National Eating Disorders Association

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Giving up???

I am the husband of a wife who suffers from anorexia. I have been fighting for a while to provide her the help she needs but it is futile. My therapist says I am over functioning to compensate for her under functioning and it is taking its toll on me. She cannot admit there even is a problem, this means we'll never talk about it, she won't seek help. At first is was the lack of intimacy that bothered me but now I haven't even received a kiss or hug or kind word from her in a year. It's hard for me to admit as a man but I am emotionally starved....and have started to think and act with increasingly risky behavior to fill the void and actually FEEL something. I'm ready to give up....while I still care deeply for her the effect it's having on me and my daughter are growing. How unfair is it for me to want to file for divorce and start looking after myself for a change. I would still be local and checking in on her and her well being but I just can't function anymore at home. Every word out of my mouth has to be carefully calculated before I say it hoping it only aggrevates her a little (her entire attitude towards everything has changed negatively as the disease progresses)We are talking things like "can I turn down the AC a couple degrees". Anyways, it's my risky behavior that is scaring me and I think if I am out on my own and get find an emotional connection that I can eliminate that behavior.

Your call, but it sounds like you've done a lot already

Its your call man. It sounds like you've been at it for awhile. Like you've put up a fight to try to keep things together. I would have suggested trying to see how it plays out for a bit, but if you've given her a year, and you've done all that you can, and she's only gotten worse, then it may be time to reconsider things like you've said.

You definitely have to think about yourself and your daughter in all of this. Your well being matters to. And if you seperating from your wife and getting your daughter out of the house a few times a week can help you and her and everyone, then go for it. Its your call really. I'm no marriage counselor. But I tend to agree with my gut in situations like these. Especially when I, like you have, have had more than enough time to mull it over.


Hi okpatsfan,

It sounds like you have had a really tough year, I am really glad to read that you have a therapist, that is always the first suggestion for people that are trying to support a loved one with an eating disorder.

There is nothing wrong with making a choice in your best interest. I don’t think of it as giving up at all, your emotional health is important too. And the fact that you have a daughter means that you also have to take into account what is best for her long term. Supporting someone else does not mean sacrificing your own health and wellbeing. Long term I don’t think that benefits anyone in the situation.

Granted, it is a really hard balance to strike, being there for someone and also taking care of yourself. There is no easy answer unfortunately. Be gentle with yourself, it sounds like you’ve been doing your best in a very difficult situation.

I wish you the best, please keep posting and let us know how you are doing.

Painful to hear

Hi okpatsfan,

it's painful to read your post, I feel for you, I'm really sorry you had to live through all that. Nobody here is going to judge you for taking any choice. I've been about to throw the towel many many times. And I can sneak a hug once a week or something like that. I can't imagine a year without any kindness from your loved one, that is tough.

One of the things people with EDs hate the most is having a witness to their illness / shame / lies...So they turn the closest person into an enemy. She can't fool you, so she hates that you know. She doesn't hate you.

You are the only one who knows. Most people, if not all, will tell you you did more than enough. You took upon yourself more responsibility than you should. But you have to see it. You are the one that will have to live with the guilt if you are not sure now.

There is no other way to support someone with an ED, being so close, I think, than over functioning and sacrifice. It isn't fair at all for us, so there's a point where we can't give anymore without breaking ourselves. This sacrifice only makes sense to us, so ending it has to make sense to us also. It's not her fault to be sick, that's true, but it sure isn't your fault either, and when you know you're losing yourself and you don't even feel you're helping her make any progress, it well may be the time to step aside.

For me, knowing more and more about this illness, made me take it in a much better way. It's still very painful. But I feel she's crippled physically and mentally, and it's not very different from an accident. It takes a lot of effort to see this is not her, this is not us, it's her illness, and does this and that to people, and couples, and families. She pushes me away 9 out of 10 times, but 1 out of 10 she knows we are on this together, it's an "accident" that we had, and each of us have some load to carry, hers is way worse, even if our load still crushes us.

It sounds like it is late to try to change things. It sounds like you wore yourself to the limit and she didn't even start to acknowledge her illness. But you are the one who knows. A divorce is never nice. But what you asked, unfair, it's not unfair at all that you would file for divorce, you have a right to live and to take care of your daughter as well as you can. You may even have a better chance to help her without being so close.

Good luck with everything.

When comes change ?


Rogers had a lot of insightful things to say. The part about her having a witness, you know ? Which may be where much of the withdrawal is coming from.

But yes : The part about her not acknowledging that there's a problem. When that acknowledgment finally happens, it's a huge step, and is usually something that happens sooner or later for most people who have EDs. But it's also the sort of thing where once the person admits it, then the inevitable question is "What's next?". Which can be a truly frightening thing for them to contemplate, even if it might not seem much to us.

I know it must seem impossible to talk with her about anything any more, so here's a strategy that some people use : Write her a letter. The kind that's on paper, you know ?

Not to give her any ultimatums, but more to spell out that you know what the situation is ( because really : Both of you already do ) and that you understand some of her fears.

If the two of you can reach the point where you both acknowledge that there's a problem, and are able to name it, then that could be something that helps move things forward.

Rather than things staying stalled in a way you both hate.


I feel for you. Have been support our son who has admitted to the issues, and still it is very hard and draining. I can't imagine what it would be like if he had not admitted it and gotten help. Until they admit the issues and take,ownership there is little you can do. I sometimes wonder if a group intervention would help make the point, but not sure how it would be perceived by her, or if it even something that works.