Dating can be terrifying in and of itself. When coupled with eating disorder recovery, it can feel impossible.
That said, let me tell you this: It is possible. You deserve love and a full, exciting life. Your eating disorder does not make you any less dateable than anyone else.
Eating disorders complicate all of your relationships, but romantic relationships can be especially complex. I was in a relationship for most of my eating disorder’s worst years, but that relationship seemed to be just as abusive as my relationship with food.
Then, I went through two major breakups that changed my life for the better: I broke up with my eating disorder and I broke up with my ex.
The two consistent things in my life that had stuck around for years were suddenly gone and everything around me was unpredictable. I didn’t know if I would ever find someone who would want to be in a relationship with me, find me attractive, or love me – not to mention my eating disorder was still popping into my mind every now and then to tell me that I wasn’t good enough.
Nevertheless, I started dating. I had gained weight and was still learning how to exist in my new body. At first, I avoided meeting someone I was very interested in because I didn’t know if I was “skinny enough” for him.
When I realized he knew nothing about my eating disorder or my eating disorder body, I felt free.
He had no expectations of what my body should or shouldn’t look like because there was no “anorexia” label written on my forehead.
We went on a few dates before he inevitably encountered my body. For one night, I forgot about my eating disorder completely. I existed solely as myself, someone disconnected from their eating disorder. My body was free from judgment.
It was most likely due to the excitement of dating someone new, but regardless, it was a feeling I began to cling to. My goal for recovery was to feel like that more often, to be able to exist as myself rather than as a product of my eating disorder.
A new problem
Next, though, I was introduced to a new problem. Dating the same person for a while eventually led to a relationship with him. Suddenly, he wanted to know me and everything about me.
But I didn’t want to tell him about my eating disorder.
Will he didn’t accept me? What if he judges me? Will he expect me to be skinnier? What if he didn’t believe me?
These questions haunted me. Even so, I knew I needed to tell him about my past because it is directly related to my present and future. If I ever needed his support, he would need to know about my struggles. If I wanted a happy and healthy relationship, I had to communicate and be honest.
The reality is that if he didn’t accept me, judged me, expected me to be skinnier, or didn’t believe me, then he wouldn’t be someone I should be in a relationship with in the first place. My eating disorder was never a trait that threatened our relationship, but his reaction to it could certainly let me know if he was someone worth further pursuing or not.
I was lucky enough to be met with nothing but positivity and support when I finally told him everything. Our next issue was one we faced together: him understanding and learning about eating disorders.
Someone who has never had an eating disorder may struggle immensely with grasping what you’re going through.
If someone isn’t willing to try to understand, learn about, and accept your eating disorder, they may not be the best match for you.
Again, this provides you with an opportunity to see if this relationship is a good match for you and your life. Thankfully, my partner began researching and, most importantly, asking me questions.
Terrifying, maybe. Worth it – definitely
Your eating disorder isn’t something you should be ashamed of, especially when dating. It’s something that you went through and are continuing to go through, even years into recovery. Your eating disorder is something that your partner should know about, learn about, and be able to support you through.
It’s important to remember that if you encounter a partner who is unable to do these things, resulting in your relationship suffering or ending, it’s not your fault.
Compatibility does not rest on your shoulders.
You deserve someone who can provide you with love and support no matter what.
My eating disorder became such a large part of my identity that it felt liberating to finally disconnect myself from it by hiding it. But I can’t deny that it happened and doesn’t still influence my day to day life sometimes. Honesty is always the best option.
You are not your eating disorder, but you have been effected by your eating disorder. And that’s something your partner should accept. You are made up of so many unique traits, each one worthy of love from a partner.
So I’ll tell you once more: dating after an eating disorder is possible! You deserve unconditional love and acceptance, and your eating disorder does not make you any less dateable than anyone else.