…what do you when you’ve gotten it all right except for one tiny detail—you’re a vegan, but your partner? Not so much.
Opening our hearts to a new person ranks high on the list of the most beautiful, exciting, fulfilling events we experience in a lifetime; but the process doesn’t come without its own set of obstacles. We invest precious time and energy getting to know another soul, enjoying time together, but all the while figuring out if they’re a proper fit.
So what do you when you’ve gotten it all right except for one tiny detail—you’re a vegan, but your partner? not so much.
Each person has to honor their own moral compass, but if the relationship is remarkable on all other fronts, you may discover you are willing to look past your partner’s dietary choices to give love an opportunity to grow. This is not to imply that living with or dating a non-vegan (as a vegan) won’t require work and patience, but with a few simple guidelines you can help your chances of making the partnership work, exponentially.
1. When going out, look at menus ahead of time.
As a vegan, you’re probably no stranger to the limited options some restaurants provide. Add dietary restrictions like food allergies or sensitivities to the mix and you’ve got a panic attack waiting to happen with each new menu you peruse.
There are few experiences more depressing than watching your date savor each delicious morsel on their plate while you pick at a pitiful pile of wilted lettuce. Call ahead or look at a menu online to be sure that you’ll both have options that will satisfy—this will also eliminate potential guilt-traps for your partner.
As the relationship continues, create a working short-list of go-to spots. While the local steakhouse probably won’t make the list, you’ll find that most ethnic restaurants have options that will appease even the pickiest of palates.
2. Decide what food is allowed where.
Each relationship will have different guidelines, but it is a fair request to have your omnivorous lover to store his meat someplace you don’t routinely navigate. Designate a section of the refrigerator where he can keep his animal-based products—for sanitary purposes, this should probably be the bottom shelf.
Keep your fresh produce and non-dairy items on the top shelves to keep them easily reachable, but also highly visible. This small step will retrain your eyes to look for “your” section of the refrigerator only—saving your delicate eyes from the carnage below.
If the presence of the non-vegan items upset you still, consider a small, mini-fridge as a space to exclusively house your honey’s less-than-appealing groceries.
3. Establish handling and proximity policies.
Be open and communicative about what your partner can expect of you and your hands. Again, this will look different for every person, but be upfront about where your comfort level falls.
Are you willing to carry the package of chicken breast from the refrigerator to the kitchen where your lover is cooking? Are you willing to cook eggs for them on Sunday mornings? Or will the very presence of an uncooked steak make you excuse yourself from the room?
No boundary is too extreme, so long as you have an open, honest dialogue about what lines you are unwilling to cross.
4. Have the child-chat.
If you’re entering into a new relationship, or if you’ve been in an existing relationship long enough to consider children, have a conversation about what your would-be children’s diets would consist of.
Establish whether or not you are comfortable raising your children as vegans (or non-vegans) and why; discuss whether or not there will be exceptions; talk openly and honestly about why you feel the way you do and research the topic together.
In our household, 90 percent of our meals are completely vegan. By default, the kids have a nearly-vegan diet; but when the kids visit their grandparents or friends’ houses, we leave the choice of what to eat to the kids. This isn’t out of laziness or lack of concern, but after discussion, we decided it would be far-less stress on the children as well as our hosts to allow them these exceptions. We’re comfortable enough knowing the majority of their food is clean, fresh and plant-based. But that’s our comfort zone (that doesn’t have to be yours).
5. Make dinner the staple-vegan meal.
In our house, dinner is a big deal. We sit down together every single night—no exceptions. It’s supremely important to us. That being said, dinner didn’t always rank as a priority because of how stressful it had become. As my dietary restrictions shifted, feeding each member their own personal preferences became a juggling act for my man (who does almost all of the cooking). The decision to shift the entire household toward a more-vegan way of eating soon followed.
There are a few reasons I would suggest making dinner the staple-vegan meal, many involve health benefits and ethical considerations; but primarily, our family went vegan at dinner to preserve sanity. Cooking one meal that the family (even if it’s just you and a partner) shares, no questions asked, is a way to strengthen the familial connection.
Set the precedent that eating at home together means eating at home together—same table, same company, same meal.
6. Use vegan cooking as your base for all other meals.
If you choose to break rule number five (which we are known to do), use a vegan meal as the foundation for whatever dish is on the menu that day.
Use vegetable stock as a base instead of beef or chicken. Use a cashew creme sauce instead of milk or heavy creme. Get familiar with cooking soup, stew, curry, pasta and rice dishes that are vegan in an of themselves, but can have meat, cheese, etc. added after the meal is dished out. This is an easy way to maintain the meal-time sense of unity while allowing your partner the freedom to include their dietary preferences.
7. Don’t take anything personally.
If only one suggestion rings true, let it be this one: don’t take anything personally.
As you progress in your relationship, you may find your heart breaks a little that this dietary journey isn’t one you walk together. You may find yourself confused, even angry, that your partner doesn’t see things the way you do—after all, you’re so blatantly “right” in the matter.
But you must take care not to project your own feelings on to your partner, no matter how fervently you believe in your choices. You must not lay guilt when your partner orders the burger alongside your vegetable curry. You must not bark statistics or disturbing information at your lover in hopes of swaying him or her to the light-side. Engaging in this type of behavior will do nothing more than create a rift between the two of you and it may end the relationship altogether.
Instead, keep an open heart and send love to your partner. Send gratitude and love to your partner’s dinner if it helps you. Remember that you were finding your way once too; and it is not your job to change them, only support them as best you can. That doesn’t have to mean agreeing with everything they do, but you can coexist in a mindful way. If you discover that isn’t possible, then perhaps you need to reevaluate if this person is the perfect match for you after all.
[photo: via Richard Giles on flickr]