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Veganism was a problem, then not a problem.... now it is again ... any ideas?

Hello everyone!  This is my very first post.  I did read other conversations related to vegan/nonvegan mixed relationships and some of it has been insightful -- especially in learning that other people go through what I go through.  Here is my story, as it has been panning out lately:

I was always a vegetarian, but became vegan after becoming engaged to my fiance.  Funny enough, in trying to lose weight for my wedding, I read Skinny Bitch.  ;D That was an instant removal of the proverbial wool over my eyes, with regards to eggs and dairy.  At first it was an issue between us and we had some fights about it.  I cleared out my fridge and cupboards, and then began cooking all vegan meals.  Eventually, he realized there was a lot of tasty food available, and we both were losing weight.  In fact, we were both in the best shape of our lives when we got married.  He eats vegan almost all week because I am the one making the food and because he does appreciate the nutritional value.  He eats meat when over a friend/family's house or at restaurants.

The issue has been family and the fact that people do not come over for dinner at our house because of my veganism (or so he believes).  Most specifically it is in regards to his parents.  I gave up inviting them to dinner about a year and half ago because they were evasive about it -- they always seemed to be "busy" or said "why don't you come here instead?"  Lately, however, my husband is revisiting this issue because he knows his brother who lives a mile away from us has the parents over all the time for dinner.  It hurts my husband that his own parents have not accepted our invitations.  Granted, it has been a while since either one of us bothered trying, but my husband has turned his anger about this on me now.  He wants to have them over and serve them meat because he "lives in this house too" and is "not a vegan."

I tried very hard yesterday to use some non-violent communication strategies and really hear him out.  I didn't say a word for almost an hour, just listening, asking questions to get more insight, and repeating back to him what I thought he meant -- until I understood.  I learned some fascinating things, like the fact that he really seems concerned about pleasing his parents and worries about what they think of him (that could be an issue in and of itself).  And most significantly, he is tired of being "the middle man" torn between what his parents think and say and what I think and say about veganism, food, etiquette, what's wrong and right within a family, etc.

But, when I asked him to please hear me out, I did not get the same response.  He wasn't really listening, and just worried about what he wanted to say next.  I wanted to communicate to him that I deal with the death that meat-eating symbolizes every day at every restaurant we go to, every family event, and even every grocery store I must shop at.  My home is my only place away from all that and I'd like to keep it that way.  I know that when I am out for a girls night he cooks up hot dogs and has beer with his buddies.  But if he has his parents over, and I am going to be there, I don't want the meat there.  I tried telling him that what I see through my eyes is a corpse on my dining room table and my dinner plates.  I even compared it to the day we saw a whole pig roasted (pigs are the one animal he won't eat for ethical reasons) in which he remembers being grossed out. 

Wow, my post is getting really long.  Sorry.  Ok, let me wrap it up.  Putting aside the obvious issues he has with worrying what other people think, etc., I am actually thinking of confronting his parents about this problem.  I want to know, once and for all, are they avoiding my house because of me? my diet?  the lack of meat? or some simple misunderstanding?  Is this really a problem or is my husband simply assuming that's why they won't come?  If my husband is tired of being the middle man, should I step up and talk about this directly with my in-laws?  Should I tell them to direct any complaints or questions about veganism to me?  Should I admit to them that this is upsetting their son and causing us to fight a lot?  Should I tell them to butt out?  Should I admit to them that the reason we haven't produced any grandkids yet is because my husband worries so much about what to tell the family when I inevitably raise them vegan?  Should I tell them exactly what it is I see when I see meat on the table?  Should I tell them how much it hurts my husband that they don't come over?  Should I tell them we (or more specifically I) feel rejected and not a part of the family because of this? 

This is a real mystery to me.  I have said to my husband, I'll cook anything they like in the vegetable realm -- let's at least give it a try, but he seems so convinced that they won't be happy -- even though he can't (or won't?) tell me of any specific past event in which anyone complained about my food (I bring food and desserts to other people's houses all the time), or specifically said they wouldn't eat at my house.  What he believes, and vaguely led on to imply that one of his parents said this, is that because his parents accommodate me at their house, I should accommodate them at my house.  I don't think that is fair, and both he and his parents don't understand the accommodation concept -- I mean, if they accommodate me by supplying food that doesn't upset me, why would I accommodate them precisely with the food that upsets me?  If it worked like that then the food wouldn't be upsetting enough in the first place.

Has anyone else dealt with in-laws or other family and friends who don't want to come over?  I really could use some advice!  :-\  Thank you. 

Hi maryveggie!

I know I'm not the right person to reply to your post (I'm a newbie veg), but I just feel so bad for your situation.
If it were me, I would confront the in-laws and find out what the problem is.
Some people actually seem to be afraid of vegan food. I can't understand it.

I'm sorry but I'm really crap at giving people advice. But it sounds like you need a hug.
*hugs*  :)
I hope somebody else replies soon that can actually help you out.
Wishing you luck.

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I agree.  They need to know how hurt their son is that they don't come there.  I would be hurt too, especially since they go to his brothers home frequently.  The problem really isn't your fault.  They could stand to be more open minded for the both of you.

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Thank you guys! I appreciate your understanding.  I am going to talk to them, in fact my husband likes the idea (he's fed up with being in the middle all the time).  I just hope I have the right words to say!

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how much has your husband talked to them? honestly, it sounds like he hasn't at all. he obviously needs to accept that you would like to feed them vegan before he tries to convince them that eating vegan for one night is a good idea/won't kill them. I understand that he wants to impress his parents... but good lord... they are his PARENTS, he should be able to talk to them about what he does/believes in, which i assume he believes in letting you have a vegan house, since he respects that. He needs to explain that to them and explain what a delicious meal you would love to prepare for them and how much it would mean for him to have them accept the person that he loves for what she does. I know it's not HIS diet, HIS idea, etc. etc., but he has to be accepting enough of your diet to fight for it, if that makes sense.

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I take issue with the "accommodation" thing.  Them accommodating you by having vegan food available (I assume they don't forgo the meat for themselves when you're at their home) is not the same as you accommodating them by serving meat.  That's like me expecting someone who is morally against alcohol to serve me beer in their home because I was "accommodating" enough to serve them coffee at my house.  Or expecting a person who keeps kosher to serve you bacon at brunch because just because you like it.

Believe it or not, for the sake of socialization, people can endure the occasional meal that doesn't satisfy all of their gustatory desires.  Proof of this is the number of times I've made a meal of salad and french fries when dining out with friends.  Sometimes people just need to suck it up!

End rant.  Begin advice:

Why not try inviting them over for an activity that doesn't revolve around a meal?  For example, game night or movie night, or even just a visit.  That way, you can serve snacks that nobody will notice are vegan: popcorn, chips and salsa, tea and cookies, etc.

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Why not try inviting them over for an activity that doesn't revolve around a meal?  For example, game night or movie night, or even just a visit.  That way, you can serve snacks that nobody will notice are vegan: popcorn, chips and salsa, tea and cookies, etc.

I like this.

Here's another possible idea: this is not a food issue.

It sounds like there is more going on than what food people do or don't put on their plates... food issues may be the context in which the problem is expressed, but NOT the problem itself, if that makes sense. Possible root causes: hubby has problems asserting himself with his parents/ playing the role of an adult vs child with them; hubby has ambiguous feelings about the kind of person he himself wants to be; the inlaws feel intimidated by anything different than their own world view; inlaws feel the need to exert control over their son &/or you; they & hubby have undealt-with problems between them, making companionship awkward, and diet stuff is a convenient excuse; or maybe hubby has a lingering difficulty with someone close to him making her own choices vs saying 'yes dear you're right' -- a lot of boys as well as girls soak up stupid gender crap, growing up in a society that tells people how they should or shouldn't act based on genitalia...

But anyway, my guess is that something is up that is NOT about food -- otherwise, I think your attempts to be heard by your hub wouldn't have met with that kind of resistance. So, keep up the good listening skills, and by all means talk to them directly in a friendly way about it. But don't be pressed into doing something you're not comfortable with, or it will end up causing MORE problems between all of you in the long run.

My inlaws' peeve with me was religion; at first I tried (against my better judgment!) to humor them a little, & went as a guest to their church a couple times 'just to be nice' & not offend them... guess what?! that was *terrible* for my relationship with them, and I resented the hell out of my hub for asking me to do it. Said, ok, you know what, that's not for me; I will never be comfortable with that, and won't pretend to be. Over the years it has come up less and less, and now they just let it lie and we get along fine. I don't flex on food prep either -- cook decides the menu, dammit! I feel that very strongly -- but if they want to bring something for themselves (like I do to dinner at their house), I'm ok with it... mostly we go to restaurants (that I've pre-screened, of course!) except at holidays & such... that seems to work out ok, and no one has to clean up!

I don't know if any of that is helpful... but I don't believe that parents typically avoid their own children just because of the prospective menu. Keep working on it in a friendly way; keep an eye open to what emotions might be contributing to the situation; and be true to yourself. I bet in time you'll be able to sort it out... and if not... well, at least you're not plagued by frequent visits from bossy inlaws, lol! (just kidding... mostly.)

;)

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wow that's totally crappy! and to be so against eating vegan food or just healthy food in general is ridiculous i really don't get peoples obsession with stuffing flesh in their faces for every meal!

if your husbands parents don't come over for dinner well i think that's just plain rude, crap i do a lot of things i don't want to do to make family members happy, that's how family is supposed to be...

i totally agree with the awesome idea of starting off with non food related activities... then just make some amazing vegan dip and i bet they will be like "hey that's pretty good!" i recommend making a 7 layer dip off vegweb...

i am so amazed at your ability to stick to your ethics! but i think we live in a non vegan world so unfortunately we as vegans have to see people stuffing dead animals in their faces all day... so maybe relaxing a bit on what others eat might help... i definitely agree with you on not letting meat anywhere near my house or kitchen, i am the same way... but when i am eating elsewhere i just deal with it

geese i wish i could just give u a hug... your husband seems to be lacking some confidence in himself, why is he so obsessed with pleasing others?

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Thank you all again!  I have an update:

I actually went to speak to the in-laws, which brought about good news/bad news, and even affirms some of the problems mentioned in hotcooknmama's post, and other people's posts.

On the one hand, my husband was actually really happy I did this (shock!) and completely changed his attitude.  I think it was a big relief to him that he didn't have to mediate anything.

On the other hand, the in-laws are not on board at all with my diet or desire to keep my house vegan, but at least they clarified that they were not avoiding our house because of my vegan food (that was all in my husband's imagination); they simply have not been invited.  But even they agree and admit that my husband is way too concerned with pleasing them -- they don't want to control him or me, they do want us to live our own lives.  The self-conscious eager-to-please thing is just my  husband's problem.  In addition, I am seeing my husband struggle with his own ambiguous feelings about who he wants to be, as hotcooknmama said, he's already given up veal and pork out of compassion, and does agree with me 100% on all health benefits of a plant-based diet (unlike the parents who don't believe it at all).  He just says he doesn't think he could go all the way.  My inlaws however, are definitely threatened and intimidated by my world view which is so different than theirs.  They were getting very worked up over even the simplest things I said -- like when I told them my future kids would be vegan, based on hundreds of hours of research -- one of them made a comment about how they raised their kids just fine and healthy.  Very edgy -- after reading Carol Adams' Living Among Meat Eaters, I can see that this instant defensive reaction does mean they don't want to unblock the worldview they are comfortable believing.  My presence alone, and even the most subtle thing makes them SUPER self-conscious because there probably is a burning question inside of them.  They think I'm trying to convert them, even when I say nothing at all.  On the other hand, between my husband and I, we have two brothers in the family that are hard core meat eaters, don't agree with me at all, but never act so defensive and self-conscious about me supposedly judging them.  They will just say "whatever" and chow down on a hot dog. 

So I came to the following conclusion...  I'm not going to win the battle of having a meat-free house any time soon.  The in-laws asked if they can bring their own, and I said I'm not going to like it, be comfortable with it, or feel it's necessary, but I won't stop them.  I clarified that the smell and the sights make me uncomfortable and I won't be happy -- to which they say I should "get used to dealing with it" because we live in a non-vegan world.  I did say that in this non-vegan world I deal with every day, I would like to have one place (home) where I need not worry about it.  They said that it's not just my home -- a non vegan lives there too (my husband).

So it comes back full circle to the two of us.  And I know the drama of this terrible argument pushes my husband further away from veganism.  If I ever want him to make more compassionate choices and expand on his "don't eat" list, there cannot ever be conflict. 

So my new, secret, covert mission is to wait.  The outdoor grill is his if he chooses to cook something for friends or family, and his parents can bring their own meat.  In exchange, I asked that the meat be kept to a minimum so that my vegan meals can be the majority of everyone's meal.  Furthermore, he is never to discuss any personal issues between us, or seek out advice from his parents, in an effort to please them.  However, I told him if we ever have kids, this issue will be reopened.  By then, hopefully, we'll have had more events/dinners in which we can wean people off the meat (at my house).  And hopefully, he'll have stronger feelings about his own ethics and maybe even decide to give it up himself, or at least be more compelled to protect me or possible confused children from it.  If not, maybe we'll just fight again, who knows  :-\ . 

It's a lot of speculation, I know, but he even said so himself that the best way to bring people to your level is to go down to theirs and bring them up.  He said this when proposing the idea of having meat in addition to my food so that people come to us, but end up trying something new and liking it more than the meat.  While I'm not totally comfortable with the idea of continuing to sacrifice animals in hopes that people will see our way, I do at least like the fact that he seems to have the plan that people would eventually eat my food and one day "forget" that there's no meat.

We shall see.  Thank you everyone again for your ideas.  It's helped me, and I hope it helps other people with this problems who may also read this thread.

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However, I told him if we ever have kids, this issue will be reopened.  

Hmmm... or maybe, "If we ever have kids, this issue will be CLOSED!"

As in, "Any fetus *I* gestate will be fed how I want until he/she is old enough to give 'informed consent' otherwise (at least 8-10 years)... you disagree? ok then; YOU (or your parents!) gestate it... and we'll feed that child whatever you want."

;)

The bottom line may come to be this: if someone loves you, and this really stresses you out, and they KNOW that and continue to do it, in the absence of any reason other than that they want to... well, that can ONLY be bad for your relationship! If your inlaws DON'T want to be a close part of your lives (or their grandkids'!), this is an excellent way to go about it...

It sounds like your hubby, tho, may be on a good path -- yay! -- boys are just slower sometimes, maybe he'll get there. If 'full conversion' is slow, or stalls out, hopefully he will at least get to the point where he can say, "Well mom, I don't care if you agree or not; this makes my wife happy, and there's no good reason NOT to do it, so we're doin' it. The end. Our kids are vegan 'til they're old enough to decide for themselves; now back off."

Trying out a compromise is a good way to extend an olive branch; but only if it doesn't make you hate them! Be sure to keep speaking what you mean, and doing what YOU decided. It sounds like things are better than they were before...continued mutual understanding may improve with time... just... you know... maybe double up on birth control just for a bit, til you've got 'em all straightened out! (lol)

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i agree with the above post :)

i am glad you got all this off your chest... i think your husband can be persuaded if you feel like doing so...

have you got him to watch any movies kinda geared towards veganism?

- food inc kinda just shocks omnivores in general but doesn't really support an animal free diet

- eating 3rd edition persuaded my BF, it is a really informational video on the health aspects of being vegan (this also persuaded almost everyone i showed it to to at least drastically cut back on meat and dairy)

if your husband is sensitive towards animal rights and suffering "meet your meat" and videos on the MFA blogs are also wonderful and free!

good luck i know this is hard... my veganism is almost as important as religion to me... i would never have kids if my husband would not let me raise them vegan... thank god me and my BF have already agreed to this prior to marriage

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- eating 3rd edition persuaded my BF, it is a really informational video on the health aspects of being vegan (this also persuaded almost everyone i showed it to to at least drastically cut back on meat and dairy)

Don't laugh... but I actually keep a copy of this video in my handbag, to whip out on those (somewhat rare) occasions when a curious omni seems receptive-vs-combative about veg stuff... if they don't change over, omni viewers will at least understand some of the reasons why food issues are important to you! highly recommended!

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- eating 3rd edition persuaded my BF, it is a really informational video on the health aspects of being vegan (this also persuaded almost everyone i showed it to to at least drastically cut back on meat and dairy)

Don't laugh... but I actually keep a copy of this video in my handbag, to whip out on those (somewhat rare) occasions when a curious omni seems receptive-vs-combative about veg stuff... if they don't change over, omni viewers will at least understand some of the reasons why food issues are important to you! highly recommended!

i won't laugh! i actually own a few copies myself, such an amazing video!

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