Or perhaps the question should be: does it work?
Spoiler alert: yours truly thinks so, as I am engaged to a non-vegan. Though I prefer to call him ‘veganish’ (he eats a 90% vegan diet). I must admit: if I were ever to end up on the dating market again (I sure don’t hope so – I am very keen to say ‘I do’ next year!), being a vegan would absolutely be a prerequisite for a new partner. But leaving the love of my life who is wonderfully supportive of my views and ideals and has adjusted most of his lifestyle accordingly, is definitely not an option for me. A fair bit of research has taught me that not every vegan shares my opinion. Reddit is full of comments from fellow herbivores who state they could never be in a relationship with someone who is not fully committed to the same cause. I understand this – we are a passionate bunch and we believe that we are on the morally right side of the argument. But the world is not that black-and-white…
Those of us who entered our current relationships as omnivores or perhaps vegetarians caused a big change for our respective partners when we transitioned to veganism. This was something they did not sign up for. Change is often scary, and particularly when it involves our relationship – a familiar, safe space. And whilst it is perhaps easy enough for us to stay away from the weekly cheese platter with non-vegan wine as we know the pain and suffering that went into creating those products, for our partners there can be a sense of grief over losing certain rituals together or not being able to enjoy particular foods together anymore. If we demand respect for our new lifestyles, we must repay that respect by acknowledging their concerns, griefs and fears. My partner feared being judged by me. He worried I would no longer accept him, that I would be ashamed of him around my new vegan friends and perhaps not want to hang out with our old friends anymore. It was very healing for both of us to be able to talk about that in a constructive and calm manner. If we can be patient, loving, kind and reassuring, chances are big we will get the same back from our lovers! We might even inspire them to start eating more plant-based foods. Not by pushing, but by simply being a wonderful example. The day my fiance told me he wanted to sign up for a vegan household, I jumped for joy! And because he agreed to this on his own accord and initiative, it meant even more to me. Nowadays he even packs vegan lunches to work. So when he orders a steak at a restaurant or eats meat at a BBQ at friends, I must remind myself of how far he has come for a cause he is not even passionate about (yet?). What he is passionate about though, is me. And that matters most to me.
For the single vegans out there: you might be thinking “yeah, that’s all great but I just need to find myself a hot herbivore!”. If that indeed is a prerequisite for you, pop it on your Tinder or Bumble profile to avoid disappointment. Don’t waste your – or someone else’s – time. If veganism is more of a preference than an absolute must for you, make sure that whomever you go on a date with, respects your lifestyle. Vegan or not, respect for you and your lifestyle choices are essential for any successful relationship.
Let’s finish off with some tips on how to make this vegan/non-vegan thing work:
- If you want a vegan household, make sure you are the one in charge of shopping! I buy vegan toothpaste, care products, shampoos, soaps and cleaning products and my partner generally does not even notice the difference (though, truth be told, he did once complain about a baking soda-based toothpaste – I learned my lesson ;)). Plus, you are helping the planet be healthier whilst you are at it and no one (vegan or non vegan) could have an issue with that right?
- When going out for a meal together, check the menu beforehand to make sure there is something on offer for you too. Or suggest a vegan cafe/restaurant. For all you gorgeous singles out there: this will be a good indication of how tolerant and respectful your non-vegan date will be of your plant-based life.
- Cook together – make it fun! Once your partner discovers how easy vegan cooking is and – more importantly – how delicious, they will be much more willing to eat it. Get a slow cooker whilst you are at it. They are inexpensive and are a lifesaver on busy weekdays – prep takes 15 minutes only, you turn it on when leaving the house for work and come home to a beautifully smelling house and a ready-to-eat meal. This recipe book is our bible at the moment – my partner who used to hate cooking makes me beautiful vegan meals on a regular basis now – winning!
- Be willing to have discussions but consider only sharing information if your partner asks for it. If they want to learn: great! Share all wisdom! But if you push facts and figures on them without their consent or even their desire to hear it, chances are slim that you will get them on board. Think back on how you became vegan. Probably not because someone forced you into it right? Select arguments that your partner is most likely to be open to. If they are healthy fit people, work the health angle. If they care about animals: inform them of what goes on in the meat and dairy industry. If the state of the planet is important to them, use the sustainability/environmental angle.
- Remember that you once were an omnivore too. Unless you were raised vegan, all the power to you! Most of us however once ate meat, dairy and eggs too. So don’t be a Judgy Mc Judge Judge.
- Watch a documentary together, if they are willing. Don’t push it! Dominion might be a bit heavy for a first watch, so perhaps start with something a bit less graphic such as Forks over knives or Cowspiracy – both available on Netflix.
- Make practical agreements and remember: communication is key! If your partner still eats meat and/or dairy, do you allow it in the house? If you transitioned to veganism during the relationship it might not be fair to ask them to completely drop all these products. Consider dividing the fridge space up – perhaps your partner can opt for lower shelves so that the products are not on eye level for you. Or maybe even get separate little fridge for meat, fish, dairy and eggs. Make clear agreements: are you okay with them using the same pans as you do? Are you willing to buy their products when grocery shopping? Are you willing to prepare their food for them? Your answer might be ‘no’ to all of those or to some and that is absolutely fine. Stay within your boundaries. Just make sure your partner knows what those are 😉
If you are willing to try to make it work, beautiful things can happen!