Tips for Balancing Relationships When You Join the Celiac Circus

If you have celiac disease, you may have friends, family, or a significant other who is hesitant about eating gluten-containing foods in front of you. You might also have friends, family, or a significant other whom you think would benefit from getting screened for celiac, but perhaps you are hesitant about how often to bring it up. Balancing relationships with celiac disease can be a challenge. Here are a couple of tips for maneuvering what can sometimes feel like a circus after being diagnosed with celiac.

1) Reassure those who don’t have celiac disease that you won’t be offended if they eat non-gluten-free foods in front of you.

Picture it. Your boyfriend/girlfriend bounds uninhibitedly toward the free samples in the bakery. He/she turns to you, and those gleeful peepers widen with horror as the realization hits that Boo can’t indulge. As bad as your significant other feels that you can’t participate in the free sampling, you may or may not feel worse, depending on your perspective about being diagnosed with celiac disease.

It’s likely that you’ll come across various people who feel guilty for enjoying glutenous foods in front of you. It’s a good idea to let them know that there might be a reason for them to feel guilty if they presented you with a dinner on spinning plates secretly laced with breadcrumbs, but otherwise, it really doesn’t bother you. Longing for a little morsel of bloating and pains? Don’t think so.

2) Encourage your friends and family to get screened, but don’t nag.

It is particularly important for your family members to get screened for celiac disease if you’ve been diagnosed because it’s genetic. Perhaps you’ve finally gotten through to your brother and he resigns to getting screened. Turns out, he tested negative. The tough part is potentially convincing him that he needs to keep getting screened, because celiac is something that could develop. Now you’re walking the tightrope between encouraging and nagging. A little too much encouragement and you could plunge into nagging, which could result in your brother completely tuning you out.

Maybe a year later your brother complains of a stomachache after a pasta dinner. Your ears perk up, and you immediately suspect celiac disease. You want him to get screened again, but he is fed up with your celiac paranoia and breathes fire whenever you bring it up.

This is a tricky case. Your relationship could be harmed if you push too hard, but your brother could be more harmed if you don’t push enough. The only advice here is that you know your audience, you state your points, and you let it go for a while. Pestering someone every day is not likely to yield favorable results, but planting an idea and letting it ripen (but not rot) might.

Juggling celiac/non-celiac relationships can be precarious business. If you’ve successfully convinced others to eat guilt-free when not eating gluten-free, or you’ve persuaded family members to get screened, or you’ve floundered on both fronts and want to share your stories, send us a message.

– The Editors