Dating in Eating Disorder Recovery: Part One
I’ll state the obvious: dating someone in eating disorder (ED) recovery can be difficult. Since my husband and I are coming up on our 11th wedding anniversary, I’d thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about the challenges of forming healthy relationships when one party is struggling with an ED.
Today, I am going to start by speaking to the person who has an eating disorder. I believe it’s important to start here because not only is it the perspective with which I am most familiar, but it is the position from which, in my experience, most of the uncertainty stems.
You Don’t Have to Start Dating in Eating Disorder Recovery
In an ideal world, you’d learn to love yourself before you thought about being with everyone else. Of course, life doesn’t always happen on our terms and sometimes you meet someone when you’re not in a great place.
This said, don’t feel like you have to be in a relationship. You should put the bulk of your emotional effort toward taking care of yourself and getting better, not trying to be who you think someone else will want–and from my experience with eating disorders, you’re often trying to be who you think you should be, not who you really are.
I understand it can be challenging to shake off the societal expectation that you should couple-up, but, again, you don’t have to. During my early eating disorder recovery, my therapist didn’t even recommend it, saying that people in early recovery are often triggered by the focus on physicality that’s part and parcel of new relationships.
The truth is, though, I did happen to meet my now-husband in the early stages of recovery and while it wasn’t easy, it did work. It worked because he was willing to put more effort into making it work than I was, because I was focused on trying to recover. It takes a certain kind of person to be willing to invest that much of themselves in a new relationship, though, and not everyone will do that.
So, my advice to dating in eating disorder recovery is to put your energy into getting better. If you meet someone wonderful, then that’s wonderful, but if you don’t, you’ll be on your way to creating a healthy, strong relationship with the person who matters most to your short and long-term happiness: you.
I’ll be talking more about dating in eating disorder recovery in my next post, but in the meantime, let me know your thoughts on dating with (or dating someone with) an ED. Share in the comments!