So your girlfriend/boyfriend/bed buddy has suddenly announced the unthinkable: they’re going vegan. Memories of shared 2 pounds tubs of Pinkberry and drunken 3 am pizza slices burn before your eyes, and while your first inclination may be to run from the room screaming, take a step back and remind yourself: this really isn’t about you, anyway.
However, it will affect you. Let’s not kid ourselves. The way we eat is important. It’s personal, it’s emotional, and it says a lot about who you are. But unlike politics or religion (which are also personal, emotional, and telling), our relationship with food is impossible to ignore because it comes to the table three times a day.
When the person you’re with eats differently, things can get a little wonky – especially if they go vegan after you’ve been together a while, and you suddenly find yourself hiding in the bathroom with a bag of beef jerky thinking, I didn’t sign up for this.
Bathroom jerky aside, it’s possible for two people to co-exist happily with different dietary and philosophical beliefs. All it takes is a blend of the three c’s: compassion, communication, and compromise:
Compassion — and its second cousin, respect — swings in both directions. Assuming your partner is not suddenly wielding PETA pamphlets and slices of non-dairy cheese, dole out the same level of respect they’re throwing at you. Withhold judgement, be willing to try those weird-looking kale chips, take the reigns on researching a vegan restaurant for date night, and for fuck’s sake, don’t ask them where they’re going to get their protein.
It’s safe to assume most of why you liked this person had nothing to do with their affinity for pepperoni. So while meat is now off the table, the things you saw in them before—their wicked sense of humor and excellently curated Spotify playlists—are likely still present. Instead of mourning your Sunday burger brunches, take time to explore the things that are changing by talking about them. Ask why they decided to make the switch. Remember that it’s okay to express an opposing belief, even if heated discussions ensue. Charged conversations can be sexy, so long as you can go without flinging cutlery.
After you’ve got a solid handle on what’s percolating behind their lifestyle switch, explore how it will affect you, and what their expectations are. This brings us to…
Don’t worry; so long as your partner has reasonable expectations, they don’t expect you to stop eating meat, nor should you have to banish it from your fridge or cease to eat it in their presence. However, some things are going to change. Date nights are likely to be different, as will be cooking together and/or for one another. When you’re vegan, social events can serve up a heaping serving of awkward. This also occurs when you’re the one who brought the vegan. Instead of stewing about how you liked things as they were (change is s-s-scary), try your best to compromise. Choose restaurants where you can both enjoy a meal. If you live together, talk about how to organize the kitchen so cross-contamination doesn’t occur.
Make an effort to give and take, because whether you’re vegan or omnivore or paleo or entomophagan, that’s how a relationship works. And food politics aside, that’s what this is all about: making your relationship work. Tofu and all.