People are easily confused by my family. I’m vegan, my husband omniverous, and my daughter vegetarian. It surprises me how often somebody asks me ‘But can vegans date non-vegans?’ The strict answer is of course, YES! It’s absolutely possible to be in a relationship with a non-vegan, but it really all depends on the vegan’s preference. Veganism is a whole lifestyle for many, so elements of it will naturally drip feed into your relationship, such as cooking, eating out, buying ethical clothing. Some vegans therefore find it easier to only date like-minded people, yet others can make a ‘mixed household’ work long-term. It really does depend on your compatibility with your partner, and if you understand and respect each others’ choices.
So what can help you settle into a loving, understanding relationship with a non-vegan?
Respect- a Requirement for Being in ANY Relationship
Any long-term relationship requires respect. Whilst your partner may not understand veganism, they can at least support your choice. That means no bacon jokes, mocking veganism to the family, or moaning about your food (well, unless it tastes really bad). It does mean being open to meeting halfway on topics and decisions. This could be trying a vegan ‘faux meat’ meal so you can eat and cook together once per week. What’s important to you, should at the very least gather respect and acceptance from them.
But, respect goes both ways. While you may not approve of people eating meat (I feel your pain), you have to be able to accept the fact that your significant other may go vegan in 1 months time, 10 years time, or maybe even never. But it doesn’t prevent you from being a positive influence on them, introducing them to different vegan meals so that you can eat together, and maybe even reduce their meat intake. If you can’t handle the thought that your partner may never go vegan, it may be time to have a frank conversation about your future.
Setting Boundaries; a Key Component to Being in a Relationship With a Non-Vegan
Living with a non-vegan partner definitely requires a few boundaries. Think firstly about kitchen space. Some couples will agree to have solely vegan products in the house, others have a designated meat area. You can even consider a separate mini-fridge if it helps!
My husband has his own shelf in the fridge away from my products and eye-level so i don’t even have to look at them. It’s great to see that this shelf is actually often empty, as he eats so much of my vegan food now. Just recently he has decided to do vegan weekends, resulting in much less non-vegan produce in the house. This has certainly made weekend meals a lot easier to navigate.
You also need to think about your willingness to buy meat/dairy from the supermarket for them, and then prepare it. If doing this upsets you and feels like a huge ethical compromise, explain this to your other half. You should never feel pressured to do something you don’t want to do. They will need to arrange this themselves, or join you in a vegan feast! It is much easier to agree on this in advance than have your partner open the fridge and wonder why you forgot all of their favourites. Or worse, feel like you’ve made an important decision behind their back.
But, setting boundaries isn’t just for those that live together. If you go out for meals, will your partner happily avoid their favourite steakhouse, and dine at an eatery with vegan options? How about a completely vegan restaurant? It goes both ways – if your partner has never eaten a vegan meal before, expecting them to go to a fully vegan restaurant on a second date may be a tad too far! Will they also support you if their family makes jibes at your lifestyle, or will they join in? These are things that can be good to discuss in advance, to avoid any disagreements. Find your own comfort zone as a couple.
Adapt Meals To Suit
Dating a non-vegan doesn’t have to mean cooking two different meals every night. Ask your partner what their favourite meals, ingredients and vegan foods are. You can make more of these so you can both enjoy a dish together. If your partner loves a good curry, try making their favourite with marinated vegan Quorn pieces. They may be pleasantly surprised. If they’re a big steak fan, try them with Vivera vegan steaks, or have a go at making seitan. Dished up with some lovely homemade chips, mushrooms and grilled tomatoes, even meat-lovers should be impressed!
It all relies on communication. If you both work full-time or are extremely busy, there may not be time to make several different dishes at 6pm every evening. While a vegan won’t eat any meat, a non-vegan can morally eat a vegan dish, so you could agree that your main meal is vegan on those hectic days. That way, they know what to expect on the table when they come home. Or if they’re cooking for you, leave out an easy recipe for them to follow! It will save your sanity and time.
You may have days when your partner insists on a non-vegan meal. If this is the case, these are the days when they should cook. If this isn’t an option, think about the simplest way of doing a meal for you both. Starting off with a vegan base is a great idea. For example, when making a stir fry, you can cook the veg, noodles, sauce first – all vegan. Then simply add tofu for you, and meat for your partner, on the individual plates at the end. This will save the hassle of making completely different dishes in different pots. You can apply the same concept to roast dinners, curries and casseroles.
Communication is Essential in Being in a Relationship with a Non-Vegan
Constant communication is really important in a multi-lifestyle relationship. Even with the points above discussed, feelings and stances can change. One of you may want to move the boundary lines on a specific issue, or become uncomfortable with a certain aspect of your lives. It’s important to always talk things through honestly (each of you stating an opinion) before you come to a decision that you’re both happy with.
It’s also easier for your partner to accept and understand veganism, if you explain why you went vegan, and what you enjoy about it. This shouldn’t be a guilt trip on your part. If expressed in the wrong way, it could make your partner defensive. If approached in a calm and tactful manner, it’s a useful tool in understanding your choices. Explain that this is right for YOU, but you don’t necessarily expect them to follow. Well, at least right away! A conversation isn’t an argument to win, it’s an opportunity to learn from each other.
If your relationship is just starting out, you may not yet need to consider this. But if you see children as part of your future, it is worth having a serious discussion. Because it goes beyond just being in a relationship with a non-vegan at this point. Will you raise your child vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous And why? How will you explain mummy and daddy’s different eating habits when they get older? Will you tell them where meat comes from, and at what age? These questions should all be given thought. You should also research the topic together so you can decide what is best for your values, and child’s health.
Our daughter is vegetarian, which is a compromise between me and the husband. Of course, I would much rather her be vegan, and believe this is the healthiest, kindest way to live. When she’s at home with me, she eats vegan. I don’t keep eggs or dairy in the fridge for her, unless they are brought into the house by someone else. She has plant milk to drink and on cereals. I regularly introduce her to vegan foods such as tofu, and she loves houmous! The vegetarianism tends to creep in outside of the home, when others take her out. This is where I have to be more relaxed and relinquish control.
Don’t Take Things To Heart
Deep down, we probably all want our significant others to be vegan, and truly feel that the plant-based lifestyle is the best way of living for the animals, environment and health. It can feel frustrating when you can’t ‘make’ others view life the same way you do.
But there is a line between sharing parts of your lifestyle with your partner, and projecting your feelings onto them, forcing guilt. Putting on the documentary Cowspiracy as your partner sits down to a big burger, is probably not the way to have a healthy relationship, or inspire any change! It only creates arguments, rifts and resistance. If you are serious about this relationship, instead focus on what you love about them, and the things that they do that you’re grateful for. It may sounds cheesy, but it does work. If they eat vegan with you, support you, do little things that make you smile – cherish that. There has to be a reason you’re together outside of veganism. Remember – you are not here to change them, but accept and support them. Think about the person you were before you became vegan, and try to understand, while still sharing aspects of veganism with them.
Being in a relationship with a non-vegan can be tricky without putting any thought into it. My husband and I have had some difficult conversations, but some great shared vegan times too! With these tools, a little navigation and communication, having this kind of partnership can just be a simple part of everyday life. And you never know, you may be able to open the mind of even the most die-hard steak fan!
About the author of Being in a Relationship With a Non-Vegan– Katy Malkin is an adventurous writer, sweet-toothed foodie, and the creator of Learner Vegan. She is passionate about making veganism accessible for all.