When Your Spouse Has A Food Intolerance

Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!

I, Tom, don't have any food intolerances, but my food world has been turned upside down because Ashley is soy intolerant. Having a spouse with a food intolerance is an interesting spot to be in. While the way I approach food has been completely overhauled (and I appreciate that it has been), I don't have anything requiring me to eat a specific way. Here are a couple interesting things that have happened that I never considered before we started eating soy-free.

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IMAGE VIA PIXABAY

  • I became the soy-vacuum in our life. Whenever we get food that has soy in it, I am the one to eat it. If our neighbors bring over chocolate chip cookies, I get to (have to?) eat all of them. This never occurred to me ahead of time, but it is actually important that I eat food with soy in it. We would feel so uncomfortable if we threw away the cookies our neighbors brought over just because they had soy. Instead, I am able to eat them and we can honestly tell our neighbors that we enjoyed them. Because I can eat soy, Ashley feels comfortable accepting food from others that she can't eat because she knows that she can always say that she will bring it home for me. (This can cause some frustrations for both of us, since I am not held to the same food restrictions Ashley is.)
  • We share the load of researching food. I've learned all about food intolerances (especially soy). When we go out to eat, or are going to try a new food, we both do research. Even if I plan to order a meal that contains soy, I help Ashley research meals that are soy-free. Since we are both knowledgeable about soy-free foods, Ashley and I can have discussions about what is safe to eat and what she needs to avoid. We really are a team when it comes to finding and selecting soy-free food.
  • We don't really share the burden of asking about food. I would like to change this, but it can be complicated. When we need to ask if a food contains soy (at a restaurant or a friend's house), Ashley is almost always the one to ask. I wish I could help more here, but we both feel it is really really awkward if I ask about food on her behalf when she is sitting right there (it's like she can't speak for herself). In situations where is isn't super awkward (i.e., we trade off who calls a restaurant to ask about ingredients) I do try to ask about food so we can have a quick "huddle" about what is safe to eat if necessary.
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  • Both of our eating habits have been affected--and I like eating in a way that avoids soy. I really enjoy the foods that we eat together. I think changing our diet/lifestyle to avoid soy has resulted in both of us eating better quality foods.
  • There are some days when Ashley just doesn't feel well. I have to be present with her on these days and help her as best as I can. When she isn't feeling well, I need to recognize that her food intolerance is a legitimate reason to feel bad. Sometimes having a food intolerance can be isolating. Since it isn't very visible (and the symptoms may not be visible), it can be challenging for Ashley to think that other people believe her when she says she feels bad. I need to be the person who always believes her (and who she knows will always believe her).
  • Since I am not restricted to avoiding soy, going out to eat is way easier for me than for Ashley. This can easily cause frustration between us, and I need to be mindful of the challenges that she faces in selecting a meal. One of the practices that we've adopted to help with this is to discuss soy-free options on the menu. By talking it over together, we feel like more of a team and less like it is only Ashley's problem.
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IMAGE VIA PIXABAY

I never anticipated that I would have a spouse with a food intolerance, or what that would entail. While it can seem challenging from the outside, and it can restrict some of our actives (we aren't going to eat Korean food in NYC for awhile), it has never felt limiting and we are always able to find a common ground between us.