This post comes after my last post on Eating Disorders in Marriage. My Perfect Wife’s Perfect Eating Disorder.
Is it possible to have a happy and healthy relationship if you have eating disorder or are married to someone with eating disorder?
ED alters sufferes personality, like a drug, it can make one very low in confidence, ill, aggressive even, promiscuous, reckless and very self centred. With ED one is locked away in their own prison unable to communicate with the rest of the world. The ED tells them that they truly are a horrible person. They lose the ability to observe or analyse their own life, they have no understanding of their own behaviour and do not comprehend the risks they take when engaging in dangerous ED rituals. As a spouse of an Eating Disorder sufferer, dealing with such changes in personality is a tremendous challenge.
Always Keep in Mind: Eating Disorder and a broken brain are largely invisible. The stigma of Eating Disorder exists in our society. It can cause a great deal of guilt and shame in sufferers. It’s imperative to seek treatment for ED as early as possible. Symptoms can become more severe over time, and for some people, ED can last for life time.
One of the greatest of deeds before Allah is showing kindness to the weak and the sick, taking care of them and looking after them. A relationship with an ED spouse can survive if the two people involved are fully aware of the illness they share and see their situation as a team effort and make every effort to learn about and understand this disease together. They establish limitations and boundaries that must be respected in order for the relationship to exist and prosper. Honesty and a willingness to be open about the issues involved with eating disorder is vital.
I was asked by a husband on coping techniques. I’ve listed some below. I hope you’ll find them useful. Bear in mind as the spouse of an eating disorder sufferer, you may be called upon to do things you never thought you would ever have to do . You feel the ups and downs almost as painfully as they do. You are the one expected to be strong, take care of matters at hand. You are someone to be admired, you deserve admiration.
Some Coping techniques for Spouses of Eating Disorder Sufferers
You can take steps to help your spouse with ED. Learn about the disorder so you can relate to what your loved one is going through and know what to expect. Encourage treatment as it’s paramount for recovery. Invite your loved one to accompany you for a walk or some other peaceful activity. It’s good for the person to rejoin the world. Show your support in all ways, and above all, be patient.
Keep in mind that in a given year, approximately hundreds of thousands of people suffer from ED. That means almost as many caregivers are dealing were with the disorder. You and your loved one aren’t alone.
- You may dearly miss the person you fell in love with. Keep in mind that with proper treatments and your support, that person will come back to you. Eating Disorders can be beaten. Remind yourself that you can’t speed up the process of recovery as these things always take time.
- Look for a support group for partners of ED sufferers. If there isn’t one in your area, consider starting one.
- .Research and find reading material about Eating Disorders. Get to know what you and your spouse are battling against.
- Go with your spouse to a few of his/her therapy sessions and talk to their therapist. Ask questions, listen to the therapist’s conclusions or views of your spouse’s care. Try to be interactive in their care rather than inactive. Don’t be overwhelming, though.
- People who suffer from ED and enter recovery feel like they’ve lost control. Taking an active role in your loved one’s recovery can help to empower them. One good practice is to focus on repairing the rift the ED left behind. Encourage your loved one to spend time with family and friends and to leave the house for a little while each day. The smallest action can help a person regain control.
- Find time for yourself with such things as hobbies, walks, jogging, sports, and writing. Sometimes it helps to vent a bit of frustrated energy. You can go for a vigorous walk and clear your head.
- When your partner is in a healthy mental state, talk to them about your needs and hurts. Don’t be confrontational, don’t blame, just gently tell them how you feel about things from your perspective. Forgive each other for unintentional hurt.
- Remind yourself continually throughout the day that there will be better times ahead. Make it a mantra.
- Allow yourself to reminisce about the good old times when you were both happy and give yourself hope that the good times will come again. Look through photographs of better days, watch family videos. Spend time with the kids talking about funny family stories.
- Eating Disorders are not a lifestyle choice- someone cannot simply choose to stop having an eating disorder. View your spouse’s illness as something you both have to fight as a team.
People often get stressed when their behaviors around food are questioned.
Help monitor your spouse’s treatment/meal plan but don’t be military about it. “Just eat.” This might be your intuitive response to someone who refuses food — or to someone who’s bingeing, “Just stop eating.” These are among the least helpful comments you can make to someone with an eating disorder. Eating disorders have complex causes and can’t be willed away. Bear in mind there is a significant mental component and biological basis to the disorder which is preventing the sufferer from eating normally. With Eating, your loved one probably feels like control has been stripped away. Don’t make it any worse.
- Help your loved one put feelings into words. Ask about specific feelings, and ask what you can do to help. Lastly, don’t give advice unless your loved one requests it.
- If your spouse is hospitalized, ask family and friends to help out with the children, housework, cooking. Ask for help, this is very important.
- When your spouse is enjoying good mental health, spend good time together. Go for walks, etc.
- Try not to take unpleasantness personally. Your spouse’s Eating Disorder is not your fault . They may be emotional and irritable beyond belief. You must remember that most of the time it is the illness talking, not them. Remember the suffere is not trying to hurt YOU, it’s their illness that is lashing out at you.
- Learn to relax when you don’t have to be on guard. Treat yourself ever so often. Allow yourself to sleep in one day a week.
- Don’t argue with your spouse when they are in a deep ED state . It is of no use. Their ED will not allow them to see your point of view and it will just cause more tension for everyone. The symptoms of eating disorders are so alarming that it is easy to forget that there is still a person behind them. As much as you can, try to have normal conversations involving their interests and opinions, so that they feel there is a person that exists beyond the ED.
- If your spouse is hospitalized, talk to their treatment team about their progress. It is a great way for you to get daily updates on your spouse’s condition. Total involvement increases the sufferer’s anxiety but ‘I’m with you and here for you whenever you need me’ works better.
- Don’t have high expectations of someone in poor mental health or in recovery. You are setting yourself up for disappointment. “To love someone with all of your heart requires reaching them where they are with the only words they can understand.”
― Shannon L. Alder
- Do not turn to unhealthy habits to take away your pain and frustrations. You need to be strong for you and your spouse’s welfare.
- Laughter is always good medicine. Rent a few comedies and watch them. Laugh.
- If you have become so resentful and angry at your spouse that you have begun to experience marital problems, consider visiting a marriage counselor when the spouse is mentally stable.
Don’t make body comments of any kind, these are simply unhelpful.
- Don’t Force food on your loved one. Try to see food through their eyes – they are phobic about it and it frightens them. Remembering this can take some of your tension away.
- Don’t blame everything on your spouse. It is not their fault that they are ill.
- Don’t blame everything on yourself. That is not fair.
- Try to focus on what is best for both of you. Don’t try to take over and cope for them.
- Don’t get muddled up with all that is wrong with your spouse. Instead, look for the person trapped deep inside, the one you dearly love.
Recovery is not a simple linear path. Telling a person that they have to recover in a short amount of time will add even more pressure to them. Additionally, if they do not recover in the time limit you set, they will believe they have failed. Everyone is different and people recover at the rate that is relevant to them. This is not to say that you should not encourage, but do not place unachievable time limits on a person in recovery. Recovery does take a long time, so everyone involved needs to be patient. (Mirror-Mirror.org)