Eating Disorders and Relationships: Regaining the Trust of Loved Ones

December 3, 2010 Angela E. Gambrel

My husband, David, left me in August. Because of my anorexia. He couldn't handle it, after more than three years of dealing with a wife who seemed hell-bent on dying. This past spring, I spent six weeks in a partial hospitalization program that did very little for me but crush what little self-esteem I had left. I spent the summer depressed and anxious, mainly about the size of my body.

I immediately began restricting and purging (through laxative abuse) and soon lost all the weight I had gained while in the program. David soon lost all hope I would recover from anorexia. I had forgotten — again — that my eating disorder doesn't just impact me, but also my husband and loved ones.

Anorexia, Eating Disorders, Broken Promises and Lost Trust

sources-of-conflict-between-husband-and-wife-couple-divorce He left as a last-ditch effort to make me want to get better. It worked. I soon began eating regular meals and drinking several bottles of Ensure daily. I slowly gained weight, and we rebuilt our relationship and reconciled at the end of September.

But the anxiety that weight gain always triggers in me came back and by the first week of October, I was again restricting and losing weight. This past week, we had a raging argument about my lack of eating and what he perceived as broken promises on my part. He threatened to leave again and I knew if he left this time, there would be no future reconciliation or recovery. It would have been the end of our relationship and most likely, the end of any more attempts at recovery by me.

Eating Disorder Patients Focus on Their Eating Disorder

The problem is that eating disorders are selfish diseases. I don't mean that in a bad way, thinking that those of with eating disorders are sitting around thinking about how miserable we can make our spouses and loved ones. But the nature of the beast is that when we are in the throes of restricting, bingeing, and/or purging, that is all we think about. I am person who is a very restrictive anorexic and when I am restricting, I spend hours looking up the calorie count of every food I've eaten during the day and then adding up each single calorie. I spend each morning weighing myself and the number on the scale can either make my day a good one or it can completely destroy my mood.

Eating Disorders and Rebuilding Trust

Our eating disorders and the things we do definitely have an impact on our relationships. I believe all of us with eating disorders have to work at regaining the trust of our loved ones. Again, it is not that we are deliberately mean people who want to hurt our families. But when we lie about how much we ate or whether we purged or not, when we hide what we are doing and try to deny that we are not doing anything, that breaks the trust they had in us.

I can't stress this enough. My husband and I did talk things through and I promised I would try harder, and I am eating more and working (again) to get better. I was heartbroken to think that after all the hard work I had done in September to regain his trust and belief that I could recover, that I destroyed that trust by my actions of the past two months. I realize that I again need to regain his trust, so that he will believe I can recover. I have to take responsibility for my actions, even though they are driven by my illness, and understand my role in creating a happy, healthy relationship between us.husband-and-wife

APA Reference
Gambrel, A. (2010, December 3). Eating Disorders and Relationships: Regaining the Trust of Loved Ones, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 24 from

Author: Angela E. Gambrel

February, 3 2023 at 10:56 pm

I lost my husband to Orthorexia which he battled with for at least 7 years. We have 2 beautiful children who no longer have their Dad. It’s been devastating for me. We where married for 25 years. It’s a terrible situation and breaks the spouses heart to not be able to help them and have to watch them die. I will never be the same person again. It’s a horrible disorder that destroys families because it takes over their lives.

November, 7 2021 at 1:36 am

My partner of 7 months has just admitted to suffering from bulimia, saying he developed it after having gastric sleeve surgery & that it just became a habit.
I’ve convinced him to get help but I’m struggling in how to support him.
I’ve researched a bit do know the signs which has made me super suspicious whenever he goes to the bathroom excessively for example.
Im unsure how to help him whilst also caring for myself & my 2 kids; essentially I’ve found out about this on our holiday. I can’t keep an eye on him when we both return to work & our own homes (don’t live together).
Just feeling a bit overwhelmed I guess.

November, 8 2021 at 10:27 am

Hi Jo,
Thank you so much for reaching out. I'm sorry to hear that your partner is suffering from bulimia and that you're feeling overwhelmed. If you're not sure where to turn for helpful therapeutic resources, I would advise that you start with HealthyPlace's hotline numbers and referral listings. You can find these here:…. Our eating disorder community page also has some useful information if you want to learn more about your partner's condition:
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
"Surviving ED" Blogger

Jenna Schaefer
July, 18 2018 at 8:33 pm

I’m 42 and I have anorexia and orthorexia. I’m struggling with making my husband understand how hard this is for me. I know I’m hard to deal with and feel guilty. I’m supposed to be inpatient but refused that so the place is doing therapy and meet with nutritionist weekly. I started ay 90 and I’m 5/4. I’m not recovering as fast as they would like as I’ve only gained 6lbs since Feb. The place reccomended doing a family therapy session since he went to 1 and it didn’t do anything and plus it’s more expensive. I feel guilty about that and now feel alone. I feel like the ED voice is louder now and feel so alone. I would appreciate if you have any advice. Please friend request me on Facebook. It’s under Jenna Borowski Schaefer.Thanks for listening to me ramble on.

August, 9 2016 at 11:53 pm

Thank you so much for sharing. I know I'm about five and a half years late to this discussion, but as of recently I am yet another secondhand victim of an ED.
My situation is much like each of the gentlemens' in the previous comments. Was dating an amazing girl long distance for a while, moved at the beginning of the summer to be closer to her for the season. First week and a half after moving was amazing. Then came the dreadful and unexpected emotional withdrawl. Soon found out she suffers from Bulimia. Then more emotional withdrawl. Within three weeks of me moving closer to her we were broken up.
I've been absolutely devastated. I love this girl more than I could ever possibly describe. I'd move mountains for her. But there's nothing I can/could do. It's been a very painful experience, but I've learned so much. Posts like yours (in addition to each of the comments) provide bits of clarity; they help me understand what might be going through her mind, they remind me that perhaps I didn't do anything wrong, and they make me feel less alone.
I can't thank you enough for sharing. I know that must have been very difficult. I really hope that things have improved since your post and that all is well.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Z Zoccolante
September, 20 2016 at 4:07 pm

Very nice Sam. Thank you for sharing that with Angela. It's so important to hear that people like you are out there reading and connecting with this blog. Z :)

August, 22 2015 at 4:18 pm

Going through similar situation with girlfriend of 10 years. She's admitted to throwing up a number of times in the past few months and I have lightly scolded her but probably not done enough in hindsight. She has now had a sudden drastic change in personality and dumped me saying she no longer loves me and wants to see other people. She denies she has a problem and says that she just wants to be with other people. It's all very out of character and only a few months ago we had discussed marriage. She has since refused to talk and has moved out while I was at work. I told her parents and they seemed to think I was just desperate. Horrible to lose the women you love and whom recently loved me with all her heart.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 7 2021 at 3:17 am

Hi DJ,
If you dont mind me asking, how did things plan out now?
12 years I have been with my wife (7 married) just after Xmas 2020, she pulled me to one side and said she wanted to end things. This was totally out of the blue, so was shocked and just didn't know what to do.
For years I knew there was something going on with her, but could never put my finger on it. I assumed it was depression, as we both have gone through so much shit over the year, but she would never accept it and never reached out for help.
Before she split with me, As she was loosing weight, you could see her personality chance. And I knew there was definitely something else going on. I suspected ED, but thought more of it as depression or a mid life crisis, as she was willing to walk out of every to go and have nothing.
She agreed to give it a second chance, but that only lasted two months. She walked out on Me again, and started acting completely out of character, and is pushing everyone close to her away.
This time I confronted her about ED, and she did admit it, and is letting me help her as much as I can, as she won't seek expert help.
She's still in this stubborn mindset that she has to go her separate way. That if she stays she will never be happy again.
I don't won't loose hope on her, as I genuinely truly love her. I will always be there for her, as our children need their mother, so would never want her to be in a state where she wasn't fully there for them. But I'm starting to loose hope, its so draining and I'm just an emotional reck all the time.

July, 9 2015 at 12:41 pm

Anon and chad, I am currently going through same situation. I am mess. Amazing how similar story can be.

January, 3 2013 at 7:52 am

me and mygirlfriend at the time where together close to a year and she asked me to move in with her, she was an amazing women and i was overwhelmed with joy to be apart of her life working towards a future and hopefully marrage!! so we started getting rid of my stuff and my apartment and slowly i moved in with her!! i was there about a month when i started noticing things and at that point i didnt no anything about eating disorders but i felt in my gut a lie..... so i kept my eyes open and brought to her attention that she seemed emotinal disconnected, time went by and she seemed worse as days went on, so one night as i was frustrated wondering what the hell was wrong i seen her purse witch had some junk food in it stuff she just wouldnt eat for she was very much into health and eating right!! it dawned on me at that moment that she had ED so i did some quick reserch on symptoms and she fit both anorexia and bulima, then i read on and it described how to confront someone you suspect with an ED! that friday afternoon would devistate my world, i confronted her with all the love in the world starting the convo with how much i loved her and adored her and she responded with an awwwww i love you to and by the time i confronted her besides denying it she went from the awwww i love you to i dont love you anymore!!! boy was i confused remember i had no knowledge of ED just what i read online in 30mins time after i found the junk food.... well its been just about 4months now she has not spoken to me at all not even an explaination, remember i gave up everything i had to be with her so i was left homeless, all personal stuff gone for the most part, and needing to get me and my son living arrangments!! this has been the hardest thing i ever had to face in my life, she wont talk to me or respond to even a text like i dont exsist and i dream at night of her dying from this as well as just coming into a world of what i thought was a new begining to being dumped out of a life quicker than it even started with no words to ever be spoken about it! i tried to confront her and once she gave me 2 mins of her time where she admited it hugged and cried with me and then pushed me out the door quite literally! im so sad... eating disorders hurt, hurt there hosts and also hurt the people who love them, i pray for her life and thats all i can do i have sought out help to deal with the effects it has left me with, as i know that everything i wish i could say or do would worsen her position in order to not cause damage further to her mental state i was told i had to walk away, talk about hard.. i loose my girlfriend, my home, all my stuff, and just have to walk away as if it didnt happen.. i love her and have no animosity towards her, she didnt ask to be this way and what she battles with daily is worse than what i have been left to deal with by far! i pray for her and everyone who has to battle this demon, best of luck Chad

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jessica Hudgens
January, 3 2013 at 7:59 am

Chad, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. Being in a relationship with someone with an eating disorder is definitely trying for both parties. Unfortunately, not all of us are ready to respond to help and support when it is offered. Some of us keep resisting it because we want so desperately to hang on to our eating disorders. It sounds like this might be the case for your ex-girlfriend. It's very possible that she will, sometime down the road, realize what she has lost by pushing you away. She was very lucky to have someone who loved her enough to confront her and ask to help her in overcoming this. Please don't think you did anything wrong! On the contrary, you did something amazing by following your gut and acting out of love.
Best wishes,

August, 30 2012 at 3:29 pm

my girlfriend has recently left me for her eating disorder. she said that it was something like being in a relationship with two people. that she sometimes loved it more than me. she wishes to be with me after she's recovered, but gives me no sign of affection no inkling that cares for me at all other than an occasional love you that whispers half hearted. it was an interesting perspective to read what you had to say in regards to your own relationship. i am waiting in hopes that she will eventually ask to be with me again, because i love her with all my heart and i do try to be supportive without being overbearing all at the same time but it's so difficult at times. it seems that she is doing better for herself that the relationship is over. i thought for a while that it was me worsening matters and me that caused the relapse and that as she recovers she'll set herself farther and further apart from me. i wish every day she would take me back, and i have tried to settle into being her friend but i'm not without needs either. i feel i only make her worse speaking of my own issues now with ptsd, and the very minute i'm upset i bring more stress on her, that she doesn't need. she needs to focus 100 percent on herself, but i would also like to feel i'm not waiting for something that's unrequited to me also.
i ramble a lot. but it was nice to read the other side of view for once. thank you.

Eating Disorders: Finding the Forgiveness Within | Surviving ED
March, 23 2012 at 10:57 am

[...] people thought I was too quick to forgive him when he returned a month later.But I thought about what anorexia had done to our marriage for the past three years. He also struggled as he watched the woman he fell in love with fifteen [...]

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey
December, 17 2010 at 4:14 pm

Thank you!!! You keep the faith too, and thanks for reading!

Marisa Ogles
December, 16 2010 at 5:32 am

As someone who has been through exactly what you are dealing with, KEEP THE FAITH! You CAN do this and be a better person for it in the end. Keep working sister!

Leave a reply