National Eating Disorders Association

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Trying to balance my needs with my husbands

My husband is wonderful in so many ways. He is smart and charming and thoughtful... but he is also very ill. He has severe bulimia, and despite all the help he is receiving, he just seems to be getting worse. I am doing the best I can not to internalize his actions, but I am struggling to maintain a balance. He gets randomly withdrawn and will pull away from me when I attempt to cuddle with him (he is generally very affectionate). I am struggling with not allowing these behaviors to affect my own self image. I do not have an eating disorder or anything like that, but I am a 27 year old female, and some days I just feel fat (like the majority of my demographic). I can't lean on my husband for support because if I am critical of myself in any way shape or form, especially critical of my physical self, he completely breaks down. (having my sexual advances denied more often than not doesn't help either). Does anyone have any tools that they use to keep themselves from internalizing this type of rejection?

Hi there!

Hi! Thank you for trusting these forums with your situation! I hope that I am able to provide some support for you!

I agree with your title. In relationships we need to consider our needs and the other person's needs as well. Sometimes it is confusing and hard to tell which to address and in what order. But, I cannot stress enough that it is important to do the things that you need to do to keep yourself the healthiest and safest. I can hear from your post how hard it is to see your husband struggling with his ED. Please remember, as you mentioned, that the behavior your husband is exhibiting is not because he does not love you, it is really the ED that is trying to take control of his entire life.

Have you been able to talk with him about how his reactions towards you is making you feel? Have you considered trying couples therapy? I always think that it is a great idea to have additional professional resources at hand!

If you feel like you have not been able to express to your husband how you feel and what needs you have, I strongly suggest having that conversation with him! Open and honest dialogues are the healthiest thing for relationships I believe! If you are worried that your husband might misunderstand you, I highly recommend using a therapy skill from DBT known as the DEARMAN skill. Basically, it emphasizes the use of "I statements" to express your feelings in terms of you and not coming across as something else. If you'd like to learn more I suggest googling DBT DEARMAN and that should give you some great results!

Lastly, have you heard of the NEDA Navigator program? I think it would be a great resource for you! In short, a NEDA Navigator is a trained volunteer who has experience helping others or themselves recover. They provide free, private support for you and help give advice to any questions you may have! Here is a link to learn more:

Overall, I can tell that you love your husband and that you are deeply concerned with his health. You are a wonderful wife seeking out support!!

Please let me know if you have any questions! Hope you both are well!