and it sounds like he's not providing you with much. Gaining and loosing : It all sounds like two sides of the same coin from here, and for things to really get better, he'll need to somehow move outside of that dynamic, and bring some kind of new perspective to the struggle.

Which is not something that's really your task to provide him with. He's going to need to be willing to reach out for help from a trained professional instead. That sort of step may seem to fly in the face of the whole control thing to him, but perhaps even he might agree that what he's been trying up till now is not working, and that he may need to take some new sorts of risks for himself.

Otherwise, a person can just do so much, I think. While we don't want the person to feel like they are being a burden on us, the fact of the matter is often they are. At some point it's not selfish to look out for ourselves, as I suspect your therapist is saying.

I'm sure he can't be feeling happy about any of this either, so there's that angle to think about too.

But yes : The "being willing to take a risk" thing. That sounds like where he needs to go next. Guys like to think they are willing to take risks - It's one of those mannish sorts of things.

So maybe that's an angle you can work, as far as him getting some therapy of his own ? After all, it's not the weak person who dares to confront things like this. It's the strong one who's able to risk stepping outside of what's comfortable.



Zenda71 - I am so sorry to hear what you're going through now, and have been going through for a very long time. I am sure it's been agonizing, and felt like a prison at many times. I really applaud your reaching out to this forum, after everything else you've done to support him. It sounds like you have really hung in there for him. I'm also glad to hear that you're receiving therapy yourself. I want to share from my own experience which may be helpful, recognizing that our circumstances are quite different in some significant ways (primarily duration). In any case, I began suffering from AN as a relatively newly married woman in my early thirties. My downward spiral was fast and deep. My husband did everything that one could reasonably expect a spouse to do to support and help me. However, it was starting to look like the ED was going to beat us all. My husband was really starting to loose his will to fight it on my behalf, and I didn't blame him. Finally, my very skilled therapist managed to clear the fog enough to get through to me that every single time I engaged in an ED behavior (primarily, restricting), I was making a choice between the ED and my husband. Each little moment when I was faced with an opportunity to restrict or to take an uncomfortable eating step I was a choice. Once I started to really, truly see that I had to DO something really difficult for me in order to keep my husband around -- that the alternative was a lonely life without him (or worse, losing my life) -- I started to be able to take baby steps in the right direction. And that's all my husband needed to see in order to renew his will to continue in the battle. I can very happily report that I've been recovered for 15 years now, and am still married (with 3 kids). My point in telling you all of this is to suggest that you be very clear with him about where you stand right now, which is not sure whether to just walk away. Maybe if that potential outcome is put directly in front of him, he will find the strength to genuinely commit himself to recovery. Maybe it already has been. In any case, please let us know how things go.

Thank you

Thank you all for your kind responses. He is definitely packing on the weight. After three sessions, my therapist and I parted ways. It was a bad fit unfortunately. So now I'm back to square one. Hubby proposed we go together to his therapist but has yet to call. I'm giving it a few more days before I call.

Seeing his Therapist.

Boy, the fact that he's willing to have a joint session with you sounds pretty encouraging to me. And I hope that the two of you go through with it.

Not that it means everything will turn out fine, but I do believe it will be helpful.

I had a sister who had a bunch of unfounded issues with me, and she invited me to a session with her therapist. I suspect she felt that her therapist (who she'd seen for years) was going to back her up on all her complaints, and the outcome was going to be my finally realizing what an unacceptable person I was. All to my own benefit of course...

Unfortunately it didn't work out that way at all, as her therapist ended up siding with me on most points, which I had a really good idea she might. Somewhat to my sister's consternation I'm afraid.

Not that your situation is the same thing, but just to point out that good therapists are usually willing to see both sides of an issue, no matter who their primary client may be. In fact it may give the therapist a chance to explore things that have never been brought up before, when it was just they and their client alone.