National Eating Disorders Association

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My wife is relapsing

Hello :)

I am here because I am just completely lost and I haven one to talk to about any of it.
So, my wife is relapsing. She has been in recovery, but lately she hasn't been doing well with food at all. And she's been back to a website forum thing that I really don't believe is good for her. I mean, last time she was there, there were people encouraging her to starve herself and things like that. But she won't listen or anything. I mean, she keeps saying that it's good for her and the people are good and I just. Don't know what to do.
I understand that I'm not the one going through it and she needs someone to talk to, but I just don't believe that's the right place for her to be. And I don't feel like I'm allowed to say anything at all, because when I do, she just gets upset. And I don't want to upset her any more than she already is, but. I don't know what to do.

So, yeah, if anyone could give me a light, or something that would be very much appreciated.
Thank you so much.


Hi there,

We are all lost. It must be very scary facing a relapse. I have the same doubts about those Web sites, sometimes she gets a good thought or reaction, other times it reinforces that this is the only important thing in her life.

I guess our job is to make them want to recover, not to make them recover.
Listen to her and learn a lot, you'll have to refrain to speak most of the time. Let her know you understand, and when you do, you'll be able to say things that are meaningful to her. You may know her, but you might don't know the tenant in her brain, that is on the driver's seat sometimes. Things go very slow.

Vent here and not with her, we'll listen. Let us know how it progresses.



Yes, people can relapse alright, even when things seemed to be going well for a while. It's discouraging and to be honest, it can be discouraging for them as well. Even if they also seem to be going right at it. Relapse can present it's victims with a strange emotional dichotomy alright. It's the good thing, but it's also the bad thing. In my experience, almost everyone who finds themselves relapseing is , on some level, of two minds about the thing.

I have experience with the site you are talking about. There's everything under the sun that happens there, of both good and bad influences, so what comes of it will depend on what she herself wants to find there. I'm not sure it will help matters to try and warn her off of it though, if she herself feels that it's helping in some way. Trying to control people who have EDs is something that usually doesn't work out too well, and often ends up putting distance between people instead.

The good thing in all this is that she *does* have some experience with recovery. That's one bit of knowledge she has now, and will make a difference in the long run I think. That she knows what is possible, I mean.

One thing that can help is to try and put yourself in her shoes, and think about what you'd want to hear from a partner if you found yourself in such a predicament. She knows that it's not a good thing, but at the same time, it's the only thing that feels like it can provide the emotional relief she is looking for. So don't be so sure that she doesn't have doubts, even if it seems like she's pushing on ahead with this anyhow.

And just to say, there's likely some kind stressor that set all this off. It's impossible to say what it is, as it could be pretty much anything. But as the old saying goes "EDs are about control' so….is there some thing going on in her life where she might not feel in control ?

Or the "good enough" thing. That can be another trigger. Some situation that brings up issues of not feeling good enough ? At work, in your relationship : There are often all sorts of ways that people with EDs don't feel good enough yet. They may think it has to do with their weight, but a lot of times it's much deeper than that.

Not that figuring these things out is always the solution, but if you can think of something that's going on now, that might involve her wondering if she is "good enough" or unable to exert the sort of control over something that might help her feel safe…you might be onto something that you could talk with her about. That doesn't even have anything to do with food or eating.

Keep posting ?

Bob J.

Stay strong

I feel you on this...all of it. When my girlfriend and I first started dating, she showed me those forums and explained that she used to be involved with them, and she was proud that she had left it behind. She has now relapsed and is very involved in the forums. They believe it is a good community because the people understand where they are coming from. I do understand that. My girlfriend admits that it is not exactly healthy, but she wants to feel understood. The people in those forums are going through the same things that your wife and my girlfriend are going through, in a way that we never will.

My girlfriend is always very hesitant to talk about these groups that she is a part of because she is ashamed. I imagine your wife may feel similarly, if she does not want to open up about being in the groups. I typically wait until my girlfriend is in her "logical mind" to ask about the sites, if I ever ask about them at all.

I started looking at the posts that she shares, and I don't encourage you to do that. It has been bad for me to see and makes me want to be involved even more, and they don't want that right now. These boards can seem scary to us because we do not live with an ED, but to them, it may be similar to scrolling through a Pinterest board or even Facebook.

Be wary of it though, and don't be afraid to be honest with how you feel about it, because you are allowed to have feelings. Obviously, we do not want to nag our loved ones about this kind of thing, because it will make them want to keep it even more secretive. I try to ensure that my girlfriend knows I don't judge her for being on those sites, even though I don't understand it and do not see a benefit. Ultimately, your wife (and my girlfriend) will have to choose to refrain from visiting the sites.

At least in my experience, my girlfriend is doing anything she can to justify being in these groups. She is adamant that she is not ready to lose that community, and it is definitely preventing her from entering recovery. For example, the group she is a part of requires her to upload a photo of her weight reading on a scale every week and will remove her from the group if she gains weight. While she does still have a slight desire to go into recovery, because she is not ready to give up this community, she is willing to continue using a scale and recording her weight and ultimately restrict her eating so that they will stay in her life. It is twisted, but they do see a benefit to being a part of a community of people who understand them. Until she is ready to leave it behind, though, there is not much I can do. I find that the more I dig, the less she wants to communicate with me, and I want her to feel like I am a relatively safe space. I have decided to step off for now.

It has been a few months since you posted this, so I'd love to hear how you are doing and how your wife is doing!