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My Husband Doesn’t Fully Understand My Eating Disorder, and That’s OK

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Marriage is really quite hard. Being married and trying to combat an eating disorder is even harder. More days than not I feel insecure and unlovable, even if I know rationally these things aren’t true. I worried for years both in the depths of my eating disorder and in recovery if I would ever find someone who could love me, all of me.

I’m a worrier, a perfectionist, a ball of anxiety and I obsess over everything. I need to tell people my step by step game plan every single day and then once more if plans change. I often like to feel in control of situations as much as I can and I get tripped up when the unexpected happens, which is every freaking day.

My husband is the complete opposite. Early on in our relationship I distinctly recall him saying, “Yeah I’ve never felt anxious.” My first thought was, “You’re joking.” My thought after marrying him was, “Oh my gosh, he was telling the truth.” 

I’m envious of his calmness and simplistic approach. Yet it also annoys me sometimes because we are on two completely different sides of the spectrum. My eating disorder has an extraordinary ability to send my anxiety into overdrive and make what should be an ordinary date night, a disaster. Meanwhile, he munches on his pizza like it ain’t no thing.

Humans are so intricate and complicated and I don’t think our first goal is always resolution. I think resolution in a relationship after an argument is hard. I think ignoring one another, being passive aggressive or writing it off is the easy way out. I’m certainly guilty of taking the easy way out, specifically with my eating disorder. 

But taking the easy way out cheats us both out of an opportunity for growth and better understanding. If I’m anxious, ask me why. If I tell you all my clothes make me feel fat, ask me what you can do to best help me. In return I promise to invest in the hobbies that make you happy. In return I will read your book on brewing craft beer and try every bottle you make even if I think they all taste the same. We give each other chances and opportunities to learn how to better support one another, even if it’s tough.

When I observe other people’s relationships in my life, friends who are dating, friends who have just gotten married or have been married for years, they seem collected. Like they have it figured out. My husband and I, well, we totally don’t have it figured out. And I say this because I think it makes a lot of sense. We are essentially glorified best friends. We met roughly four years ago and humans are too complex to unpack in just four years. My battle with my eating disorder is too complex to unpack in that amount of time. When we met I had an eating disorder, when we got engaged I had an eating disorder and guess what, I still am fighting towards recovery today.

Yet every single day, without fail, we learn something new about each other. I guarantee even a year from now he still won’t get my Starbucks order correct, but we both try really hard. I don’t think my husband needs to understand every aspect of my struggle or condition in order to try. I think I had to change my perception of this early on because I thought in order to be transparent I had to tell him every last detail of my struggle. We can love and support people without hashing through every single detail.

I think it’s easy to assume or believe that a relationship is seamless when underneath it can be tumultuous and challenging. I’m not convinced any of us have it completely figured out, but I am convinced we owe it to one another to try.

I feel insecure because of my eating disorder. I feel insecure in my relationship with my husband, but instead of allowing these insecurities to become my narrative I try and let his words, “I love you,” soak in a little more each time. I take advantage of the good days and I learn from the bad.

My marriage is about showing up and being present even when I want to mentally check out. My marriage is about sleeping in our bed even though every ounce of me wants to storm down the stairs and sleep on the couch because I had a rough meal and he doesn’t get it.

It’s not meant to be simplistic, it’s a partnership.

Marriage and relationships are infinitely more challenging than I ever knew. I guess what I’m getting at is my relationship would be complex without my eating disorder, anxiety or any other condition. Just because I am fighting a few more battles regularly, does not make me unlovable or a relationship impossible.

Yes, I struggle with anorexia, bulimia and a dash of anxiety, but I’m also one heck of a wife. I think it can be easy to let the negative thoughts take over and convince ourselves that we must completely overcome our battles with mental health before we can do X, Y and Z. Had I continued to believe that I had to be fully recovered before I took a next step forward, I would never have dated and I would have never gotten married. In fact, now that I think about it, I wouldn’t have done a lot of things.

By all means continue fighting for recovery, whatever that looks like in your life, whatever that means for your condition, but don’t let it convince you that you aren’t worthy of more and that you can’t take the next step forward. I am messy, I am imperfect and I have difficult days. That won’t ever change, but now I just have an awesome husband to pick me back up.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via Khosrork

Originally published: June 23, 2017
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