How To Go Vegan When Your Partner Won’t

Hi all! Today we’re going to be talking about a tricky topic, and you can pretty much guess what it is by the fact the title tells you exactly what it is. I completely understand and empathize with people who really want to be vegan/plant based but they live with a partner who has no interest in this lifestyle, or even actively scoffs at the thought of this way of eating. The biggest discrepancy between someone who wants to make the switch and someone who doesn’t is obviously the meals they share together. This can be made that much harder if you live with the person who has no desire to change their way of eating because buying groceries, planning meals, etc. are all apart of your life together. Hopefully this post will give you some ideas and the confidence to make the switch and still live a harmonious life with your partner.

Let me first offer my personal story, because I definitely went through the same thing with my fiancé when I first went vegan. I had talked to Cody many times throughout our time dating about wanting to switch to a plant based diet, and almost every time was met with a dramatic eye roll and a “please don’t do this to me.” You can take the man out of Reno but you can’t take Reno out of the man, am I right? Also let me say that Cody is typically always very supportive of my endeavors, up to and including painting our dining room table pink. A story for another time. Anyways, it was really discouraging that he thought that changing my way of eating was a burden on him. Granted, I did cook most of the time… so I did realize that this would affect the way he ate at home. However, I also know that I’m a damn good cook and that he would like the things I made for him, despite the “horror” of them being all plant based. In March of 2019 I finally decided to actually take the leap I had been wanting to do for so long, and I let Cody know. I established some boundaries for myself (which I’ll discuss in just a second), but I didn’t try to restrict him. I didn’t expect him to adopt my way of eating, just support me in my journey. Fast forward to February 2020, almost a full year later, when Cody decided that he also wanted to stop eating animals. I remember the exact moment he told me, and how utterly shocked I was. I had to keep my cool though- I didn’t want him thinking this was my secret plan all along. It’s been 7 months now and he’s remained dedicated to eating a vegetarian diet. Yes, he still consumes dairy products- but I *did* finally get him to stop buying gallons of milk so I consider this a win. I think if you try to force the way you eat onto anyone else, you’re going to be met with resistance. It’s not your job to tell someone else how to eat, unless you’re *literally* a Dietician or Nutritionist and someone is seeking your guidance. I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re not, so let’s chat about how you can still make changes to your diet without compromising your relationship.

Like I said before, it is not your job to tell people how to eat, and this can be a very triggering topic for a lot of people. Myself included. So I urge you not to jump into your journey of switching to a vegan lifestyle or plant based way of eating with the idea that your partner also needs to eat the way you do. All you can control is yourself! That being said, the boundaries you set for yourself are important in any aspect of your relationship and this is no different. When I say boundaries, I’m referring to the behavior you deem acceptable in your life/home/etc. They can include any of the following:

  • Cooking: When I started my journey I knew that I didn’t want to be cooking anything that involved animal products, and especially not any meat based products (if you’re not already grossed out by meat, trust me when I tell you that when you watch enough of the horrific footage captured in factory farms and the like that you’ll have no desire to cook meat either). In my house, I do the majority of the cooking because 1. I love it and 2. my partner works a hectic schedule and I do not. So the boundary I set with him was that he could eat what he wanted, but I wouldn’t prepare it for him if it included animal byproducts. It was as simple as that. I think if you’re the main one doing the cooking in the house, it should be at your discretion as to what you feel comfortable cooking. If you’re the one preparing the meals because your partner has a hectic schedule (like mine) they shouldn’t be demanding you prepare them a certain meal, and if they do that’s an entirely separate issue. Let them know you’d be happy to cook them a meal free of animal products, and if that isn’t what they want that they are more than welcome to prepare food themselves. If you’re *not* the one preparing meals, realize that you will have to be more flexible in what you expect from your partner. It’s the same level of respect, you shouldn’t be demanding your partner cook you a certain meal. I’d suggest agreeing on a couple side dishes that you both can enjoy, and if they choose to cook a meat based product you can take the time to prepare a main protein ahead of time or allot for that preparation in your schedule. As we well know, relationships (should) be about compromise! This way you’re not restricting yourself and you’re still respecting your partner.
  • Not bringing certain foods home: I know some people end up going vegan because they don’t really like the taste of meat anyways and it’s easy for them to cut those products out of their life. For me, this was not the case. Going vegan for me was an ethical choice, even though I still loved things like chicken nuggets, pepperoni pizza, Costa Vida sweet pork enchiladas, etc. Fortunately I no longer crave these things, but at the beginning it was hard. When you go your whole life eating a certain way, you’re bound to have cravings. So one of the boundaries I set with Cody was asking him not to bring any foods home that he knew I would crave, or bringing me anything that would break the commitment I made to myself. Of course your partner is welcome to eat what they want in their own house (if you share a living situation) but if you DO suffer from cravings and you need the extra help from your partner with this aspect of making the switch, have a respectful conversation with them about it. Hopefully they will be understanding and limit the temptation you face already on a daily basis when we live in a society that constantly pushes an animal-based diet.

One of the best parts about life and the way in which we share social interactions is through food. Catching up with an old friend? Let’s get a bite! Celebrating a big milestone? Let’s grab dinner! And so on and so forth. Even if it’s not an event, sharing connections over a meal is a staple in our society. Here are some ways you can integrate eating plant based into your relationship that won’t compromise (and might even enhance) those special moments:

  • Veganize your favorite foods: This was one of my favorite things to do (and still is) when I initially went vegan. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you also have access to Pinterest- where a world of recipes styled after your non-vegan favorites awaits. Use this tool to make foods that you and your partner love! I promise you, there is a recipe for whatever you’re looking for. The shit that people are able to come up with in the kitchen still astounds me to this day. Yes, your partner might prefer the non-vegan version… and I get that. No one ever said vegan cheese was on par with actual cheese (though Violife comes pretty damn close). But at least this way you can include your partner in your journey by making their comfort foods! Again, if you’re not the one who typically cooks (or you have limited time) there are plenty of recipes that are quick and easy, or maybe your partner would even make it for you! Food is a love language people.
  • Try new foods together: One of the most common misconceptions about adopting a vegan diet/plant based way of eating is the “limitations” it brings. This could not be more false, and it’s one of the things I will defend the quickest when it comes to being vegan. Sure you can’t eat meat/eggs or the secretions of animals… but that’s literally it. I was a picky eater growing up, and was a picky eater into most of my adulthood up until now. There were common fruits and vegetables that I literally hadn’t even tried until I went vegan. Literally I just tried a nectarine not long ago. Don’t come for me, I know I’m the worst. Anyway, if you would have told me 2 years ago that I would regularly eat tofu, brussel sprouts, broccoli, tempeh, and that I would ENJOY IT? I truly would have thought you were high as hell. Granted broccoli isn’t a *new* food for most people… but my point is that there is a world of things you and your partner probably have never even tried. Do it together! Do you know how many things you can make out of tofu? TOFU? Shit is a miracle food. Also do not knock tofu, if you have had it and you *~*~*don’t like it*~*~* you haven’t had it prepared properly. I will defend tofu to my grave. Moving along… Another way to utilize Pinterest (seriously if you don’t have a Pinterest how are you allowed to exist in 2020?) is to just type in “vegan recipes” and you’ll have so many options to choose from. Do a fun little date night and experiment with something that sounds yummy to both of you!
  • Search for vegan-friendly restaurant options: Because I was raised as a picky eater and *many* aspects of that have spilled into adulthood, I do this thing where I only eat at like three different restaurants. I like what I like, and I don’t mind eating the same thing over and over again. This drives my fiancé up the actual wall. So learn from me… try new restaurants, and make this a way to bond with each other! There are still restaurants that are way behind the curve in terms of their vegan options (and no, fries and bland ass salad don’t count) but if you use happy cow you can find places in your area that you’ll both love! This is a win-win in my book.

At the end of the day, my hope for you is that you have someone in your life that supports you in your endeavors and encourages you to live as your authentic self. If being a vegan or adopting a plant based diet is part of that, then they should support you! Just as you would support them. Food is such a large part of our lives and for some people, our identities- especially when you’ve always eaten a certain way and want to change (because sometimes change isn’t easy, and this is one of those times). Even if they aren’t interested in this way of eating, there are plenty of solutions to live cohesively with your partner that don’t compromise your goals or boundaries!

I hope you enjoyed this post, and were able to take away some useful ideas if you’re struggling to make the switch due to pressure in your relationship. Let me know if any of these worked for you, and if you have any other thoughts on this subject! Follow me on instagram @shelbyveggie for vegan recipes, my favorite vegan beauty products, Finley and Poppy content, and more 🙂