VWPA Advice #014 My Vegan Husband Started Eating Meat
My Husband Decided to Stop Being Vegan
When my husband and I got married, we were both ethical vegans and bonded around our shared ethical convictions. Recently, he decided he’s “going back” to meat and has done so with gusto. Over the years, we had so many heartfelt discussions about why we don’t eat animals based on our belief that it’s wrong to kill animals for food and that we don’t want animals harmed for any reason. Now I feel duped, and seeing meat in our fridge hurts.
Another issue: my husband’s not working, so it’s “my” money that is being used to purchase animal products, which I find abhorrent. How can the person I love, who used to share the same beliefs as me, not see how obviously wrong his actions are?
What do I do!? Do principles trump love?
Disclaimer: We pulled this question from a Vegansaurus post, who pulled it from The Washington Post, where the advice columnist Carolyn Hax gave a shitty and lazy answer to this question four years ago. We thought it was an intriguing and difficult question, and so decided to answer it ourselves. That poor woman.
Oh my my my. This is basically my worst nightmare – finally committing myself to someone contractually and then having them change on me. I know, in my heart, I could not live with a meat-eater, so for me this would be grounds for divorce. However, I know that’s not a helpful answer so I’ll break down this problem into smaller, more manageable pieces:
Paying for Meat. Hell to the no. NO. This is clear cut. Tell your husband that you don’t want your money going towards purchasing animal products. Bottom line, end of story, full stop. If he balks or argues, remind him that he knows exactly why you don’t support eating animal products and that it is offensive for him to think it’s ok to spend your money on those items. It is rude, and weirdly aggressive. Like he’s trying to wave his meat-eating in your face.
You don’t say why he isn’t working – layed off, disabled, fired, looking for a new career, unhappy in his last one, in between entrepreneurial endeavors, etc. – but maybe being unemployed is fucking with his self-esteem and identity, and this is his misguided way of rebelling against that? Whatever it is, you tell him that when he has his own income again, he’s able to do with it what he wants, but that you refuse to allow your income to be spent purchasing cruel items.
The danger here is that this will bruise his ego even further, and that is a legitimate concern. I was unemployed for a time and my lack of income grated on me 24/7. I had to depend on the kindness of people who weren’t so kind; it was the lowest I’ve ever been in my life. Still, more than a decade later, those dark days loom large in my mind. I remember planning out how to live in my car, things were that bad. In those days, being judged for everything I did, everything I bought, every job I applied for, every activity I did in my spare time, wore me down to a little raw nub.
However. I, at no point, thought it was ok to flagrantly disrespect the values of the people helping me. I made some missteps, due mostly to being young and having an abusive boyfriend at the time, but I understood that a person’s home is sacred space, and if they were allowing me to be in their home with them, I had to obey their rules and values.
Your situation is of course different because you two are both adults, you are married, which means you are partners. But I strongly feel that him spending your money on items you don’t approve of it absolutely disrespectful and needs to stop right this minute. Talk to him about this firmly, but respectfully. Don’t try to make him feel ashamed that he doesn’t have a job, but do be clear that your income is not to be used towards carnist purchases. When you both have incomes, he can keep a checking account for himself to use at his discretion.
Remind him that, to you, him using your money to buy meat is no different than him using your money to support Neo-Nazis, or help fund genocide in Darfur. Not cool, dude.
Meat in the house. Here’s where you could compromise, or you could draw the line. This is trickier, because this starts to get into “what will you accept in your relationship” territory. My house has a strict “no animal product” rule. Nothing comes in. This is understood early on in my relationships. I also make it very clear, that if I am ever to combine households with someone, this rule still applies and it is non-negotiable. However, I have friends who have carnist partners, and they have compromises that work for them. Some allow anything in the house and just try to ignore it. Some allow only certain items – say, dairy is ok but no meat – and are ok with that. Neither of those situations would fly with me, so your first step here is to be honest with yourself, soul-search, and determine what you can live with in the long run.
Since you say seeing meat in your fridge hurts you, it seems to me that having meat in the house is not going to work long-term. I say long-term because I’m not going to structure my advice on him ever going vegan again. He may, he may not, but if he does all of these issues will resolve themselves. So, you need to put a plan in place that can last for the long haul if that becomes necessary. If you think short-term, you may make more concessions than you are actually ok with, and by the time you address it, it will have become commonplace and acceptable to your husband. No one likes to be told they suddenly can’t do something they’ve been doing for years.
So, a compromise is needed here. Tell him meat in the fridge/house is not ok. Maybe dairy products are? Maybe nothing is? Decide what your line is and then enforce it, probably in the same conversation as the money. However, since the house isn’t yours alone (or is it?), this is where it would be good to make a few concessions IF you want to continue to be married even if your husband never goes back to being vegan. So, maybe he can bring carnist takeout in the house on occasion but no cooking meat in your pans, maybe dairy products are ok, maybe one carnist meal a week is ok, etc. Find your line, listen to his input, but know where you absolutely cannot negotiate beyond and then have that conversation in a respectful way.
Your relationship. This is the tough part. I would feel duped, too. This is akin to me, as an atheist, marrying an atheist who suddenly decides Jesus is our Savior and Lord. This is like if my Christian friends’ husbands decided they were suddenly staunch atheists. This is, or could be, a game-changer.
You married your husband in large part because of your shared morals, and now those morals have (inexplicably) changed. You don’t say why he went back to eating meat, what his reasoning was, but really, it doesn’t matter. He’s doing it, and doing it flagrantly which seems disrespectful of you and your marriage, as well as needlessly harmful to a cause he once believed in.
So, you have a hard decision to make: do you want to stay married to someone whose choices you don’t respect? Whether your decision is yes or no, you have to decide and then communicate that to your husband. Couples therapy would help facilitate this but I know therapy is not always accessible to everyone. My favorite advice columnist, Captain Awkward, has a helpful post on Affordable Mental Health Care in the US and Canada. Maybe this can help you find someone for you both to talk to, or for you to talk to, to help get through this difficult change and have constructive conversations.
The bottom line is this: you no longer respect your husband, or you soon won’t. It’s impossible to respect someone who has changed his values so drastically in the wrong direction, and then flashes them in your face all the time. This is no different to someone suddenly being racist or homophobic or sexist, when they never were before. So, is your love for him and his good traits stronger than the love you will lose for him over this decision? Can you truly picture the rest of your life with a meat-eater? You can’t count on him to change back, or to stay changed. You can only check in with yourself and then communicate your boundaries, and let him decide. If divorce will be unavoidable if he stays a carnist, he needs to know that, and you do, too.
If you want to wait and see, that’s ok. Draw the lines that you need for now, figure out the money and refrigerator compromises, and see where life takes you.
You have just lost a comrade and I am so, so sorry for you. Someone you were able to talk to about your ethical passions has now joined the dark side, and it must feel like the deepest betrayal. Good luck to you, and make sure, no matter what happens, that loads and loads of self-care is a priority for you at all times.
If you need a community to talk to who is understanding and non-judgey, come join us over on the Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack! Facebook page. We’re here for you!
Have a question for us?