I recently read a woman’s magazine article about “mixed relationships” and ways for a couple to stay together even if they have seemingly irreconcilable differences. The writer interviewed a vegetarian woman and her meat-eating husband and asked them how they managed to get along even though they had different fundamental beliefs. The couple gave some simple tips about not nagging one another, preaching, making demands, or flaunting your food choices in your partner’s face.
They found “common ground” on certain foods and mostly ate vegetarian meals together at home. Their suggestions were reasonable enough and may work well for many couples, but I wasn’t quite convinced. It may be a bit easier for someone who’s vegan for health reasons to overlook a partner’s “indiscretions,” but how can an ethical vegan stay with someone if they don’t condone or respect their choices?
Imagine the introductions: “Mom, this is Rob. He’s a kind, compassionate man—oh, except that he ate a chicken’s leg for lunch and he really doesn’t care if his food has a face or not.”
“Within A Week With Me You’ll Be Eating Chicken”…Not
I met a seemingly nice guy in the book buyback line at my college once. A few nights later, we were sitting in a movie theater making small talk when out of the blue he said, matter-of-factly, “Within a week with me, you’ll be eating chicken.” He said it without malice or even outright arrogance, so it didn’t really dawn on me what he had said until later. In retrospect, I wish I had walked out of the theater, but I was nervous, and a relatively new vegan, so I suppose that’s why it didn’t infuriate me immediately. (We weren’t going to have a second date regardless of his comment, so I suppose there’s no point dwelling on it anyway.)
But what if your potential partner doesn’t try to convert you? How could you not try to convert him or her? There’s a big difference between shoving a steak in someone’s face and just wanting your boyfriend or girlfriend to eat ethically. It’s not about being judgmental, but it is a judgment call. If your partner’s values conflict with your own, can you ever truly get along? You may not fight, but wouldn’t it cause you heartache every time he or she bit into a cheeseburger or an egg McMuffin?
You can “separate” the kitchen so you have your own “veggie shelves” but maybe that just makes your differences more glaringly obvious? You can avoid the issue and focus on his or her good qualities, but eventually you may notice the elephant in the room.
Finding Mr. or Ms. Right Vegan
The thing is though, unless you’re at a vegan gathering or a popular vegan hangout, there’s a good chance that the cute, smart, and funny guy or gal you’ve got your eye on is not a vegan. Does that mean that he or she is not really worth pursuing? Upon meeting someone for the first time, should we inquire if they’re vegan or not, and reject the possibility of a relationship if not? Or should we just cross our fingers and hope that our love interests will pick up kinder, healthier habits because of our influence? That’s a good possibility, of course, but it’s never wise to enter into a relationship thinking you can change your partner.
What if “the one” for you is not a vegan? Does that mean that he or she is not really “the one” for you? Than where does that leave you? Maybe joining a local vegetarian group and going to vegetarian meetings and conferences, or possibly on VegConnect, Vegetarian Passions, or one of the many other vegetarian personal ad sites. (Whether they’re safe or worthwhile or not is up to you decide.) But that’s still no guarantee that you will you meet “the one” for you.
The point is that I don’t think co-existing with a meat-eating partner is as cut and dry as the article made it seem, and I also don’t think it’s so simple to reject all non-vegans. Compromise and tolerance are part of any relationship, but ethical principles are a major part of many vegans’ lives. The trick is getting them all to mesh.
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