National Eating Disorders Association

5 posts / 0 new
Last post
986jj
Pushing Away

Hi all,

I'm a long-time lurker, and first time poster. My girlfriend and I have been together for over two years, and for the past year or so, her ED has been a near-constant in our relationship. After a flare-up in the spring, she opened up to me about everything, and I am the only person in her life who knows the full extent of what she is going through. Her friends are aware that for a little while, something was wrong, but they think she is more-or-less fully recovered. On the other hand, her family refuses to believe that she even has an eating disorder, and frequently make comments about her weight and eating habits.

Despite a less-than-ideal living situation, she has made great strides in recent months. Days of intense behaviors are in the rear-view, and now, her eating and exercise habits are much more sustainable and healthy. Things are not perfect - portions are still precisely measured, body image is still a major issue, etc. - but they have gradually improved with the passage of time. So much so that, as of a few weeks ago, she told me she felt the healthiest she has felt in a long time, and that she wanted to try expanding her diet to allow her to regain some of the weight she initially lost.

Naturally, I was pumped to hear this. I love her unconditionally, and any decision to lose or gain weight won't affect that in the slightest. But even still, it felt like such an important milestone on her road to recovery. She was hopeful as well, but more than anything she was, understandably, really scared.

Fast forward about a week or so. She has a busy stretch at school, and starts to cancel plans. We still saw each other a few times, or at least FaceTimed for a few minutes when things were really stressful. I know how hectic midterm season can be, so this was, in a sense, expected, and totally okay. Within a few days though, reaching her became almost impossible, and any attempts to make plans were being shut down. By the end of the week, we ended up going for a drive. She broke up with me, saying that I deserved more than what she had to offer me, that she wasn't good enough, that she needed to learn how to love herself before she could love someone else.

I was caught by surprise, but not totally shocked. We had also taken a break when she was going through the initial rough patch last spring, and the reasons she provided then were more or less identical. Realizing this, I started to put two and two together, and now suspect that the breakup was a way to push me away, likely because of her ED, and possibly because of the stress she is feeling about her desire to take a leap forward and put on weight. I've also read up quite a bit on the topic, and this seems to be a pretty common response for people in similar situations - to push away people who are already deeply involved in the process, sometimes for fear of disappointing them, or not wanting to let go of their ED just yet, even if they know it is the right thing to do (Having battled addiction in the past, and can definitely relate to this).

We agreed to stay friends, and texted back and forth - almost as if nothing had happened - for the next 24 hrs or so. We even hung out again two nights later. Everything felt natural. Nothing affectionate, but we both had a really great time, and she told me as much at the end of the night. She has had a difficult time with affection for a few months now, so when she hugged me tightly for a really long time before leaving, I felt so happy, and thought that maybe this was all just a necessary bump in the road, and that everything would be just fine. She even told me she realized that she was pushing people away, and that she was going to make an effort to be more accepting of people's help by not doing it anymore.

So we made plans to see each other again a few days later, but they fell through. The connection that felt restored just a few nights earlier had suddenly evaporated again, and by the end of the week, she was ignoring calls and texts. Finally, she reached out on the weekend to let me know that she decided to go stay with a friend in another town for the next two weeks, and that she wouldn't be able to see me for a while. She said she's not sure if she wants to be friends, and that maybe we shouldn't talk anymore - at least for a really, really long time until she feels ready.

I can't help but feel that this is an attempt to push me even further away. It is like she knows that I want to help, and that I'm the only one who knows what she's going through (I don't mean to sound as if I know what her ED feels like, but rather that I am the only one whom she regularly opens up to about it). It almost feels as if she would rather lose me than lose her ED. This makes me feel confused and a bit sad, but I am not upset, nor am I willing to lose hope. What she is going through is not her fault.

It's been a week since she left town, and we have managed to communicate a little bit - mostly just discussing our situation. She talks as if she wants to totally cut me off and get over our relationship entirely, which I am having a hard time accepting, especially considering just a few weeks ago, everything was fine, and outside of her recent developments with her ED and school, we were inseparable, and on great terms. Although she is insistent on needing her space, she still responds to texts, and we've had an ongoing conversation for a few days now, although it does take a while for replies. On the whole, it feels like I am being erased.

Does anyone have any advice on how to handle this sort of situation? I want to strike a balance between giving her space, and staying in touch. Ideally, I want to be with her, but more than anything, I want to be able to communicate, and to help her in any way that I can. I have written her a few letters telling her how I feel. I try to be as supportive of her ED as possible, as well as make her feel as comfortable as I can. But whenever I do try to bring up her ED, and its relation to our current situation, she avoids it altogether.

Thanks so much for reading! Any help would be greatly appreciated.

_admin_moderator
Welcome!

Hi 986jj, Welcome to the forums! We are glad that you reached out for some advice and support. We edited your post to remove mentions of specific numbers as stated in our community guidelines, which you can find here.We wanted to remind you that you can always reach out to the NEDA helpline if you feel like you need more support or access to more resources in the meantime. The helpline phone hours are Monday through Thursday 11am-9pm ET and Friday 9am-5pm ET and can be reached by calling 800-932-2237; you can also use the online chat to speak to someone Monday through Thursday 9am-9pm ET and Friday 9am-5pm ET. There are also some resources for loved ones here. Keep posting!

BobJ48
986jj

Hey Bud,

Sorry your note sat here for a while. I've been working on taxes, so I just got a chance to see your post.

" She broke up with me, saying that I deserved more than what she had to offer me, that she wasn't good enough, that she needed to learn how to love herself before she could love someone else. "

The "good enough" thing can be a big issue with people with eating disorders. Perfectly good-hearted people, and yet somehow they just aren't good enough. "Worthiness" can be another big issue. They are simply not an adequate human being, which means that they're "undeserving". Feelings like these can show up in response to…whatever - but people with EDs can commonly find themselves feeling this way, and no amount of our telling them how wonderful they are is likely to make a difference.

"She said she's not sure if she wants to be friends, and that maybe we shouldn't talk anymore - at least for a really, really long time until she feels ready."

I work on another site. A big one for people with eating disorders. I read a post yesterday that talked about this same thing. The person was talking about…"not wanting to have anything to do with anyone", and there were several responses from people who felt the same way. Like they "couldn't deal with other people's energy". If that makes any sense ?

To me, this means that they're feeling overwhelmed by all the of emotional things which come with an eating disorder. The "good enough" thing, feelings of unworthiness ; self-hate and depression can be big issues too. So they start withdrawing.

Who knows what set this off. As you said, people can be doing OK, and then they have a setback. Perhaps it was some stress at school, or who knows what. Often it's something that causes the person to begin feeling like they aren't on top of things. The control issue, you know ?

It's probably fair to pay attention to what the person said in the post I read. "Feeling overwhelmed by other people's energy."

So…if you want to retain a connection to her, think in terms of communications which won't feel too demanding to her ? Like you may not want to mention her eating disorder, or quiz her about how she feels about the relationship ? Instead you might want to talk about a hike you went on, or how the weather seems to be getting warmer. For myself, yesterday I saw the first butterfly of the year here at my house. I saw a bluejay yanking some dried twigs off of a dead bush to start making her nest. If you want to write to her, you might want to keep it to things like that, if you follow me ? Messages which could be soothing, and more like little gifts, you know ? Notes which don't ask for any energy on her part. "Sending best thoughts" and like that.

I'm going through the same thing myself with a web friend. We've been writing for years, and often she'll go into detail about the issues she's having. But when I respond to those issues, often I don't hear anything back. So I may need to start taking my own advice, and keep things lite. Some observations about the days getting longer and such. The crocus that are blooming in my yard.

Nothing too demanding, you know ? And not like you are too unsettled yourself.

In any case, hope you see this note, and that some of this seems to make some kind of sense.

986jj
Retaining Connection

Hi Bob,

Thanks for the reply, I really appreciate you taking the time amidst a busy schedule to respond!

Since posting, I've had some time to come to terms with what happened, and am in a much better place. Your advice and insight only served to put me further at ease. I liked what you said about energy - it actually reminded me of some things she's told me in the past. Occasionally when friends would ask her to hang out, she'd cite (to me, in confidence) how much effort it took to be "on" around them all the time, which seems pretty similar to the post you described. So thanks for sharing that point - it made it easier for me to imagine what she must be feeling, because I remember being around her in those situations and seeing how easily that anxiety can manifest into the desire to withdraw.

I have a follow-up to your last point about retaining a connection, and keeping things light/not too demanding, if you have the time.

We haven't spoken since last Friday, and - seeing how she asked for space - I was planning on waiting until at least the end of this week/early next before reaching out again (is this too soon?). She is out of town with friends until this Friday, so on top of everything that is going on with the breakup (and possibly ED), it just doesn't seem like a great idea to disrupt what is presumably an enjoyable time for her, because if she's already having a good time with friends, the last thing she probably wants is someone (me) throwing off her energy.

Since it will have been a while since we last chatted when I do eventually reach out again, would you suggest sticking with the same strategy - keeping it light, focusing on everyday events - or would you recommend addressing the fact that we haven't spoken in a while? I guess what I'm asking is: should I assume that, henceforth, we are friends who casually message each other once in a while, or should I preemptively apologize for anything I might have inadvertently said in the days following our breakup, and tell her that it all came from a place of love/care before jumping into the not-too-demanding, friendly chatting?

Thanks again and take care!

BobJ48
986jj

Hey JJ,

"Since it will have been a while since we last chatted when I do eventually reach out again, would you suggest sticking with the same strategy - keeping it light, focusing on everyday events - or would you recommend addressing the fact that we haven't spoken in a while?"

Personally, I'd keep it light. She's already going to know that you haven't spoken in a while, and while this is a reasonable issue for us, we don't want to cause the other person to start feeling defensive. Which would just be creating another issue, you know ?

" I guess what I'm asking is: should I assume that, henceforth, we are friends who casually message each other once in a while, or should I preemptively apologize for anything I might have inadvertently said in the days following our breakup, and tell her that it all came from a place of love/care…"

I think I see where you are coming from, and the way I see it is why should we have to apologize for being concerned about the person ? Perhaps it made them uncomfortable, but even so, that's just the sort of person we are. The kind of person who is concerned for our friends. Which should not be something that we should have to justify or explain. Just my two cents about that, but it is how I feel.

One other thing to keep in mind, I'm not exactly sure why you guys broke up, but it's possible that it's simply because you knew about her eating disorder. I've read posts where that seems to be the case. The woman spills the beans about her ED, the fellow acts concerned, then she starts to withdraw, and sometimes they break up. Except in some cases (certainly not all ) what do you know, she's going out with some new guy right away. Guys can be puzzled by this, but I always ask them if they think she is also telling this new guy about her ED ? I bet not.

Which, while it's OK for people to have issues which are private, if they are going to tell someone about these problems, it's one of the obligations of friendship that we should care I think.

In any case, you'll often hear people with EDs regretfully talk about how ED's have ruined their relationships, so keep that part in mind too. As caring friends/partners, when things start going sideways, we have this tendency to to think that if we'd only done things differently, or if we were doing things differently now, then somehow everything would not have gone off track. That simply the fact that we love and care about the person isn't enough. When in normal relationships it should be.

Also, another thing to remember is that in any relationship, only 50% of the thing is ours, and the other half, by definition, is always going to be out of our hands. All we can hope to do is be 100% with our half. And that even then, sometimes "being perfect" is still not enough.

In any case, you'll have to see how she feels about keeping in touch. The worst thing for ourselves is when we bring all of our good-will to a situation, and then the nature of the situation makes us feel like a stalker or something.

Also keep in mind the fact that in good relationships, the other person is generally going to act as though they welcome our attention, which is something that we should be able to feel coming back from them.

Assuming that all relationships are perfect, that is.

Which…there'd be a lot fewer Country Western songs if that were the case.