There’s an old song called, “Love will keep us together.” Ah, If only that were true. It takes a lot more than just love and passion to keep people together, and this is especially true when ethical veganism suddenly becomes part of the relationship dynamic. Below I present two scenarios where this issue challenges couples to reinvent or rethink their relationship. For the sake of brevity, I will be henceforth be referring to the vegan partner as ‘V’ and the non-vegan partner as ‘NV’.
Two people begin their relationship as NV’s, and over time, one of them decides to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
- The NV might be worried his life will dramatically change. This is not an unrealistic concern because shifting from a non-vegan to vegan path initially does involve lots of changes. Diet, clothing, home furnishings, and leisure activities are all areas where adjustments should be expected. How quickly will change need to occur for both people to feel comfortable? Where will modifications in lifestyle begin?
- The NV might believe her partner will expect her to adopt a vegan lifestyle too, and exert unwelcome pressure to make this happen. Pressuring a partner to do anything is not a recommended course of action, as few of us respond positively to arm-twisting. A more effective approach might be to suggest to her that the two of you watch a video together, such as Earthlings or Dominion, so she understands why you’ve become passionate about veganism. Or, if she is willing, suggest some books/articles/podcasts so she can absorb new information and ideas, on her own time. Obviously there is no guarantee your partner will become vegan or be supportive of your decision to do so. If she is unwilling to try to understand your motivation or is hostile about the change, the two of you might decide a parting of the ways would be best for all.
- If the NV makes clear he will not be transitioning to veganism and you decide to remain together, make sure any expectations you might have of each other are clearly stated and both parties agree to them. Like most transitions, expect some bumps along the way.
A vegan couple begins having problems because one member of the coupledom decides he/she no longer wants to adhere to a vegan lifestyle.
- When two people enter into a romantic relationship, they often share many of the same core values. If one partner no longer wants to adhere to the principles of veganism, then this might feel like a betrayal to the V who entered into the relationship believing this would always be a shared value.
- Veganism is about living a compassionate life and that extends to all sentient beings. The V might begin to look differently at his partner believing she is not as caring as initially thought. Don’t assume this is the case. Instead, speak openly with each other about what’s happening and make sure the newly NV partner elucidates the reasons for giving up on veganism. In general, we don’t have to go around explaining our motivations and actions to others, but in romantic relationships the stakes are a lot higher, so it is best to help your V partner understand the rationale for the shift.
- As in scenario one, both partners have to decide if they feel comfortable continuing the relationship, now that veganism is no longer a shared value and lifestyle. It’s not a foregone conclusion that these types of relationships will fail. But for them to succeed and grow, both people must not lose sight of everything else that has been working and keeping them together.
Whether you find yourself in scenario one or two, you will likely be negotiating the following:
- Is the NV okay going to vegan restaurants all the time, some of the time, or not at all? Is the V okay with going to non-vegan restaurants that offer vegan options? And what happens when the two of you are invited to family functions or parties where meat will be served?
- How will the two of you handle outings where animal exploitation is involved? For example, do you both go on the family fishing or hunting trip? Do you visit the circus, aquarium, or marine park with the nieces and nephews?
- If you live together or stay often at each other’s homes, what will be the protocol around food? Will non-vegan food be welcome in the home? If so, will there be separate dishes, utensils, or areas for food prep? Will you be eating vegan and non-vegan food at the same table, at the same time?
- If you do live together, what happens if the NV partner wants to buy a leather couch, or a down comforter or pillow?
- When inviting friends/family over, will you offer both vegan and non-vegan food? If only vegan food is permitted in the home, what will you do if one of the guests brings in non-vegan food?
- If you’re not going to be following the vegan path together, what else connects the two of you? What other values do you share? What interests do you have in common and/or are passionate about? What activities do you enjoy doing together?
- Be wary of resentments that can pop up during these transitions. Ask yourself if you still respect your partner? Are you still comfortable spending time with him/her?
As you can see, I posed more questions than I answered and this was intentional. It is not my place (or anyone else’s for that matter) to dictate the terms of someone else’s relationship. Some relationships will thrive in spite of the above-mentioned transitions while others will end. What’s important to remember is that all romantic relationships, whether veganism is an issue or not, require open communication, honesty, patience, and respect. So while there’s no guarantee these principles will keep you together, they’ll make whatever journey you’re on a lot more pleasurable.