3 Ways I Keep My Eating Disorder From Ruining My Sex Life

My now-wife and I had a joint bachelorette party. We, and our friends, gathered at one of their houses, drank wine, ate snacks and had what we called a “sex toy party.” If you’ve never been to one, think Tupperware party, but with lube and massage oil and… ya know… toys.

The girl presenting began her spiel by asking, “If you’re in a committed, long-term, loving relationship, raise your hand.”

Those of us in relationships raised our hands. The single girls in the room looked around and shrugged or giggled, their hands still in their laps.

Then the host said, “Every person in here should have their hand up, because the first person you should have a loving, committed, long-term relationship with is yourself.”

Maybe it was the wine, but I thought that was incredibly profound. Beautiful, but, as someone who has struggled with an eating disorder for half my life, it was also sad to think about all the time I’ve spent playing the abuser in the long-term committed relationship between myself and my body. Even though an eating disorder has ultimately more to do with the mind, the body is still an undeniable component. Having an eating disorder can make sex and intimacy, well, complicated…

Sex is such an intimate physical act, and it took me a long time to get really comfortable being intimate with my wife. Even now, in
recovery, there are days when that part of my brain yells very loudly that my body is not worthy of sexual pleasure. But there are a few ways I fight it.

1. I work really hard to trust my partner.

Sometimes, I just need to hear my wife tell me I’m beautiful, sexy or attractive. And I don’t always believe her at first. But here’s the thing: no one is forcing her to be there. Why would she lie to me about that?

Why would she tell me my stretch marks don’t bother her if it wasn’t true? Why would she tell me she loves all the parts of my body that I don’t if it wasn’t true? Being in a relationship means learning to trust your partner with so many aspects of your life. When they tell you you’re perfect just the way you are, believe them.

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

2. I’m intimate with my partner outside of the bedroom.

Intimacy isn’t just sex. Intimacy is opening up all the parts of you and showing them to someone else. And sure, sex is a big part of
physical intimacy, but it’s not the end-all, be-all. And intimacy outside the bedroom definitely makes intimacy between the sheets come much more easily. (No pun intended.)

Sometimes, intimacy looks like sitting on the couch, no phones or television, talking to one another and giving each other your full
focus and attention. Sometimes it looks like holding hands, giving a back rub or just putting your arm around your partner. Getting comfortable touching each others’ bodies in these ways makes it less scary in the bedroom.

Intimacy will create more intimacy.

3. Be intimate with yourself.

Sex is about pleasure. I won’t be crude, but when you’re telling someone what you want, it sure helps if you already know what you like. Get to know your own body. Be aware of it without passing judgment on it. You deserve to feel pleasure.

For someone with body issues, sex can be scary. And it might take some time and patience and practice. But if you’re in a loving, long-term relationship (and remember, all of us are), sex can become something to look forward to.

Getty Images photo via Rawpixel Ltd

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Eating Disorders

Weight Watchers

Backlash Mounts Over Weight Watchers' Free New Initiative for Teens

Last week, Weight Watchers released the company’s plan to grow revenue to more than $2 billion by the end of 2020 — with the goal of helping “10 million people adopt a healthy lifestyle.” But one part of that plan has caused eating disorder advocates and some nutritionists to speak out against the weight-loss company. [...]
A woman eating french fries

A Letter to Weight Watchers About Their Plan to Offer Teens Free Memberships

Dear Weight Watchers, I was recently on social media, and saw a news report stating that teenagers will be given free Weight Watchers memberships this summer. I immediately thought of the impact your company might have on young people in an already fat-phobic world. I believe encouraging young people as young as 13 years old [...]
Change4Life 100-calorie campaign

Why I Won't Support Change4Life's Triggering Campaign

In the U.K., there has recently been an advertisement on TV made by Change4Life, an organization that is part of Public Health England. The advert features a catchy tune and the statement that children should only have snacks that are 100 calories, and they should not have more than two of these per day. Their aim [...]
Beautiful woman face portrait freckles street city fashion nature

'You Don't Look Sick to Me'

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741. “I have anorexia,” I manage to say with an exasperated breath as they wheel me into the emergency room. “You don’t look sick to me,” the nurse [...]