Caring for a Spouse with an Eating Disorder

eating disorder concept

About 30 million Americans have an eating disorder such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating. If the woman you love is part of these statistics, having cocktails, weekend brunches or dinner dates in your favorite restaurant in Omaha can be a big deal. Your partner might be ashamed of her abnormal eating habits and refuse to go to events that involve food.

Over time, this behavior can be alarming and eventually cause a lot of tension in your relationship. Here’s how you can help your spouse deal with her eating disorder.

1. Research to understand the illness.

Take the initiative to learn about your partner’s illness by joining support groups, reading reliable materials, listening to educational podcasts, and talking with mental health experts. While it can be difficult to wear her shoes, understanding the symptoms, behavior, and available eating disorder treatments will make a huge difference.

This will clear up persisting misconceptions and help you cultivate more compassion for what your spouse is going through. People who don’t know anything about the illness believe that an eating disorder is only a way to gain attention.

The truth is, your partner’s bird-like eating habit is not her conscious choice. It’s a medical illness. When you know the facts, you can provide better support and give helpful responses to your spouse’s eating behavior.

2. Shower her with unconditional love and empathy.

husband and wife huggingFor women who are wrestling with an eating disorder, opening up can be extremely challenging. To avoid conflict or save themselves from shame, it is common for them to be in denial and unwilling to confess. Thus, it is essential to show your spouse that you are her ally. Encourage open and honest communication.

However, do not attempt to be her food police and leave the advice to the health professionals. Eating disorder is not merely a food or weight issue. It is a psychological disorder caused by various components such as past abuse, traumatic events, insecurities, or control issues. Your spouse doesn’t need your advice; she needs your support, love, empathy, and understanding.

3. Accept that your spouse’s recovery is beyond your control.

When your spouse starves herself, you can’t force or beg her to eat. Or you can’t make her stop from binge eating even if you know that she’ll likely suffer from painful diarrhea later. You can’t fix the disorder. But remember that you and your love for her are one of the reasons why your spouse wants recovery.

Do not get tired holding her hand while she walks the path to healing. Create a non-judgmental space where you allow your spouse to be vulnerable. You can’t fight her battle. But whenever she gets weary, you can empower her so that she’ll be motivated to overcome her illness.

Battling an eating disorder is a lengthy and lonely endeavor. Your spouse wants her battle to be over as much as you do. However, the process can be slower than you hoped and expected. Remind yourself that while full recovery will take time, it is possible.

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