Are you or your partner currently struggling with an eating disorder? How can both people help each other support one another? What can you do as a couple to be transformed together? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about relationships and eating disorders with Dr. Kim Lampson.


Dr. Lampson's passion for helping people with eating disorders, love for doing couples therapy and joy in teaching has culminated in her partnering with The Gottman Institute to develop Gottman-RED, a new therapy for couples in which one or both partners have an eating disorder. Her interest in helping people with eating disorders developed after her own recovery from an eating disorder. She began her career with a full-time private practice for many years. Twelve years ago, she joined the faculty at Northwest University and is now professor of psychology with a part-time practice specializing in couples therapy. In addition, she is available to provide supervision, training, and/or workshops for therapists wanting to learn more about Gottman-RED. Visit Kim Lampson's website and connect on Youtube, LinkedIn, and Psychology Today.


  • Common issues that couples face
  • Misunderstanding the situation
  • Practice communication to help each other
  • Transforming as a person

Common issues that couples face

  • Sexual intimacy
  • Physical touch
  • Sharing meals
With sexual intimacy and touch, people with eating disorders may feel uncomfortable for a whole variety of reasons with their partner being with them in an intimate situation. (Dr. Lampson)
People who suffer from eating disorders often struggle with a lot of shame. If they had experienced a binging or purging session, they may withdraw from their partner and not explain why because of that feeling of shame.
Eating together can [also] be a problem … if a person restricts, suddenly [there are] a lot of foods that they’re afraid of or [are] not acceptable so the restaurants that you can go to are very limited, social eating gets awkward, and the person may refuse going out to eat. (Dr. Lampson)
Even though these may not seem like big issues, they can compound over time and can start to cause disagreements, frustration, and arguments within a relationship.

Misunderstanding the situation

Some partners may not fully understand what an eating disorder is. They may think that their partner is obsessed with becoming thinner or fitter, and cannot understand the nuances because they do not realize that it is an illness and not a habit.
[They may] not understand that it is a way to try to deal with emotional pain and that it is must deeper [than they assume] and that the person with the eating disorder is using these behaviors as a way to cope with [difficult] things in their life. (Dr. Lampson)

Practice communication to help each other

A lot of communication needs to be practiced so that the partner without the eating disorder can be empathetic and compassionate.
The partner [can] support, comfort, empathize, not judge, and not ask a lot of probing questions but be able to walk alongside the person with the eating disorder so they can maybe make a different choice in the future. (Dr. Lampson)
It can be difficult, but the person who’s struggling with the eating disorder needs to commit to being open about it as much as they can with their partner to help them understand what they go through. Then, their partner can practice genuine empathy and compassion and give them true support because they understand what’s going on. Clear and kind communication between both people is essential and healing.
The important thing is [that] people can talk about that and figure out how they’re going to work with that and work on it together. (Dr. Lampson)

Transforming as a person

Going through the eating disorder recovery process is significant enough that it can transform a person. They will have gone through issues, learned new ways to cope with difficult things, and will have different approaches to life. Both people need to be aware of this, as it may change some of the dynamics within their relationship. To make the best of the situation and to maximize the benefits, couples need to talk about what may happen after recovery and how they can plan to strengthen their relationship after they have both changed for the better.



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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