When I started eating vegan back in 2013, I was 19. I was not looking for love or anything serious.
It was not a concern for me. However, the time came when I wanted to meet a veggie man. I was in college at the time and I was over the “let’s party and get drunk” scene and I just didn’t know where to start.
So….I found like, the only vegetarian dating website in existence. (Not sure if it’s even in operation anymore…I won’t name it here.).
The pickings were slim to say the least, and somehow I convinced myself that these men were my only shot at love. ( I cringe thinking back!) ;
Long story short, I did meet someone that I dated for 2 years and it was such a relief to connect with a man who was on my level when it came to animal rights and health.
It didn’t work out for many reasons, and I high tailed it down to Florida, where I knew I wanted to be anyways.
Fast forward several years. I am now vegan and a strong, independent woman living on her own, taking care of business.
In the town that I lived at the time, there was a major triathlon that came through every year, and one year I went out to watch and I was hooked.
I wanted to do it! So I immediately signed up for a local triathlon training group and started going to practices after work.
Lo and behold, at one of the practices I started chatting with a tall drink of water (6’3″) who took an interest in me. I wasn’t exactly looking for the love of my life that day, but what do ya know!
After the normal, “So what do you do?” chit chat, somehow it turned to the food topic (of course).
And of course, I told him about my wild and crazy diet and he tells me, “Oh, I love my meat. I could never live without it.” I roll my eyes.
I’ve heard this a million times. I want to dismiss him. I could just dismiss him, right? That would be too easy.
Fast forward again. Two years have gone by. We now live together and don’t want to spend a single day apart. From that day forward, I quickly realized two things:
- Things don’t always go exactly as planned.
- Things change (in awesome ways).
Disclaimer: He’s not vegan, even now. (And did I forget to mention that back in the day before I knew him, he used to sneak out of family dinners to eat pizza out of the trunk of his car because the meals were vegetarian?)
I thought I had my heart set on a vegan man, convinced myself I wouldn’t “settle” for anything less.
I myself have asked, “How does this work?” “How could I possibly love someone who doesn’t share in my passion?” The answer my friends, is love. Which is how I came to be vegan in the first place.
Below, I will tell you exactly how I’ve learned to keep the peace and co-habitat peacefully, all the while still loving each other unconditionally at the end of the day.
And while a lot of it is me, a lot of it is also him. I was lucky to meet someone who actually turned out to be incredibly supportive, loving and open.
1. Introduce Stuff…But Don’t Force It!
My boyfriend and I started slowly. I made it clear that if he wanted to hang out with me/date me/eat stuff with me, that I would be eating vegan.
I explained what this was and we set forth.
I remember one of the first times we went out to eat pizza. We both love pizza. I was super excited for him to try Daiya cheese, since I clearly love it and he’d never had it before.
Okay, so he didn’t love it. He said it was “too creamy.” I can see where he was coming from. But to me it was heaven.
Now when we eat out, he does order regular cheese. But honestly, I don’t throw a fit without pushing him away. So we moved on.
These days, he loves meatless meatballs, veggie burgers and chix strips. He even buys them without me around. I would consider that a major success.
He even loves my tofu sandwiches from the local health food store and tofu burritos, tofu on pizza and Chipotle sofritas.
This guy didn’t even know about all this delicious stuff before I came along, so I’ll take the credit for that.
The thing to take away from this is:
- Some people are totally unaware that so much deliciousness exists. I can’t even count the number of times someone has acted like my food was gross, but when I asked if they had ever tried it, of course they never had. It helps to have someone in your life who is open minded and willing to try different things.
- That being said, if they don’t like it, they don’t like it. I have never liked the taste of carrots in my entire life and every couple of years or so, I try it again to see if anything has changed. It hasn’t. No one can force me to eat carrots. Respect people’s preferences and find something that they will love and that you can enjoy together.
2. Don’t Hound /Nag /Harass /Guilt Your Partner
Let’s face it. NO ONE likes this. Food can be a pretty personal subject, as we all know. Plus, this will only drive you apart.
My boyfriend is the cereal eating type. In fact, he eats two bowls a day, minimum. Hey, not judging! But eating cereal involves eating milk.
And he loves his milk. At the beginning, I may have made a few snide remarks about nasty I thought milk was. He tried almond, soy and coconut milk but just didn’t like it.
And that was all I could ask. I would love him to pieces even if he ate 10 bowls of cereal a day. But you know what? While he still drinks milk, he now drink organic low fat milk and I happily buy it for him when he asks.
Going vegan is a choice based upon your morals, beliefs, goals and knowledge. You can encourage, support and impart yours onto someone else, but yours will never be theirs.
This is why any type of negative pressure on a loved one will lead no where and only drive you apart. Just don’t do it!
- Guilting someone will drive them away. You can have the same effect by sharing your feelings in a thoughtful, loving and non-judgmental way.
- Food is personal, but some people just may not know what you know about the food industry. Show compassionate for all.
3. Focus on Things That don’t Revolve Around Food
Fitness and triathlons were what brought us together. But we do like to eat! We have found plenty of restaurants in our town where we both can find things we like.
However, we also love to spend our time together training, swimming, biking, running, working out, watching movies and traveling.
Food is not a major issue for us, and I am relieved about this. If you are in a new relationship, I would highly encourage finding a common interest that is not food related.
This will give you a chance to bond and enjoy each others company without focusing on something that might seem like an immediate deal breaker.
If you are married and recently decided to try vegan, I would refer back to #2. Patience and love will always win out!
- Find a common interest that does not involve food. Use this as the glue!
- Don’t immediately disregard a potential mate just because they aren’t vegan. You could seriously be missing out. People change and nothing is ever set in stone.
4. Agree TO Disagree
Yup. Sometimes you just gotta agree to disagree and respect the difference of opinions. As long as there is mutual love and respect, you can get past any hurdle that comes your way.
- Keep the peace and be the first to forgive/apologize.
5. Let Your Passion Shine Through
So important! My boyfriend has seen me cry over the horrors and evils in the world many times. He knows I am extremely passionate about vegan and he get’s it.
He would do anything to protect me from being sad. If you are passionate, don’t keep it to yourself! The world needs more people like you.
It can be a little scary to put yourself out there, but share it with the people who love you and you can’t go wrong. If you are obvious about what you stand for, it will be easier for others to support you.
- Make sure that everyone who matters in your life knows about your passion so they can cheer you on! My mom recently bought two copies of the same vegan cookbook…one for me and one for her! She’s not vegan but she was so inspired by the book that she made the most delicious meal for a dinner she hosted for her out of town guests! Now she’s begging me to come over just so she can cook vegan for me. Score…
6. Support and be supported
It goes both ways. After two years, my boyfriend hardly ever eats meat around me, which I never asked for but think is very respectful.
His family usually gets him to eat it when we go over for family dinners. I don’t pressure him one way or the other and he makes his own choices.
I don’t mention it afterwards, make him feel guilty, or glare at him during meals. Always support him. I buy him organic milk and I make him cheese quesadillas and nachos.
He finds vegan restaurants in every town we visit and gladly tries something new and strange off the menu. He eats whatever I make him for dinner and (usually) loves it.
It is a give and take relationship where we both benefit, which is why it works so well.
- Being stubborn and inflexible will stall a relationship and cause unnecessary arguments.
- Supporting each other goes both ways. Think creatively and find the gray area.
7. Stand Strong
Whether you are just starting out as a vegan or have been one for years and years, don’t ever leave room for doubt as to your eating habits.
I’ve had people I work with be my “vegan police,” constantly telling me what I can and can’t have, even though they were clueless (and just trying to help me, of course). I can eat anything, I just choose not to.
I may have slipped a few times and eaten something that wasn’t vegan, and I would have people calling me out on it for years to come.
I’ve even had people offer a wager thinking they could get me to eat a cheeseburger. (Really?!) Being vegan brings to light other people’s eating habits and quite frankly, makes people feel uncomfortable.
So they deal with this in many different ways, per above.
It may be scary to go out into the world and declare yourself “vegan.” It doesn’t much matter about the label at the end of the day, as long as you educate yourself and stand strong in what you want.
No one will push you around (not even your partner) if you make it crystal clear from the beginning as to what you will and will not eat. This involves being flexible, articulate and passionate.
- Come up with smart and poignant responses to common vegan questions.
- If you slip up once, your vegan integrity will be compromised, whether you like it or not.
8. Accept That it’s Not Meant to be
Say it isn’t so. If you can’t seem to find common ground, are always arguing or making snide comments to each other…that is not a good sign. Vegan is about love and compassion, not hate. If you can’t get past the challenges, you may need to either:
- keep searching; or
- keep searching until you find your vegan equivalent.
No shame in that! Write down everything you want in a partner and then…throw it in the trash. Because life has a funny way of giving you what you don’t expect.
Keep an open mind and an open heart, live with passion and do what you love and love will find you.
“The day that man allows true love to appear, those things which are well made will fall into confusion and will overturn everything we believe to be right and true.” – Dante Alighieri – The Divine Comedy
If you are vegan and currently in a relationship with a non-vegan, what has helped your relationship thrive? I’d love to know, please share!