I’m vegan and I’m in love with a meat-eater.
When I first told my partner, T, that I was going to be vegan, he was really excited for me. He knew I’d been thinking about this for a while.
Mixed-diet relationships can be difficult because eating is such a central shared experience, and I’m incredibly grateful to have such a supportive partner.
Still, even for the most supportive non-vegan partner,
Going from meat-eater to meat-free is a big lifestyle change that can alienate him.
His first question, understandably, was:
“How will we eat together?”
To which I replied with great cheer:
“No difference! You can have meat, I’ll just have veggies!
Restaurant’s always veggies!”
A few days later….
We met at a restaurant we frequented in my meat-eating days (ie: 2 weeks before).
It was a Bak Kut Teh store (Singaporean pork rib soup).
We sat down at a table.
T: “I’ll get the usual, and you can have the…”
Me: “Oh… Uh. None of the dishes are vegan…”
That was a painful experience for both of us.
Me getting hangry, him feeling bad.
So I may have been over-optimistic on the vegan/non-vegan thing.
There were big differences.
Becoming vegan was a personal choice, but it was never an individual impact.
My personal choice had an impact on all of my loved ones: family, friends and especially T.
So what do we do?
We talk about it.
We’ve had a few missed-steaks, but open communication has helped T and I be closer than ever at the dining table.
5 FAQs at the table and how to answer them:
1. “Is vegan food good?” – Wow your partner
Take heed: a good answer to this is simply not good enough.
Go for a GREAT answer.
Wow your partner with fantastic plant-based cuisine, especially in the early days.
This. Is. Absolutely. Critical.
Showing that vegan food can be just as good or better than what we used to enjoy together is essential.
T and I are equally passionate about food being one of life’s greatest pleasures.
Naturally, T was concerned about whether “not having animal products” meant “depravation”.
Frankly, so was I.
My biggest hurdle to going vegan was: “Can I still have cake?”
It’s only after finding delicious vegan cakes – and not just “okay” cake! – did I decide to make the change.
T has no qualms in having vegan some days, and once we started having GREAT vegan meals, he was fully on board.
(Sometimes with chicken on the side, but that’s ok).
2. “Can we eat anything else?” – Empower the other
Talking about food is not easy.
Food, so intertwined with the relationship and individual values, is an emotionally-charged topic.
We frequently checked-in with each other on how we were feeling about the change.
T shared feeling a lack of freedom, and we landed on a compromise with a points system.
T has 14 points he can call on anytime, and I’d have a non-vegan meal with him.
This could be for his birthday, for me to sample a dish he grew up with, or just a craving that he wants to share with me.
“So you’re not a true vegan!?” — I accept this, because it’s important that T feels he can support my being vegan for the longterm.
You can have a different system that suits your unique circumstances.
The key thing is not about using the points. T has only ever used 2 of the 14 points.
The key thing is that he feels empowered.
3. “What are we having today?” – Take ownership
Generally, I take ownership of mealtimes.
As the one with the more selective diet, I take responsibility for my being willing to eat what’s on the menu.
I normally suggest the food we’re cooking and ordering in, or places we’re eating out at.
If we’re being fancy on a date night, I’ll be the one to shortlist restaurants and call in to check if the menu is suitable.
That said, I don’t go Dictator Mao on him.
I make sure to present options, mindful again that he feels empowered.
- “Totally vegan or mixed restaurant today?”
- “Which of these three recipes sound the most interesting?”
- “Broccoli, kale or me?”
He always has a choice.
4. “How’s your meal?” – Create new shared experiences
The shared experience at the dining table has definitely changed.
There’s a sense of nostalgia when he has a non-vegan meal that I used to enjoy with him, for example.
To make new memories in their place, we continue to find ways to share even the non-vegan dishes.
I won’t taste it, but he’ll describe the flavours to me. (T can be quite poetic.)
I might even take a sniff!
By turning the dining experience into so much more than just putting food in your mouth, we’re both participating no matter what’s on the plate.
5. “Do you mind if I have meat?” – Don’t judge
I repeatedly tell T that he can have meat whenever he wants.
Never have I asked him to become vegan, nor will I ever tell him to choose between cows and me.
(Hopefully he picks me)
Shaming and guilt-tripping the other for doing something I don’t is the surest way to grow apart.
Whilst I do believe in sharing the benefits of being vegan, I lead by example rather than debate.
It seems to be working, because after watching a Netflix movie on Veganism, T went:
“maybe I’ll try having less meat….”
He’s slowly getting converted…… 😀
Differences in values and lifestyle can take a lifetime for a couple to reconcile.
Still, these always present an opportunity to grow closer with communication and creativity.
In the end, our relationship is more important than what’s on our plates — although I’m delighted his is getting more and more plant-based! 😉