Part of being a vegan, and life in general, is accepting the diet and lifestyle choices of the people around you. I like to live with a “you do you” attitude, as everyone should be free to make their own choices. But, when someone close to you has drastically different lifestyle habits, logistically life gets more complicated. Let’s face it, life revolves around food. So, sharing a home with someone eating animal products can be a significant part of daily life.
Recently, I moved in with my boyfriend and it does not take long to notice how these differences can affect simple things. This can make grocery shopping more daunting than usual, basically buying two sets of everything to suit our preferences. Ordering in or going out almost always means some compromise on my part to make things easier. Making food at home also involves some give and take on both ends. It has been harder on me to keep my resolve when giving in is a much more convenient and easier option. Part of the issue is, I never wanted to be the difficult vegan that changes everyone’s plan. I chose this lifestyle for me, and I do not expect others to go out of their way to cater to my needs. But, since sharing meals happens every day, that means I am compromising daily to avoid making problems. So how can we begin to co-exist as I travel further into veganism and other eco-friendly habits? I do not claim to offer perfect harmony and peace in your household. But there are a few things I can recommend that have worked so far and I will push farther on going forward.
Duh. It seems so simple and obvious. But, it is truly important, covers many areas, and not always easy. If you are anything like me, you don’t want be the problem-causing vegan, always making others change their plans. This can lead to a lot of closed-mouth agreements when your S.O. wants a large cheese pizza with pepperoni and sausage. So, speak up! When my boyfriend makes me coffee (like the sweetheart he is), I kindly remind him to use my coconut-milk creamer instead of half-and-half. Ask for a meatless Monday every other week. These things were a non-issue before we lived together, and he forgets sometimes, so a gentle reminder or request can go a long way in coexisting.
If you haven’t had the talk already, maybe explaining your plan to go vegan can create some level of understanding. Explain why you are changing your lifestyle choices because communicating about your needs and the importance of their understanding and respect can possibly prevent constant compromise on your part. I will reiterate that I do not expect anyone around me to change their habits because of me; this is something I decided to do for me. So as I do my own thing, he can do his and maybe pick up a few things along the way if he WANTS to. But, conversely, I would like him to do his thing without trying to make me join in.
Luckily for me, my S.O. has never been a bully or ask me blatantly to compromise to make things easier. But if you find yourself being pressured into giving in, let your partner know you would like some respect for your choices as you respect theirs. This process will take some compromise on both ends as you learn to live and eat together.
2. Hold your ground.
“But you just said this process requires compromise!”
I know, and that means your S.O. will have to give a little slack at some point too, right? When they beg you to just order in pizza, ask to consider other options. While saying yes now will resolve your dinner issue quickly, there may be some resentment or guilt that starts to build up as you find yourself constantly breaking your resolve for sake of convenience. If you have decided to respect your S.O.’s choice to keep an omnivorous diet, then your needs should be respected as well, even if they are more difficult. They can order whatever they like, but you can get your alternative option as well. There’s no need for them to change what they are doing, as long as there is also room for you to meet your needs. And if you have communicated well, then they know your lifestyle change was not for simplicity or convenience and it will take work and determination to stay true to yourself.
3. Do your own thing!
Different meals may mean extra sides, more dishes, or a crowded kitchen, but both of you will be eating what you want and no one has to compromise! There is more work involved, but we just discussed how it takes determination to keep up a vegan life. Also, your partner’s meal could probably be vegan-ized by a simple switch or change. For example, if they are eating chicken, rice, and broccoli, all you have to do is swap in some tofu and voilà! If they decide to order in a pizza, make yourself a veggie masterpiece while you wait for the delivery person. This way you can enjoy a meal together without compromise or guilt for either party.
Over just a couple months, my dedication to a plant-based diet has inspired my boyfriend to makes changes to his eating habits along with me! Once again, there was no pressure or persuasion on my part, because I chose to respect his decisions as he did mine. But, he decided to try out this whole no-animal product thing just for me and I am truly grateful to have him. If it sticks, then great! If not, no big deal. We can still work and move through life together.
What solutions have you and your S.O. dreamed up to live in a harmonious, varied-diet household? Have you tried any of the tips I outlined above? Let’s hear all about it!