Dear Melody: Will My Boyfriend Ever Support My Recovery?
“Monthly Matters with Melody” is a monthly advice column by Dr. Melody Moore, a clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and the founder of the Embody Love Movement Foundation. Her foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to empower girls and women to celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness and contribute to meaningful change in the world. Dr. Moore is a social entrepreneur who trains facilitators on how to teach programs to prevent negative body image and remind girls and women of their inherent worth. Her work has been featured in the books Yoga and Body Image and Yoga and Eating Disorders: Ancient Healing for Modern Illness, as well as in Yoga Journal, Yoga International and Origin Magazine.
My boyfriend knows about my ED. I'm trying to recover and need his support, but he just gets angry with me and tells me to "snap out of it." Can you suggest a way of getting him to try and understand or do you think I'm better off fighting this alone, without his negativity?
I appreciate the question. It sounds to me like you are listening to your instincts about whether your boyfriend has the capacity to be supportive. While it is helpful to communicate what you need and why to those around you who don't have the insight into your disorder, your mind or your heart, it is also important to recognize when others are unwilling or incapable of hearing you.
Fighting, and winning, a battle against an eating disorder is no small feat. As I'm sure you've realized, it takes an army. In my experience, successfully recovering from such a fierce and unwavering "enemy" of ED requires not only your individual efforts, but those of a team. That team needs to be made up of supportive, encouraging and understanding folks who demonstrate power against your ED and for your life without ED. When your boyfriend says, "Snap out of it," it not only negates the fact that your struggle with ED is not a choice (it is NOT); it also assumes that you are not already making an effort to fight for your life. And that must feel terribly invalidating to you.
If you feel that you have already clearly communicated what support would look like, how it would feel, and what words he could use and behaviors he could demonstrate to allow you to feel like he is on your anti-ED team, then it is time for you to listen deeply to your ambivalence, and perhaps let him go. Fighting your ED has to be your top priority if this is a war you want to win. However, if you feel that you have been passive in your communication or have minimized ED's impact on you, it may be that you try to express your needs before assuming he is unavailable to meet them.
If you have told him how difficult your struggle with ED is, communicated to him how he could be helpful, and yet he still denies or dismisses you or your struggle, it is important that you fully take in this truth. In this case, he is telling you—through his direct actions—that he cannot hear you and will not help you. If this is true, then yes, it means he is going to be an obstacle to your recovery. And, furthermore, if he cannot hear you and will not help you through this battle, it is unlikely that he is going to be a partner who can hear you and help you through future situations. You, and everyone, deserve a partner who can hold space for your emotional experiences and validate your feelings.
The most important aspect of your recovery is that you remember that your life is worth living, that you are worth living for, and that your eating disorder has exactly the opposite agenda. Eating disorders kill. They are not to be taken lightly, and they are never to be dismissed. You are worth gathering a team of treatment providers and other support systems that will stand by you and with you as you find freedom from your struggle and contentment in your life.