National Eating Disorders Association

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TheFlopster
Advice to Support Girlfriend in Recovery

My girlfriend has been suffering with anorexia for about 6 years now. We have been dating for almost a year, and she told me about her ED around the 6 month mark of our relationship. When she told me, I did tons of research on what ED's are and how I as a SO can support her. It's been tough, but she has welcomed professional help and wants to get better. I encourage her and love her regardless, and I let her know that this doesnt change my feelings for her, and it actually motivates me to be even closer with her, and to support her through this in any way I can. It has only made our relationship difficult in that she's 6 hours away from me and I can't see her because of covid restrictions. And the fact that she is constantly working, fighting, and struggling to overcome something so difficult to deal with, while I'm at home crossing my fingers, praying and hoping that she does what she needs to do to overcome her ED, is so hard for me to deal with. I guess I'm just looking for any possible ways I can be exactly what she needs me to be while I'm 6 hours away and can't see her. I would also appreciate any advice for when she leaves the treatment facility and returns home. Are there things I should be doing once I start seeing her in-person on a daily basis? What is my role as the SO in her recovery? Are there any ways with coping with the feeling of uselessness of wanting to help so badly but realistically can't do anything?

BobJ48
Ourselves.

Hey Flopster,

I'm glad that you wrote. This whole situation can be difficult, and having the person be far away, that doesn't do much to help our feelings either. So here's a few things to think about:

" When she told me, I did tons of research on what ED's are and how I as a SO can support her. "
Good. A lot of guys act like real knuckleheads, and never take the time or the effort to educate themselves. So if you think this puts you ahead of the game, it's because it does.

" I encourage her and love her regardless, and I let her know that this doesnt change my feelings for her, and it actually motivates me to be even closer with her, and to support her through this in any way I can. "

I absolutely know the feeling. But keep in mind the fact that EDs are a bitch, and while we may bring our best efforts to the table, being "The Rescuer" doesn't always work. The "Love is all you need" cure often doesn't work either. On top of that, we can't reasonably expect ourselves to be perfect either. So yeah, a lot of what happens is going to be out of our hands, no matter how perfect we try and be.

My sense is that…just trying to be consistent is one thing we can do. The person loves us -that's great. Then later they ignore us or act like they don't want anything to do with us. It's easy to let stuff like that effect us, and effect the ways that we respond to the person. Best if we can project ourselves as steady and consistent I think. In the face of what can appear like I lot of inconsistency on their part.

"...the fact that she is constantly working, fighting, and struggling to overcome something so difficult to deal with, while I'm at home crossing my fingers, praying and hoping that she does what she needs to do to overcome her ED, is so hard for me to deal with."

No kidding, this stuff can really teach us what worry means ! But here's something to keep in mind. I'm any relationship, by definition, only 50% of it is ours, and the other 50% is always going to be in the hands of the other person. The best we can do is to try and do our best with our 50% , and try and be OK with the idea that the other 50% belongs to the other person.

Which, it sounds to me like you are pretty much doing 100% with your half. Maybe things seem chaotic with your friend, but much of that's going to be out of your hands. It just is. Being able to make our peace with that part, as well as making peace with our own role in the thing, those are two big parts of our task.

So yeah, being able to measure yourself that you are trying your best is one way to try and keep self-doubt at bay. I've got a person I've been talking with for….three years now, who lives on the other side of the world, and their situation is still totally the sh*ts. If anything, their situation gets worse rather than better. But I just try and stay steady and consistent, try to never act like I'm freaking out, and believe that the steadiness is making a difference.

I still worry, but I can also feel like I'm doing my best, which helps me not feel so awful.