Maintaining a commitment to veganism involves changes to the way we eat, drink and shop, however it can also influence our relationships.
With Australia’s plant based community constituting 8.7% of the population, many vegans will find themselves dating an omnivore at some point.
When personal principles are at odds, arguments are more likely to occur, and it’s not uncommon to feel alone or frustrated when others don’t share our views.
Developing a new relationship, or nurturing an existing one, is still one of the most rewarding experiences that life has to offer.
For this reason, we’ve rounded up some of the most valuable insights from vegans who’ve managed successful relationships with their omnivore partners:
1. Gently does it
Vegans are passionate about animal rights and environmental issues, but kindness and respect are also at the core of our value set.
For this reason, it’s often wise to educate our loved ones about vegan topics at a gentler pace that suits individual needs.
“My boyfriend went from meat with every meal to eating almost completely vegan inside the house”, explains Lindsey S, a vegan who gave us permission to share her experiences.
“He agreed to watch Earthlings with me to understand why I went vegan, and from there he started eating less meat”.
“I let it be completely his decision and I never say anything when he strays – not pushing is the key”.
Lindsey S adds that she would not want her partner to feel pressured into veganism, and believes the focus should be on educating and supporting one another.
2. Shop your way
The grocery store can present a hotbed of conflict between vegans and omnivores, however there are ways to make shopping work for the entire household.
‘Veganizing’ your partner’s favourite foods is one way to introduce plant based groceries in a non-confronting manner.
Sandra, another vegan interviewed, said that plant based groceries prompted her husband to realise that animal products are not a necessity.
“He usually just ate what I ate, and that’s what slowly started to take hold because he couldn’t believe how much like the real thing some of the substitutes were”, Sandra says.
If your partner is not open to trying plant based groceries, independent shopping may be the most suitable approach.
“I just can’t bring myself to buy animal products in the grocery store”, says Christine, whose husband instead does his own shopping online.
3. Have fun at mealtimes
Mealtimes can present a similar challenge for vegans and omnivores, however adopting a fun and playful attitude can help overcome this.
Lindsey A uses a ‘one bite rule’, which prompts her partner to taste every plant based meal, and reduces tension at mealtimes.
“Picky tastes can be relaxed, and over time my boyfriend has become way more open to trying things he never would have before”, Lindsey A says.
Sandra agrees, saying that serving regular plant based meals made her husband question, “Why would anyone choose to eat an animal when they don’t have to?”
4. Respect goes both ways
Respect is at the centre of every healthy relationship, and establishes patterns for ongoing communication and behaviour.
“It is important to respect and support the choices of your partner, even when your partner seems to be making ‘bad’ choices”, explains Dan, another vegan interviewed.
“There’s a tendency to try and bully others to conform to what you believe to be optimal – it takes a sense of perspective to allow others to discover what works best for them”.
In relationships between vegans and omnivores, respect will sometimes involve accepting that other viewpoints will not always align with our own.
As Dan puts it, “[people] can believe and act however they want without my judgement, so long as the person’s action does not interfere with my freedom”.
5. Celebrate the small stuff
Recognising the progress you have shared as a couple is often more beneficial than expecting change to happen overnight.
“Celebrate the small victories… For example, cow’s milk is no longer a thing in our home”, says Lindsey A.
“It is important to remember that every reduction in meat is something to be appreciated”.
Choosing to respect individual differences can in fact provide the foundation for a stronger, more tolerant relationship.
As Andrea E puts it, “My husband hasn’t become vegan, but he’s become a lot closer to one since we’ve been together, and has agreed to raise our child vegan”.
“Don’t nag, just be an example of a happy, healthy vegan”.
If you have relationship insights to offer Australia’s plant based community, please share your comments below.
Facebook also offers a range of dedicated Groups, where vegans can seek support from like-minded people across the globe.