Taft writing here. What’s it like being married to someone with celiac disease?
Well, that depends. Each gluten-free situation is a little bit different. Here are six aspects of my experience being the non-celiac spouse so far.
- I choose to eat gluten free in our home. While many celiacs live in shared “gluten/non-gluten” households, for our family, it’s simply easier knowing that there is no gluten, period. No wheat flour, no Ritz crackers, no brownie mixes. Except the GF (gluten-free) brownie mixes, of course. There are multiple advantages to this, but two key ones in my mind are 1) I don’t need to worry about keeping track of gluten/non-gluten utensils, and 2) I can eat anything in the house without worrying about whether it might make Heidi sick if I kiss her. (Yes, even a gluten-contaminated kiss can hurt a celiac.) If I happen to eat out without Heidi, I may order something with gluten, but those instances are few and far between.
- Overall, I’m a healthier eater. Living on a GF diet doesn’t guarantee healthier eating, of course. If you gorge yourself on GF cupcakes, Nutella, and Dr. Pepper, you’re still going to be unhealthy. Since eating GF requires reading labels carefully, however, it’s helped us determine which foods are actually good for us. An added bonus is that many GF products are also made with organic ingredients, and often with less (or natural) sugar. And, of course, I’m doing things like completing an elimination diet with Heidi, which can’t hurt!
- Socializing over food is…sometimes tricky. We’re still comparatively new to the GF world, but eating GF does change your social eating life. Our first GF holiday was Thanksgiving; instead of the usual fixings, we had GF waffles with Heidi’s family. (We were still so new to living with celiac that trying to create a traditional Thanksgiving meal was too stressful!) Even things like popcorn can have gluten contamination, so something simple, like a movie night with friends, requires more thought. Don’t get me wrong—it’s very possible to eat with friends and family and still be free of gluten, but there is a learning curve.
- Occasional “we can do this” pep talks are necessary. Some celiac individuals have no cravings for gluten foods once they stop eating them. Many, perhaps most, however, are going to miss their favorite gluten foods for months or years into a GF lifestyle. For me, that means that when Heidi needs a chance to rant about how much she wants Ghirardelli brownies again, I listen, and then say, “It’s not easy being gluten free, is it? But, we can do this. We’ve got this.” And during our time on the Whole30, we’ve both needed pep talks!
- “Date Nights” require more thought. This is both a pro and a con. With celiac disease, you can’t just walk into your local restaurant and order a cob salad. (For one thing, a fruit salad tastes so much better.) First you have to find out if the dressing is gluten free, if the establishment has a GF policy in place, confirm that a careless waitress didn’t accidentally add croutons…you get the idea. While many restaurants are starting to offer GF menus, it’s sometimes simpler to make a special homemade meal, light a couple candles, and “eat out” at home. (And this way we get to choose our own background music.) We’ve also ended up going on more dates that don’t involve food: buying and building a LEGO set together is surprisingly fun!
- Every day, I’m reminded how great it is to have a happy, healthy spouse. When there’s no gluten to give her stomach cramps, interrupt her sleeping pattern, or mess with her emotional state, Heidi is AWESOME to be with!
Having a spouse with celiac disease isn’t easy on either party, but for us, it’s a challenge that helped make a good marriage a little bit better. Together, our future—without gluten—looks pretty fantastic.