How Not to Eat Your Feelings When There’s Trouble in Your Relationship

You’ve had another fight with your partner and now you’re staring into the blue glow of the refrigerator. Maybe you’re not even sure why you’re standing there in the kitchen. It’s not that you want to eat your feelings, you just know that some leftover pizza or a bowl of late night cereal sounds better than dealing with the emotional strife in your relationship.

Maybe things haven’t been good between you and your partner for a while now. In the beginning, there were little annoyances, small disagreements. But when the two of you were unable to resolve them, they festered and grew.

After a while, any little thing your partner did set you off. You started to feel angry and stuck. Neither of you seems to be able to hear the other person.

It got to the point that you’re constantly unhappy. That’s when you started thinking about leaving, wondering if you would feel better about yourself.

Then, in the midst of all the relationship trouble, you realize you’ve put on twenty pounds!

Now you’re unhappy with your relationship and your appearance.

Don’t blame yourself for the tendency to eat your feelings—for many women (and some men, too) when you’re not feeling good in your relationship, it can lead to overeating. We all do it sometimes.

Really, it’s an attempt at self-care—you’re trying to do something to make yourself feel better. And chocolate cake sure makes us feel better! Temporarily.

Overeating can be a good indicator that there’s something there to address, or that you need some more self-care.

Trouble in the Relationship can Make You Want to Eat Your Feelings

Any number of relationship issues can make you want to dive into a third helping of mashed potatoes. Some of the most common themes that arise for women who are feeling unhappy in their relationships are:

When it seems like you and your partner are living separate lives even when you’re together, it leaves you feeling alone and unsupported. Sometimes, the disconnection comes from repeated tiny moments of disconnection that add up. Other times, it seems like your partner is more drawn to their hobbies or their phone than to you.

  • Stuck in a constant conflict

When it seems like every little action sparks a fight, you and your partner are caught in a cycle of conflict. You might not understand why you’re in this cycle, or feel like it would be impossible to get out of it.

Sometimes, we find ourselves taking care of our partners, or the relationship, and not taking care of ourselves. You may have looked up one day and felt lost, or unsure where your needs fit in the relationship.

Turning to Food is the Sign You Have to Take Care of Yourself

Ultimately, when you eat your feelings, it’s your unconscious mind trying to soothe you.

You feel disconnected from your partner, the person you thought you were closest to in your life. It leaves you feeling lonely and sad that you can’t turn to that person for help.

Now you have to manage these difficult feelings on your own. They’re big. They’re uncomfortable. It seems like you need something to help dull those feelings, or distract you.

It makes sense that when you feel alone you turn to food for comfort.

Conflict is Not a Bad Thing – Even if it Gives You the Urge to Eat Your Feelings Right Now

Like many of us, you may be scared of conflict. So, you want to avoid it. Your way of avoiding conflict is to turn to food and soothe your upset feelings with ice cream. It’s understandable, but to move on to more positive ways of coping and strengthen your relationship, you will need to learn to embrace conflict.

Arguments, disagreements, and disconnection serve a purpose in relationships. They help you learn to be vulnerable, to communicate your distress and your needs, and to build trust between you and your partner.

Learning to weather and resolve conflict with your partner is actually one of the best ways to gain a deeper connection.

How to Take Care of Yourself In a Healthy Way, So You Won’t Feel the Need to Eat Your Feelings

There are two dimensions to taking care of yourselves in a relationship: self-care and relationship care. Each partner needs to take care of themselves individually so that they’re available and emotionally able to help support the other partner and the relationship.

Self-care looks like surrounding yourself with supportive people and taking time to participate in activities that make you feel rejuvenated. It might also look like individual counseling to help you understand what motivates your turning to food.

Relationship care might look like simply devoting more time to each other, but often it looks a little harder than that. Caring for your connection with your partner involves emotional vulnerability and the willingness to look at painful places. It involves being willing to fully share those vulnerable places with your partner.

Seek couples counseling to have the support and guidance of a trained counselor. A trained Emotionally Focused couples therapist can help you process what triggered your emotional disconnection and help you learn how to reconnect and regain balance.

About Dr. Irena

Dr. Irena is a licensed psychologist and certified Emotionally Focused therapist. She uses the research-proven method known as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) to help couples develop and maintain emotional connection, offering online therapy for women and couples in Houston, the Woodlands, and New York City. She specializes in women’s issues and couples counseling and has helped many women like you who struggle with the urge to eat your feelings.

If you would like to schedule a session, email Dr. Irena for a free 10-minute video consultation: or call (281)-267-1742.

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