I met Matt during my pre-vegan days. At the beginning of our relationship, I remember us indulging in salmon dinners, steak dipped in hummus, and chorizo pasta. Oh, such a different time that was. Looking back, even with his Celiac disease and us eating gluten-free together, things were so easy back then!
We had been dating for almost 10 months when I told him about my lifestyle choice to go vegan. For him, I think the world stopped turning in that instant. Once he realized that I was serious, it was devastating for him. It was as if he went through the 5 stages of grief, for Christ’s sake.
- First, denial. “This isn’t going to last.” “You’re just upset.”
- Then, anger. “We won’t be able to eat ANYTHING together!”
- Next, bargaining. “Can’t you just be a vegetarian?” “Why don’t you eat grass-fed meat and cage-free eggs instead?”
- Depression? Well, no, he wasn’t depressed. But he was genuinely concerned about my health, and upset that his diet was about to be even more strict as long as we were eating together.
But guess what? Acceptance came, and when it did, we became closer and happier than ever. We overcame it. Our house is full of love and support for each other.
So, how did we do it? How did we come to a compromise?
How to Live with an Omnivore (and still love each other)
1. Make kickass vegan food.
Most likely, no amount of words are going to show your loved one that vegan food is awesome. You’re going to need to prove it to them. Convince them with your food, not your words. Show them that vegan food isn’t only delicious, but filling, too!
This might not be feasible for everyone out there, but find a vegan-friendly restaurant in your area and take your beau with you. This is the fool-proof way of showing omnivores that vegan food rocks. Going to restaurants can also be inspiring for those who love to cook, so take your favorite dishes and try to make them at home.
What? You want my help? Why, of course my website has SO MANY great vegan options for you to sink your teeth into! …but seriously, stock up on recipes from Pinterest-renowned vegan food bloggers, too.
Trust me. They’ll learn sooner or later that eating vegan doesn’t have to suck.
2. Stand your ground.
Just like so many other people in the world, your loved one may have a major problem with you wanting to live a vegan lifestyle. S/he come up with every reason why you shouldn’t be vegan. S/he might try to convince you that you’re wrong or stupid for wanting to change.
Don’t let them. Don’t let anyone try to tell you who you can and cannot be. The only person you need to make happy is yourself. For me, after being exposed to modern-day animal cruelty, I wouldn’t be happy if I went on with my life pretending that what I saw didn’t affect me. I was NOT going to let the majority opinion tell me how I was going to live my life, or how to be “normal”. If this was what “normal” was, I wanted no part in it anymore.
Change is good, people. We grow and change and become better people for it.
This is especially true when you’re in a relationship. Relationships are 2x harder because you must grow and change together. But here’s my opinion: If you’re not going to grow with me, then you’re going to grow without me. I don’t care how much I love someone. If you’re not going to accept me for who I am and who I want to be, then this is not going to work. I made this abundantly clear to Matt, and he did what every good man would do. He accepted me for the person he fell in love with: someone who cares. Which leads me to my next step…
3. Accept each other’s differences.
That acceptance is a two-way street. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t try to convert (I hate using that word… so cultish) Matt to join my good cause. I tried to get him to watch the documentaries, but it wasn’t happening. Matt did not want to be a vegan.
It cut into me a little at first, knowing that he wasn’t going to try to save the world with me. My initial childlike impression was that he didn’t care.
But you know what? I quickly got over that. As mentioned in the previous step, he was standing his ground just like I was standing mine. I couldn’t blame him for what he wanted, and I can’t change him. I loved him very much, and as long as he was going to accept me, I was going to accept him, too. I was going to make this work.
I’m the main cook in the house, and I have a rule that I have had since the beginning: I will be cooking only vegan meals. If you don’t like that, then cook something for yourself. Seriously, who says that we need to eat the same thing all the time? Who says that I need to be the only one cooking in this house? It just so happens that Matt loves my vegan meals so much that he hardly ever cooks separately from me, which has made life a lot easier for us. (This is where Step 1 REALLY comes in handy!)
We also must compromise when it comes to going food shopping. We always go to the grocery store together. We’ll split the bill in half of things we both eat together. After that, we pay for our own things. He’ll add sausage, lunch meats, cheese, milk, and Ben & Jerry’s to his own bill. I’ll add some almond milk and coconut milk to my bill, as well as products with gluten in them, such as wraps (which I have yet to find a good vegan & gluten-free option of). This works for us.
When he adds cheese to the cart, I don’t whine or roll my eyes. We continue on like it’s no big deal. When we go to a restaurant and he wants steak, I don’t judge him. When we go to a restaurant and I have a thousand questions about the ingredients of menu items, he doesn’t judge me, either. It’s what you do when you love someone.
4. Celebrate success, even the little things.
Matt used to eat meat, eggs, and dairy products all day, every day, every meal. Ever since I went vegan, he has made major changes to reduce the amount of animal-based products in his life. Now, he probably has meat an average of 3 times per week, which is a huge change. He hardly ever buys eggs anymore. He drinks milk and eats cheese, but only on occasion.
For this, I have to be thankful. Even though he’s not a vegan, he is still making a difference in the world. I must celebrate the positive changes, not focus on the negatives. I am very proud of how far he’s come, and I know he’s proud of me, too.
It’s been 3.5 years since I wrote this. Wow, have things changed. I’m happy to announce that Matt’s diet is predominately plant-based! He’s come a long way since adding sausage to the grocery cart – yuck!
How did this happen? Well, the transition was a slow one.
I think it started with milk products. Somewhere along the way, I found non-dairy milks that we both enjoyed. We use coconut milk for smoothies and baking, and we use almond milk for oatmeal & cereal. I also got him hooked on non-dairy ice cream from So Delicious. Once Ben & Jerry’s introduced their vegan line, the buy-in was official. In fact, he had a dairy milkshake about 2 years ago and got a massive stomachache from it. He said, “I will never drink dairy milk ever again. Please, remind me of this awful feeling if I’m ever tempted again.” I knew this all along, obviously, but you can’t teach someone who isn’t ready to learn. He had to find it out own his own through natural consequences.
Eventually, that crappy feeling came every time he ate the occasional animal product. His Mexican-style dining did a 180; chicken, steak, sour cream, and cheese was eventually replaced with sofritas, black beans, refried beans, delicious hot sauce, and guacamole. It didn’t take much to convince him that the guacamole upcharge was worth it.
In rare situations where he finds himself out to dinner with a bunch of non-vegan folk, when gluten-free vegan items are nonexistent, he’ll order fish. He also still eats gluten-free bread with egg in it; we haven’t found a brand (or recipe) that makes the perfect gluten-free vegan bread, but we’re looking! Other than that, it’s Plant-Based City, baby!
Time, logic, delicious exposure, and the willingness to make a positive change can heal the carnism in all of us.