What I wish I’d known coming in…

Dream together, plan together, set goals together. It is so cliche but “‘Together’ is my favorite place to be…”

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…”

My Beautiful Wanderer

I choose to fight with her and sometimes I don’t know how. So by trial and error (many times lots of errors). We are climbing this mountain together and now we’ve decided to document the journey, our wanderings.

Wanderers:
“They are a refreshing depart from the average Joe. They view life in another way, a way that enhances experiences and justifies randomness. They find beauty in the ugly and challenge traditional norms. They protest the typical and the rigid and demand a life that’s less stoic and more magic.
They dream of books that haven’t been written, cities yet to be discovered, and lives yet to be lived. They see the beauty in the unknown and the trivial. They find meaning in the mundane tasks of everyday life and inspire others to seek adventure and originality. They are the leaders of the pack, the revolutionaries and the inspiration for the rest of us.”

“You make plans until you’re ready to leave, then leave the plans behind.
You trust your gut more than any tour guide.
You’re fascinated by maps and oceans.
You find beauty in the ugly and ugly in the beautiful.
Your family is the only reason you ever return home.”
Excerpts from: Wanderlust is Real 22 Signs You Are a Wanderer by Laurin Martin

We all know the jokes about how men don’t understand women, especially husbands and wives. But there are those of us with additional unique circumstances that make understanding a necessity AND particularly difficult.

We all want and need love and affection in our own way, but how do we show that to someone who has difficulty believing it? I’m not talking about low self-esteem, that would be akin to calling someone with depression “sad”. I’m talking about Eating Disorders and how they are a true mental illness. Often those suffering from these conditions are all around us and we never know. My wife has struggled with eating disorders at various degrees since 7th grade (17 years now). We met when we were seniors in high school and were friends but didn’t date until 2 years after high school. I’ve known her for a long time, and never knew how deeply she was struggling. In many ways I still don’t, but I am trying. I didn’t know she had an eating disorder until our first year of marriage. Only recently, the last two years or so, have I been learning of the long and lasting impact of this disease.

About a year and half ago my wife reached a pivot point when her behaviors began showing physical symptoms. Her doctor drew labs and the abnormal results showed that her body was in real distress. Even this didn’t “scare” her enough to seek professional help (again). With the help of sincere and caring friends she realized that it was time to get serious about making changes that would help her. She had seen therapists in the past, but this time sought treatment from a therapist, a dietitian, and a recovery center. The professional help she received helped her in ways I never imagined. There were times at this point that I was selfish and self-conscious because I felt that she could get better if I just loved her enough or if she tried harder. I didn’t know that she was trying, but lacked the tools and support to overcome certain hurdles. I thought that we could do it on our own, but obviously I didn’t know what I didn’t know. At times I am still ignorant to her pain and/or don’t know how best to help. I will be forever grateful to the professionals who have been, and still are, helping her and the friends who got my beautiful wanderer started down that path.

So, I want to share my experiences of loving someone who is fighting this battle. I choose to fight with her and sometimes I don’t know how. So by trial and error (many times lots of errors), we are climbing this mountain together. Now we’ve decided to document the journey, our wanderings. Unfortunately, we are still near the beginning of the journey to recovery. The road is long and rocky and isn’t always marked. There will be highs, lows, and in-betweens. I’ll try to share it all. We’ll try new things as we learn about them and share old experiences that worked and that didn’t.

Maybe I can help someone who is trying to help and support someone they love as they fight their battle. We all give and receive love in different ways. Hopefully with some extra understanding we can love and support them well. If nothing else, I know that this will help me and my beautiful wanderer. I certainly hope we can help our families, friends, and everyone struggling in their journeys.

Quick note: This is written from the perspective of a husband. This is not indented to diminish the experiences of other relationships in our lives. Additional discussions can and should be had with relation to Brothers, Sisters, Fathers, Mothers, Cousins, Aunts, Uncles, Friends, etc. This is merely a starting point. This is not intended to ever be a comparison of who suffers more because the whole intent is to better understand how to love those close to us in a way that is best for them.