This is probably one of the top questions I receive in regards to my eating disorder, so I figured I’d give some proper time to answer everyone’s curiosities and questions in regards to this particular subject.
To give some background, my husband and I will have been together for nine years this year. He’s been with me through both eating disordered and “non” eating disordered times as well as stuck with me through treatment.
I was open with him from the very beginning about my eating disorder, although at the time he probably took it as any naive boyfriend would take it: his girl had/has eating issues like any other girl has eating issues. It wasn’t treated like a life-threatening illness, nor do I blame him for doing so as I didn’t treat it as one either.
When I relapsed in college, he was supportive of me going to treatment, although by this time I still don’t think he thought it was a big a deal as maybe he should have, although I couldn’t have asked for more from someone because he could have left. There was almost a time when I was in Rader that he almost DID leave, simply because it was very difficult dealing with all my emotional baggage. He was a 33-year-old who had his own life to patch back together after an ugly divorce with two kids. To ask him to also carry the burden of an immature, naive, sick 21-year-old was a lot to ask.
In the end, he ended up staying. He went to all my family group sessions, actually took things away from my therapists, did all the things a supportive family member should do, and for a while everything was harmonious and peaceful, both in regards to my eating disorder and our relationship.
When I relapsed again in 2010/2011, he didn’t react supportive the two times I brought it up. He was angry, threatening to leave in order to allow me to hit “rock bottom,” and told me he wasn’t sure he could handle going through something like that again.
And I understand. When I tell people that, they often scoff and say, “What if you had Cancer? Would he up and leave then, too?”
No. But what others have to understand is that if I had Cancer, I really have no control over whether or not I get better. But I would probably fight it anyway. It’s not like I would choose to be sick. And although people would argue I don’t necessarily choose to be eating disordered, choosing not to get better, in a sense, is choosing to stay sick. And if I’m not doing everything in my power to overcome a relapse, I’m pretty much slapping my husband in the face and choosing my illness over my marriage. And that’s not fair to him.
So if he left, I would understand and would not hold that against him.
But I do feel like I’m cheating on him in a sense. Everything I do could mimic the behaviors of someone who is having an affair: deleting browser history, making up lies, spending a good amount of time with something else, becoming preoccupied with other things, becoming less sexual with my husband, not openly communicating anymore, etc. I’m basically having a love affair with my eating disorder, and that isn’t fair to him either.
It’s difficult to maintain a marriage, or any long term relationship, if you have an illness. People have this naive idea that love conquers all, but in the real world, it really doesn’t.
I have to hide my eating disorder or else my marriage will inevitably fall apart. And as much as I wish my marriage would be enough to get me to get back into recovery, I suppose that’s the “illness” part of it. My brain is too sick to choose healthy over not healthy. Or maybe that’s an excuse. I don’t know.
I have faith in my relationship, however. I love him more than anything, and I know he feels the same. And although I often want my alone time or how much I keep things from him, it’s not because I don’t love and care for him. I truly believe we were supposed to be together. And it’s because of that that I feel so guilty over my eating disorder.
On one hand people tell me not to be so hard on myself because it’s an illness. On the other people tell me I’m a selfish person to continue on like this.
I can’t bother to go around and around anymore with those two notions. I’ll never come up with an answer. So for now I just lay low. I manage my symptoms and try not to totally fuck up what I’ve already been fucking up these last two years.
And to end with some advice: if you are someone with an eating disorder and in a relationship or someone who is in a relationship with someone who is eating disordered, be prepared to fight the long fight. If you are the partner, do everything you can to support the individual, but NOT their disease. If you are the eating disordered, do the exact opposite of me and let your partner in. And to both, if either one of you invest so much time into the other that you forget to take care of yourself and your own well being, LEAVE.