National Eating Disorders Association

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Partner with ED

Hi All,

Glad to have found this community. I've been reading posts and trying to translate it to my relationship but as is life, every situation is different.

I am in a relationship now with the most amazing woman in the world. I work away during the week.

We are in text contact in the evenings and call each other a lot. Some days she is incredibly down on herself because her eating disorder is beating her that day.

I wear my heart on my sleeve unfortunately and she can see when her being down has got me upset and I know she feels as if she doesn't want to bring me down. The thing is, the fact I can feel upset about this kind of proves to me that what I feel towards her is tremendously real.

Herein lies the problem. I know, from texting her some evenings, that she simply will not take a phone call from me in an attempt by me to cheer her up. I wish I could share her burden and I pray that the light at the end of this tunnel is reached sooner rather than later. She is attending a counselling course soon but this will only decide if she gets on a waiting list to get clinical help. As I understand it she has been refused in the past.

I know I am the only person in her personal life she has opened up to about her ED but I want to know. When she is closed off like this is it ever ok to leave her be.

I desperately want to cheer her up, I love her, no matter what, and just want her to be happy. I feel as if there might be a fine line between trying too hard to cheer her up and not being there for her.

Any thoughts? Any similar experiences?

Hi KyleAndrewR,

You sound like an incredibly caring and understanding partner! She's incredibly lucky to have you on her side for her recovery. There's no exact protocol for significant others of ED sufferers, but definitely continue to communicate your support. Consider asking her what she needs from you whenever she has a tough day and is being closed off. That way she'll know that you're there for her, but she can have space if she needs it. As far as her treatment goes, you should give her the NEDA Helpline number (1-800-931-2237). They have a lot of information about various treatment options and can perhaps help her find some help sooner rather than later. Also consider talking to a therapist yourself. Being a sole supporter of an ED sufferer is incredibly taxing and you deserve to be happy, too.

Please keep us updated on her progress and your own role in the journey!


Hi KyleAndrewR!

Hi KyleAndrewR!

Welcome to the online NEDA forums! As Cosmia stated in the previous comment, you sound like an incredibly caring and supportive partner to have! Your partner is extremely lucky to have you in her life. I just wanted to check in with you to see if you tried giving your partner the NEDA Helpline phone number to call from when you last posted? As Cosmia also previously stated, eating disorders can be extremely difficult to cope with, especially if you are the only one supporting your partner. You need to take care of yourself and more importantly, you deserve to be happy too!

Please keep us updated on her progress and how you are doing, as well! I wish you the best of luck!


Hey Kyle,

As the others have implied, there's a certain art to supporting people with EDs.

"I wear my heart on my sleeve unfortunately and she can see when her being down has got me upset and I know she feels as if she doesn't want to bring me down."

This is absolutely the truth : People with EDs despise the idea that they might be a burden on those who care for them, and who they care about in return. The idea that they may be harming those around them, and causing those people pain of their own, and all a result of this disorder that they feel is all their fault, is really something that can bring them down, and make them feel even worse about themselves.

But what, you're not supposed to worry ? Any caring person would worry, and be filled with the deepest concern.

I guess what I mean is, you can be worried, but you kind of don't want to let them see you sweat, you know ? Because they'll feel responsible for that, and often just feel worse.

A long time ago I was on a forum for the parents of people with EDs. And their basic tribal wisdom, when it came to this part, is that you need to be a Redwood. You're steady, you're strong, and you're confident ; and no matter how the winds blow, or from which direction, they won't knock you down. The whole "Like a Rock" thing, if you follow me.

Which…you may have to fake at times, because this stuff truly is worrisome.

So keep in mind the idea that while any normal person would have worries, you'll want to find someplace away from her to dump your personal worries. As the others have said **many** guys in your position get therapy of their own. Or use forums like this to do their venting. You will worry of course, but it will help if you can project an image of strength and confidence, as someone who can bare all of this, without being harmed yourself.

One other practical step you can take is to try and help her remain connected in the world. People with EDs can start shutting themselves away, so any sort of normal every-day sort of stuff you can do with her will be good. Go the the movies, go to a play or a museum. Or the zoo. Stuff like that, which will help her get out and stay connected to normal life.

As the others also said, if you see an opening, ask her to let you know what sorts of things you might be able to do that would be helpful. While we can't really fix them or rescue them ( <—watch out for that part ) there may be positive things they themselves would like us to help them with. Sometimes there's nothing that they can come up with along those lines, but at the same time there might be.

In any case, I hope you can keep writing. This sort of stuff can be difficult to navigate, so you'll want to take the best stance you can.


First of all. Thank you for the comments. It has really helped.

Things got low shortly after. My partner ended up opening up to my mother about the disorder after I recovered her from staring into a local reservoir.

I've been helping her contact her gym in order to book in our little one to the creche there - if she can't get creche she can't go to the gym and it shapes her day terribly. I do not know if helping her in this way is actually beneficial or not.

Anyway - this weekend. Things got a bit much for me and I acted and spoke in a really unsupportive way. I've done the reading, I know what not to say but I couldn't stop myself. I felt broken and just walked out one evening and kept going for an hour. I didn't tell her where I was going. I just told her I was coming back. I was close to jumping into a lake at that point to be honest - but I promised I would be back.

My partner, shortly after the reservoir night, started taking these glucose tablets on days she doesn't eat. She thinks she hides it from me but I see the sudden burst of energy followed by the crash for twice as long. It feels like I am losing her several times a day. I hear her stomach screaming at nights and it keeps me awake. I ended up blurting all of this out to her in what felt like an argument. I hate watching her crash on those things but if they are the only things stopping her from redoing the reservoir level of low - I can't see a world without them, no matter how much they hurt. She offered to stop taking them if I wanted her to - I know that was a loaded statement from her but didn't call her on it..

The following day it carried on. We had our lad with us (he is 3) but after we had taken him out I packed up my weekend bag and headed for my car. I managed to get about 300 yards away before I had to stop from being upset and angry at myself.

I'd asked my Mother to ring her and have found out that my mother probably did more harm than good - she highlighted all the negative things. Implied if she didn't get better our boy would be taken and my mother claimed to be a nutritionist (she was a glorified dinner lady) which has made me really angry and led to me fighting with her as well. My partner had a previous bf, the bio father of our boy, whose mother turned my partner against her own family and then turned on her. That relationship turned abusive and led to a women's refuge. I am not doing this but I can see the parallels and it is scaring me.

I got a message from my partner - "I shouldn't have let you go but I can't go on hurting you anymore. I'm really trying but hearing what I have done and how it hurts you shuts down my digestive system. Then I physically cannot eat. I was going to try to eat when we got's so hard when it appears I've pushed you beyond your limit and left you walking out the door without a kiss, cuddle, cheeky whatnot"

I've been in pieces every time I've re-read that, including now, because I know I made the weekend about me. She came to where I had parked up and we went back home and ate together but she made sure to tell me it was 'because it is what you and your mom want me to do'. I didn't know the content of her phone call but that felt like a dagger.

We made up later on, before I got asked more questions that felt like an ambush 'Do you see more bones than you remember?'

There is not a future I can see without her. She wants to move home to be closer to me and to get away from where she has these bad memories. She knows and has said that it feels like her ED has gotten worse and I can't help but feel it is because she has happiness with me and the ED wants her to be miserable. I have no one to talk to because we share friends and my mother turns it into ammunition.

What do I do about this creche booking? (She has no signal where she lives and I have good wifi - she has said that she is never going to go that long without eating again and I believe her)
What do I do when it gets too much?

I know it is not her, but it is the eating disorder winning a battle that day and checking her out. She was a different person after she ate. More vital, more vibrant. I love my girl whether she wins or loses that days fights. I love her no matter what. I just find myself really disliking the person she becomes when she loses. If that makes any sense?

Ongoing issues.

Hey Kyle,

Yes, it sounds like not a whole lot of progress is being made. And it sounds like you yourself are carrying more of a load than is healthy. Your partner hates where things are going too it sounds like. EDs are complicated things.

So what's the status with therapy ? Maybe you mentioned it before, but I was not able to find any mention of it in your post above.

Things sound pretty awful, but even though it's obvious, would she be unwilling to take that kind of step ?

As it stands, it sounds like the two of you are stuck with battling this out just you two. And given the nature of relationships to begin with, that may be too much to ask of yourselves.

Outside help would take some of the load off of you, and by extension might take a bit off of your relationship too.

Just a thought of course, but it sounds like something which might help the dynamic between the two of you, if only just a bit you know ?

Many fellows get some for themselves as well.

Keep writing, OK ?

Happy to see you posting again KyleAndrewR!

Hi KyleAndrewR!

It is so good to see you posting something more recently and I am so sorry to hear what you and your family are going through right now. I agree with what BobJ48 and what other members wrote in the previous comments. Please feel free to reach out to the NEDA forums if you need anything at all and just know that we will be thinking of you and your family! <3


Update 04/08

Last week we started seeing a therapist who specialises in eating disorder treatment. She is a distance away and is expensive but if it makes Rose happy there is no cost. She has undergone an big downturn as of lately. The eating disorder has gotten worse.

Monday night my partner rung me talking about how she was really thinking about taking her own life.

We spoke for a while. I was angry, hurt, desperate and pleading. I reached out to one of my friends who came over and spoke to me, and eventually spoke to her. Rose got on a train to come to my hometown the following day. It was a nice surprise but as the day continued the ED snuck back in and I made a late night journey to her home so she wouldn't miss the gym the following morning. When I came in I saw a cupcake tray full of pills on the arm of the sofa.

I took her to therapy session number 2 and she came away feeling worse. She doesn't discuss it with me and I won't press as I believe the sessions should be private but I've become an amotional wreck around her.

I burst into tears at her sadness and when our little boy asks her if she is ok. He asked her why she wasn't eating last night. I'm not his biological father and if the ED takes her. If the mean feelings get too much again I lose them both.

I had to leave last night to come home. I'd been being sick all day and I hide any vomiting from her so as not to trigger her. I had twisted my knee (an old athletic injury) and needed to get some stuff from home and a doctors appointment. If I had continued to be sick around her she would have noticed and would have not gone to the gym this morning. It feels like it is the only thing keeping her alive right now and I will not be the one to deprive her of it.

Everything I try seems to make her feel numb. We haven't been intimate in a long time and I can tell she doesn't understand why anyone would love her if she hates herself. I tell her I do and I mean it when I say it. I want to walk with her down the path to recovery and then up the aisle but am scared if we don't defeat the eating disorder soon I will lose my family. My nightmares are her funeral. I haven;t left bed today and it is not because of the knee.

NHS help seems to require that she be a corpse before they can treat her so I am working extra hours to struggle to pay for the petrol and therapy she needs. It seems to be making her worse. Everytime I tell her that things will get better I get a numb 'OK' in response.

I don't know what to do. I need some kind of guidance. I need help coping so I can help her to cope.




Good for you guys for the therapy. It's a step alright, and any sort of step is good at times like these.

And just to say that it's *very* common for people to seem to get worse in the beginning, in response to therapy. Basically they are being asked to confront things in their lives that their ED tells them they won't ever be able to change. Plus ED is something thats' always represented control to them, and now they are being asked to give up the only thing that's helped them feel at all in control of their life ?

And what if they fail at all this? What then ?

One can certainly understand where it all might seem like a very discouraging prospect. At least in the beginning I mean.

These are all really common responses, so Ii the therapist is a good one, they're going to understand that your partner is indeed going to be feeling these ways about the whole thing, so it's likely they will be on top of that part too.

So yeah, she's' going to be frightened I think. You don't really want to be telling her that everything is going to be fine, so I think your best bet is to try and put yourself in her shoes as best you can, and see how you might be able to simply "be there" with her in the fears she is having right now.

In any case, this does sound like progress to me, even if it may not outwardly seem like it at the moment.

Have faith, and keep writing, OK ?

Bob J.

So what do I do?

What do I do in a morning where she is feeling so down she skips gym and refuses to leave bed? What do I tell a 3 year old child in response to 'I want Mummy to get out of bed so she can feel better'?

When she had phoned me to tell me she was thinking of doing something bad to herself I asked him to look after Mummy tonight. He stayed up til 11 refusing to leave her side until I told him it was ok to go to bed. He might not understand an eating disorder but he knows mummy is sad and has started copying the back and head stroking I do to try and soothe her.

If anyone can tell me what to do I will do it. There is no cost too high to help bring her back.



Depression sucks alright. Generally a person wishes they had more energy and drive, but they just don't feel like they can get things going on their own. So if you are there, maybe you can uses a step by step kind of approach to get her out of bed and get moving. Lots of times nothing sounds like fun, but if someone else suggests going for a walk, or something simple like that, then the person may find themselves going along with that, and feeling a little better, and more capable when they do.

So you might want to think in terms of you being the planner for whatever kind of simple "getting out" sort of activity that might help. Because it sounds like she's not up to doing much planing herself, you know ?

One of those "I'm doing this, and I'm going to make sure you come along" kinds of things ?

Bob J.


Saturday morning she said she felt that me and Daniel were suffocating her so I offered to take him in the bedroom and watch a DVD.

When I came out she was gone.

She took an overdose in the afternoon.

I spent the day phoning the police and eventually she told me where she was. I sent some there. She ran. We eventually found her and got her to Hospital.

She has told me as soon as the opportunity comes around again she will do it again. I've been angry with her some of the times.

He starts back at nursery in a few weeks.

Her therapist went on holiday for 3 weeks after 2 sessions with her - I wouldn't have started the sessions if I had known this. So long as Rose holds on I know they can make the difference.

I can't bring myself to do anything this week. If she leaves when I am sleeping I wont know what to do and her parents are no help. They honestly did not care at all at the weekend - I was speaking to them and they couldn't have given two-bits.

i came home tonight - went to see my Mother and she gave me a good long talk about how she was feeling. Made up some communications with Rose that I know didn't happen (since I was in the room when they were supposed to have happened) and when I called her on it told me to leave and that she didn't want to see me again.

I make plans and she wont do it. I wont physically force her.


Hi Kyle. What you've described is very concerning. Depending on what's currently happening, you might need to call 911 if she is an immediate threat to herself or someone else (like her child). If she isn't then I would suggest either calling your local hospitals on call nurse, or even better, the National Suicide Prevention Helpline (1-800-273-8255).

They can help you help your girlfriend get the help she needs as soon as possible. It may be that she needs to be monitored in an inpatient facility of sorts until she is deemed as no longer being a threat to herself or anyone else. I'm no professional, but I would highly suggest that you consider doing one of the above to possibly save the life of your girlfriend.

Again, that number is 1-800-273-8255

- Adage

United Kingdom

I am afraid I am in the UK. Where our healthcare system, whilst free, means that she will effectively need to be a corpse before they will treat her. Treatment is based on BMI and it needs to be dangerously low before treatment is accepted. I cannot afford to send her to send her into a private treatment facility in this country (let alone find one) - her parents are no help. Whilst I sped to the place she was when she had overdosed. They went out for dinner. Whilst I sat with her in hospital, they sent her a picture with cake in it.

Cinderella had better folks. My partner is doing bad things to herself and me and our little boy are the only ones who care.

I phoned the police. They helped me to find her.

I asked the doctors to keep her. They wont.

I found a therapist. She went on holiday without warning us two weeks into treatment.

As messed up as this thought is. If she was lighter her BMI would qualify for NHS treatment. There is a part of me rooting for that. It will finally be the help she needs and might keep her on the planet.



Ugh, I'm sorry that you all had to go through this, and that she feels so badly about herself. Depression can be like that for some people sometimes. It's more than just the ED you know ?

And yes, the way her parents responded. I suspect that their ways of being when she was younger may have had something to do with why she found herself in this place to begin with. It doesn't really sound like you'll be able to count on them at all I'm afraid. If you haven't heard anything yet that expresses their concern I mean.

One thing I hope that you'll keep in mind is that you *are* doing the best that you can. My friend passed away, and rather than blaming myself, I came to the conclusion that despite my trying as hard as I could, and other people trying their best as well, every bit of everyone's best efforts were still just not enough. Which is how it can be sometimes.

One thing to remember is that hospitals *should* be keeping people until it seems like they are no longer an immeadiate danger to themselves. And that they should be accepting people and keeping them there, when it's clear that they are in that sort of danger. Granted, they can't keep people indefinitely, but when it's an emergency I think they are required to keep people for at least a little while.

That may not make a difference in the long run, and may serve to discourage the person even more, but still I hope you'll see it as a resource, should things demonstrate themselves as getting acute like this again.

That's all well and good of me to say, I know, but whatever the case, I hope you won't doubt that you're doing your best, no matter what the outcome may be. Because I really believe that you are, and I hope in the midst of all this, you can believe that same thing too.