National Eating Disorders Association

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Very Tired Spouse

I don't even know where to start. I feel like I'm a lost soul without any realistic options at this point in time. My wife has been an active bulimic for around 20 years. (We have been together for 7) There have been times of treatment and periods when she was able to get more of a handle on things. But it has always been a dark shadow hovering somewhere nearby. I am certainly no hero in the situation as there are times when I have been complacent with it all. Other life complications have required attention all too often (not that this is an excuse). I'm also certain that feeling helpless after countless efforts at making things "better" have ultimately proven to be fruitless have been a factor. Unfortunately, at the moment, all of those complications are crashing together in what appears to impending disaster. Our situation is untenable, and our options for changing it only lead to further complications which will likely make things worse.

At present, my wife is obsessed with her weight. It feels like everything I do (or don’t do) is questioned/challenged. I love her, but I don't feel like I am capable of helping her right now.

Virtually anything I have to say to address the matter is either dismissed as invalid or taken very far out of context. I've been told by many that I'm very easy to talk to…my wife seems to feel very differently about me. Words of encouragement are often seen as blanket statements with little validity. Plans are written off as being unrealistic and foolish of me to suggest. The way I talk to her is constantly criticized. (If I don't respond immediately to whatever it might be that she's saying, I'm told that I'm not being responsive enough....If I say something to encourage, I'm told that I'm just trying to brush past something....If I keep a soft tone, I'm told I'm being wishy-washy and annoying...If I try to be more firm, I am told that I am being mean....the list goes on and on.) As it is, I am terrified of talking with my wife. I've tried taking the scale away. This only leads to resentment of me and the purchase of a new scale which will be hidden. She tells me she needs to me to be at home more often. I have tweaked my work schedule and left several jobs that I very much liked in effort to accommodate this. Ultimately, I strongly feel that the only option would be for me to leave work, which would leave us in an even worse position in many ways. At present, I put in full time graduate student hours in the evenings, full time work over the weekends, and full time parenting of our 5 year old while she works on weekdays. Finding the time to properly address a constant stream of issues is nearly impossible for me. However, when I don’t address an issue quickly and in a manner which meets what seems to me to be an arbitrary set of expectations, I am labeled as “uncaring”. It is hurtful and exhausting.

There have been windows where I think she would be open to getting treatment of some sort. Unfortunately, her job does not provide her with insurance right now. We don’t make enough to purchase insurance or pay for services. However, on the flip side we are told that we make too much to qualify for any meaningful kind of assistance. It is beyond maddening and heart breaking. If the resources were there, the matter would certainly be better addressed.

Beyond all of this, we are in the process of attempting to buy a house. We have even moved into it after getting pre-approval on a loan and working out a deal with the sellers. We have lived in it for a week and are now being told by our loan person (who made many assurances to us that everything looked good) that there are some issues. So there is a very strong chance that the house deal will fall through and we will be forced to move out and let go of our dream of home ownership.
There are more issues that we are being forced to contend with. (Some of which I’m not even comfortable sharing in anonymity.) Some are the sort of maddeningly difficult twists of fate which nobody can properly prepare for. It is hard not to feel cursed in some ways. Both of us try very hard to make life better, but it often seems that finding that better place is simply not in the cards for us.

I have foolishly hoped that she could simply “hold out” until I can finish my studies and find more gainful employment which could hopefully provide us with more/better options. However, the situation appears to be coming to a head right now and the options simply are not there. Anything more I could do to meaningfully help her in this moment will create significant setbacks and stresses in other areas. So I find myself constantly looking for the right “balance” to survive. The unfortunate truth is that it does not exist and will not exist under the current conditions. Yet, I keep searching for this particular unicorn and find myself constantly frustrated and hurt. At present, I am considering dropping my classes for a time as my work there is certainly not up to what I would consider to be par.

This morning is a good example of how easily things can get off track. My wife had a terrible migraine the day before…it required an ER visit (which required me leaving a practicum site for my school). The day was spent trying to make sure she was okay. I took her to get a meal afterward the ER because she was hungry. I then took her home and got her to bed and took care of other home obligations. All she had to do was rest. In the morning, she got up early and was preparing for her day. She became very upset with me because I had eaten some (not all) of the leftovers from our previous meal. She had wanted to take them to work with her. I was never informed of her plan, yet I was belittled for my thoughtlessness. She then announced that I needed to give her what cash I had in order for her to buy “binge food” to get through her day at work. She indicated this would not have happened if I had only left the leftovers alone. When I told her I was not comfortable in giving her the cash for this, she got angry with me and attempted to put the entire fault of the situation on my head. Unfortunately, I had reached my wits end and told her to “grow up”. This led to a childish sing songish mocking “groooow uuuuup!” in reply. Again, I didn’t do myself any favors by pointing out that this was indeed another example of her being childish. I regret my response, but am unable to say that the content was off base…just the delivery. She stormed out of the house stating that she never wants to see me again and that I should make plans to miss my practicum for school again, because she’s not coming home after she gets off of work. Sadly…these sorts of threats are not uncommon. At the time of this posting, I still don’t even know if she’ll come home or not. (She probably will, but it will not be without many unpleasant words for me to endure.)

I try really hard to avoid confrontations of this nature. I constantly try to keep myself in check and avoid making situations worse than they already are. Unfortunately, I am not perfect and I have slips at times. (Especially after I’m exhausted from the process.) Talking to her at times feels like an Olympic event which requires incredible dexterity in which one false move can cause an incredible crash.

Most days, I find myself feeling like a babysitter with my soul purpose being attending to the needs of my wife and child. Some days (like today) I really need to be the one being taken care of. I’m tired.



I wish I could give you a hug through the computer screen, because you deserve one - you are such a strong, caring, and perceptive person. I am so glad that you found the forums as a place to vent + ask for support, and I hope we can help you. You are an inspiration to other spouses (and friends + family) of ED sufferers. You are proof that love can overcome some pretty horrific hurdles, and you and your wife deserve a happy and healthy with together with your son. Please know that things can get better.

While you do mention insurance/financial barriers to various treatment options for your wife, maybe there are opportunities for help that won't hurt you financially - sometimes various group therapy sessions are open to the public, etc. If you call the NEDA helpline, they can give you all sorts of info about resources in your area (Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am - 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm EST, at 1-800-931-2237)

In addition to trying to specifically get help for your wife's eating disorder, have you ever considered going for couple therapy? Again, this might be something you can't do due to financial issues, but maybe it would be a worthy investment. With a 5-year-old and plans to buy a house together, your wife and you seem to be in this for the long haul - marriage, especially marriage complicated by mental illness, is hard, and I think both of you would benefit with the help of a counsellor who could help you to create boundaries and guidelines about how to handle various issues - marriage-related, eating disorder-related, and more, etc.

I hope you eventually find the answers you are looking for about how to best handle your current situation, but for now, I hope you can take solace in the fact that you are an amazing spouse and person for all you are doing for your wife and your family. Please do not beat yourself up over the few times you feel you weren't as supportive as you could have been. Believe me, just from reading this post I can tell that you have the patience of a saint. Your wife is very, very lucky to have you.

I wish you the best of luck and hope you will continue to post on the forums when you need advice or support. Please stay strong, better days are coming for you and your family