National Eating Disorders Association

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Wife admitted to ED after I learned about unfaithful acts commited in past - Struggling to understand

My wife and I have been together for 10 years and married for 7 of those. We have 2 children together and I would say our relationship and life have been good up to this point. We have had issues that many married couples deal with but I was not prepared for what has transpired over the last week and we are both reeling from the aftermath.

A week ago I learned that she had cheated on me for nearly the whole year of our engagement with a guy she worked with. At the time the position she had with her employer had her travelling to a site in another state. She was leading a project for the corporate office and this guy was leading the other portion of the project at the site. She explains that it began as simple flirting and lead to more as time went on. The way she tells it is that during that time she felt like she had created this "fantasy" world in this other place.

According to her, she lost touch of what was important and got caught up in it. She says the physical part stopped months before we got married but they did stay in contact via text and email up until a couple years ago. In fact, how I learned about it was from an email I retrieved from a few years ago while looking for some financial information we needed. In the email she talks about how she still thinks about him and still has "butterflies in her stomach" when she does. There have been numerous hurtful details that have come out since this initial discovery. I was and am still very angry and hurt. At one point I told her that I wanted her to get out and to prepare herself for our separation. I think it was only in desperation that she might lose me and the kids that she blurted out that she had bulimia and been hiding it for the past 15+ years of her life. I was floored.

We went to a counselor the next day who suggested a center to get an assessment of her condition. She had the assessment a couple of days ago and they stated that it was severe and it looks like she'll be involved in a pretty intense program to get her well. I want nothing more than her to get better and I've told her we need to wait to fix us until she fixes herself, but the stuff between us is still there. So, not only is she scared about what she is about to go through but there's also the fear of me leaving and the guilt of what she's done. I've told her numerous times I'm not going anywhere and that I'll be there every step of the way. However, the fact remains that I'm still struggling with this pain.

I know if I'm going to be there the way she needs me that I need to get my head right with what happened. I was diagnosed with ADHD a couple of years ago and certainly understand making poor, impulsive decisions, but I'm trying to understand how she did what she did. How does the ED play a part in those mistakes she made? Is it possible that the ED played a role in her creating this "fantasy" world or second life as she has also called it and how? I want so badly to forgive her and I think I can since some of the info I've read about the biology of the disorder has a lot of similarities to what I have with the dopamine and serotonin amounts and function being out of whack. I think what I'm looking for is info a little more specific to her decision making and something that might help me get my head around how everything went down the way it did.

Any suggestions for resources, literature, books, articles, etc. that might help me with this would be greatly appreciated.

Hi there!!

Hello!! Thank you so much for trusting these forums with your situation and feelings that it has caused you! I am very sorry for what has happened and come about.

Because I am not a couples therapist, or a therapist at all for that matter, I do not know how best to advise you in regards to the past. However, I do want to validate that it is ok that it was a painful revelation, but you are very loving and kind to have spent this time to help your wife even after this. Would you be able to see a couples therapist? Certainly the feelings you are dealing with are best discussed between you and your wife, and having the therapist as a mediator would be very helpful and safest.

I am sorry that your wife's condition is frightening. I can empathize with having a large amount of treatment in front of me. I think that you and your wife have already taken a great first step in seeking out professional advice and hopefully treatment. It is definitely a scary process, but there is hope through the pain and most importantly, recovery is attainable!!! You are already providing your wife the support she will need in order to be supported through this process. Again, having a treatment team provides a wealth of resources and knowledge for your wife's recovery process.

I know I haven't been able to say a lot, but I hope this helps!! NEDA has a lot of resources too, here are the links to a few:

The second link provides information about resources available to you through NEDA that might be of help to you. One is the NEDA Navigators, which is a program of volunteers that help to provide one-on-one support for individuals and families going through the recovery process.

I hope this helps!! Please let me know if you have any questions!

Welcome to the forum

Unfortunately, we are not allowed to post outside links or books or anything on here, so I would suggest going on the chatline or calling the NEDA hotline.
I'm sorry for what you went through. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to understand why the cheating happened. I wish I could be more helpful, but I wish you the best.


( Oops, I didn't realize that this was such an old post until I'd already written this reply. I thought I'd leave it here anyhow though, even if I don't intend to get in touch with BABA ARUOSA. )

Boy, it sounds like there is a long list of different things going on here, any of which may or may not be related to each other. So yes, good that you are looking into getting some outside help with this.

In my experience, cheating doesn't seem to have any particular psychological connection with eating disorders. But it's possible that all of the secrets she was keeping may have added to the "control" issue that people sometimes find themselves using ED behaviors to address. Unfortunately EDs can quickly become a habit that stop having much to do with whatever the original trigger was, and turn into an issue all it's own.

The control issue seems to be persistent though ( people can feel that ED behaviors provide them with a sense of control in their life ) so now that all of these uncertainties in your marriage are out in the open, and she may feel very little control over what might happen, it would not be unusual if things with her ED were to get worse, rather than better. Because of all the chaos, you know ?

I'm not sure how able you are to do this, given what your own mood must be at the moment, but anything you could do to help the situation between the two of you feel more reliable and trustworthy to her might be one thing that helps.

I hope she feels OK about doing the program. Getting quit of something like this can be very difficult, particularly if other aspects of a person's life feel uncertain. The sort of attitude she brings to the program will make a big difference as well. If it were me, I'd try and hold off on the "I know you can do it !" and "everything will be fine" sorts of comments, as she's probably in a place where outside reassurance is going to sound pretty hollow.

"I know it's hard to tell how things are going to work out" is the sort of comment that might actually feel more supportive, and more like you actually "get it" about how she is feeling.

In any case, it really does sound like you have a lot to deal with. If it were me, I'd set the cheating concerns aside for the moment if you can, and be concerned more with the present instead.

If any of that makes any sense ?

Bob J.