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Telling A Partner You Have An Eating Disorder

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Maybe you are looking for, or have found professional help to address your eating disorder, and know it is time to tell your significant other about it as well.

If you are unsure about how to approach the topic with your partner, the following suggestions may help. Use only what resonates with you.

Having The Talk

Sit down with your partner in a comfortable setting, free from distractions, or go outside and talk while you walk. If you are seeing a therapist, you also have the option of bringing your partner to one of the sessions. Avoid having the discussion during a meal, or in the evening when you are both tired and need to unwind before turning in.

You might begin by saying something like, “When I was 15 I started making myself throw-up after eating, and it became a habit that I couldn’t break. I’ve been hiding this secret for ten years, but now I’m finally getting help. I’m sorry I kept this from you, but I never told anyone until now. I just need your support, and to know that you care.”

You might want to share why you did not talk about it earlier. Maybe you felt ashamed, embarrassed, worried about their reaction, how they would see you, or feared they might start “policing” your eating behaviors. If your disorder has been a private, distressing but deeply personal experience - which makes it difficult to expose - consider sharing that.

Significant others also need to know that the eating disorder has nothing to do with them, is not their fault, and that it is not their job to fix or cure you. If you are receiving or looking for professional assistance, let them know.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

It will help both of you if you decide before the conversation how you want your partner to support you. Let them know specifically what will help, and what won’t.

You might ask them to support you by listening without comment when you share your feelings, helping you find a treatment program, or keeping certain foods out of the house. Partners can also be asked to avoid talking about diets, weight loss, calories, or body shapes - especially yours.

Let your partner know that advising what you should or should not eat is off limits since that is your responsibility, and let him or her know how to respond if they see you binging, vomiting, or over-exercising - whatever your ED behaviors might be. For instance, suggest they say something like, “Anything I can do?” or, “Need to talk?" Maybe you would prefer they give a quick hug.

What They Need

Significant others will need time to share their feelings, too. You might ask what it is like for them to realize you have an eating disorder, and what you can do to be a supportive partner while you recover.

If they ask questions you are not ready or able to answer, just let them know you will get back to them as you go through recovery and find answers within yourself. It may also help to make available some books, articles, or videos about your specific eating disorder they can view at their leisure.

Source: Binge Eating Therapy
Photo credit: Marina Aguiar