Dear Carolyn: I have been dating a smart, funny, interesting, handsome, caring man for eight months. I could see myself sharing a life with this guy … except for one thing.
As far as I can tell, my boyfriend is gluten-free by choice: He has never been diagnosed with celiac disease. He argues that cutting out gluten from his life put an end to his stomach upsets. To his credit, he is flexible about his dietary choices; for example, he doesn’t demand that we go to restaurants that have a gluten-free menu.
The reason his gluten-free lifestyle troubles me so much, besides the logistical problems his diet might pose if we ever live together, is that I do have serious dietary restrictions. I am on medication due to a heart condition and have to monitor my intake of foods that interfere with the medication. I hate not being able to eat with the same freedom I enjoyed before, and I am resentful of anyone who I perceive makes up a health condition or adheres to dietary restrictions that seem unnecessary.
I want this relationship to move forward, but I am finding it really difficult to move past the gluten-free issue. Am I being irrational? What should I do?
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If he were resentful of anyone who declared that health issues handled outside a doctor’s office are “made up,” I’d back him completely.
We’re the ones who live in our bodies, and we’re the ones who eat or don’t eat certain foods. Why can’t we be treated as experts in how our own bodies feel after eating said foods? I haven’t had red wine in years — not because a doctor told me not to, but because my headaches did. I wouldn’t appreciate having someone point out that my way of dealing with this wasn’t valid without a formal diagnosis.
I’d get over that pretty quickly, though. What would stick with me is bemusement that someone even cares what I choose to eat or drink, or not, or why — especially when I’m not killing myself or others with my choices, and when I’m careful not to inconvenience anyone else.
It’s a deal-breaker if he prioritizes his belly upset over your heart condition, of course. And, if he resists, questions, minimizes or undermines your diet restrictions — ahem — then he nominates himself for the “do not date” list. Same goes if he uses his own circumstances as the sole lens through which he judges others. [Ahem.]
Sometimes, too, people use food fussiness as a means of calling attention to themselves. Any of these could explain why someone’s choices get under your skin.
When people merely find what works for them, however? We owe them respect. Even if you think their adaptation is a mere hangnail compared with yours.
So if he’s genuinely decent, your inability to get past this would be worth a good think. What’s going on in your own mind — and sense of justice? — to make you care so much whether he eats a roll? Is your resentment perhaps valid, but misplaced on him?
With any luck, your inventory will unveil the senselessness of pushing a smart, funny, handsome, caring person out of your life for an eating regimen that you go out of your way to note he isn’t rigid about.
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