National Eating Disorders Association

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Ex girlfriend has bulimia, which I think is why she broke up with me. Having a really hard time understanding and moving on.

I've made similar posts about my particular situation on other forums not having anything to do with EDs. The feedback and responses I've received have all been really helpful, but they haven't really been enough. I finally scheduled an appointment with a therapist, but that won’t take place for another two weeks so I figured I would once again make a post in a forum filled with folks who have dealt with relatively similar situations. Thank you in advance to anyone taking the time to read this and to anyone offering any sort of advice, opinions, etc. Everything helps.

I (25 y/o male) went to college with this girl (25 y/o female) and I always thought she was amazing. We didn’t start dating till about a year and a half after we graduated. She came to the town I was living/working in with a bunch of her high school friends for a ski trip. She kind of took the initiative when we first hooked up, and she seemed really into me. We did the long distance thing for a bit, and everything was going really well. She came to visit me. I went to visit her. We always had a great time.

About two and a half months ago I moved up to Seattle to be closer to her for the summer. The first week we spent together was awesome. We flew to Boston to meet and spend some time with her family and I thought that went really well. Everyone seemed to like me and I fit right in. I was totally in love with everything about this girl (and still am). My feelings for her were/are stronger than anything I’ve ever felt before.

Suddenly at the end of our trip it seemed like someone flipped a switch on our relationship. We were out at a bar with a bunch of her high school friends (lots of alcohol involved) and she seemed like she wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. She wouldn’t even look at me. Although this same type of situation had happened once before when I flew up to visit her, I was completely thrown off all night and didn’t really know how to act or what to think. I got really quiet and reserved (which I tend to be anyway…especially around people I don’t know well – she, on the other hand, is always the life of the party) as I was panicking trying to figure out why she was acting the way she was. I didn’t bring it up the next day and figured maybe that’s just how she acts when she’s around her friends when she’s drunk.

The next week when we were back in Seattle she seemed sort of disengaged and I seemed to have fallen significantly on her list of priorities. Again, I didn’t bring it up since we had just spent so much time together. Figured she just needed some space.

The following weekend we were at a music festival. She got super drunk the first night we were there and started to admit all sorts of stuff. She first told me that she has bulimia and said she didn’t know how to tell me and that’s why she had been acting so weird. She continued to apologize the rest of the night for not telling me sooner and for “burdening” me with this new information. I assured her that I was glad she was finally able to tell me and that of course I still loved her and I would do anything for her. She said that she sees a dietitian and a therapist once a week. When I asked her what I could do to support her, she told me just to sit back and watch. There was nothing I could do. She then went on admitting some other random stuff about how one of my friends hits on her all the time and that she’s had sexual experiences with girls before. I didn’t really know what to think about any of it other than I absolutely HATED the idea of her being with anyone else.

Although I didn’t know a whole lot about bulimia, I felt terrible that she was dealing with and an eating disorder. At the same time, I was very relieved that she finally told me and that we could move on, and for the rest of that night things seemed to have gone back to normal. It was great. She seemed to like me again! However, the next day was awful. She continued acting like she didn’t want me around and wanted nothing to do with me. It became so obvious that I finally confronted her about it that night (again she was very drunk). I asked her if she still liked me and even wanted me to be there at the festival with her. She immediately started complaining about how she never feels like I’m having fun, and that I was hardly speaking all day, and that she felt responsible for making sure I was having a good time, and that I always make my decisions based on what I think she wants, etc.

This was the first time I heard anything about these concerns. Despite feeling like I had been pretty social all day with her friends, we sat down and I explained to her that I tend to be a little more reserved and more of an observer (I was a little surprised that she was so concerned about these things since she knew me long before we dated). I also explained that these behaviors of mine are amplified each time she acts like she doesn’t want me around and that it’s really hard for me to cope with the idea that the girl that I’ve fallen in love with suddenly acts like she doesn’t like me. We seemed to be able to hash it out. At the end of our conversation she asked me if we still liked each other. This was a little concerning for me, but I reassured her that I was still in love with her. And once again, things went back to normal that evening.

The next day was the same issue, which carried over into the following week. At this point it was painfully obvious that I wasn’t anywhere to be found on her list of priorities. I confronted her about it again (and yet again she was intoxicated). We hashed it out and had a great night and for the next 24 hours or so things were normal and she liked me again. Needless to say, she reverted back to acting like she didn’t like me. As you can see we were following the same pattern over and over. She would go from very high interest to none at all overnight.

After a few days without seeing each other we made plans to meetup after she went to a concert with her friends. She never showed. Never called. Never texted. Didn’t even really make an effort to make it right the next day. Need I mention that she got blackout drunk the night of the concert…and the following day?

I could see where this was all heading and I knew I wasn't going to like it. We went on a long walk the next day and I made sure she was sober. The first half we didn’t even talk about the situation. I wanted to give her to opportunity to bring it up and apologize. She didn’t. We just talked about a bunch of other random stuff. I finally brought it up. She started talking about the bulimia and all the awful things it makes her do…like get drunk all the time and bail on her boyfriend. I asked her if she even wanted to be in a relationship. She couldn’t really give me a response. I told her that I wanted to be with her and that I wanted to support her and tackle the ED together, but that I understood if maybe that wasn’t the best option. She went back and forth and she told me that she still loved me and would want to be with me if she wasn't dealing with these issues and that I didn't do anything wrong and none of it was my fault. We walked a few more miles until she finally decided that it would be best if we split up.

At the time, I was very hurt, but I understood. I was also convinced that she would realize that breaking up was a mistake and we would get back together. That never happened…and every day that went by that she didn’t reach out I felt worse and worse. We texted for about three weeks after we broke up and then I realized that I seemed to be keeping the conversation alive. I finally told her that I realized we wouldn’t be getting back together anytime soon, and that I felt like I needed more closure and there were things that I needed to say before I could begin to move on. She replied by saying that there was nothing else she needed to say and that the three weeks we were apart confirmed that breaking up was the right decision. She told me that she felt way too responsible for me in the relationship and that was stressing her out. She said that it would be better if we just remained friends.

I was devastated. I still am. Despite the way she treated me, I love this girl so much, and I can’t even begin to describe how much I miss her. It’s been a little over a month and a half since we broke up and I still think about her for a majority of everyday. I don’t feel attracted to anyone other than her. I know we can’t be together. No matter how much I want to support her and help her through her issues I know there’s nothing I can do and nothing I could have done. I know it wouldn’t be a good relationship for me, and clearly not a good time for her. However, I can’t seem to stop hoping that she’ll change her mind and reach out (by the way she has since apologized for how rude her previous response was, but we haven't had any contact for a few weeks now).

While I don't feel like I love or miss her any less, I do feel a little bit better each week. Kind of seems like a 5 steps forward and 4 steps back type situation. Some days seem like 6 steps back and no steps forward. I think a lot of the way I’m feeling has to do with my lack of understanding. While I’ve spent full nights without any sleep (which I’m not really getting much of anyway) reading about bulimia, how awful it is, and how to support someone who suffers from it, there are still so many things that are unclear.

I simply don’t understand how her feelings toward me became so binary. One moment she’s so invested, and the next she doesn’t care. Our relationship seemed so strong for about 5-6 months, and suddenly it’s crashing within a matter of three weeks. Am I really that much of a stick in the mud? I can’t understand why within the first few weeks of us breaking up everything she or her friends would post on social media (I have since deleted all my social media accounts and I’ve been trying really hard not to go check) made her look like she was having the time of her life…out drinking and doing all sorts of fun stuff with a huge smile on her face, while I couldn’t even bring myself to leave the apartment (it also doesn’t help that my roommate is one of her best friends and goes and hang out with her all the time). How could she possibly just dismiss all the positive feelings and memories we had before (and even after) things started to get bad? And I certainly can’t seem to understand why I can’t read and accept what’s right in front of me and move on.

I know with time this will all fade away and I’ll probably be happier in the long run, but for now the situation is what it is and there’s nothing I can do about it. If you’ve read this far, thanks for taking the time to do that. I know that sometimes when people make posts like this (I’ve read tons of them over the past weeks) they go on and on about every little detail and most of it might be irrelevant. If anything I just felt like I needed to get my thoughts on paper. Any words of wisdom, advice, thoughts, concerns, etc. are much appreciated.


Dang dude. I'm really sorry to hear you're hurting so much. I get you man, break ups are some of the most painful experiences we can go through. It feels like a wound that won't heal - just a open, throbbing gash. That being said, it actually will heal over time (and a little concerted effort never hurt). It'll be worse somedays as you are reminded of her and the time you've spent together, and it'll be easier other days as you engage in other activities and allow yourself to feel your emotions and let them pass.

And it may take a while. I have an ex whom I think about from time to time. We were together years ago and it hurt so much when circumstance separated us physically, and the distance separated us emotionally. But the pain eventually went away, and although it still hurts a lot sometimes to think about her she isn't constantly on my mind and I'm not constantly in pain. I go months before being reminded of our time together now. You can get through this bro.

As far as the eating disorder is concerned, bulimia is definitely harsh. It can really affect people's perspectives and priorities. She may have been feeling an enormous amount of guilt from "burdening" you with disorder. Of course, you seemed like you were very accepting and supportive of her. I'll link you some more info on eating disorders below.
Also, it may also be the case that your ex used alcohol as a form of binging. Alcohol is consumed just as food is.

About the studying up on Bulimia: good on you man. It really is a good idea to learn more about them. Unfortunately they are more prevelant in our society than one might think - especially among women. NEDA's got a ton of different resources that I think you should check out: (not just for parents)

I hope that helps some. Check out some of the other posts while you're around. And keep us updated. Best of luck.




Thanks so much for the reply. It certainly does help. And reading the other posts helps too. Although, it breaks my heart to hear about all the pain/confusion/suffering everyone is going through as a result of loved ones with EDs. I never really knew how awful or prevalent any of this stuff was until suddenly I became a second hand victim. Unfortunately, it hit me so unexpectedly and so destructively. I wish there was something I could do to make it all go away for everyone, but if it were that easy, it would have been done a long time ago.

Thank you for the NEDA links. I've probably read through each of those pages five or six times now, and I'll probably continue to read through them over the next few months. I find that each time I read about Bulimia and EDs I read with a different mindset, and I learn something new every time even if I've already read it.

Thanks again for your response. I'll post again in a few weeks.

dealing with a break-up


Everything you wrote certainly helps. Regardless of your experience in and out of relationships it's always nice to get another perspective, and I think you have a lot of insight to offer.

I'm so sorry to hear about your abusive relationship. That's one thing I forgot to mention (probably a pretty big thing to forget...) in my original post. My ex girlfriend also told me that she had been in an abusive relationship. When she told me it broke my heart. As our relationship was clearly declining at the time, I refrained from asking questions, so I don't know any details really. But to think that anyone would ever mistreat her (or any woman for that matter) just kills me. Nobody deserves that. I really hope that you feel differently now, worthy of nothing but the best. I really wish I had more of an opportunity to express that to my ex girlfriend too. Unfortunately, I don't think it would be appropriate right now.

Thank you so much for the response! I plan on posting again in the next few weeks.

Intimacy, then Withdrawal.


I worked on another site for the SO's of people with EDs for ten years, and I have to tell you : Your's is the *number one* most common story that guys would show up to talk about. I started reading your note, and within a few paragraphs I was saying to myself "Oh boy, here it comes again.".

By that I mean the story about where the woman is wonderful, the fellow is truly caring, things seem to be going really well, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, and much to the confusion of the fellow, the person with the ED starts to emotionally withdraw. Frequently the trigger for this is that the woman, during a period when their emotional guard is down, comes out admits to having an ED. This is a pretty important admission, and something that implies that the woman has real trust in the guy, and as a result, often the fellow sees it as a thing that will result in an increased level of intimacy between them.

Only to see the opposite happen instead.

So I what I'm saying is that you're not the only fellow who's seen this exact same thing. It's a really common pattern that happens over and over again with other fellows as well.

Why does it happen ? Some of it is like Adage said I think : They don't want to be a burden on those around them. People with EDs really hate that idea. Also, people with EDs often believe that they'll never be able to change, and as a result, no matter how good of a front they put on, they are ultimately "not good enough" as human beings. The idea of being in a relationship often means to them that it will only be a matter of time before that that aspect of themselves will finally be exposed.

Like say if you were a secret heroin addict, who believed that you could never change. Or you had a gnawing suspicion that you might not really want to change. You put on a good front with a woman you met and the two of you really enjoyed each other, but then when things really started getting serious…well maybe you see where I'm going with this. You might find yourself wanting to back away too. And the more the person said that they loved you, the more it might give you the feeling like you really needed to leave.

I think it may be different for people who feel like they can get better, but a *lot* of people with EDs pass though a stage in their EDs where they just don't believe that they can. And loved ones saying "We love you and have faith in you !! " just seems to make things feel even worse.

In my experience, if people with EDs feel like we truly "get it" about how they are feeling, then that can help build some connection.

"I know things must feel really awful right now, and how discouraging it must be to feel like things will never be able to change."

Without all the cheerleading "But I know you can do it ! " kind of stuff, if you follow me ?

Not that that's not helpful, but I think you need to save it for when they begin to think that they might actually be able to. And it kind of doesn't sound like she's reached that place yet.

So the thing is to be sympathetic with the feelings they are having right now, no matter how dark those thoughts might be.

I think "I'm on your side" is a good thing to say too. Without implying any expectations, you know ?

Because once they've told you their secret, what they see coming with that, when they stop and think of things later, is your expectation that they're going to have to start facing up to things, and start doing it right now.

Which they will have to do, sooner or later, but which a lot of people with EDs just don't feel like they're ready for yet.

Which of course is going to be a big disappointment to you when you find that out, and that's going to make them feel all the more lousy about themselves and etc etc. People with EDs can really start thinking that way, which just serves to undermine the relationship more.

But for now, I'd go with the "I know you must feel awful about all this ", if you think she'll allow you to say it.

Because she does feel awful I think.

Intimacy, then Withdrawal.


Everything you're saying makes a lot of sense. Your example with the heroin addict was very enlightening and seems pretty spot on. And based on my ex girlfriend's behavior it makes sense that maybe she just doesn't want to be helped right now.

When we first broke up I definitely didn't realize that EDs weren't something that you could just solve relatively quickly. She never mentioned anything along the lines of, "Hey...I might suffer from this for a really long time...or possibly the rest of my life.." And I think that matches up perfectly with what you said about people with EDs facing the expectation that they're really going to need to confront the issue. Unfortunately, I wasn't aware of any of this while we were still together.

I mentioned in my original post that I finally told her that I needed more closure and that there were things that I wanted to say to her before moving on. This was after I had done my reading, and I had planned on telling her "I get it" type stuff. She's apologized for the rude response she sent me, and she offered to meetup to talk about it anytime if I still felt like I needed more closure. We haven't had any contact since then...and there's a huge part of me that wants to reach out and take her up on that offer, but I sort of feel like that might not be in my best interest because I know I'll start looking for signs that might not exist. I can't help but think that if I were to reach out I would start hoping it would result in us getting back together, and I know that isn't realistic. I know I'll end up hurt.

I want to be there for her and I want to support her regardless of our relationship status, but I think I need to protect myself for now by not contacting her. Hopefully I'll eventually have the opportunity to say everything I wanted to say.

Thank you so much for the response! I've read through it a few times already and I plan to read it many more. It's nice to know that I'm not alone, I just wish there was something I could do about it.



Yes, romantic matters of any sort can be a difficult thing alright. When we care for someone in situations that are already loaded with issues, it really does leave our hearts' open to a lot of pain.

So you'll have to see what you think about her offer to meet up. People can feel their hearts getting drawn back in again in situations like that I know, and when it comes to situations like this, I don't think we need to berate ourselves when we take steps to look out for ourselves. It's not something that means we are selfish or unconcerned, because even though we can be caring and selfless there needs to be balance, and we really do have some responsibility to ourselves too.

Still, I hope you can find some resolution about this. If she were more open to being with you, then I know that might make a difference, even if that meant that there were still some issues to overcome. I believe a lot of how she's acted has to do with her own personal assessment of her situation, and what phase she is in her ED, and as much as we wish it were different, that's something that is out of our hands.

But yes, hopefully at some point you'll have some openings to be supportive that feel welcomed. Which again, I think will depend on how more or less hopeful she is feeling about her situation herself.

I feel your pain......


I turned to this forum after experiencing the same exact thing that you are experiencing, and I will tell you, I truly truly feel your pain. I started dating this amazing guy last October. Things were going a lot great. We had been discussing plans for me to eventually move in with him and potentially get married someday. We booked vacations and made plans all the way through the end of the year. Then in March, while I was away on a trip, I got a call that he was admitted to ICU after having two grand mal seizures. Had he not been in a public place, and instead, had been at home alone, he may have died. I found out that night for the first time from his sister that he has been battling bulimia for the last 25 or so years... (He's 44). I was devastated at the news, but he and I had some really great discussions about how I wanted a future with him... but with the healthy version of him. I told him that if the tables were turned, he would feel the same way, and he totally agreed.

Despite the fact that I could have opted to leave him at that time, I stayed with him - focusing on being the loving and supportive girlfriend that I knew I was. We discussed treatment and he was open to it. Since he was still recovering from the physical effects of the seizures, I started doing some digging for treatment programs in his area and quietly send him a link to a treatment program close to his home. I made sure to never force it on him, simply saying "hey you should check this out"... after a few weeks, he finally said that he looked at a few different options, and the place that I found seemed like the best fit for him. He seemed scared about going to treatment, but was open to it. We waited 3 months for an initial appointment (he told me it was the first opening they had, although I often wondered if he was just postponing it)...

It was a longgg 3 months for me, wondering if he was going to go. I rarely ever brought up the bulimia, always waiting for him to bring it up with me. He was clearly feeling shameful and embarrassed, but I never judged. I would just tell him that I loved him, and that I was proud of him. In the 3 or so weeks leading up to the appt, I could tell he was stressed and anxious. He threw himself into projects every day, working himself until the point that he was beyond exhausted. I just tried to do my best to help him, to organize fun things for us to do to distract him.

Then finally the day came for his initial intake appt. It happened on a Thurs. and that whole weekend after he was distant, short with me, etc. I could tell he was really anxious. But even that weekend, he was still talking about some upcoming plans we had in July... After calling me each day after that weekend, the following Wed. he snapped. He had just started the intensive outpatient program that night (he didn't tell me that), and after coming home from the appointment, told me that he needed some space to process what was doing on, that he loved me, he really enjoyed spending time with me, but that he wanted to go through the treatment program alone. He said that he didn't want to drag me along for the ride because that made him feel guilty, and that he knew it wasn't fair to ask me to wait a month or two. I completely offered to be there for him, to do whatever he needed from me, and that I wanted to go along for the ride. He refused, and said he wanted to do it alone.

We haven't spoken in 5 weeks. Even though we are broken up, and we haven't talked in 5 weeks (he supposedly finishes the intensive part of the treatment this week), things are in this weird holding pattern. He has made no mention of me coming to get my stuff that is at his house (a fair amount of stuff too), still is Facebook friends with me and all of my friends, even going so far as to "like" my friends pictures, and send them happy birthday messages. It's very frustrating for me, because I can't tell whether he truly is only needing some space and time or whether he is completely done with this relationship. One would hope if he was, he would do the right thing and offer time for me to come get my stuff and then would leave me and my friends alone. (I broke down and called him about 10 days after we broke up, just saying that I called to say Hi and we would talk whenever).

I'm completely and utterly heartbroken. I miss him more than words can say. And the uncertainty as he goes through treatment (which I am completely proud of him for doing) is very difficult to manage. I have decided to give him the space he needs, and then find a way to just move forward day to day. I'm doing a good job keeping myself busy, but it doesn't stop the heartache that comes with not being able to be there for him and it doesn't stop me from hoping that he will come around once he gets stabilized and through the worst part of the treatment. It feels like a truly impossible situation to be in.

So, the reason I shared my story is so you know, Scutler 19, that you are not alone. There's many of us out there who have fallen in love with someone with an ED and have had our hearts broken accidentally. I hope your girlfriend can get some clarity some day and realize how great you were - which is the same that I hope for myself. I just hope it's not too late when and if that ever happens.

Be well....

We aren't

Allowed to post outside links or people's email addresses.

"Oh my goodness"

Some kind of spam I think. :(