It is yet another stormy, rainy day of sitting on the couch waiting for my body to heal itself. After reading all morning, then delving half-heartedly into creating custom icons for my computer applications, building a new house on The Sims 4…..I decided now is as good a time as any to write the post on how going vegan affected my relationship. I normally don’t put marital conflicts out there for all to see since I believe we should maintain a united front to the rest of the world–we are, after all, our own best friends and partners in life. But, maybe this is not an uncommon thing for people who transition to vegan while in previously established relationships. Maybe this post can give some type of insight to someone else, or just reassure them that they aren’t the only one whose significant other went a little mental over suddenly being with a vegan.
I was actually surprised by the struggle that occurred because of a simple diet change on my part–I had already been vegetarian for several years, and it was the logical progression as I learned more about the dairy and egg industries. It didn’t even seem to be that much of a change for me, aside from ordering differently in restaurants and cutting out the egg pasta and cheese.
At first, my husband just didn’t take me seriously when I said I was no longer eating cheese, eggs, etc. He would cook giant pots of fettucine alfredo and make a point of serving me a huge bowl. An acquaintance would comment on my meals (it always happens) and when I would say “I’m vegan,” he’d cut in and insist “No, she’s vegetarian.”
Then, he started getting defensive when I would offer the boys a part of my meal at dinner time. If we were having, again, pasta with alfredo sauce, I would serve them a little scoop of my pasta with cauliflower “alfredo” sauce. Not a big deal, right? A little nudge to try new healthy things. He would scowl and pout and make rude comments under his breath that the food wasn’t good enough for me, or the kids didn’t need to eat that shit, etc. This, I ignored….I mean, honestly, a lot of men (and women) would probably be a little doubtful of cauliflower pasta sauce at first.
I should add at this point that I would never force my beliefs or opinions onto my children. I have never “made” them eat vegetarian or vegan meals. A lot of times, they do ask for vegan foods, but I don’t give them a guilt trip or refuse them if they ask for a ham sandwich or anything. I just make sure the option is there if they are interested. Which is why the next progression of marital discord completely threw me off guard…
I had found Daiya cheese and Earth Balance buttery spread….here, in Italy! Of course I bought some. Now I could make cheesy casseroles, have buttered toast…I was pretty excited when I brought the groceries home. My husband saw the Daiya and Earth Balance, along with two little cartons of almond and coconut milk, and something in him just snapped.
He started carrying on about how I was making the grocery bill so much more expensive, and that it was all a waste of money because I was the only one who would touch “that stuff.” Then he yelled at me for “forcing my beliefs on others” and “making the kids eat” vegan foods. I was also accused of just not wanting to eat with the family anymore, since I just cooked separate meals for myself. It was, altogether, a very hurtful and shockingly loud discourse that was really unwarranted.
Naturally, my rational mind–which would have been perfectly capable of calmly debunking and explaining these accusations away–was out for a soy chai latte. The irrational, hurt and offended part of me took over with a vengeance and I yelled right back. Never the best idea, since it’s always just like yelling at a brick wall.
That really wasn’t productive; in fact, it made things worse, and we didn’t speak for several days.
Eventually, I approached armed with reason and explained that our grocery bill was about $10 higher from the plant milks and “butter” (I only buy the Daiya on occasion, since I don’t cook many meals that need “cheese”). We are quite well off and $10 or even more is not going to break the bank. (I couldn’t help but add that if he were concerned about saving money on food, he might like to try not buying four gallons of cow’s milk, twice a week.) Vegan food options are not expensive–in fact, most of my diet is bulk grains and beans, and fresh produce. You literally cannot get any cheaper than that and be eating real food. The only time vegan food gets pricey is in the frozen section–pre-made meals. But isn’t that true of all foods? How much are those P.F. Changs’ chicken packets? I explained (needlessly, one would think) that I had never forced the kids to eat anything they didn’t want to eat (except their veggies before popsicles of course). And finally, I reminded him that I cook for the whole family–I just make a small separate entree for myself if I want something more than the “side dishes.”
He grumbled and said “whatever” a lot. It took a long time before he acknowledged that I was following a vegan diet. He still won’t try most of my veganized traditional dishes, and still insists that no one wants me to bring food to a BBQ. But he’s coming along.
While I was in hospital, they said I’d need to eat before I was allowed to leave. He immediately told the nurses he would need to go get food for me that I could eat.
He makes vegan pancakes on weekends–first just for me, but now he makes the entire batch vegan for everyone.
He got up and left a restaurant in Barcelona because he didn’t see anything on the menu that would be a “good” meal for me (I didn’t want to make a fuss, but really he had a point).
I doubt he will ever become a vegan himself, but at least he is becoming more accepting and understanding of the lifestyle. It has taken months, but I have my husband back.
Maybe some people would wonder why, with the strain it caused my relationship, wouldn’t I just say fuck it and go back to vegetarianism or even eating meat. It certainly would have diffused the situation, but at what cost? For me, I cannot go back. I cannot pretend that I don’t know what I know…I can’t un-see the footage I watched. And I couldn’t live with myself if I knowingly perpetuated the problem.
So yeah, I could have just backed off and said, “Wait, never mind guys, I changed my mind. Y’all don’t like this, so I’m not going to stand up for what’s right.”
But then what kind of person would I be? What kind of example would that be setting for my kids?