Carolyn Hax: A wife is stewing over her husband’s meal requests

Now my husband has shared with me that he wants to eat less meat and dairy and waste less food because meat/dairy contribute to climate change. He repeatedly mentions this while doing things like snacking on the hot dogs and cheese I’ve saved to supplement toddler meals while the vegetarian stuffed peppers I made for him go bad in the fridge. I care about climate change, too — the farm-share is super eco-friendly even though it’s a lot of work! — but can I tell him if I’m cooking, then it’s my meal plan?

— Can I Stuff My Husband?

Can I Stuff My Husband?: Unless he has asked you to do these extra things on top of all the other things you are doing and he is not doing — in which case, yes, you can stuff him — I would file his remarks under “Aspirational Blatherings” and respond to them accordingly.

I say this in part because a person who commits to eating less meat and cheese while actively, in that very moment, snacking on meat and cheese is not to be taken seriously.

The other part is that people who are part of a team of equals — spouses, co-parents — do not get to give unilateral orders that add nothing to their own workload while forcing a significant increase to a partner’s. It’s the domestic equivalent of an unfunded mandate.

You are certainly entitled to tell him what you’ve suggested — your cooking, your meal plan — but I could see him easily mistaking that as your refusal to save our glorious planet. It makes you the one responsible for your family’s carbon excesses while he ideates bravely on. Which of course can inspire a cheese-snacking anti-cheeser to beat the eco-drum even harder, completely missing two points instead of just one.

What you want is a response that puts the added workload for the idea on the person with the idea. The uninflected truth is one possibility:

“Every meal these days feels like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It bothers me that you keep pushing something that would make it even harder for me, without offering to help.”

Or, a discussion prompt: “Are you just thinking out loud? Because you’ve said it a few times now,” opening a discussion of what he really means by bringing this up.

Or, the obvious: [slow blink] “You’re saying this as you’re eating cheese.”

Or, an invitation: “Okay! How do you plan to do this?”

How you say it is about your relationship, but what you say is the point: If this change is important to him, then he’s welcome to make it.