National Eating Disorders Association

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My partner thinks professional help won't work

Hello everyone,

my partner is suffering from Bulimia for about 10 years (we are together since 3 years).

We already spoke about her sickness and I told her that I will try to help her as good as I can.

BUT she has already been in treatment for a 2 years about 5 years ago and told me that treatment won't work for her.
Another thing she mentioned once is that she maybe doesn't want it to go away and it might be always a part of her.

How in the world should am I suppose to deal with this and help her at the same time.

I know this is not about me but I am not able to live with this if she wants the Bulimia to stay a part of her life.

Anyone in a similar situation or any advice what I could do?

Thanks to everyone taking their time to read and answer this.

Stay safe and healthy,


Gabriel - Will it be Forever ?

Hey there.

Yes, many people with eating disorders worry that their ED will be a part of themselves forever. Eating disorders can be really persistent, and can come back later when people feel stressed, or feel that they are losing control of their life. As you said, for some people they can become a daily habit.

And like she said, some people can wonder if they want it to go away or not. As though it has become the only way they know to cope with life's difficulties.

However, it's been my experience that these people are usually not happy about their situation. And wish that they had never become trapped in it to begin with.

"...she has already been in treatment for a 2 years about 5 years ago and told me that treatment won't work for her."

Unfortunately some people often have bad experiences with treatment. They are in and out of different programs, but just go back to their old habits again once they get out. This can be very discouraging for them, and can cause them to lose faith in the idea of treatment.

On the other hand, most people in the ED community will tell you that the attitude that a person brings to treatment can be what makes the most difference. If people approach treatment feeling that they will never get better, then often they don't get better. If people come to the very same treatment, with a desire to get better, and a willingness to take the sorts of risks that treatment can involve, those people often have a much better outcome.

My sense is that it's the risk-taking part that makes the difference. If they are willing to take a risk with treatment, knowing that it may or may not work for them, but with the hope that it will, and they go for themselves, rather than going in order to try and please others, than that's when better outcomes can happen.

But you are right : I'm not sure what you can do. if you let her know that you can understand some of the mental struggles she is going though, then that can help, I think. All the self-doubts she must have about the whole situation. Because people with EDs often have a lot of self-doubts.

You are right though, for yourself and for other partners, it can become intolerable having to deal with this, and never being sure of the outcome.

So you need to take care of yourself too, if you know what I mean ?

Keep writing ?

Bob J.

A Different Approah

Hi Gabriel, I take a different approach to the situation:

"I know this is not about me but I am not able to live with this if she wants the Bulimia to stay a part of her life."

Unfortunately it is about you. Whenever you let anyone into your life their behaviors automatically effect you. For that reason, it is a healthy response to set boundaries on the type of behaviors you will accept.

ED can be really rough. Not only does this illness harm their health and their bodies but it changes their personality and impairs their cognitive functioning. These people have a very hard time maintaining relationships and that means that ultimately you can be hurt.

Your focus needs to be on you and what you need. Let your partner focus on themselves and what they need. You have choices you can make. If you decide that you don't want this to be part of your life, that is a very valid decision and you can make the changes you need for yourself. You are not required to deal with mental illness. And it is not your responsibility to fix them. Always remember: you did not cause it, you cannot control it, you cannot cure it.


Gabriel, I've been in a similar place (doesn't believe in professional help) and I thought maybe I could help.

The comment that she "maybe doesn't want it to go away" would concern me as well. I would get curious about this comment. All of us can say things we don't mean when we're emotional, and unfortunately ED can bring with it a lot of emotional moments. She may have felt defeated at the time, or maybe she truly means it. If you find a calm time to ask her gently about this you might be able to connect with her more and see where she is. Bob has great advice in trying to understand her and connect more in those moments, and it makes a huge difference when she feels you can understand.

Once you have some clarity you can decide what is best for you. As ditto points out, you can't fix it.