Question: I’m 34 years old and have been suffering with bulimia on and off since I was 18 years old. I’ve been married for the past 7 years and we have two kids, my husband doesn’t know that I binge and purge. I am really good at hiding the evidence. I can go weeks sometimes months, and in one case over a year without bingeing and purging. I’m afraid that if my husband knew he would look at me differently, and I don’t want him watching over me or monitoring me. At the same time, I feel like I’m living a double life and I hate it. I’m miserable and I feel like a liar. What should I do? -D
Answer: Hi D, I’m sorry that you’re struggling so much. I understand what a challenging position you are in. There’s a lot at stake here, by telling your husband you might potentially:
1.)Change the image that he has of you.
2.)Leave him to feel betrayed and depressed.
3.)Have to give up your eating disorder because he will know.
These are all valid points, but, in my opinion, not enough to warrant keeping this secret. First off, if you are in a loving, sharing relationship, you are there to support each other. Ideally your husband will to help you through your recovery process. We all enter marriages in sickness and in health and allowing him to support you is important not just for your recovery but for the long term health of your relationship. Many people want to try to recover by themselves without telling their partners, however, eating disorders thrive in isolation. By keeping them secret, you keep the fire going that continues to ignite the eating disorder. Think about some of the reasons that you don’t want to tell him. Perhaps you are afraid that by telling him, you will no longer be able to hold onto your eating disorder any longer. Perhaps you are afraid of the way he will act around you or that he will monitor your food intake. You might want to bring him into couples counseling with an eating disorder specialist to help you explain to him what’s going on. He might have the instinct to fix it. It’s your responsibility to let him know that it’s not his issue to fix, but to tell him what you do need. Getting this secret out will help you to feel less anxious and stressed out about it. Often, partners do know that something is going on and the longer it goes on, the more it can drive a wedge between the two of you.
If you don’t have faith that your relationship is loving and supportive and you don’t believe that it would survive this disclosure, I would definitely recommend couples counseling.
Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location.