It is possible to love yourself and give someone else the chance to fall in love with you too. But how do you know if you’re mentally and emotionally ready?
I’ve been in four serious relationships in my life. Well, four relationships that had serious impacts on who I am today. In order of least (sorry #1) to most important they have been:
1). My first boyfriend in sophomore year of high school. My first kiss. My first dabble in puppy love. My first experience with depressing music and poor self image when he ended it.
2). My on/off boyfriend sophomore – junior year of high school. The one who lit me on fire for the first time. The one who made time stop for me. The one who pulled me into risqué waters and showed me I sort of liked being surrounded in shadows. The one who left me for the last time in 2013, but didn’t leave my heart until 2016.
3). The first man that I ever loved. You know him on Instagram and Snapchat as Jario. I know him as the man who kissed my belly every day for three months when I struggled with IBS and awful body image. I know him as the man who I’m not afraid to fight with, because I know we can survive it. I know him as the man who started dating a girl with many insecurities, but now is with someone dripping with self love.
I’m about to hit you with a semi-contradictory sentence, are you ready for it?
I love myself and my body, but I did not love myself when I entered my current relationship, nor did my current relationship influence me to love myself or my body.
I believe it is possible to be in a romantic relationship and to share your life with someone while simultaneously committing yourself to your recovery. Then again, we know from the whole socks with sandals trend that just because one can do something doesn’t always mean one should. Depending on where you’re at in your eating disorder recovery journey, a relationship – whether it’s serious or just casual – can be a blessing, but it can also be destructive.
During the downward spiral of my eating disorder, the summer before my sophomore year of college, I began casually seeing a guy in my hometown. Okay, not exactly my hometown. More like downtown Los Angeles, but anyway… I didn’t want an emotional involvement with this person, who we’ll call Blue for privacy reasons. We spent time together, and I enjoyed it.
What I didn’t enjoy was constantly obsessing over my eating habits and appearance before one of our meet ups. Constantly body checking. Tugging at my fat and trying to see it through his eyes. Replaying the compliments Blue paid my body over and over again in my head, and refusing to eat three hours before I saw him so I wouldn’t be bloated at all. Leaving Blue’s house at 7 AM so starving I would shake, and sipping a large diet Dr. Pepper on my drive home.
Signs you are not ready to enter a romantic relationship, and should focus on your recovery and self love,
- You find yourself skipping meals before seeing him / her
- You are constantly fishing for compliments on your appearance, and then wondering if he/she means it
- You’re threatened by the other men/women in their lives
- You find yourself canceling plans based on how much you ate that day or how your body looks
- (You feel like you can’t talk to him/her when something triggers you) this one is in parenthesis because talking about mental illness is difficult, and something few people do when they’re first getting to know someone. However, if you have been seeing him/her for awhile and things are getting serious, you should be comfortable enough to talk about your issues. If you can’t, you may be in denial
I met Jairo, who totally looooves being the subject of my blog post’s (not), the night before one of my worst ED related, body image breakdowns. We met on NYE 2015, and the next day I went on a day trip to an island in the Caribbean with my brother and sister in law. I was so obviously and painfully bloated that I refused to eat on the island, which just made things worse. Being in a bikini was literally making my skin burn from how “disgusting” I thought I looked in my mind. I ended up sobbing on the beach with my brother and basically ruining my trip.
Suffice to say, I was not anywhere near 100% recovered when Jairo and I started dating. But I was challenging myself. I was invested and committed to my recovery before I allowed myself to be committed to him. During that trip to Panama, when we met, I allowed myself to go to parties and drink despite my fear of liquid calories. I struggled with exercise addiction, but I did my best to take some days off. I went to dinner and ate plates of Mediterranean chicken at a fancy restaurant and dessert because it was included. And then the very next night I drank margaritas for my sister in law’s birthday, cleared my plate, and ate chips and guac (pictured below). I was also weight restored to within a safe range for my age and height.
All of these things were 100x more difficult and gave me exponentially more anxiety than they do now, but I was doing them. I had made a routine of challenging my fear foods, reminding myself that recovery is possible, and convincing myself that I am as beautiful as I am strong before I got involved with another person romantically.
You don’t have to love yourself first, although that is ideal, but you have to be trying to. Commit to yourself and your happiness before you consider taking someone else’s into your hands. And if at any point you feel uncomfortable in the relationship or like you need more time to focus on your well being, by all means you are not obligated to stay.
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