National Eating Disorders Association

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Concerned Wife

Hi All,

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to read what I have to say. Until I found about NEDA and their forums I was finding myself in a really lonely place. I have not shared this story with a single soul and it's starting to way heavy on me.

My husband and I have been together for over 10 years now and ever since the beginning I have had a gut feeling that he has been purging. Years back in one of our first apartments I noticed vomit out by the dumpster, often. In that same house I found a bucket filled with this horrible smelling substance in his closest which I feel very confident was vomit. There has always been a reason or an "I Don't Know" for everything I found.

Fast forward many years and I have wavered in and out of suspecting something was up. During the times I felt all was well there was major relief. I didn't have to worry, and didn't have to worry about bringing it up. I'm not saying that it wasn't happening, but maybe I wasn't noticing it?

I have examples and reasons to think that he may be purging, but it's gotten to the point where it's really hard to have a discussion or conversation around his health. He works hard and he has a lot on his plate. I often check in to make sure he is sleeping enough, not drinking to much caffeine, not chewing, etc - I can see how me asking would be SUPER annoying. I care. A few months back when I brought up purging specifically he did say he did throw up when he gets stressed. It wasn't much of a conversation, but he didn't get defensive.

I did bring up again this past Sunday though as something happened that brought this feeling back to life. I used that Sundays example and the examples from years past to share why I have concerns. He understood why I brought it up, but was in complete denial. He was very dismissive, got agitated, and made a point to say he didn't know and didn't want to talk about it further.

We are now going on day 3 of essentially not talking to each other. I feel like he wants NOTHING to do with me.
I am a very sensitive person and am trying to stay strong - I don't want to say "I'm sorry" and have this whole thing blow over.
We are trying to start a family, we have to communicate.

I will say he is SO believable when it comes to saying he doesn't purge.
It makes me feel like I am crazy. Am I making this up in my head?
I so so so hope I am.

Thank you for taking the time,



Hey Flower - I hope that you see this.

And yes, I think you have reasons to be concerned. That bucket you found in his closet long ago, that's a pretty common thing among people who purge. Purposely I mean, rather than from being ill. And nothing that normal people who were sick might do.

Plus it's hard not to notice how much he *doesn't* want to talk about it. He's probably not really in denial to himself, but rather he knows that if he admits to it, then you're going to want him to do something about it. Which…what concerned partner wouldn't want that, you know ? So to keep things simple and less complicated, it's better for him to insist that it's nothing.

It's hard to say what exactly the situation is, but he may have not been too far off the mark when he said it was related to stress. When certain people get stressed (which can build up over time) they often deal with that by binging and purging. Which means they buy a whole lot of food, and then eat every bit of it and then purge. This can help them feel better in the moment, but there's often a lot of shame attached to it too. Which can make it difficult to talk about. Plus that sort of thing is supposed to be a girl thing, which can make it even harder for men to discuss.

Plus it can turn into a coping method too, so to some degree people can want to hold onto it. But again, they wouldn't want others to know.

If you want to communicate your concerns a little better, you might try writing them out in a letter ? You know how it can be when we confront people in person ; they can get all defense just as a matter of instinct. But if you write him, it gives you the chance to make sure that you say things in a way that will express your concern, but also be supportive too. When he reads it, he'll have time to really think about how he wants to respond, which could make things easier for him too.

Yes, it's a difficult situation, but you are taking a good step by educating yourself about this I think. And there's other reading that you can do too. Take what I wrote with a grain of salt of course, because you know more of the details than I do, but it is a situation that sounds kind of familiar.

Keep writing ?

Hi FlowerFlower

I am also a concerned wife of a man with ED. This has been my experience: as with any mental illness -- or for that matter any personality trait -- it isn't going to change just because you want it to. He was this way when you met him. If he wanted to change he would have. Love does not conquer all.

If he gets stressed enough about his situation he will change it. He will make that decision for himself. It is not your job as his wife to make that decision for him... and you simply don't have that power.

What you have the power to do, is to tend to your own behaviors. You can learn to detach with love and thereby save your sanity. You can learn your own boundaries and not cross them. You can take this to heart: you did not cause it, you cannot control it, you cannot cure it. You can join Al-anon to learn to deal with this in a manner that is healthy for you. Al-anon's steps work for any type of situation just like this. You can prepare as best you can for the medical emergencies ahead due to ED and malnutrition, for the financial and emotional stress of being widowed, and create a support system for yourself.

Sending you best wishes as you learn to navigate these waters.