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How to tell my husband about my eating disorder

This one comes from a reader in Australia…

Question:

I’m in a bind. How do I tell my husband about my eating disorder?

I want to tell my husband about my eating disorder but I’m so stressed out because I really don’t know how to tell my husband about my eating disorder.   I know things have to change. I don’t know how to have this conversation, how to start it or where to get help. I’ve had this since I was 17 and i’m 29 now I really don’t want to go on like this.

Answer: I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this, but I want to commend you on putting it out there and dedicating yourself to recovery. It’s extremely difficult to tell your husband about your eating disorder for so many reasons.

  1. You might feel embarrassed and ashamed and not want him to see you in a new light
  2. You might feel that if you tell him about your eating disorder that he might try to stop you
  3. Your eating disorder is so private and such a precious thing (even though we hate having them) disclosure would be exposing and difficult. 
  4. You might be afraid of his reaction since you don’t know how he’s going to react. 

Here are some ideas on how to tell your husband about your eating disorder. 

  1. Consider the worst case scenario. How will he react? What is the worst thing he will do? Will he leave you? Will he divorce you? In most situations, probably not, but really sit and think about what the worst thing can be. 
  2. After thinking about this, consider bringing your husband with you into your therapist (if you have one) or if not, check out ED referral and see if you can find an eating disorder therapist to bring your partner to. It might be easier if you have a professional there.  If you are not interesting in discussing it with a therapist, no problem at all. You can do this alone. 
  3. Set aside a day and time to tell him. Make sure that it’s not over a meal and make sure that it’s not at night. Your husband will likely have many questions and will spend a long time asking you. 
  4. Make sure that he knows that it’s not his fault and make sure that he knows that you are looking for help.
  5. Make sure that he knows that you don’t expect him to be the one to cure you. 
  6. Sit down with him or take a walk with him and gently explain that you’ve been dealing with this for a long time and you’re ready to reach out for support. You can say something like, “When I was 17 years old I started to make myself vomit after I ate. This habit sort of spun out of control.  I have spent the past 12 years dealing with this horrible secret and trying to stop on my own. I haven’t told you because I’m so embarrassed and so ashamed, but I don’t want to have secrets from you, and I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want treatment and I want to stop. And all I need from you is love and support. I know that I can beat this now that it’s out in the open and I’m asking for help.”
  7. Tell him that your eating issues have nothing to do with him. 
  8. Tell him that you don’t need him to “fix” you.
  9. Tell him not to tell you what to eat or what not to eat, that’s your responsibility, and it’s not good for your relationship. 
  10. Tell him what he can do to support you. Maybe that’s talking about feelings more often or helping you find a therapist or treatment program or driving you to treatment.
  11. Ask him not to talk about diets, calories, burning calories, losing weight, or what your body looks like.
  12. If there are some foods that you don’t want him to have in the house,  ask him to support you in that way
  13. Request that if he catches you in a binge, it’s not his responsibility to make you stop doing it, nor should he take food away from you, nor should he shame you. Instead, maybe he can say something like, “hey, is everything okay? do you want to talk? I’m here for you.”
  14. Ask him not to be your food police.
  15. Give him space to talk about his feelings and what it’s like for him to learn this about you.
  16. Give him the opportunity to ask you questions. If you feel uncomfortable with certain questions, let him know that you’re not ready to answer them yet or that you don’t know the answer right now,  but as you work through recovery, you will let him know what emerges for you.
  17. Ask him to READ THIS and to READ THIS

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  • Katie

    What do you recommend as to how to disclose the fact that you are in recovery and not active in the eating disorder? I fear doing so in a new relationship.

  • Many helpful and useful links here that I’m going to save for reference. Thank you!