Can vegans date non-vegans?

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» Can vegans date non-vegans?

Elena Orde debates the hotly contested topic

During my time in vegan-internet-land, I’ve encountered the topic of vegans dating non-vegans on a few occasions. There’s a wide spectrum of opinion on this one, ranging from those who could never conceive of being in a relationship with a non-vegan (ew, meat breath, ew) to people who can’t fathom why this would ever be an issue. It’s evidently something that we have a lot of feelings about.

My experience

I’ve been with my partner Ian for six years (can we have a round of applause for the smug couple, please?). I was vegetarian when we first got together, while he was an omnivore who was phobic about trying new food. If it didn’t fall into either the ‘well-done meat’ or ‘some form of potato except mashed’ category, it was avoided. That may be a slight exaggeration, but I once saw him panic order chips with a side of potato wedges for lunch in a vegetarian café.

"You may also find that by simply being with someone, what is important to you will often become important to them."

A few years (and many, many potatoes) down the line, I became interested in going vegan. When I took the plunge, Ian decided to go vegetarian at the same time as a result of all the hearty ethical debates we’d been having. When we moved in together a couple of years later, I asked how he felt about an animal product free flat. He made a sad noise for a couple of seconds, which in retrospect could have been a quiet goodbye to halloumi, then agreed that would be fine.

I then suggested that Ian try the Vegan Pledge, as he was pretty much there already. A year or so later and here we are – both vegan, while he makes the best barbecue seitan ribs and also gives adorable (I mean important) talks about animal rights at schools.

You may also find that by simply being with someone, what is important to you will often become important to them. Even the most die-hard steak fan, even someone who hasn’t ever previously considered animal rights to be important, can surprise you.

But I know that this isn’t the case for everyone, and that being a committed vegan in a relationship with someone who has no intention of re-evaluating their lifestyle can be difficult. So here are some thoughts to bear in mind if you’re in this situation.

Communication 

Give your partner an insight to the thought process that made you want to go vegan. This is different for everyone, so helping your partner see it from your personal perspective will allow them to understand you and your decision better. Brace yourself to hear some nonsensical or defensive arguments in response – most of us spouted this kind of stuff before we properly understood veganism.

Be prepared to have these kinds of conversations a few times – often people, even people very close to us, misconstrue a conversation as something to win, rather than something to learn from. But if you give someone time to step back and mull over your arguments, the next time the topic crops up their perspective may have changed slightly.

Sharing a space

While some don’t mind, many vegans find aspects of sharing a house with non-vegans difficult. From seeing animal products in the fridge, to sharing cooking equipment, to what you buy with any joint money, there are often a few issues to be navigated.

If it upsets you too much to see animal products in your fridge, or to have them on your table, then your partner should be receptive to having discussions with you about this. Likewise if you pay for things like meals out and food shopping jointly: if you don’t want your money to fund animal product industries, this is your choice. Chat to your partner – if it’s important to you, you should be able to come up with a solution together.

Showing respect

If your partner shows no desire to ever go vegan, the key to a happy relationship will be respect. Clearly, if your partner mocks you for being vegan, or brings it up in a derogatory way in company, this isn’t OK. 

In my internet-trawling I’ve seen a lot of comments from vegans (exclusively women) who are vegan but cook meat for their partners. If someone honestly doesn’t mind doing this then that’s a different issue, but if someone has gone vegan for the animals then this is a bit concerning. Preparing animal products for your partner isn’t something which should be expected, and isn’t something which someone should feel pressured to do.

So what’s the answer? Should vegans date non-vegans?

Well I’m afraid going to have to plead liberal on this one. Whoever someone chooses to be with is up to them. While not being vegan is a deal-breaker for some, it’s not for others. And that’s probably a good thing, meaning that we can expand awareness and understanding of veganism wider than if we only dated vegans. But don’t let anyone tell you that you should use your dating life as a means of vegan activism – frankly, that’s just creepy. Simply: do what makes you the most happy!

By Elena Orde

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Comments

All in all, I think mixed couples like this should be and could be. Its lile Intertacials, Same sex and more. People can put these kind of differences apart for one another and harmony can be achieved. I think trying Veganism helps to understand but it is not for everyone. I tried being Vegan for a Year, and while the meals were Delicious, my health caved seriously. Doctors felt it was better to have some kind of intake of meat, but I still cook and enjoy vegan or vegetarian meals more than ever. I guess it is pulling hairs, but trying and inviting them to try is a great idea if they are willing... otherwise, it is respect that will help these relationships best.

I am vegan and I also have lodgers in my house. I know this is taking the topic off on a tangent but it relates in that it means that I am sharing my living space, fridge, cooking utensils etc with meat-eaters. I would never insist on only taking vegan only lodgers. Partly because I think that there is still a stigma of 'otherness' that surrounds vegans and I don't want to buy into that and partly because I feel that by 'showing' how delicious and healthy my vegan food is to meat eaters, I can do more for veganism than I can in any other way. My personal attitude to kitchen utensils is that the dishwasher does a decent job of removing any trace of animal residue. I have to put up with a lot of disrespect from my family for my vegan choice but things have got better in that my mother does cook vegan meals for me when I visit, which is something that would not have happened a few years ago, so I see this as small steps along the way!

Hi I've been married for 24 years to a meat eater. We raised our son as a egg free vegetarian. He has been a life long vegi, but will not give up dairy. I have been vegan for over 15 years and vegetarian for most of our married life. I used to eat chicken and fish for the first year of our marriage. How it works for us - We do not cook any meat in the house. All our main meals are vegan at home. My husband eats meat in his sandwiches and if we eat out. Our son eats cheese and drinks milk. I am a great cook and they both enjoy all the meals I cook them. I don't nag them to change their eating habits and they don't ask me to alter mine. It maybe mean I have to be prepared to cook tasty, varied food so they don't get board.

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