Our series on boundaries continues as we explore what boundaries should be in place before a person in eating disorder recovery resumes dating.
There is something about dating the opposite sex (or the same sex, depending on your fancy) that makes all the hard work of eating disorder recovery slip right out of our hands. Dating make us revert back to pre-eating disorder recovery where we had no voice, no opinion, no boundaries, we were simply at the whim of others preferences. Who would want to go back to that? And what is this mysterious power that potential companions have over us?
My theory is LOVE. Potential companions, suitors and dates have the one thing every person with an eating disorder is starving, binging and purging over, it’s love. Love encapsulates the same idea that if “I just get to the right weight…I will feel lovable” or “If I just make you like me….I will feel lovable.” However, more often than not being the right weight or finding the right guy only makes us feel lovable for a short period of time and then we’re back to square one. In fact it’s the process of working so hard to be the “right weight” that gets us into rehab. As well, it’s the behaviors that go along with “doing anything to make someone love me” that keeps us alone.
So what is the solution to these problems? They are boundaries. Kind of like a meal plan that keeps us physically healthy, boundaries in dating keep us emotionally healthy. Being a woman in recovery from an eating disorder, I have made my mistakes in dating…a lot of mistakes. Here are some of my personal favorite dating boundaries:
Reservations – Women with eating disorders like to get into relationships very fast. We divulge personal information, backgrounds, traumas and it’s not healthy. One reason it’s unhealthy is you don’t know this person yet; so take the time to get to know them. Tell them a little bit of information and see what they do with that. How they react. If they prove to be trustworthy give them more. Stay in check with yourself too, it’s an unhealthy sign when someone just spills their guts in front of a stranger. Think of it like making reservations at a restaurant; you call ahead and ask someone to save your seat, but you don’t have to go. You could always call and say, “I changed my mind.” Check this person out and if they aren’t what you want don’t be scared to cancel your reservations. It happens all the time.
Car Door – You know how guys open your car door for you? It’s a chivalrous thing to make sure that you get in safe. Girls with eating disorders have a hard time protecting themselves and making sure they’re safe. If you’re gonna be getting physical with someone make sure that you
1.) Ask them if they’ve been tested (Note: If you’re too uncomfortable to have this conversation with the person, sex might be pretty uncomfortable too.)
2.) Make sure you’re physically protected.
Dinner – For many of us food has held the our worth in its hands. If we don’t eat we’re lovable, if we do we’re not. This thought process easily transfers over to men. We think that if he says the right thing we’re lovable, if he doesn’t we’re not. This is dangerous territory for both people. The best boundary a girl with an eating disorder can put up in this scenario is an Emotional Boundary. A girl with an eating disorder needs to come to a place where she realizes that her worth is counted in much more than scales, calories, cute texts and dates. Her worth is in the fact that she was put on this earth for a beautiful purpose, that there is a God/ Higher Power that loves her beyond she could ever imagine and the love of that power is the only love that truly matters.