6 Ways Eating Disorders Make Dating Difficult

dating - image is shadow profile of couple almost kissing

Everyone has had that moment when they are out with that couple who have the same cool opinions or finish one another’s sentences. “Couple goals!” one person shouts out, but you are more concerned with how many calories you’ve eaten that day than how cute your friends are. Couple goals is an adorable catchphrase, but the truth is that it takes a lot of time, effort, and trials to get to that point with another person. Not to mention, it is difficult to begin dating or carry on a healthy relationship with someone else when you don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself.

You may think that your eating disorder won’t affect your future dating. “I’m the only one affected by my actions,” you might say. But the choices you make will have a direct impact on your romantic life. 

Here are 6 ways that eating disorders can make dating difficult:

1. Keeping Secrets

It is not easy to keep a secret. It isn’t healthy for your relationship, either.

If you have an eating disorder, odds are there aren’t many people who know about it. After all, it is a private matter that you probably don’t want shouting from the rooftops. But being in a relationship is about sharing your thoughts, feelings, and overall life with someone else. 

Relationships can only grow when there is honesty between partners. In fact, a study done by Redeemer University College found that couples who are honest and trustworthy enjoy more fulfilling relationships.

Keeping secrets from your partner is tiring, difficult, and may fill you with guilt.

2. Low Self-Esteem

When people think about couple goals, they often think of good-looking couples who do a lot of travel, who have the perfect house, kids, puppies, and jobs. The reality is that the biggest couple goals are the ones where both partners feel happy, loved, respected, and supported in their relationship.

When you have an eating disorder, it is hard to feel happy and built up in your relationship because often those who suffer from these issues have low self-esteem and body insecurities.

Clinically referred to body image disturbance, this self-image is often one of the first criteria for being diagnosed with bulimia, anorexia, depression, and body dysmorphia.

Issues with body image run deep and can have a ripple effect on the rest of your relationship, whether you have an eating disorder or not. 

3. Difficult Social Situations

Research proves that couples are happier when they share friends. Love and flirting are wonderful, but spending time together with friends gives couples an opportunity to have social experiences outside of romance that boosts emotional intimacy.

When you have an eating disorder it makes those social situations much more difficult. Why? Simply put, because most social engagements revolve around food.

When you are dealing with an eating disorder, food-related activities can be stressful, hurtful, and anxiety-inducing. It can also be triggering to those who are in recovery.

4. Communication Hurdles

Good communication is the cornerstone of a healthy, happy relationship. It improves your overall relationship satisfaction and can even boost your sex life. You must be able to share your thoughts and feelings with your spouse if you want to grow as a couple.

Living with an eating disorder can debilitate communication because of the secrecy involved.

Hiding things from your spouse may create a pattern on secrecy in your relationship that can be damaging. It is also exhausting to hide such a big part of your life and thought-process from someone else.

It is also difficult to be able to properly communicate what you are feeling since eating disorders are so psychological. This can make your partner feel helpless, frustrated, or sad.

5. Sexual Issues

Healthy sex life is important to a successful partnership. 

It helps you connect, promotes bonding, and helps you to be vulnerable with your spouse.

The oxytocin released during intimate acts (such as making love, holding hands, cuddling or kissing) has a positive ripple effect in your relationship. Oxytocin has been proven to increase trust between partners. It also boosts feelings of commitment, increases happiness, and boosts emotional intimacy.

Oxytocin has also been proven to reduce stress and increase the body’s pain threshold. This promotes healing, growth, and reduces blood pressure.

Those with eating disorders often experience: 

  • Assuming a partner is not interested in sex
  • Feeling self-conscious about your body during sex
  • Low libido causing you to withdraw from physical intimacy
  • Feeling triggered by certain body parts being touched

The International Price Foundation Genetic Studies did research on 242 women with eating disorders to see how an ED affects intimacy in relationships. The results found that women commonly experience a decrease in sexual desire, increased sexual anxiety, absence of sexual relationships, lowered sexual satisfaction, and greater loss of sexual enjoyment.

women commonly experience a decrease in sexual desire, increased sexual anxiety, absence of sexual relationships, lowered sexual satisfaction, and greater loss of sexual enjoyment.

6. Difficulty getting close to others

Couple goals are all about finding that special person who compliments you perfectly in life. However, studies show that those with eating disorders may have a harder time getting close to someone else.

Research indicates that women with anorexia nervosa feel closest to their partner on an emotional and physical level when their spouse knew about the eating disorder. Since it can be difficult to openly discuss eating disorders with a partner, it can make the dating process more difficult than it already is.

Final Thoughts

Dating and being in a relationship can be a wonderful, satisfying adventure. 

But finding your way to that adventure gets a whole lot harder when you are obsessing over the number on your scale or how your body compares to your Instagram favorites.

Couple goals are great inspirations for finding someone who makes you feel amazing about yourself. But being in a relationship is not more important than taking care of your physical and mental health. Once you can begin to love and accept your body, you can give your all to your romantic relationship.

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Maryjo E. Wilson

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  2. says: malcolm

    This article sheds light on the challenges individuals with eating disorders face when it comes to dating, highlighting the complexities that can arise in relationships. It’s crucial to recognize the impact of such mental health issues on various aspects of life, including romantic connections.
    While delving into the challenges discussed in the article, it also brings to mind the importance of broader conversations around mental and emotional well-being. It’s interesting to ponder on diverse aspects of health, both physical and mental, prompting questions like “how many times should a man release sperm in a week.” This reinforces the idea that discussions about health should be multifaceted, encompassing various dimensions to promote understanding and support for individuals navigating complex issues.

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