Sunday, April 5, 2009

Another annoying post about the boyfriend

Several of the bloggers I follow have written about the effects of eating disorders on romantic relationships. I thought I'd add my two cents (.03 cents in today's economy).

Jim never knew me before I was anorexic. He couldn't tell from my low-res Facebook shot that I was food-averse, but I'm guessing he started wondering when he saw me in person. He definitely wondered, as most people probably did, when he watched me nibble half a veggie burger and a few carrots and call it a meal. I debated telling him about my illness when we started spending more time together - would he freak out? Would he think I was shallow? I put myself in his shoes and realized that I'd want to know if my potential partner had a tenacious, lifestyle-affecting illness. He took it very well - it was kind of "well, duh" at that point anyway.

It didn't stop him from asking me out, but it certainly affected our early relationship. Think about it - how many "date" activities involve food? As my recovery and our relationship progressed, however, I felt something change. It had been so long since I'd felt in touch with my body, and suddenly there was this person who sat close to me, who put his arm around me, who very lightly kissed me one night in March. And ... he put me back in my body. He was so gentle, so patient, and as we grew closer I sort of came back into myself. My body wasn't just this thing I tried so hard to control, something that needed discipline and punishment.* It was mine again; it could feel pleasure and it could make someone else feel pleasure. I have to give Jim credit for much of the progress I made our first spring together.
I learned to love wine and cheese while I learned to love Jim.

Of course it hasn't been all skittles and unicorns since then. There were times when my food issues - rigid scheduling, "fear foods" and painful insecurities all posed challenges. It was hard for him to understand; hell, it was hard for me to understand. I cried in front of him more than once. I was struggling my junior year, and against most medical advice he told me to start moving - but for fun, not for weight-loss. We played badminton, and he taught me how to cook. He challenged me.

It is not easy to love someone with an eating disorder. Even more, it's not easy for a person with an eating disorder to love someone. I don't know if I can give any definitive advice - I think Jim is really an extraordinary person. I guess I would just urge those having issues to give their partners a chance - he or she might just prove to be extraordinary, too.

*I've been reading a lot of Foucault. A lot.


Tiptoe said...

It's great that you gave Jim a chance and that both of you have grown together. Jim sounds like an excellent balance system for you.

Kristina said...


I know that there are plenty of people who think that people with an eating disorder, before entering a relationship, need focus on recovery. For me, M. has been a HUGE support in my life, and I think that has made recovery much more possible for me.
I *love* how you put it - "he put me back in my body."

Laura: Learning to Love said...

That is such an amazing post. Jim sounds INCREDIBLE, and this entire story sounds like a fairy-tale, even though I'm SURE there were many handfuls of hard times. Thank you for sharing this with everyone though!

Sarah said...

Yes, Lisa, I really enjoyed reading this. Jim sounds amazing. I wish I could give a devoted lover to everyone struggling with an ED because it makes things so, so much easier. Also, Jim, Lisa's blog entries are not that long. Have you read mine?! My own husband refuses to read them sometimes because, as he puts it, "I don't have 20 minutes." Whoops...

Sarah said...

By the way, I'm totally jacking the phrase "skittles and unicorns." Hilar!

And by jacking I mean stealing. I think that's lingo these days. You can never be too careful; apparently by using the phrase "hookup" I insinuated that Standing in the Rain was a lesbian.