People struggling with disordered eating behaviors need to be able to portray their needs for eating disorder recovery to the people they love most – this includes their intimate partners. However, it can be difficult for people living with eating disorders to learn how to open up about their eating disorder recovery to their intimate partners as it may make them feel vulnerable. However, not discussing eating disorder needs with loved ones can be even more detrimental than keeping these needs from them. Therefore, learning about the importance of opening up to romantic partners about eating disorder treatment and recovery and how to do so in a healthy way is a vital part of the recovery process for people in relationships.
The Problem With Not Sharing What you Need With Your Partner
If you’re a person who’s struggling with disordered eating and working toward recovery, when you don’t share your recovery needs with your partner, they may feel like they aren’t a part of your journey. Therefore, they can worry that you are becoming distant or even that you are hiding things from them. People living with disordered eating habits that are in treatment or early recovery may feel uncomfortable in specific situations with their intimate partners. For example, going out to eat, having sex, or having dinners with family. Fortunately, there are a few things that people in eating disorder recovery can do to ensure that their partners feel that they are a part of their recovery journey – including letting them know about recovery needs.
Giving Yourself the Empathy You Deserve
A big part of treatment for eating disorders is therapy with a behavioral component. The point of these therapies is to help people who struggle with eating disorders that there are opposing ideas that can both be correct. For example, you can restrict eating and also be unhealthy. Behavioral therapy helps people recognize opposing ideas so that behavioral changes can be made. One of these behavioral changes is learning and practicing how to care for and love oneself. When we are open to loving ourselves and accepting that we deserve empathy, our behaviors can be modified more easily in order to gain a more healthy lifestyle.
In relationships, showing oneself love and empathy is also important. However, it’s not always easy to be self-compassionate in recovery. Feelings of shame or guilt after eating disordered behaviors have been established for so long don’t go away in a matter of days. So, it can be helpful to share these feelings with your spouse or intimate partner.
Family Meals and Eating in Public
Another hard part of the recovery process and dealing with a relationship is eating in front of others. This can include eating out at restaurants and at family or social events. When we’re in public, we are more aware of ourselves and our eating behaviors. So, this can be a trigger to resort to disordered eating behaviors like calorie counting, restricting, and eliminating food groups entirely. And, you may feel shameful for resorting to these behaviors and pulling away from your loved one – making them feel isolated.
But, there are some things you can do at social events that include eating in order to strengthen your relationship and allow your loved one to feel a part of your recovery journey including:
- sharing your thoughts and emotions with your partner
- talk about what you want to order and order what you really want to eat
- establish a routine around eating with your loved one even when it doesn’t include going out
Working Through Negative Emotions in the Bedroom
Finally, one of the other things that people in eating and are in recovery and in a relationship may struggle with is intimacy. During recovery, you’re working on accepting yourself and your body. And, you’re adjusting your eating behaviors. This doesn’t mean that you’ll just suddenly feel confident. So, you may be uncomfortable with intimate experiences. However, intimacy can help you feel more confident, and comfortable around your partner, and enhance your relationship.
Some tips for feeling more comfortable in the bedroom with your partner during eating disorder recovery can include:
- setting certain boundaries that may make you feel more comfortable and expressing specifically how you feel about these boundaries
- focus on the positive aspects of the intimate experience and the benefits it has on your relationship
- continue working on your self-compassion and your recovery journey by healing your mind and body
Getting Help for Disordered Eating with Eating Disorder Recovery Programs
Learn to love yourself and adjust disordered eating behaviors with help from an eating disorder treatment program like the one available for women at Willow Place for Women. We are located in Asheville, North Carolina and help women living with eating disorders, trauma, and substance use disorder.