how to help your spouse recover from an ED

i don’t understand, he tells me, the emaciated me, the girl that relapsed as a young married woman; i don’t understand why you just can’t eat.

my husband, raised on a farm, who sees food as celebration, and i’m glad he doesn’t get it. i don’t want him to get it, for that would make him sick, too. but isn’t there a line between getting it, and being able to help? and why are there no resources on this?

i don’t want him to understand, don’t need him to, until the day he asks me to choose between him and food for i am married to both, and that is the day i decide to get better. the day i need him to know what a big choice this is, and that i can’t do it alone. but how do you tell your lover this?

how do you explain why you like to look and feel sick? why you are addicted to eating less and less, and how this gives you a sense of purpose when you’re really not sure if you’re worth anything at all save for this way of starving yourself. and deep down, how terrified you are of the person you’ve become.

so hard, this staring into the eyes of love, a love that says, i’ll never leave you, but you’re not you anymore, and i feel as though you’ve already left me. and in some ways you have, for you’ve chosen to believe what the voices in your head are saying over the person who holds your bones at night. because in some ways, you want an excuse to die. you’re doing all of this because deep down, you’re punishing yourself for not being the person you think you should be, and you’re slowing trying to escape forever.

and so when he asks you, that spring day on the alberta highway at the side of the road to make a choice between him and food, and you choose to ignore the voices and change and eat and live because he loves you, how can he help you?

according to my husband:

“Be very loving when you talk about food, because it’s a sensitive subject,” he says. “It’s important to let them know that you’re there to support them, not control them, and to let them know you trust them. You can’t be watching them all the time, so you have to trust.”

Keep a closed mouth, he adds, and an open door. “Let your wife know if she is struggling, she can talk about it with you anytime, and you won’t judge her.”

But urge her to walk in healing. “Encourage your wife to make the right decisions,” Trent says, “and expect that she will.”

 according to Remuda Ranch:

Mom needs to work at loving herself on a daily basis, says Dr. Amy Wasserbauer. “Self-love as a whole is top priority. That is the greatest commandment—to love your neighbor as yourself. The call to love our children comes out of our ability to accept ourselves, and to accept God’s love.”

Fathers need to support their wives in this initiative, and to avoid critiquing people, both within and outside of the family, in regards to their size. “So many of our patients have been affected by their father’s and grandfather’s perceptions of food,” says Wasserbauer. “They’re so food focused.”

Do not discuss body image issues with your children. Also, “get rid of the word ‘healthy.’” And do not use food as a way of controlling your children, or appeasing your own guilt. Guide your little ones in their portions, and teach them what it means to feel ‘satisfied,’ but don’t create harsh restrictions (such as one cookie a day) or allow them to eat anything they want to; instead, encourage them to know their bodies, and to know when they’ve had enough. In other words, teach them intuitive eating.

for an inspiring blog post on what it means to embrace yourself as a real woman, click here.

for videos and discussion questions on how to find healing, click here.


16 thoughts on “how to help your spouse recover from an ED

  1. I’m not sure if I agree with one statement “do not discuss body image issues with children and get rid of the word ‘healthy.'” I’m curious your thoughts on this, Em. I’ve found that conversing with my daughter-not so much about image, but about health, has been a great way to teach her about full/satisfied/hungry…I’ve taught her to pay attention to her body’s needs, but I think talking about healthy self image (loving herself is a part of that) is key…but that has to start early, before the damage is done. I’ve been struggling to “get this” and to not inflict my issues on my own daughter, but I think talking about it has been a huge help for us. I’ve never told her about my own ED but we’ve definitely talked about “making healthy choices” and that sort of thing… hm. something to think about today!

    • hi dear courtney… i am torn over this issue, especially after reading this article in the huffington post today: i believe in being very open with our daughters, and in complimenting them, for sure, and i also believe in being honest, but i also know i don’t trust my own sense of body image even now… God is still healing me in this area. so i think i would want my husband, whose body image and self esteem are very rooted and wholesome, to do much of the complimenting and discussing, while i listened and learned… xo

  2. This is good, Emily. Still figuring things out on my path to being healthy. Joel has often wondered how he can best support me; unsure of when to say things and when to be silent. This gives me some things to share with him on how to best support me on my journey. Thanks.

    • dear sam… i am praying for you, for joel… i know how tough ministry can be and how my ED served as some semblance of control in the midst of it all. if joel ever needs someone to talk to, i know trent would be very open. love you girl. e.

    • So true, Kendal. I feel the same way. That’s why I write about my experience using personification. I was very much having an affair at that time. Not with another man, but nonetheless it was an affair. I lied, manipulated, and cheated on my husband with bulimia. He wasn’t the first person I went to for help – I went to B. It’s hard to admit that, but it is true. Thank God for my husband and that he didn’t give up on me!

  3. Thank youfor the timely post. Just what i needed to read after an evening of fighting with my husband and trying to explain. Here’s hoping he will read it and grab a bit of understanding and patience with recovery. And here’s hoping I can stand up and not play the victim anymore.

    • oh tam, you’re welcome… it’s a hard, long journey, and such a confusing one for our spouses. i found my hubby got angry because he couldn’t “fix” me, and it’s just in their nature to want to fix. praying for patience for your husband and grace for you. xo

  4. I’ve never posted but I too am struck by the comments not talking to your daughters about body image issues and getting rid of the word healthy. As someone who struggled with anorexia years ago and am now a mother of 3 girls and one boy, I find myself hypersensitive with all of the focus on food and weight in our society. Yes, it is important to educate our children to make good choices, but I sometimes wonder if the push to publicize calorie content, nutritional info etc… will backfire and cause more obsession in our society. I try to convey the message that we are all uniquely created with different body types and not to compare. We try and model an active lifestyle and model “everything in moderation” and that there are no bad foods… just better choices. Would I want them to eat doughnuts everyday? No, but I don’t want them to freak out if they do or see me freaking out if they eat a doughnut or chose a not so healthy choice. Also, we don’t have a scale in our house which while was extremely hard to get rid of, but I don’t want them (or myself) to let the scale dictate their mood, whether they feel good or bad about themselves, whether the day will be good or bad depending on the number.

    I met my spouse while still struggling but beginning to recover, he was such a blessing to me as he unconditionally loved me in spite of myself:) I was able to be known (the good the bad and the ugly) and loved which is such a key.

    I hope this makes sense.

    • This does make sense. It is BALANCE. With the obesity epidemic in America we would be ignorant to not talk to our kids about healthier choices. For instance: having ranch dressing with your carrots is fine. But when my son struts drinking it out of the package that’s where I ad the pare t need to do what is best for him and say nO. This will lead to obesity. And obesity leads to heart disease, heart attacks, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, etc. Eat dessert if you want. Eat it first on occassion.

      I think as parents who are struggling with the eating disorders (or loved ones watching) we need to make sure we don’t go to the other extreme. It still puts a stigma attached to food when you won’t acknowledge it, won’t talk about it. The trick is moderation with all things. After, God is balance. He balances his love with hate, his justice with mercy, etc. Ad we are called to be balanced ourselves. So, to me, teach kids about healthy foods. we want them to be healthy from the inside out. But don’t pass on the ED. don’t stigmatize food in a different way by not teaching our kids about food. Gluttony is just as bad!

      Sorry for any typos. I’m still sleepy from surgery I had earlier today.

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