How learning to love my body changed my relationship
I dated while I had my eating disorder. Some might say, I dated a lot. I hung out with super cute and nice people, who did cool things and treated me well. I dated some for a short period of time and then they wanted us to go out to eat, and I had a panic attack and stopped returning their calls. I dated one person for quite awhile, and our entire relationship was a battle.
“How do you need to exercise today?” he’d ask me every morning, knowing that there wouldn’t be room to have a rest day altogether. I’d tell him I was going to the gym to x, y, or z (spin, elliptical, or treadmill) for an hour, exactly, at whatever time I’d deemed most “effective”. At first he’d suggest more functional and exciting fitness (maybe even things we could do together) but eventually he gave up. I’m sure it wasn’t worth the battle.
In the thick of my eating disorder there wasn’t room for flexibility. It destroyed romantic relationships and friendships, controlled my train of thought until there wasn’t really anything else to talk about. During my eating disorder I finished my undergraduate degree, moved from Portland to San Francisco, started grad school, started writing a novel, and got my Masters degree. I thought about those things about half as much as I thought about food, how I needed to exercise, my weight, and how much I hated my body.
Luckily, everything has changed over the course of my current relationship.
It didn’t change because of him. It changed because I was tired. Tired of being so completely inside of my own brain that I knew I would never be able to truly love someone. It changed because I saw this person that I really liked, and it killed me to think of how hurtful I’d been to previous partners. I would be embarrassed to let my anxieties control this new relationship in the way that they had my last few. I saw my partner’s integrity and I wanted to have as much as he did. I wanted us to grow together, to learn from one another and I wanted to have the ability to reflect on what that meant for my life. I knew that if I was restricting my food, compulsively exercising, thinking obsessively about my flaws or sneaking away to throw up, I would never, ever get to know my partner the way that I wanted to. And I knew the minute I saw him that he was a person I wanted to know. I had to give up some of my behaviors to make that fantasy real.
It didn’t happen over night. In the beginning of our relationship things were pretty bad, actually. But I never stopped trying. And he never stopped calling me out when he saw my old behaviors sneak up. I wanted to a juice cleanse? He was the first person to say “sounds like eating disorder to me!”. I respected him. I respected his opinion, which he was very much not afraid to voice to me. It helped me to get better. A little better all the time.
The relationship I wanted to have with my partner gave me the courage to grab the relationship I wanted to have with my body. Deciding to have a better relationship with my body gave me the relationship I got with my partner.
Having a good relationship with my body means I get to have relationships with other people.
It means I get to make the choice of whether or not to have sex based on how turned on I am as opposed to how much self hate is looping through my brain.
It means I get to go on vacation with my sweetheart without a perpetual state of terror.
It means splitting a vegan and gluten free donut over coffee and smiling at each other. Thinking about how deeply in love I feel, as opposed to what the donut is going to do to my frame.
Having a good relationship with my body means I get to augment my workout schedule to enjoy exercise with my partner, or exercise that supports time with my partner. It means skipping exercise in order to go to his art openings or to see his student’s final shows. It means I get to have pride in the fact that I show up for other people now, that my first priority is not how much I make myself sweat.
Having a good relationship with my body means that I get to trust that my body will be fine so that I can put effort towards someone else.
Having a good relationship with my body means that when my partner has a birthday he can choose where we go to eat, because it’s not about me.
It means I can stay up late and ride roller coasters and travel to different places where I am not 100% sure what the food will be like. It means I can eat within my allergen and ethical restrictions (vegan and gluten free) but steer clear of my preferences (sugar free, processed food free) every now and again because it makes for a more joyful, flexible life.
Having a good relationship with my body means I can ask my partner (or a friend!) how their day was over dinner and not be so absorbed in my anxiety about food that I don’t really hear what they say.
Having a good relationship with my body means that for the past nearly-three years I have woken up next to someone who would definitely not still be around had things not improved for me.
Having a good relationship with my body has made me the kind of person I wanted to see myself be, in relationship and out.
It has given me enough confidence to not be so selfish.
It has shown me that “control” is really, truly not the thing that matters.