Eating disorders can affect almost every aspect of life in some type of way. But, when people think about eating disorders, they often don’t consider the way that these disorders affect the people who care about the person living with them. For instance, the long term effects of eating disorders on romantic relationships.
If you are in a relationship with someone living with an eating disorder, you may wonder what is in store for you. For example, what you can expect to deal with, how to cope with all of the side effects, and how to support your loved one while she gets the help she needs.
Here at Willow Place for Women, we know that eating disorders don’t only affect the person who has them. But, that they also affect other, important aspects of life, including personal and intimate relationships. So, we also understand the need to provide support and help for loved ones in these positions.
How Eating Disorders Affect Intimate Relationships
The effects of eating disorders can seemingly pop up overnight. Or, they can slowly and continuously make their appearance over the course of years. Either way, the effects of eating disorders will affect personal relationships sooner or later. When a person is living with an eating disorder, they may become obsessed with their personal appearance. A person may constantly worry about their body image, weight, size, or shape. They may stop eating altogether, cut out a number of foods from their diet, and obsess about calorie intake. When these obsessive thoughts intrude a person’s mind, it’s unlikely that they’ll have much time to think about other things. Namely, their relationship and how to keep their partner happy.
So, many partners of people living with eating disorders may feel like they are pushed to the wayside. They may no longer feel like a priority, as food and eating habits may take up much of their loved one’s time, thoughts, and energy.
However, since eating disorders can bring about vulnerability, loneliness, and isolation, it’s crucial for loved ones of those living with eating disorders to remain a supportive outlet. And, understand that they’re not alone and that there are things they can do to encourage help, and provide support for their loved one.
Long Term Effects of Eating Disorders on Relationships
Due to how eating disorders can take over and affect all areas of life, intimate relationships certainly experience their own symptoms. Some of the things relationships may deal with when one partner is living with an eating disorder can include:
Communication Issues: Often, people living with eating disorders may not feel comfortable opening up about how their eating disorders are affecting them. In some situations, people may even be in denial of how their disordered eating is affecting their daily life. And, talking about these issues can bring about anger, dismissiveness, and other ill reactions. Furthermore, communication can be a challenge when things in conversation are taken in ways they were not meant to be. For example, it’s common that people with eating disorders may take what their loved ones tell them as cruel or hurtful when in reality, they’re not meant to be at all.
Poor Emotional Wellbeing: Communication issues and feeling that you can’t help your loved one can be damaging on an emotional level. Furthermore, partners of people living with eating disorders may feel that their loved one has changed. Eating disorders can change the way a person feels and thinks about themself, which can be challenging to deal with as a partner. So, dealing with these emotional changes can bring about feelings of sadness, unease, and even hopelessness.
A Decrease in Sexual Intimacy: When a relationship experiences negative side effects of eating disorders, it may be challenging to feel intimate. Furthermore, people with eating disorders may not have the self-confidence to feel completely comfortable making love. So, many relationships that are affected by eating disorders are negative impacted on a sexual level.
Getting Help as a Partner of Someone With an Eating Disorder
Certainly, it can feel like your relationship will never heal from the effects of eating disorders. But, it’s important to understand that your loved one is dealing with a mental health issue. One that she cannot control without professional help. So, the best thing a person who loves a woman struggling with an eating disorder can do is encourage her to get help. And, be willing to get the help you need as well. This way, you can support her on her recovery journey.
Here at Willow Place for Women, we know that eating disorders don’t just affect those diagnosed with them. They affect their loved ones too. This is why we offer family approaches that teach helpful relationship skills and offer family support.
To learn more about how you can help your loved one struggling with disordered eating and address the long term effects of eating disorders on your relationship, contact us today.