People

The Non-Vegan Boyfriend

When I met Will, almost five years ago, I was a dedicated vegetarian. Our first date was at an Indian restaurant with plenty of vegetarian fare and our shared meals were always meat-free. While my diet sometimes prevented us from attending certain restaurants (I once cried because he suggested we have Sushi Train) or sharing a hot dog at a BBQ it never presented us with any major challenges. The lack of meat in my home-cooked meals was compensated for by copious amounts of cheese or butter and I learned, long before meeting Will, to be a passive activist by keeping my mouth shut at dinner parties. Finally, the price of meat was outrageous so Will could hardly afford it on a student budget.

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Times have changed. Since moving to Australia, I have transitioned to a vegan diet and openly discuss my reasons for doing so at dinner parties if someone asks about it or makes a comment. Will is rich enough to purchase a packet of kangaroo burgers from time to time and most importantly I have learned that even vegans can enjoy Sushi Train.

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People are occasionally surprised that we do not subscribe to the same ideologies or that we manage to go out on dinner-dates. Nowadays, with all the amazing vegan restaurants popping up all over the place and the general interest in plant-based cuisine it’s simply not that difficult to compromise. My diet, however, has caused some strife in the relationship. If you want to follow a different diet than your partner you may have struggles.

Challenges
  • finding a restaurant for dinner-dates
  • planning meals at home
  • splitting the grocery bill
  • understanding why they don’t want to have what you’re having

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These are the main problems we have encountered when it comes to my vegan lifestyle and his omnivorous one. Below are the solutions that we have come up with as a couple to make things easier. Of course, these ideas may not suit everyone but they are definitely working for us.

Possible Solutions
  1. If you cannot agree on the location for your next dinner-date come up with a system. We take turns choosing places. If it’s your choice you have the final say; the other person must find something to eat at that venue.
  2. When we eat at home we generally default to vegan. If Will wants to consume animal products he prepares his food separately or sprinkles  cheese on top after I serve myself. I also try to prepare recipes that taste like the “real thing”. Making an honest effort to prepare food you both enjoy makes a difference.
  3. Personally, I don’t like paying for animal products. When it comes to groceries Will pays for non-vegan foods. If I go out and splurge on a bunch of organic produce I contribute a bit more money because he wouldn’t normally buy all organic.
  4. When it comes to understanding each other we maintain an ongoing conversation about our dietary choices and how they relate to other aspects of our lifestyle. Will often encourages me to do research and find out more about what I choose to consume. I encourage Will to experiment with plant-based eating and continue to share the benefits with him as I learn them.

If you follow the steps above I would say you are well on your way to being a supportive partner. Clearly communicating your needs to the other person and actively seeking new ways to include them is key. You also need to reserve judgement and recognize that everyone is on their own journey. A little neutral loving compassion can go a long way. Finally, if you’re about to make a major dietary change discuss it with your partner and give them the opportunity to express their feelings as well as ask questions.

Thanks Will for helping me put this post together and proof-reading it!

Photo Credits: The talented and wonderful Brigitte Benning