While this is written with specific people and circumstances in mind (newlywed or about to be married) . I encourage all to read with an eye to self reflection. Today is a new day, today can be different, I/you/we can be better today than yesterday!
Someone asked me what I wished I’d known about getting into a marriage with someone battling ED. I’ve spent some time reflecting on this idea and what I would tell somebody about to take that plunge. I realized that much of this advise (in fact, all of these ideas and concepts) has helped our relationship and it’s not all about ED. It’s about loving someone for who they are, with all their faults and baggage and letting them love you too. Because I have news for some people, you have faults and baggage too…
When we were first married I didn’t know about ED. She had kept it hidden for years before I came along and in my naiveté I didn’t see the symptoms or signs. Today I might because I’ve educated myself but in the beginning I didn’t know what I had gotten into. After those first rough years of not knowing the true cause of the deep pain she obviously had, I learned about ED and began to understand. When someone says “knowing is half the battle” they aren’t kidding. Just knowing about ED improved our relationship. I knew where some of the emotions and distance was coming from. This didn’t stop my frustrations at times but it did improve my understanding and acceptance. Just to be completely honest, there were times that were really hard and kinda sucked.
When ED is in control there is little you can do about anything, meals, money, goals, future, even intimacy. My goal is always to be loving and caring and let her know what I feel and think but I’ve learned to be cautious in my compliments. I find her beautiful all the time and I’ve learned to communicate to her that beauty is more than body image or physical observations.
For example, I love how caring and kind she is to those in her care. She can also be brutally sarcastic, especially when she sees something silly or wrong. She always makes friends even though she’s scared to do new things or meet new people. I admire all these parts of who she is and, if I could, I would have focused more on them earlier in our relationship. Notice none of these things have to do with food, weight, size, etc.
Everyone should focus on size less, healthy is good but our body isn’t everything we are. We can’t forget that our spirit, our soul, also needs attention too and for someone battling ED it probably needs more attention. You can’t combat a disease with a wounded soul. I would have focused more on our spirituality. I would have focused on being good and kind more. Not bragging or anything, being good and kind is something I have always done and believed in. My parents engrained that in me when I was young and I’ve strived for that my entire life. However, with all the stresses that being newly married and starting a life together brings I didn’t focus on it enough in the beginning.
The problem with these ideas is that they take practice and patience. They also require a deep understanding of the individual, these are things you have to learn. I encourage patience and love and err on the side of quiet and kind. This is a challenge because you will feel frustrated and angry. You will feel unappreciated and unloved because ED is getting all of the attention. There have been many times that I have not handled this well and probably accidentally set back her recovery. Not by directly triggering about food or body image, even before I knew about eating disorders I wouldn’t have done that, but through lack of compassion or through my frustration when she needed love.
Everyone has these experiences on some level. We are learning to share our life with another human being. Agency, or free will, is something that I cherish. When we are married we agree to share that with our spouse. If you are religious, we also share that with God. My experience is unique in some ways but should sound familiar in many others. I encourage you to find your path together. The more together you are on the journey the closer you’ll be at the destination. Like with a compass if you are off course by 1 degree you will be off hundreds of miles by the time you are supposed to be at your destination. If you stick together without even one degree difference you will end up at the same place.
Dream together, plan together, set goals together. It is so cliche but “‘Together‘ is my favorite place to be…”