Eating Disorders

When Your Partner Doesn’t Understand Your Eating Disorder

when your partner doesn't understand your eating disorder - image of couple back to back with broken heart
An eating disorder is difficult to cope with, and it becomes increasingly challenging when your partner doesn't understand your recovery journey.

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Originally published February 6, 2013

⚠️Trigger Warning: eating disorders, exercise, bullying, verbal abuse

An eating disorder is difficult to cope with, and it becomes increasingly challenging when your partner doesn’t understand (or show a desire to understand) the what and why of your eating disorder recovery journey.

I was in a serious relationship when I realized my partner didn’t understand my eating disorder.

For almost two years, I was with someone who I thought would always be there for me. I quickly discovered otherwise when he displayed pure annoyance as I began to engage in eating disordered behaviours.

It wasn’t until my boyfriend angrily told me to “Wake the f*** up” that I thought it may be time to leave him.

But because I relied on him so much, I stuck around. I couldn’t imagine my life without him, even if he grossly misunderstood my eating disorder struggle.

The more I went to the gym, the more agitated he became. He would call me to say that I was spending too much time at the gym and not enough with him. That was true, but the issue was also his unwillingness to help.

I’m not blaming my partner for making my eating disorder worse, but he also wasn’t understanding or supportive.

When we went to the gym together and I didn’t stay as long as he thought I should, he would tease me by saying, “Oh, you’re leaving? You’ve hardly been here!”

You can imagine how that played with my head. If he really wanted to stop me from going to the gym, he could have forced me to leave. True, I wouldn’t have left without a fight, but I would have appreciated that he cared.

His attitude toward me and my eating disorder did not improve.

The longer I stayed with him, the more he teased me about my eating and exercise habits. Finally, we decided to end our relationship.

If my story sounds familiar, please seek guidance.

It may be worth it to leave the relationship before the situation gets worse.

I realize that every relationship is different, but I also know how detrimental it is to be with someone that sees your disorder as a joke.

If your partner or family member doesn’t seem to understand your eating disorder, there is help.

Thankfully, there are ways to educate your loved ones and a variety of resources to help guide them in being supportive, even if they have no prior experience with eating disorders.

Help comes in many forms, including psychologists and counsellors, articles like the ones we post here at Libero Magazine, and eating disorder recovery communities and forums.

It’s also important to be sensitive to your loved ones’ emotional state. Watching a loved one struggle with an eating disorder is both mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Don’t settle for miscommunications and misunderstandings, and don’t compromise your own mental health and recovery.

Stay strong and remember you’re not alone.

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Katy has an honours degree in meteorology and an undergraduate degree in geophysics and mathematics. Katy chose to recover from her eating disorder in May 2010 and has never looked back. Throughout her recovery journey, she has struggled with crippling anxiety, which she has now learned to manage and by writing at Libero, she hopes to help others to manage their anxiety, have fun with recovery and learn to live again.

SITE DISCLAIMER: The opinions and information shared in this article or any other Content on our site may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.


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  • This is a great post, Katy! You were lucky to get the "wake the **** up" message and then actually DO SOMETHING about it. I know from personal experience, it doesn't always work that way. I think a lot of people will be able to relate to thing. Unfortunately, sometimes giving loved ones the cold should is the only way to get them to listen. I think we should give that same cold shoulder to our disorders and enjoy life again! <3

  • My husband has never understood my eating disorder. When I originally told him, it was if I had done something to him. [….content deleted due to triggering elements…]

    Having people in your life who understand, and willing to accept you as you are is so important.

  • It is very important, isn't it? No matter who it is.

    I wish you luck with your ongoing recovery, Jackie <3

  • I developed an ED when I was 18, a few months later I met the man I would spend the next 7 years with and marry. He knew about my ED 3 months into the relationship and after I went into a full-blown ED clinic for 4 months, he openly admitted he knew every time I engaged.
    The problem wasn’t that he didn’t love me or that he didn’t care, but he let me live with my ED because he didn’t want to make me upset or rock the boat, so he said nothing. He was more comfortable letting me stay in my ED and killing myself than “rocking the boat”
    After I left treatment I couldn’t be with him any longer. When I needed him the most he didn’t step up. Sometimes I look back and think that it boiled down to BAD communication by both parties…but I worked to improve and he did not…and that’s where the bridge breaks.
    I still love him very much, but I need to be loved in a certain way that just wasn’t going to happen if I stayed. I wanted to stay healthy and feel fulfilled, two and a half years after leaving the relationship the break-up still hurts…but I’m still ED-free.