Happy Valentines Day to all of you! I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating all of the love in your life. Love between family, friends, pets, and romantic partners! Being in a romantic relationship while suffering or recovering from an eating disorder is not an easy task. Often it is difficult for a partner to handle the stresses of the disorder by watching their loved one hurt themselves emotionally or physically. I’ve been with people through every stage of my journey and here is what I’ve learned.
When I got sick I was dating my now ex-boyfriend. Our relationship was long distance and he was with me when I developed anorexia, suffered from it, and made my first few attempts at recovery. Overall, he handled it pretty well and was very supportive but over time the stress and seemingly unending pain started to wear him down and after dating for almost three years he left me. (Whatever, I’m too good for him so it’s cool). From that experience I learned the following tips:
- It’s okay to tell your partner what is going on with you and keep them included, but don’t turn them into your personal therapist. Don’t put absolutely every burden you are dealing with onto them (remember a lot of these thoughts are not your own, but originate from the disorder). A person may love you but everyone has their limits and one person cannot be responsible for handling all of your problems.
- Allow them to cope however they need to. Everyone handles stressful and difficult situations differently and there is nothing wrong with that.
- Don’t blame them for trying to help. Even if the help is unwarranted or not actually helpful. If you feel your partner trying to help you, be an effective communicator about what would be the best way for them to do that.
- Make sure your partner can handle the stress of loving someone with a mental disorder. Sometimes people just can’t, and you cannot put your entire reasons for happiness into your faith in another being. You need to be okay relying on yourself and paid professionals.
I have been with my current partner for a little over 2 years and we are as happy as can be. I’m writing this as I stare at the beautiful flowers he had sent to my office. I am lucky to be recovered and to rarely ever flirt with a relapse, but nonetheless I now have the tools to be able to handle our relationship in a more mature way.
Happy valentines day everybody! Hold your person close, they love you (even if your person is your mom or your cat).