The (Secret) Life Of Eating Disorders And Dating

Let’s talk about sex, bay-bee. Let’s talk about you and me.

JK Mom, let’s not.

This is the hardest post I have ever written, so forgive me as I deflect with weak humor.

I don’t write about my intimate relationships very often because it’s like opening up Pandora’s Box of emotional destruction.

Like we’re talking on a scale of Jim and Pam to Bella and Edward codependency – I’m at like a Romeo and Juliet (cause I mean when you think about it, both those fools ended it all over each other after WHAT, like TWO days? Shakespeare; the master u-hauler)

The truth is my relationship history is such a disaster that I cherry pick the romantic relationships I have chosen to talk about and portray in my writing. I do it with my friends and family, my blog, everywhere.

In other words, I’ve never been 100% honest about my ongoing relationship status because I’m always shielding something from someone.

Oh my God – I just said it. Wave goodbye to all the dates I would’ve had before this post.

I cannot write about my romantic life because I am constantly balancing several relationship “situations” in a very unsteady house of cards.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m no female “John Tucker Must Die”. 1.) I’m not suave enough to pull that off, and 2.) I have a soul.

But what I mean is that I’ve been in a secret relationship. Yep. A 15 year affair.

Qualifier: I am a very devoted partner to a long-term, long distance 15-year relationship that is comprised of somewhere between 2-10 people.

Just call me polyamorous.

(but don’t.)

Several of them are exes, some are new, some are foreign, and a couple are “friends” who could go either way. The point is that there is emotional, intimate investment in all of these people.

The relationships may not be physical (anymore) or at the physical level (yet), but on they remain, whether it be a late night text, an afternoon brunch, a phone call to catch up, a Facebook message to check in, or a cuddle with that one friend you’ve never kissed, but always wondered.

Point is, I don’t close doors to my relationships, and I don’t set boundaries either. I don’t do it at the beginning, don’t set them in the middle, and regardless how horrible the relationship might turn at the end, I DEFINITELY don’t “end” the communication.

^^^ It’s true Aziz.

In other words, I’m the girl who’s on the phone with an ex as she walks into a first date. Likely, I’ll omit one from the other.

Lemme reiterate real quick: None of these pseudo-partners are actually a committed relationship (again, I’m not a monster yo), but each of them represents a comfortable facet of one – like a puzzle of partners.

“Dude- How many people have you dated in the past 5 years?” My roommate asked the other day after I came home from a blind date.

I dunno, 25 maybe, I said- without thinking. Give or take a few.

Her mouth dropped. You’ve dated 25 people since we started college?! Like you called them a relationship? Like it lasted more than a few dates?

I snorted. You know how I am. I date someone for 6-8 weeks. Jump all in, meet their families, their friends, memorize the freckle on their left cheek, and after 6 weeks it feels like 6 years – then I bounce, I paused. Or they bounce because it moved too quickly and it freaked them out too.

She shook her head. How did I not know this? I never knew who you were dating in college.

For a reason, I said – hanging up my jacket.

I counted with her that night. From the ages of 20-27 I have dated 27 people for a minimum time of 6-8 weeks (my usual timeframe), maximum of 11 months.

HOW? You might ask.

Well, it’s simple. You know how some people have “a type”?

That ain’t me.

Brunettes, blondes, reds, oranges, blues, manbuns, mohawks, dreds, military cut, pale, tan, ethnic, athletic, heavyset, emaciated, inked, pore-free, addicts, sports addicts, artists, fitness trainers, bankers, psychologists, convicts, coworkers, friends, roommate’s friends, clients, British, Irish, German, Spanish, Argentinean, Australian, older, younger – dead, alive….

Okay, I exaggerate on the corpses. I don’t date people who can’t validate me.

If I had to take an honest guess, I likely still communicate with 10-12 of these people… and the ones I don’t, it’s because they cut ties from me, or got hunkered down with a new partner and had to set boundaries I never would.

One of the most difficult times I had to accept recently was an ex from college. We dated for a few months back in 2009, and were best friends for the rest of the years of school. Sure, it was a complicated “friendship.” We still kissed, still fought when he saw me out with someone else, still had those nights we sat around on his stoop drinking Franzia – contemplating how good we’d be together “someday,” but there was no “commitment” anymore so we called it friendship.

About a year ago, I called him – as we always did every month or so – and the next day I woke up with a message.

“Linds- I want you to know I love ya; always have. But I’m with {insert name} and it’s just starting to feel shitty and fucked up to keep talking to you when I think we both know that we can’t actually ever be just friends.

I hope you can understand –  hate doing this. I just can’t feel this way about you and me anymore and be in a relationship. I’ll always be here for you if you need anything. I’m proud of you for who you’re becoming, and you’re still one of my best friends. I just can’t do this to her. It doesn’t feel right.”

ALL THAT OVER A PHONE CALL?! I thought. WE’RE NOT EVEN BANGING. But, the truth is I understood even when I pretended I didn’t. And it hurt even more because I felt that full loss of a relationship that never really ended in the first place.

Should he have cut ties with me? Yeah. We weren’t helping each other grow as people. But, the pain of accepting that someone doesn’t want you that way has always been incredibly defeating for me.

In other words, I have lived a life where I constantly seek  validation and self-worth from other people, regardless of the pain that ensues, or how terribly they’ve treated me. (I.E. MANBUN POST SEPTEMBER 2015). If someone treats me poorly, I don’t necessarily walk out. In fact, I tend to draw them closer.

It’s a constant balancing act of emotional, mostly unhealthy relationships.

Very rarely am I actually in a committed relationship with one person- how can I be? I’m constantly juggling 5% emotional investment here, 23% there, another 15% over in Spain.

“You’re like that Don Draper quote,” my best friend said once. “People should know you only like the beginning of things.”

It’s a strange contradictory in my life; my inability to grow intimacy and commitment past a certain point vs my fierce loyalty to my platonic friendships.

I have had the same friendships since I was 5 years old. I cherish them. I protect them. I’ll be there for any of them (but likely they have to call repeatedly 2-3x before I pick up) but then I’ll DEFINITELY be there in an instant.

My soulmates are my best friends.

I’m honest with them at least 80% of the time.

Walking down a New York street before I moved, my co-worker best friend – in her casual manner – laughed at something I admitted, and said this:

“Oh Linds, not to be rude, but I’m never surprised when you omit shit.”

I scoffed.

“You tell the truth like 80% of the time, and omit the other 20%,” she said. “But it’s fine. I mean it always comes out when you feel like it. Like I know you’ll tell the truth eventually, just in your own roundabout way.”

Couldn’t help but agree.

I truthfully don’t know which came first – the commitment/self-worth/validation issues, or my eating disorder. Likely they’re rolled together in a package deal.

I have had one successful relationship in my life, and it was at 15 years old – before my eating disorder started. Before I learned how to manipulate at the drop of a hat.

He and I have since destroyed that “mature” relationship by reconnecting years later at the wrong time, and jumping into something too quickly (but yet, we still talk of course- heard from him this weekend)…

BUT, at the time, back in ole 2006- I was a faithful girlfriend for over a year.

Wait, lies. I made out with someone and told him about it.


However, something shifted. I dunno if it was always inevitable or if there were catalysts – I fell in love with a German foreign exchange student at 17 and he broke my heart when he inevitably moved back to Germany. (Of course I chose someone unattainable). My best friend (and another constant source of validation) died at 18, and my eating disorder developed into a lifestyle habit that I hid like a drug addiction.

I don’t know exactly; I just know somewhere down the line I became the family joke. “Who’s Lindsey bringing home for Thanksgiving this year? Ah well – no worries, if we don’t like the person, just wait till Christmas and we’ll get an exchange.”

Looking back, we all have that one person and I was heavily emotionally invested in my German ex boyfriend (secretly of course) for years. I idealized that if we stayed in contact, via Skype, via 3x a year trips to Europe and USA, we’d inevitably find our way back together.

I dated other people, obviously, but I thought of him as an end goal – which is a dangerous idealization. He could save me, I thought, when our best friend died. It was he who held me in my childhood bed the night of Bradley’s funeral – tears pouring down our faces – snot gurgling down my nose.

Years later, it was he who called from Austria to tell me I looked terrible and too thin. “This has gone on long enough,” he said that day. “You’re killing yourself.”

I loved him in part because I thought he could save me from myself. I didn’t think I was an interesting person without him. Also, who doesn’t want a story where the romance is torrid and hopeless?

“I love you in a way I will never love anyone else,” he said when we parted 2 years ago. “You give me something I can’t explain.”

DUH. Of course. I bullied my way into knowing every freckle and mole. I thought it’d keep him.

At the end of the day, however, I loved him without whim, without reason, without protection, and as my dependence on our story grew, his emotions changed as he accepted the reality. He moved on – carefully, quietly, and as much as it still hurts, he likely did the right thing.

We only talk on birthdays.

Anyway, I digress because it’s fun to mull on and on about lost love affairs.

So between all that and my eating disorder, I lost that inner dialogue of what I wanted and needed out of a relationship. Being sick was a full-time lie, and along the way I protected myself from true intimacy to the point that I’d start dating a good human being and think to myself, sitting across them at dinner, “You will never know me. You don’t know the destruction I’m capable of. I can be everything you need me to be, but it’s all a visage.”

In turn, I dated a lot of shitty people because it was easier.

Addicts first and foremost- you walk me into a room of people I PROMISE you I will be attracted to the addict.

It makes sense. Addicts tend to be selfish and self-preoccupied – they like to be cared for, and what is better validation than taking care of someone?

Dating addicts has been an easy way for me to misuse intimacy and commitment. I knew they didn’t love me for the right reasons – and therefore I knew I could continue doing as I please, and have a manufactured excuse for my behaviors – shifting the blame onto them.

I had a 3-year off and on terrible excuse of a relationship in college with an addict. We were intense from the moment we met; destructive from the beginning. His best friend died, as had mine, and I should’ve known when that was the first conversation we ever had, drunk off whiskey at a bonfire – spilling our grief into a fire pit.

We went back and forth for those years. Met parents, grandparents, fought, yelled, cried, held – but out of those 3, we likely only ever committed for 2 months. And both of us cheated.

We didn’t trust each other – why would we? We were drunk most of the time, said a lot of things we only halfway understood, and then woke up and pretended it never happened. One day, I left and moved to Spain.

A few months ago, we talked at Christmas for 3 hours.

We reminisced about the crap times, and the occasional good.

We said I love you, in whatever way it still meant.

The following week, his girlfriend sent me a message, and blocked me from his social media and phone.

Sayonara boy – take care of yourself out there.

Did I grow up wanting to be like this at 27? No, as I child I thought I’d be married by now. As a teen, I thought I’d be engaged by now. And as a 22-year old, I thought I’d be in a committed relationship by now.

But it didn’t happen because I’m a Codependent.

Codependency. There. I said it.

Codependency; adjective
1. Of or relating to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way. Experts say it’s a pattern of behavior in which you find yourself dependent on approval from someone else for your self-worth and identity.

However, for the first time in my life, I’m actually at a point where I’m willing to accept my behaviors over the past 10 years and attempt to change them.

I’ve been going to CODA meetings here in Denver. Of course the moment I moved here I immediately started dating a psycho. Not going to go into details but he threw his cell phone at me in the first 3 weeks and it wasn’t pretty. I needed to have a kick in the arse, I suppose.

I really have no concrete conclusion to this post other than this is where I’m at, and it feels liberating to own it. I’ve been dating in Denver, but trying to keep it simple.

As for my pseudo relationships, most are changing on their own – and have been for awhile. I’m letting myself feel more alone, actually alone – without the validation of someone(s) impermanent – and it’s terrifying because now I’m all like ‘SHIZ I’M GONNA BE ALONE FOREVER AND ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD ARE HUNKERED DOWN AND IN LOVE.”

But, the truth is we’re getting older. I move on with my life; my exes move on with theirs, and so I find that our “pseudo- still maybe kiss but maybe not -friendships” are evolving with or without conversation.

It hasn’t been easy.

I lost my childhood best friend a year and a half ago because we kissed time and time again out of confusion, and misplaced intimacy.

We never could get it back to a healthy place.

He’s engaged now, and he made a choice to let me go – as it goes.

It hurts, and I’ve been relentlessly angry at the way it went down. It’s hard to not feel betrayal when you’ve loved someone for 20+ years, and at the mention of his name- I still sour.

But this is life, and if I’m ever going to have a healthy relationships I have to learn to accept that relationships are not always permanent (or self-serving) – though I idealistically like to believe that they can be both.

I want to be a good partner. I do. I’m as hopeless a romantic as any of you reading this. I want the comfort of someone who will love you when you have a zit on your chin, or are coughing up phlegm in the sink.

I want those things; I just haven’t gone about them the right way.

Now that I’m really coming out of my eating disorder haze and fog – I’m bankin’ on that self-reflection.

I know I can be a good partner. (PSA ALERT PEOPLE. YOU CAN STILL DATE ME.)

I will be when I choose to stop living in the comfort of what my dating life has always been, and really put myself out there. The total package. The vulnerability of being a human being attached to another one.


As my coworker once said:

“You’re high risk Linds. Even as a friend. You’ll always be a risk. But with high risk, comes high reward. And you’ve definitely got that too.”

3 thoughts on “The (Secret) Life Of Eating Disorders And Dating

  1. Thank you for writing and sharing. I have an eating disorder AND am in a handful of quasi “relationships” myself. They are all exactly the way you described them. Your self reflection has inspired my own. Thank you. And PS–you’re a really good writer. Your style is so relatable, articulate, and a joy to read 🙂

  2. Such an honest post (I’m guessing at least the 80% (!) which let’s face it on this topic is putting yourself out there) and so interesting for me to read – my friends have always slagged me for my ‘mini love affairs’ – while some may only last a month or two I seem to manage to have a full blown relationship rather than just dating. Until recently I was also in contact with most of my exes in some form or another. And I have a boy in another country which I could still secretly love even though I haven’t seen him for 4 years (and live with someone I really love now). Hmmmm this post has really made me think (and it’s 7am on a Monday morning far too early for that!). I consider myself really independent and that’s why things have always ended and I’ve been done staying in touch, but I wonder now if that’s actually the case- cogs turning in my brain now….
    Anyway this is an excessively long comment- I just really wanted to say thanks for writing and sharing!

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