My girlfriend, “Mary,” recently lost a bunch of weight, and she wasn’t fat. I was away at school (our colleges are in different states), so it had been a few months since I’d seen her. We were Skyping regularly, but it was hard to see how skinny she’d become because she dresses in baggy clothes. We were planning on moving in together when we graduated this spring, but now I don’t know if I can handle it.
Whenever I try to get her to eat, she says she isn’t hungry. If we go out to eat, she complains that there’s butter in her meal (when I’m pretty sure there’s not) and sends it back, or just moves her food around her plate. If her mother tries to feed her, they get into screaming fights, so I try to back off. She thinks she still needs to lose another 20 pounds, even though I tell her I wish she would gain weight. She doesn’t like me to see her naked anymore, but I did, and she’s so skinny it scared me. I’m worried she’ll get really sick or die.
I’ve asked her if she might be anorexic. That didn’t go well. She screamed about how it’s so much better than being obese and that my mother is going to die young because she’s fat. I don’t know what to do. She warned me not to talk to her family about it. I love her and I want to marry her some day, but I’m worried. What if we move in together and she gets really sick? I don’t want to break up with her (which I think will happen if we don’t move in), but I don’t want her to die, either.
I’m not in the business of diagnosing strangers over the Internet (or anywhere else), but yeah, it sure sounds like your girlfriend may be suffering from some sort of disordered eating. Sadly, as frustrating as it is and as much as you love her, there’s nothing you can do about it.
Just like when you’re dating a drug addict, no amount of love or support—or in her case, bacon—is going to get rid of her problem. She has to want to get better, and eating disorders are possibly even harder to cure than heroin addiction.
What you need to do is take a page out of Al-Anon and practice something called “loving detachment.” This doesn’t mean you should blow her off, it means you need to quit enabling her. While still being supportive and encouraging her to get help, refuse to keep her secrets. I was quite close to an anorexic, and I know they have a ton of them. If it makes you feel better, talk to her family about it—but don’t go behind her back to do it. You need support too, and they’re obviously aware of the problem and might appreciate knowing you want her to get better. If you plan to continue the relationship, I’d suggest you consider counseling yourself, because anorexia comes with a lot of collateral damage.
But your instincts about moving in together are dead on. You’re what—21 or 22? You sound like a lovely guy, but there’s no way you’re equipped to deal with this. If indeed she is anorexic, her parents (unless they’re real assholes) are probably going to be better able to help her deal with the problem. Good luck!
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