Some couples are drinking buddies. That is, they spend a lot of time going to bars together, or drinking at home together and alcohol becomes a big part of their relationship. Often these couples aren’t exactly sure what they’d do together if alcohol wasn’t accessible. Other couples are eating buddies. Their relationship revolves around food and eating. They plan elaborate vacations where food and restaurants are at the center of their itineraries, they cook big elaborate meals together, they eat out together.
Then, there are couples where the obsession with food permeates every part of the relationship. They buy binge foods and sit home alone bingeing together rather than in private. They diet together, vowing to stay away from certain foods, then, as diets most often do, they fail together and begin bingeing together. The eating disorder becomes triangulated into their relationship. In family therapy, the concept of triangulation occurs when there is some kind of unspoken, unacknowledged conflict between two people. They then use a third person to mitigate that conflict. In this case, the person is the binge eating disorder.
When food is triangulated into a relationship, the couple will find that most of their conversations revolve around food–what they’re eating, when they’re going to eat, what they’re going to eat. They might also have a great deal of conversations that revolve around their bodies and how to “fix” them. Couples who triangulate food into their relationship will find that most of their social activities with each other revolve around food and food related events. They will also find that if there is something going on in the relationship, some kind of conflict or something that one of them or both of them are unhappy about, that they will avoid the subject and try to get closer by isolating as a couple and eating together.
If one partner begins to recover in a relationship like this, it can often be challenging for the other partner, who could then feel threatened as they lose their partner in crime. It can also bring forth all the conflict that has been stuffed and avoided with food. Sometimes, partners find that without eating and food, they don’t have much in common with each other.
How to Figure out if food is triangulated into your relationship.
- Are you and your partner obsessed with food?
- Do you often do events together that don’t revolve around food?
- Do you binge and then vow to go on diets together then binge again? Is this a cycle?
- Are you afraid that without eating, the two of you wouldn’t have much in common?
- Are their things in your relationship that go unspoken about?
- Does one of you become threatened if the other begins a healthy lifestyle regimen?
- Does one of you unconsciously try to sabotage the other when they begin a healthy lifestyle regimen, ie: bringing them binge foods or taking them to a restaurant where the food can be a binge trigger?
If this sounds familiar, some steps that you can take to detriangulate your relationship are:
- Talking about your feelings more with each other. When you each get home from work, take time to discuss your days with one another.
- Begin to notice what role food plays in your relationship, for instance, if it’s a Friday night and you’ve already eaten dinner, but one of you decides that getting a pint of ice cream would be a good idea, discuss what it is that you’re avoiding. Are you disinterested in being alone together without food? Are you afraid of what you would talk about or afraid that you might not have anything to talk about?
- Try to integrate some non food activities into your relationship, like going to museums or art openings, or taking walks or some kind of (non cooking) lesson together.