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Tell Boyfriend About Eating Disorder?

By January 10, 2013

I have been struggling with an eating disorder for a little over three years now. I just recently got a boyfriend and am wondering if that is something I should tell him sometime soon or if that is something he doesn’t really need to know about? This is my first relationship, so I’m not really sure what to do about it. – Jessica

Jessica,

Thanks for your question. And now, I have a few questions for you. Feel free to answer these and write back.

When you say you’ve been struggling with an eating disorder for over 3 years, what does that mean? What kind of behaviors are you practicing? Does anybody else know about your struggles with food? Have you gotten any help with these issues? Are you getting better or worse?

I could go on but I think you might be getting my point. Whether or not you tell your boyfriend may not be the biggest issue if you haven’t told anyone else.

That’s not to say your question is unimportant. It’s a very good question. I’ll do my best to answer it.

It sounds like you just started dating (although I’m not sure how long ago). One of the decisions you will have to make in your dating relationship is how quickly you become emotionally honest with him. We tend to think about this some with physical touch (i.e. “Should we kiss on the first date?”), but we don’t think much about this emotionally. I would suggest that you always practice honesty in your relationships, however honesty and the issues you discuss need time to develop. So, as you get to know your boyfriend you need to make wise choices in how much of yourself you give to him (and he should think about the same things).

When you are first dating it is very exciting and very easy to begin discussing all sorts of dreams, ideas and hopes. However, be slow to fully entrust the deepest parts of yourself to him until you know where the relationship is headed, and then do it slowly and carefully. One of the reasons that breakups today are so difficult are because they get physically and emotionally deep so quickly. It then feels like a divorce when things don’t work out. You may find this somewhat old-fashioned, but the idea is that emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy should grow over time so that if you some day break-up you have been honest and yet have not out-run the level of commitment involved. At the same time, in the case that someday you marry him, you will be building a strong, intimate and honest marriage.

So, for some practical advice:

1. Someone needs to know about your struggles with your eating disorders and you need help dealing with the issues.

2. If asked directly about your struggles, you should be honest; but you don’t have to dump the whole truck until the relationship can handle it.

3. You can be honest with him in general ways and more specific as time goes by.

4. Be careful not to rely on him for an “accountability” relationship as he may have a strong desire to fix you or rescue you.

I hope that helps. I encourage you to find someone local with whom you are discussing this.

Travis Stewart, LPC