Eating disorders are fierce, all-consuming illnesses. They develop gradually and insidiously, but once formed, impact more than a person’s relationship with food. They damage social relationships as well, affecting far more than the person experiencing the illness firsthand. Parents, siblings, friends, and partners are also subject to the toll of an eating disorder, their relationships with their loved one often strained in its presence.
Given the secrecy and isolation common to these illnesses, eating disorders are particularly at odds with healthy intimate relationships. These relationships require vulnerability, honesty, and open communication, all qualities that are incompatible with an active eating disorder. The more consumed by disordered behaviors a person is, the more physically and emotionally distant from their partner they often are in turn. In situations where this distance or other relationship distress precipitated the development of the illness, the eating disorder only exacerbates it.