National Eating Disorders Association

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Zenda71
Husband BED - fourth relapse, contemplating divorce

Hi all.

I have posted here before periodically. My husband has a lifelong history of binge-eating disorder and is currently in his 4th relapse. We recently re-entered counseling, during which I finally brought up the divorce word. (We've been married for 22 years.) )I recently found out that he has been spending upwards of $750 a month on his binges. Up until now, I have been understanding and supportive (as all the literature says), taking positive steps and taking care of myself, avoiding blame, going to therapy, etc. The one thing I didn't do was more carefully monitor our finances, and now I feel like a complete chump.

The patter is that he hits a sort of bottom, then things improve, then he relapses. He has and is lying to me about so many things that I don't trust him any more. His financial betrayal is going to heavily impact my son's ability to go to college and our ability to retire. I want out so I can rebuild my life in a healthy way.

I'm looking for advice from anyone out there who has decided to divorce their ED-affected spouse. At what point did you know that it was the right thing to do? What advice do you have about making it the least painful for the ED sufferer or for your family? What thing do you wish you knew before you started the divorce process?

Many thanks.
Z

BobJ48
Hey Z.

Zenda,

While I've not divorced any partners myself, I can understand what a difficult situation this must be
!

From what you've said, you've certainly done your very best with your 50% of the relationship, and it seems like your husband has made efforts too. And yet in the end there have still been these deceptions it seems.

Is the ED and it's continuing re-occurance the main issue here, or does it seem to be the deceptions which feel like the tipping point ?

As you said, there are pragmatic matters to consider as well, in the ways in which it's impacting your child's future. Should you decide to leave, if that would provide better opportunities for your son, then that's a legitimate matter as well.

At the same time, 22 years is a long time to have been together, and I suspect that your husband is none to proud of where this disorder has led things. EDs are tenacious and secretive simply by nature, so shall he be labeled a bad person or what ?

Only you can do the balancing of these various aspects I think, and make the decision as to what weight you'll put on each of them. From here it sounds like you've done 100% with your 50% of the relationship, while he may have continued to be secretive, so there's that part to consider as well.

Bob J.

Zenda71
Thank you

Thanks Bob for your reply.

It's both the continual re-occurance and the deceptions. I'm just worn out. It's exhausting. He's sick... I know that. I'm in my mid 40s and one of my parents died suddenly 2 years ago. It made me realize in a very visceral way that life can be over in a heartbeat. I feel like I'm wasting mine accommodating this madness. It's not healthy for anyone...

BobJ48
Zenda.

You certainly have a point. There's the eating disorder, and it's unhealthy nature, and then there are the deceptions that often come along with it. The two are linked of course, but even so, it's a hard thing, being expected to live with deception as an integral part of one's relationship with another person.

Zenda71
Update

So it's been awhile and I wanted to provide an update.

I began individual therapy and my husband agreed to marriage counseling and, eventually, individual counseling with a different therapist who could help him work through some underlying trauma. It has been quite an interesting ride. I was finally very honest with my feelings of frustration and concern, with mixed results.

What is happening now is that my DH is focused on his recovery and is getting healthier. He is going to OA, staying "abstinent," and sponsoring people. Marriage counseling is still difficult because we have not yet found a good way to relate to each other as partners and most of his energy is still focused on food and his recovery. He is learning to process his emotions without food, and that is a challenge. His approach to intimacy and emotions is really complicated and intellectual, and we're starting to realize that he is very logical and emotionally disengaged in his relationships with people, whereas I am much more relational and emotional. We're struggling to find common ground. I am asking him directly for the things I need, such as emotional closeness and physical intimacy but right now, he cannot relate to me in those ways and doesn't seem to be willing to engage with me about it. He doesn't tell me what he wants and seems to want to manage our issues as if they were a problem to solve, rather than a relationship between two people. He has even said that he is fine with me relating emotionally to my friends to get the level of intimacy that I want, so long as I don't have physical intimacy with anyone. It's very strange to me, and I don't understand his view. I am actively defining boundaries so that I do not fall back into a codependent or passive mode, or as a therapist with whom he processes all his psychological or food-related issues. But this seems to have resulted in us not relating emotionally at all. When I am struggling and ask for support or when I just ask for emotional closeness, he withdraws or passively agrees for short periods. He said he has no interest in physical intimacy, and is having trouble getting engaged at all. However, I notice that he relates constantly, seemingly emotionally, to his OA friends.

Out of curiosity from people here: What is your experience with your ED spouse and their emotional connection to you? Did they ever come back to a place of intimacy and connection with you? or maybe they never left that at all?

One other thing that I am noticing is a continued food obsession. He understandably plans out his meals each day, but the meal we have together (dinner) can be fraught. If I make something from scratch (which I often do), he expresses frustration about not being able to figure out the exact amount of calories and has to process his "rules" for eating aloud as he measures and weighs his food. I sometimes just ignore it and go about my business, and sometimes say that I don't really want to talk about it and just want to eat. It's pretty tiresome, but I'm trying to be patient and not to get caught up in it.

Thanks for "listening"...

BobJ48
Logic vs Emotion

Zenda,

You wrote :

"His approach to intimacy and emotions is really complicated and intellectual, and we're starting to realize that he is very logical and emotionally disengaged in his relationships with people, whereas I am much more relational and emotional. We're struggling to find common ground."

One does wonder about things like this. Is his logical approach a matter of emotional defensiveness, or an integral part of his personality? I have a woman friend like this who I like quite a bit, and it's the same thing : I relate to things on an emotional level, while she is cold and logical. And this is what I find myself wondering too : Is logic a matter of defensiveness, and something that might change, or is it a fixed aspect of her personality ?

After knowing her for years, I suspect it's the latter. A part of me always hopes to see a warm side, but I almost never do. Now and then I can get her to laugh at the absurdities of life, but that's about it. And we are just friends, without the sorts of expectations and struggles that you two are dealing with. I often wonder if we could be partners, as she is an honorable and well-intentioned person, and we are thrown together frequently as a result of some common interests, but her logical approach boarders on the severe and judgmental at times, and a part of me knows that in time I might begin to feel like a man in the desert who's run out of water if somehow we did hook up.

At the same time, should we say they are bad people, or are they simply being true to themselves, as we all need to be ?

Again, I suspect the answer has to do with if they are this way as a defense against emotion, or is this truly their nature ?

When mental health issues are a part of the mix, it can be difficult to say. But your husband does seem to understand that there are things in himself that he needs to work on, even if for now it is framed it in terms of his relationship with food, so there still may be some hope in all this.

Having said that, for our own emotional health as emotional people, we can't ask ourselves to stay out in that desert for too long.

Zenda71
Thanks

Hi Bob.

Thank you for your thoughtful post. I am not sure whether it is a fixed part of his personality or something that might change. He did say that he is unable to empathize with people, but can sympathize.

I hear you about the desert. I'm trying to give him time... I told my closer friends about what happened and their replies were what I expected: "We love you. We're here for you. Just let us know what you need." So I'm lucky to have my needs met in other ways. Perhaps patience is the call of the day...

Thank you!

jskoeni
You are doing the best you can do!

Zenda,
First - you are doing the best you can do as you are still with him, supporting him through his ED and recovery, and trying to give him what he needs. I know it can be frustrating but remember the ED brain is all screwed up and however logical he may be, he is still viewing everything through that ED filter. Have you tried contacting NEDA? They have trained volunteers that could help. Below is their contact information.

Sometimes it is easier to take to strangers about this stuff than it is those closest to us. There is no right or wrong when dealing with an ED or supporting someone with an ED - we can only do our best. When I first did recovery, I never talked to my mom (who is very logical and emotionally distant) about it. I still, after almost 18 years of recovery, don't talk a lot about it with my mom. I remember being so scared when I started recovery as it is a very scary time - recovery means rewiring your whole brain. Be patient with yourself and him.

NEDA Contact:
Helpline 1-800-931-2237
Chat at www.myneda.org
Text "NEDA" to 741741

Zenda71
Thanks jskoeni.

Thanks jskoeni.

I have my own therapist and we are in marriage counseling. He is just now starting to communicate about his thoughts and feelings. He said that our marriage counseling is important to him because it helps him with his recovery and that he will eventually be willing to talk about our relationship. He feels there are many bad patterns there (agreed) that aren't healthy for him (agreed). The one thing he isn't expressing, however, is that he wants to make it work or that our relationship is important to him outside of how it impacts his recover. I have a feeling that we are on our way to at least a separation... time will tell.

BobJ48
Putting in the effort.

Zenda,

While things may still be unresolved in a lot of areas, the fact that the both of you are putting effort into confronting things is encouraging I would say. Lot's of fellows would steer clear of that sort of stuff I believe. While he may not be talking about the nuts and bolts of your relationship yet, you know how it can be with fellows sometimes : Rather than saying "Gosh, I'll try" many of them don't like to talk about what they may or may not do until they have the confidence that they can do it.

Also, it's probably OK that he feels mixed up about things. He's asking himself to look at pretty much everything from a new perspective I suspect, and it can be difficult for a person to really feel like they have their feet on the ground when they are going through things like that.

I may be giving him the benefit of the doubt a little more than I should, but even so, it does sound like there's some progress being made, and that's probably the most important thing at the moment.

Bob J..

jskoeni
Agreed

Zenda,
Be patient with yourself, him, and your relationship. Sometimes, through counseling, things are slowly revealed and it takes time to process it, especially when one has an ED. Even now, 17+ years of recovery, I don't talk much about this stuff with my husband (who I have been with almost 15 years). I trust him but I don't want to burden him. It's possible your spouse is having a similar issue and not wanting to unload too much at once?

Please keep posting and know we are here. Sometimes talking about it is the best we can do. Stay strong and take it one day at a time.

If you need to talk to someone with more expertise, NEDA has trained volunteers who can help.