This man noticed that his girlfriend would freeze every time they went to a restaurant. But then he learned what was really going on…
My girlfriend Ellie and I have been together 6 months now. She’s smart, driven, funny and beautiful, and we’re very happy together. There’s only one thing about our relationship that I’m confused about.
Ellie really doesn’t like going to restaurants. She’ll agree to go to one when she’s hungry, get excited about choosing a place and what to eat, but when we get there she clams up and gets very nervous. She rarely finishes any of the food we’ve ordered (we usually share lots of sides so we get a selection), and says she “doesn’t know why she’s so full now”.
When we’re together in other places she can talk for England, and I’m always having people telling me how funny and confident she is. But in restaurants Ell goes so quiet. I’ve asked her about it and at the time she says “I dunno, I just feel a bit weird, sorry, not hungry, I don’t know why” and afterwards when she’s perked up she’ll mention how she’s now hungry and wishes she had eaten it all, and laugh about how weird she was acting.
A bit of background:
– Ellie worked in restaurants and bars as teenagers and in her earlier 20s (doesn’t anymore) so she’s not unfamiliar to the environment.
– She’s never nervous like this when we go to a pub or bar or for an active date like bowling or going running.
– She’s an amazing cook and baker and eats plenty at home (I’ve never seen a girl put away a steak like she does before).
– When we were first dating we went out and she had what she calls “a very very mild placebo anxiety attack”. She went to a doctor two years ago for anxiety after her father passed away, and she doesn’t suffer anymore, but we went to lunch when we were both very, very hungover. She said during the meal she started feeling what she first thought was anxiety (heart rate increase, sweating, dizzy, not feeling right in herself) but was actually just her hangover. But by that point, she already had to go calm down. She was fine after a brief walk in the fresh air and 10 minutes.
I’m not great at hiding my feelings or lying, and Ellie knew something was up with me. She told me immediately she could tell something was up, and I just needed to come out and tell her. I started off by telling her I loved her and I didn’t want to upset her. She makes jokes when she’s nervous, and she laughed and told me if I’d cheated I’d better start running.
I told her that I’d noticed her issue with restaurants, and while it didn’t matter to me in the slightest, I wanted to know what the deal was because she obviously doesn’t feel entirely comfortable in restaurants with me. I told her I just wanted to understand what was going on, so I could avoid making her uncomfortable in the future, and if she didn’t want to tell me it was fine.
She went quiet for a while, not upset, just thinking. She said she was willing to tell me but it was hard to articulate because she didn’t exactly understand it herself.
She said she did get anxiety in restaurants. Shortly after her father passed she had an anxiety attack and had to leave all her friends during a meal and maybe subconsciously she is reminded of that during meals out. She said she has no issue with people watching her eat, but she often loses her appetite in a restaurant.
She talked about it with me for over an hour and it all made a lot of sense. I asked her (very gently) if she had any issues with food or eating etc (I was opening up the conversation to eating disorders, but allowing her to not discuss it also). She was very open and this was the gist:
– Ellie’s father died two years ago. It was sudden and really tragic and due to a lot of problems he had, they hadn’t spoken in over a year when he passed (I knew all this before).
– A little while after his funeral she got very severe anxiety and for several months could barely sleep, and couldn’t eat. Everything she ate she threw up.
During that time Ellie got very very thin. She’s always been in good shape and was never self-conscious, but became very thin. She would throw up most days, involuntarily. She never made herself sick.
– She felt really depressed and anxious but couldn’t help liking her slim figure (she said it was probably because it was the only positive aspect in her life at that time). She got really really scared this could develop into bulimia and went to see a doctor.
– She went on anti-anxiety meds (I didn’t know this) and learned how to cope with it. She hasn’t been on the meds for over a year. She has never seen a therapist about her dad’s death but admits she should.
We’re going to start doing dates that involve activities more, and get fast food and snacks rather than whole meals. I’m glad Ellie told me all this and I hope I can help her feel better.
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