Help me deal with the woo
March 18, 2015 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Spouse has career in naturalist/nutrition based field. Tons of unscientifically supported woo. Spouse feels incredibly validated by field; feels ideas/ideals are all part of little guy's fight against big pharma/ big ag/ big whatever. Remuneration is based upon getting clients to sign up for coaching sessions where this unscientific information is pitched. No products are being sold, just diet/health/exercise/spiritual plans. In the past 2 years, income has gone up from 2,000 to 5,000/yr. I feel guilty being a part of a marriage where I feel like my partner's income is a result of fleecing at best or profound ignorance at worst, likely the latter.

Unfortunately, said career has also begun to carry over into our family life. Foods aren't "clean" enough, requiring more expensive alternatives, cooking implements are full of "toxins" and must be replaced by expensive substitutes that are not "off-gassing", and expensive "superfood" supplements and "natural" remedies are starting to flood our mailbox, to the detriment of our increasingly less flexible finances, just to name a few. Even our teenage children, who once viewed and treated their parent with admiration and respect are starting to look at me not only with a wry smirk and eyeroll, but also a confused and concerned heart, when the latest modification to our household diet and environment must take place.

I have had to the best I know how, a sit down about how I feel about what has been going on with my spouse. While there is an agreement that we must watch our finances, the conversation is typically laced with suggestions that I need to be more open-minded about all "the studies that have just come out" or "that I really should stop putting a price on our health, because what better to spend our money on..." Frequently, when I have presented scientific information to refute said claims, the end result is along the lines of, "I guess it's not scientifically supported...but why would you want to take the chance?" Mind you my spouse wants to crucify anti-vaxxers for flouting the obvious science and is a committed atheist who looks at those with faith with disdain because of a lack of actual evidence for the presence of a higher power. This career apparently now has taken the place of religion.

Could anyone suggest a strategy to discuss this further that might crack my spouse's shell? I have tried to dabble around the edges by suggesting getting a more traditional job to provide income for the family and pursuing the woo on the side (with my hopes that it'll just go away). Spouse thinks they are on the cusp of it being a better regular income if not lucrative and wants more time to see it through. I know there are plenty of families that can survive difference in religion, hobbies, political party, or even general worldview, but I feel desperate that I cannot go on like this much longer. Frankly, despite my descriptions, the money is not at a critical phase...yet. More concerning to me right now is that the outside world sees me as an enabler of crazy. Would appreciate any advice how to proceed.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
that I really should stop putting a price on our health, because what better to spend our money on...

You should do exactly that: put a price on your health.

Compare the cost of whatever the latest fad is with the expected benefit. Make up the chance of the benefit working if you like, both of you should play around with the numbers, it doesn't matter. Now do it again for something proven: look at the cost, look at the chance of success. Only now can you make your decision.

Reasoning like "I really should stop putting a price on our health, because what better to spend our money on..." could be used to justify anything.
posted by devnull at 7:23 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Quite an awkward situation to be in. My approach would be to tell my spouse that if they wanted to eat special foods and supplements or use special utensils they were welcome to it, but that the kids and I needed to be left out of it. (As teenagers they are allowed some of their own agency.) Go be woo over there, honey. We'll be over here eating regular food prepared with regular tools talking about something other than woo. She does not get to call all the shots for everyone else.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:31 AM on March 18, 2015 [30 favorites]

It sounds as though you need to separate the ideological issue from the logistical/financial issues here. Regardless of what you think of your spouse's beliefs about health, it's completely fair to (a) want to be on the same page about decisions re: expenditure and budgeting, and (b) want to be on the same page about big career decisions/directions, especially as these affect income.

It's also absolutely not true that you "can't put a price on health"; for one thing, stress itself has been shown to have serious deleterious health consequences, and overspending/debt produces a lot of stress. It's fine to talk to your spouse about how you can best use your money to give your family a healthy lifestyle overall, but that means backing up and looking at the big picture of wellness, not just focusing tightly on health through eliminating household toxins and gobbling vitamin supplements.

Could you possibly get together with your wife to establish a fixed allowance for "healthy living" in the household budget, then limit spending to that level going forward? Maybe it could even be coupled to the income from the woo counselling (say, 20% of gross), so your spouse can enjoy the thought that his/her budget will grow as the business grows.

Finally, as regards your own conscience: consider that this kind of woo obsession is a hobby-cum-entertainment-cum-religion for many people. The value they're paying for is the chance to feel smugly enlightened, the access to a flattering self-image as an earth crusader or whatever, and likely a nontrivial amount of placebo effect from the lifestyle changes made. Those are real goods, and it's not unfair to accept people's money in exchange for providing them.
posted by Bardolph at 7:36 AM on March 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

Ugh. Preachy McFoodFaddists feel like they're growing in number and it sure is boring to be all ONE SUBJECT ALL THE TIME. I like TCG's advice, above. As a grown adult you get to say "Sweetie, I love you, but I have my own thoughts on this etc."
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 7:38 AM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

When plastic came out many people didn't trust it to eat off and cook with(Including my family) They grew up working in plastic factories in the "Plastic capital of the world".

Turns out something IS up with plastic. I think it may be years and years before it's really clear what the health implications truly are but they were right.

I'm a bit of a skeptic but I understand where she is coming from based on history.

Your wife has some beliefs that are pretty healthy (if not a bit over the top) and isn't hurting your family's health. Kids have been annoyed and amused by over the top parents forever.

I would focus on a reasonable budget instead of going after the ideas behind it.

Fighting the ideas won't change her mind.

(My very sensible husband had a very brief period when he felt there might be an illness outbreak and with a secret eye roll I bought the giant cans of vegetables to make him happy. He got over it.)
posted by beccaj at 7:49 AM on March 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

Are you sure the two of you are compatible? You don't seem to respect your partner very much. "Enabler of crazy?" It's not as though she's refusing to take your children to doctors or spending your money on Scientology courses, right? Is she in charge of cooking and shopping? Then you benefit from her "crazy."

I get why this is a strain, but wanting to fundamentally change a partner is usually a recipe for disaster.

I wonder whether you are a scientist, since your objection is that her beliefs are unscientific. It almost sounds like a code for calling her dumb.
posted by kapers at 7:54 AM on March 18, 2015 [14 favorites]

You could encourage your spouse to take (scientifically valid) courses on diet and nutrition and the body (how organs function, lymphatic system, body chemistry whatever). This would help them make more money since they would have accreditation to their name. Hopefully exposure to scientifically valid theories would help them walk the woo line healthily. Also if they walk the woo line well, their client base would be larger, since the wooier you get the fewer people you'll attract.

This is not one way or another. Things do off-gas. I bought new carpet and even with the most environmentally friendly one I could find there are still VOCs in the air. What you can do is ask specific questions of your spouse. How much off-gassing is there? How do chemicals become active and mix in the body? If you heat a plastic spatula, do you ingest plastic? How does the body really get rid of accumulated material (via the liver and kidneys) and what foods support those organs? How much exposure could someone reasonably handle without it impacting them? How much more nutritionally dense is food A versus food B? Encourage them to research this kind of stuff and help bring them back to reality. Being healthy is great! Just encourage them to keep things measurable and not imaginary or unquantifiable.

I was reading a sociologist's study about anti-vaxxers and one common theme was the belief in the purity of the body, the belief in the innate intelligence of the body etc. So any "contaminants" are bad. Maybe you could bring them back to earth about how the body is a vehicle to exist in this world and pure bodies don't exist. We are full of shit, we're covered in microbes and we smell. Pure food does not exist. Nutritionally dense and empty calorie food exists. But "clean" food? That's just whether food has dirt on it or not. And you're not a morally "bad" person if your food is not nutritionally dense.

Use real terms when talking about things. Clean food? No. Nutritionally dense or empty calories. Toxins? No. VOCs, pesticides, preservatives etc.

Anyways, as a person who has occupied an array of positions on the crunchy-woo continuum (and who now sits in the slacker hippie pragmatist camp), imo a lot of this stuff comes from low self esteem and a desire to control + a lack of feeling empowered. You equate healthy food with being a good person, you get a bit of a "high" from the healthy eating and keep searching the next buzz, and it turns into a cycle. I wouldn't attack their ideas on all fronts, but just be your own person and stand firm on whether you think that expensive item is really worth it. Like people have said, in a marriage there is a balance of power in decision making and they're not allowed to play toxin-boogeyman on you in order to spend money you don't want to spend.

PS. If your main concern is what others will think of you... this may drive a huge wedge between you & your spouse since you won't be considering their points at all, some of which may be valid. So you need to put to bed whoever you think is listening in on your marriage and judging you. Keep the language scientific and then discuss whether its worth the money. Ingesting less chemicals is probably a good thing. Just keep it balanced. As for fleecing others, I've been to naturopaths and at the end of the day it feels good to talk to someone about what you're experiencing, so at least she's providing that service to others. At $5k per year she's not in the crazy-guru camp, not by a long shot.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:56 AM on March 18, 2015 [53 favorites]

Yes to St. Peepsburg's suggestion! Help your spouse move from "sciencey" to science. (Maybe also mention that supplements etc. aren't currently standardized or regulated, and that a bunch of them have been found by independent assessors to contain e.g. lead. Why take the chance, indeed.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:59 AM on March 18, 2015 [8 favorites]

I was in a similar boat for a while, though I was both you and your spouse at the same time. I worked for a place that believed in the teachings of someone who rhymes with Medgar Smayce at a place that rhymes with the Association of Smesearch and Flenlightenment.

I worked there for a few years, and while I didn't buy into the woo, part of my job was the maintain the website that sells it. And I felt awful being a part of what felt like a scam to me. Just horrible. I was providing a means to sell people six DVD sets on how to become psychic or how homeopathy can help with leaky gut syndrome. Personally I feel if alternative medicine actually worked it'd just be called "medicine," but I worked day in and day out with people who believed it entirely. Absolutely the nicest people on earth but there was no talking to them about this stuff. And I do think a little bit of that came from wanting to avoid the guilt I was feeling about it - you can't feel bad for it if you actually believe it.

Anyway, what I learned in dealing with this mindset is that you have to accept it FOR THEM. Let them do what they want - they're adults. But you absolutely must draw the line when it comes down to you and your children. Spouse wants to have a certain "clean food" for dinner? Okay. But no one else is obligated to partake. You don't have to engage in those conversations. Tell spouse you wish they'd leave work at work and lump all of the woo into "work."

The main thing to remember is that your spouse is an adult. The people buying the product are adults. You are an adult. No one has to do anything.

On preview: why is everyone assuming the spouse is a woman?

Also, yes to St. Peepsburg's suggestion. Don't have to encourage the woo, but you can definitely encourage the science. Particularly in your children, let them see for themselves why your spouse's beliefs are unfounded.
posted by sephira at 8:08 AM on March 18, 2015 [14 favorites]

I just stumbled across the term orthorexia nervosa, which sounds somewhat like your description of your spouse and of many other people I've known -most of whom were men, femmegrr- over the years.
posted by mareli at 8:14 AM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. Sorry, but Ask Metafilter is for answering the OP's question, not for discussions about how people are answering. If you'd like to talk about problems with how members are responding, Metatalk is the place for that. Thank you.
posted by taz (staff) at 8:16 AM on March 18, 2015

Your spouse likely has a form of compulsion that manifests itself in different ways depending on what systems are affected by the compulsive behavior. You can have religious compulsions (pray like this), hygiene compulsions (that's not clean), food (OMG HFCS), etc.

You might have luck researching how to deal with people affected by compulsions generally, and then walking those back to your specific issue. St. Peepsburg hit it right on the head: "imo a lot of this stuff comes from low self esteem and a desire to control + a lack of feeling empowered."
posted by resurrexit at 8:17 AM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Sometimes people who feel useless because they're unemployed overcompensate by making their hobbies INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT!!! It makes sense and I have a lot of empathy for it. There's also a guy-ego thing where they feel the need to provide, and if they can't do it financially, well, they'll just have to do it with advice and "counsel".

Thing is that unless they have insight into the problem, they'll keep investing in these ego defenses at the expense of your family. You need to protect your finances so that he can't spend money you genuinely need.

At the same time, try a lot of flattery about his non-woo hobbies and efforts. Ask him about other things he knows about and listen intently. Solicit his suggestions for work or career problems. Ask him to help fundraise for something important to you, like a charity walk. Tell him what a great dad he is.

He clearly has skills in sales and would be happy in sales, but first you need to help him stop using this woo stuff as his major source of self-esteem.

And protect your money.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:27 AM on March 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

When you were just talking about the hobby, I was going to suggest that you push your spouse toward life coach certification, and that he/she call him/herself a life coach who specializes in "whatever woo" because "life coach" suggests to targeted customers "this might be a good fit or not" and "I'm offering advice, not therapy or spiritual guidance".

But that doesn't address how it's taking over your kitchen and meals.

All I can say is - $1000 to $5000 a year is not lucrative, but is probably enough to "cleanly" outfit a kitchen and supplement the grocery spending enough to buy extra woo items.

If your spouse's parents ever gave him/her advice that he/she refused to follow, you might remind him/her of that and tell him/her that you and the kids just aren't there, and no amount of "reason" will work. He/she came to this new interest on his/her own, and you all will have to do the same.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:27 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

My biggest concern about this particular flavor of woo is that it's a nice socially-acceptable place to keep your eating disorders and compulsive disorders. There's other implications, know, just refusing to believe the world isn't a constantly terrifying place, which sometimes comes from depression and sometimes from agoraphobia or worse, but whatever - it's horrible to have to live with when the person won't accept they have a problem and get help.

It would be a dealbreaker if my husband started limiting what I was "allowed" to eat, though. It's one thing to say "hey, can we agree to not keep so many cookies in the house, because we're all eating an unwise amount of cookies lately?" and another to say that you are now not allowed to eat non-organic/meat/dairy/cake without there being some kind of medical directive involved.

If these compulsive behaviors were tied to alcohol or religion, what would you do? What's your break point for a) putting the hammer down on the budget, b) protecting the kids from (actual) toxicity, c) presenting an ultimatum regarding treatment, d) leaving if a good faith effort to get help isn't made?

Really the only non-drastic option is imposing a budget. You can start by just creating a spreadsheet that has a line item for food and food-like substances and saying "this is the number, and there has to be enough food for all of us to eat within that number, so you'll have to prioritize."

The next thing you can do is make yourself a doctor's appointment and request that your spouse come with you and explain the diet they have prescribed for you to the doctor. This is stakes-raising, and may provoke the shit out of someone with food-control or health anxiety issues, but let it shine a light on whatever the response is.

Eventually you're going to have to enforce whatever boundaries you have decided on for yourself, and you may reach the point where you have to go to her and say "my relationship with you and your children's relationship with you is suffering from whatever is going on and we need you to get help or we're going to have to make some decisions for ourselves..."
posted by Lyn Never at 8:32 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think what you can and need to do is to one, change your mindset that your spouse being a woo believer (your term) makes you either a woo enabler or a woo believer too. I hope the people you know know that you two can have different opinions and not trying to change one's spouse's opinions is in some way a failing of yours. Two, I have no idea where you work or what you do, but before I make a value judgement on my spouse's job, I would make sure that my company is not selling widgets made with child labor, using deceptive marketing practices, marginalizing any group, etc. Short of being a sole practitioner, that will be hard to do.

IF it were me, I would try to silo it. If she wants to sell her ideals outside the home, let her. In the home, as others have suggested, if you don't like her food, make your own. I would also just ask factual questions. "Really? Wow. Where can I read some scientific data on that? Would love to learn more FACTS."

Having thought a little more about it, my "A" advice is to just ignore it. If you don't need the income, let your spouse use their woo income on woo stuff.
posted by 724A at 8:57 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think in your shoes I would gloss over the content of the messages your spouse is sending and outright tell spouse that the issues here are threatening your relationship.

Because they are. Because you are "enabling crazy." Which is just dripping with disrespect, and disrespect is a real death knell for a relationship.

I am not saying you are wrong in being disdainful -- from what's spelled out here, I certainly would be. I would want to get into couple's counselling. I would want to clearly articulate my objections to the morality of having a "career" that involved taking advantage of the naive and needy and discuss how I felt about being partnered with somebody actively doing that.

Sorry, all a bit negative. But it would be pretty close to dealbreaker territory for me. I understand you have a long history with your partner and that a split would not be something to be undertaken lightly. But...but I wouldn't put up with very much of this from a previously rational partner. How is your spouse's mental and physical health, has that been reasonably carefully evaluated recently? Lots of physical bothers, some of which are the type to manifest slowly in later life, can cause erratic mental what-not. Have that checked out.

"consider that this kind of woo obsession is a hobby-cum-entertainment-cum-religion for many people. The value they're paying for is the chance to feel smugly enlightened, the access to a flattering self-image as an earth crusader or whatever, and likely a nontrivial amount of placebo effect from the lifestyle changes made. Those are real goods, and it's not unfair to accept people's money in exchange for providing them" is a very kind take on this and I disagree with it. Spouse is not providing honest goods.
posted by kmennie at 9:05 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

1) Make a budget.

2) Discuss Compromise.

It's all about balance and compromise, not imposing what One Member of the family wants.

*look into Orthorexia. It's a good starting point.
posted by Neekee at 9:16 AM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Half my comment got deleted :(

What I wrote about compromise: discuss how spouse is pushing kids away with spouse's stricter impositions, how spouse is losing credibility with the kids precisely when parental-children bonds are at their most fragile. Spouse may intend to keep family healthy and safe, but Is actually pushing kids (and you!) away.
Ask spouse to reevaluate what is more important to spouse: loving, respectful bond with family members, or Orthorexia to new health lifestyle?

And in the compromise, it's often much more effective to take baby steps than to demand All The Things Right Now. And right now, it feels like spouse is demanding a lot.
posted by Neekee at 9:22 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

What's the worst that could happen if you just accepted this as a personal quirk of theirs, and let it go? Do you always have to be "right," and is that more important than a happy partner? Also, if you are not an expert in health sciences then you don't actually have THAT much more of a leg to stand on than your partner does. What is your job? Are you sure it doesn't in some part rely on separating folks from their money in deceptive ways? Does your company pollute the environment, exploit labor, etc.? You are approaching your spouse from a standpoint of assumed intellectual and moral superiority and that doesn't sound like a nice dynamic to me.

The only leg you have to stand on here that I can see is budget, but does the income from spouse's interest cover the cost of it? And do you eat the meals?

Look, I tend to agree that you're largely in the right, but, like, so what? What do you get out of being right, here? If you become increasingly strident in your views then I bet your partner will cling more steadfastly to their views, when really, their enthusiasm about this stuff would naturally decrease over time anyway if you left your spouse alone about this topic. I imagine your marriage descending into a series of unresolved fights, of showing each other articles to refute the others' beliefs, and neither of you changing your mind, and both of you feeling disrespected. You're just going to be clinging to your belief in "science" (as you understand it) and she is just going to be clinging to her idea of "health" (as she understands it.) That doesn't seem like a very loving relationship. It doesn't sound like fun at all.

Frankly, I can see why she gravitates toward a field that "validates" her if the tone of this question is any indication of your general respect for her. I get that you are at wits' end but you didn't say one positive or loving thing about her.

Also, just shop and cook for yourself and your kids if her food and implements are so objectionable to your superior scientific intellect and moral code. "Don't like it, don't eat it," as my mom always said.

If spouse's habits are so objectionable to you and are truly driving you into debt, consider ending the marriage.
posted by kapers at 9:41 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Frankly, despite my descriptions, the money is not at a critical phase...yet. More concerning to me right now is that the outside world sees me as an enabler of crazy.

I think you need to swallow your pride here. As someone upthread said, your spouse is an adult and their clients are adults and you will never rid the world of woo, so let them all do what they want if it makes them happy. Only you can decide if the woo is so morally objectionable to you that it kills your marriage, but I think worrying about how you look as a Woo-spouse is pretty self-indulgent in the grand scheme of things.

How others perceive you in relation to your spouse's doings should not be a major concern in your marriage. Is your spouse happy? Are you willing to support your spouse's happiness even if it comes from things you don't personally agree with? Only you can answer that. I think part of a good marriage is both of you being able to say "I need you to step outside your comfort zone a little for me, not all the way, but some" and figure out how to do it together.

(Standard advice that couples therapy can give you a good 3rd party who is committed to The Couple instead of a side)
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:06 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agree with the people who suggest you step back and think about how much you respect your spouse. I would feel incredibly hurt and betrayed if my wife were referring to something I strongly believed in as "woo," and made it known that she thought my interests were making her look bad to the "outside world." There's a difference between disagreeing with someone's beliefs and being outright derisive of them (and I'm someone who has built up unhealthily vast stores of rage and contempt for the term "clean diet," so it's not that I share your spouse's philosophy here). I would also probably dig in and fight a lot harder if I felt my spouse were dismissing me like this, so you may be hurting your cause in more ways than one here.

Moreover, I'd encourage you to consider how you talk about your spouse's interests in front of your kids, and how that might be influencing those "smirks and eye rolls" you're getting from them. I remember that as a kid it could be kind of fun to "gang up" on a parent with the other parent's support, and if they're seeing you rolling your eyes, it's probably not surprising that they're doing the same.

This isn't to say that I think you shouldn't share your concerns with your spouse, but rather that right now it sounds like you're approaching him/her with something less than respect. Absolutely agree that couples counseling sounds like a good idea here - assuming that you do love and respect your spouse, it would be good to spend some time thinking about how you can adjust to beliefs that you don't share, how you can reset your focus back to your relationship rather than what the outside world thinks of you, and how both of you together can work out a budget that meets both of your needs.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:13 AM on March 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

My mother has fallen into something similar albeit without trying to sell other people on it professionally. I'd describe it as something in anxiety disorder spectrum similar to hording or compulsive hand washing, beginning when she had to start facing her own mortality and trying to improve her health and getting increasingly obsessive about weird new diets/cookware. If your spouse is similar to my mother, I think people here are being too hard on you, as having someone obsessively bring up the same topic again and again can be extremely frustrating, and if you were describing anxiety disorder manifesting as hording I think people would be waaay more sympathetic to you.

The problem with irrational behavior is that you can't reason it away. I'm really familiar with presenting scientific evidence only to have it brushed away for one reason or another, including big business conspiracy, "but this blog from someone with no scientific background disagrees," and "I intuit this to be true therefore it is." If this is not something you can learn to just live with, I'd suggest that the only hope is to get them to realize that their behavior is irrational and damaging and try to get help for it.

Have a blunt talk with your children, make sure that you're correct in interpreting their reactions and if so, sit down with your spouse as a family and talk about how their actions are endangering the family and see if they're willing to take steps to stop before it's too late.
posted by Candleman at 11:34 AM on March 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

My husband is definitely more woo than I am, though he sounds much more sensible than your spouse. Here's how we deal with it...

Financially... We have a budget. I track every single cent that is spent. We each have our own allowance. If his food preferences/herbal supplements/etc fit into our food budget, then it's fine. If it doesn't, then he pays for it out of his own allowance. (Similarly, he's vegetarian and I'm not. If my meat-dishes fit into the budget, then it comes out of the budget. Otherwise, it comes out of my own allowance.) Obviously, this method requires you to agree on what are the basics to be covered by the food budget, and how to divvy up the rest. For us, basic groceries and sundries, dinner party supplies, and when we eat out together come out of the food budget. Everything else depends on how much is left.

Health-wise... As long as we're healthy, I don't care. That is, if he needs actual care--as defined by acute pain or the inability to go to work or do his share of chores--he has to go to an actual doctor and follow actual directions the doctor gives. If he just has some skin issue that is not urgent and not a big deal, he can deal with it with whatever homeopathic remedy he buys with his own money. After all, placebo has been proven to work.

Ideologically... I don't believe in homeopathy or spirituality or energy healing or any of that stuff. But I think what a lot of those practitioners do is to provide a safe space for people to talk about their problems, and also to give more traditional advice like: get enough sleep, drink enough water, pay attention to your diet, and make sure you get regular exercise. Maybe some people need the woo-context to hear those things, and going to a woo practitioner will actually help them. You and I might feel like those are common sense advice, but for the person who's willing to pay for that advice with a pseudo-scientific bend... well, if paying for it means they have a better lifestyle, then I think they're getting their money's worth. So I wouldn't think of your wife's work as "fleecing" clients.

I don't think you need to participate in her changes. And if she wants to spend her own money to buy all new kitchenware, that's her problem. I think she also shouldn't force her diet onto you or the kids (unless she's doing all the cooking, in which case, it's time to learn how to cook). But I also don't think letting her do her thing is necessarily that harmful. You might have better luck talking her to a more moderate stance once she feels that you support her more.
posted by ethidda at 1:22 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I came to add it is truly hard to see someone close to you embrace an ideology you do not share.

My husband has a deep religious believe, of a kind some would call woo I suppose, and which I do not share. Some years ago he shared his believe with several of my relatives, and I sat there and wanted to disappear into thin air, as my uncles and cousins challenged his somewhat unusal religious convictions. I was very embarrassed and upset with him for sharing so openly.
I was afraid they would judge me for being with someone who has a strong non-mainstream belief.
As it turned out, what happened was my relatives did not only not judge me, but commented on the strength of the relationship bond that we can be happy together despite the differences, and on the level of respect.

I have to add though that it is quite difficult sometimes. I am not an atheist but, through my own history, incapable of sharing his faith. He misses that we do not share this aspect of our lives, and sometimes I wish I could but I cannot.

I would enourage you to look beyond the belief system, which is hard to do, and see the person you are married to. They are more than their belief.
posted by 15L06 at 1:23 PM on March 18, 2015

forgot to add, his faith does not require him to proselityze, or have a believing partner so this is why it works.
posted by 15L06 at 1:25 PM on March 18, 2015

In terms of putting a price on your health, one good thing to remember is that every dollar you spend on these possibly pseudo-scientific food/nutrition solutions is a dollar you are not saving towards retirement.

Not saving towards retirement is putting a different kind of price on your health.
posted by yellowcandy at 1:52 PM on March 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

At the core of this, I think that your contempt and disrespect for your spouse is far more damaging to your family than anything else. How you discuss your spouse's beliefs (which seem realtively benign to me as these things go) seems to indicate that you don't hold them in very high regard.

Your older children are also noticing this and are modeling disrespectful behavior toward their parent, and are ganging up on spouse because they know that you're in their corner with the gang-up. Rolling eyes? Smirking? There is no way that my parents would have tolerated that coming from me or my sibling. Period. And, I would not tolerate that from a child in my family. Respectful discussion is fine, skepticism is fine, agreeing to disagree is fine. However, that doesn't sound like what's going on in your family. You're rolling out a red carpet for your kids to openly dismiss and disrespect their parent and see you as the only authority in the family. This undermines the family unit in a very bad way.

It's telling that in your wrap-up, that you neither indicate that your own contempt for your spouse or your children mirroring the same is your greatest concern. Your concern seems to revolve around how others see you: "More concerning to me right now is that the outside world sees me as an enabler of crazy."

Nothing you described meets the threshold of "fleecing" or any kind of con. Presumably, these coaching sessions are offered to adults who can make their own decisions about how they spend their money. I think that your anger and contempt for your spouse is rooted in something other than their latest interest. There are lots of families that manage different world views and beliefs without problems. The common characteristic that they share is a great deal of respect for one another.
posted by quince at 2:22 PM on March 18, 2015 [12 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. Indeed, there is contempt on my part which I need to check, so thanks for the heads up, it is a constant struggle. I probably described behaviors that were more on the mild side while fully portraying my own anger (and yes, contempt). Here's three more just so you can see why I am frustrated and not just simply intolerant of woo:

- Having my daughter (15) screamed at ,"Well if you want to get cancer, then that's the choice you're going to have to make for yourself.." - Based on movie Forks over Knives where erroneously it is stated as fact that dairy consumption causes cancer.

- Having same daughter screamed at, "Stop putting your cellphone in your bra, it causes cancer." Based upon evening news feature that, too, has no scientific merit.

- Having two very science-smart children being told that they are being disrespectful and rude to argue with their elder, when they challenge something they know has no scientific basis or merit.

Addressing these attacks on our kids was simply met with the attitude that we're not open minded, enlightened, and simply a product of big ag/big pharma, etc..

A couple of other answers to questions that were scattered throughout. Yes, I am a scientist, and a public health physician (MD, work for government). Yes, we have done couple's therapy, with great effect, but this naturalist/nutrition angle only has presented itself since we stopped going a couple of years back.

I see no advantage in divorcing over this, for the most part things are fine. Everyone in the house loves their partner (me) or parent (kids) . A tacit acknowledgement that one parent is woo-crazed is actually keeping up together in my mind.

Anyway, my question ultimately was about how to approach someone like this and I got a lot of good answers. My favorite response is from St.Peepsburg with Candleman as a close second.
posted by taz (staff) at 9:51 AM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

So you have a highly respectable career in a field where everyone assumes you're bright, and they have...? Your spouse is rebelling against your authority, and likely resentful of the status and prestige that accrue to you due to your occupation. So they are devaluing your field and your expertise. I can't say that I blame them, especially if they have facilitated your career but are now being relegated to a lower position in the family than even the children.

This feeling they have of needing to compete to be valued and heard needs to be replaced with a healthy source of self-esteem, and you need to avoid putting yourself (and your kids) in a position as the rational authority in the family.

Sitting down with your kids and the three of you telling your spouse that they're hurting your family is not going to work. They're going to feel hurt, embarrassed, and insulted. Build them up and treat them like experts at the things they are good at, or even okay at. Sales, entrepreneurship--these are valid skills. Do they want to go to school? Do they need support to retool their career? Above all, respect them as competent and treat them like a valued member of your team, and they will stop desperately screaming (literally) for respect.

Good luck.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:53 PM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Well, you disrespect your spouse and she'll become aware of it, and it's not going to feel good for her. And even the woo-iest folks know that being in disrespected by your spouse and kids is toxic, especially if dad actively shows disdain and is dismissive of mom.

The problem isn't her career or beliefs on their own, but the effect it has on you and the way you two are molding the family dynamics. I personally don't think kids benefit/daughters especially, by having dad be openly disrespectful of mom or by playing the suffering dad putting up with mom.

I think maybe you and your wife need to go to therapy. I'm sensing a huge disconnect between you two, and it isn't good for your family unit.
posted by discopolo at 10:50 PM on March 19, 2015

I had never heard "clean food" being used to mean something other than washing your food before eating it until I read the question and answers here. Naturally I looked up "clean food" to see why it was an expensive and woo thing.

It seems like it's about avoiding processed foods, like having a fresh orange instead of an "orange" drink, or an apple instead of an apple pop tart. And whole grains, which I've seen recommend in many (non-woo) places to get more fiber.

Basically, it sounds like the sort of relatively cheap foods I buy at the store when I have time to cook from scratch, instead prepared microwavable or instant foods. It's quite possible to do this cheaply. Making bread with whole wheat flour or cooking a pot of lentils is not expensive. Fresh vegetables can be expensive, but it's a pretty common point of view that fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy to eat even if they cost more, it's not some fringe"woo" thing.

I've noticed that things like prepared frozen foods made with whole grains can be very expensive. See if spouse will be willing to cook these foods from scratch, things like dry brown rice and dry beans are some of the cheapest foods you can buy. That should help with the budget.

expensive "superfood" supplements

It sounds like these would not be a "clean food" because they are processed.
posted by yohko at 2:23 PM on March 25, 2015

More concerning to me right now is that the outside world sees me as an enabler of crazy

It seems like you have gotten some grief here about that statement. Your followup mentions you are an MD, so I imagine you might feel this would affect you professionally in some way. It's a valid concern.

In that setting, here's a handy phrase that you should occasionally say about your spouse that will help defuse these concerns: Oh well, you know what they say, opposites attract. Say it in a way that implies this has it's good sides!
posted by yohko at 2:34 PM on March 25, 2015

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