National Eating Disorders Association

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I Don't Want To Be A Bystander Any Longer

Hello All, I am very fortunate to be married to a beautiful wife who is a very giving and caring woman. I have known that she suffers from Bulimia since we were dating many years ago. I have stood by and respected her wishes for space when she excuses herself to purge. We have endured much together and I love her very much. While tempted many times to knock on her bathroom door when I know what she is doing, I have never done so.

My wife has spent a lot of time and effort in trying to address both her behavior as well as the underlying issues that led to her purging. These issues are multi-faceted and complex, and as we have reached middle age, it is clear that these issues may never be truly resolved. It is also clear that the toll on my wife's health is real.

I struggle with the guilt of having stood by and done nothing, and that has led me here. I know that I love my wife and would do anything for her. I know that she wants to be healthy. After that, I am lost. I am sure many spouses have posted similar messages, and I apologize for the redundancy. Like every snowflake, every post and every case represents a person struggling. I hope no one knows of more sorrow, and any direction is appreciated.


First of all, welcome to the forums.

I'm sorry you both have been going through this for years.

When we decide we have to do something, it's a natural reaction :why didn't I star before? And guilt kicks in. You haven't been doing nothing. It is more important for us not to do wrong than to do good. So as a starring point, doing nothing is way better than criticising, mocking, shaming, lecturing, punishing... That many people do, even with the best intentions. But it doesn't sound as if you did nothing either. You love and support her, you take her seriously, you respect her... So a lot of the path is already done.
It is a blessing that she wants to be healthy. Most of us spend years praying for our partners to start wanting that. So you have good reason to hope.
It is a great step that you reached out for help. You'll need information about her illness, about how to help her, about what seemed to help and actually doesn't, and about how to take care of yourself, because you are also important.
Both of you might benefit from the chat line with trained volunteers.
I would talk to her, remind her that you love her, and this is a part of her that she didn't choose, it's not her fault, and she doesn't need to be ashamed of having just bad luck. You will listen to everything she wants to tell you, even if she feels it's illogical, or silly. And you will be there to help her in whatever she thinks will help. This is a big burden and she doesn't need to carry it alone, because it is your place to share good and bad with her.
Well, as you know her, you can apply the things that you know are appropriate, and ignore the rest. Keep us posted, and try to read other posts, so you know you are not alone in this.

Best of luck.

Getting started.


Rogers has left you a wonderful note, and hopefully it will help to hear a little from me as well.

First off, try not to feel guilty about "having done nothing" yourself. Just the fact that you've stuck with her with love and with care is quite a bit more than you think it might be.

Also the fact that you don't seem to be openly freaking out about all this is a supportive stance as well. Guys can respond to their frustrations, and their apparent inability to "do something" in all sorts of ways that aren't helpful at all, and it sounds like you avoided that.

As Roger's mentioned, while it may seem obvious to hear us saying this, the fact that your wife is able to say that she wants to be healthy is a pretty big thing as well. Granted, the desire is not the cure, but none the less it is one of the big milestones.

And indicates that she may think it's possible, which is another great thing as well.

Probably the most helpful thing you can do right now is to do as much reading as you can. You might also ease drop on the board here that's for people who have EDs themselves. The more you know about what's likely to be going on inside your wife's head, the easier it will be for you to craft helpful responses , when supportive responses are needed.

Also, this "being supportive" stuff can sound really vague and wishy-washy I know. Guys like to "take action" instead !! So it may take a while before you actually feel like you are helping things. Still, by staying a "Steady Eddy" in your support, and not being swayed in your own stance and attitude, in the face of what are certain to be ups and downs, will play a big role in things too.

In any case, I know things may not seem all that active here, but if you leave a response you are sure to get a reply.

It's just not good to be alone with all this, so I do hope that you'll keep on writing.

Bob J.