National Eating Disorders Association

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I was just told about my husband's ED and I don't know what to do

Unfortunately my husband and I are now separated, mostly because of his alcoholism and our lack of communication. Although we are separated and started our first step to divorce, we still want to work on it and without this divorce happening he would have never truly opened up about his vices.

In addition to the addiction issues, he just told me yesterday (after 10 years of being together) that he has been binging and purging since he was a teenager (he is now in his mid 30s) about 2-3 times a week if he feels anxious or stressed. He says the act of eating calms him and he has been dealing with stress this way for a while. I am shocked that he was able to hide this for so long and he has told me that I am the only one in the world he has told. I have advised him of the benefits of therapy-I have actually been encouraging therapy for many years due to his alcohol use- and he has said he would go but misses every appointment and seems hesitant to move forward with actually going. I am very concerned for him but I am not sure how to help him without coming off excessively naggy.

It is very difficult for me to know what to do as his spouse, any advice?

Welcome to the forums!


I can tell that you really care about your spouse and want to help him. That is really great, a support network is really important to a successful recovery and you are right to be concerned with his health and want to find him help. Suggesting that he see a therapist is a great place to start, I’m sorry to hear that he is skipping the appointments. Going to therapy can be difficult and uncomfortable at first, I hope that even with the false starts he will eventually decide to go and talk with someone.

NEDA has some great resources for learning about ED and recommendations on how to start a conversation. This a great toolkit (and not just for parents) that can help you learn a bit more.

There is also a helpline staffed with volunteers that can help you locate resources in your area: Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am - 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm @ 1-800-931-2237.

Helping someone with ED can be overwhelming at times, remember to take care of yourself. It is hard to try and help a loved one and be rebuffed or see him miss appointments. He may not be ready right now but don’t think that your support isn’t making an impact, just knowing you care and that he is not alone is important.

Best wishes, please post and let us know how you are progressing.

thank you for the response

Thank you so much for the prompt response! I will reach out to the hotline tomorrow. I appreciate the support already. I hope that people dealing with similar situations with their spouse will come across this and chime in as well. I'm so grateful that there are resources and people like yourself to count on to give feedback =)

Dear Spouse

In my experience, people with bulimia often feel a lot of shame over the fact that they do it. Granted they may feel better at the time that they do it, but in the bigger picture they often feel shame.

And really, particularly for guys, shame is one of the very worst feelings. It's just so potent you know ? So the fact that he came out and told you…I hope you can see what a milestone that is. And I bet that he feels the same too.

But yes : Therapy. He probably knows it would be helpful, but the thought of facing all these shameful things can feel pretty daunting. Plus the implication is that you're going to be working on solving these problems which, in the back of your mind, you suspect you might not be strong enough to able to solve. So there's the idea of failure that's involved in it too, and next to shame, guys don't like the idea of failure either. Which you might let him know that you understand too.

So…what's going to be involved for him now is….taking some risks. Because that's really the heart of it now : Being willing to take some risks for himself.

And there's a concept that guys can kind of be OK with you know ? Taking risks : That's a thing that guys like to think they can do.

So that's the theme you might want to go with when you talk with him about therapy next - "It would mean being willing to take some big risks, I know."

Which isn't really being nagging, you know ?

But more being understanding instead.