It is often said that opposites attract. That's all well and good if, say, one person is known to always start the party, while the other tends to be more quiet. But it's more difficult to hold onto that dynamic when there are disagreements about fundamental beliefs. What if your moral compass points you in one direction, while your partner is going in the other? What is a vegan to do after falling in love with someone who thoroughly enjoys consuming bloody pieces of dead flesh? How do you keep the peace once it's time to sit down and eat?
We spoke to a few dedicated vegans about their experiences with dating meat eaters, and touched upon both common misconceptions and becoming vegan for the one you love.
Charlotte (25), vegan for three years, together with her boyfriend for eight years.
MUNCHIES: Hey, Charlotte. What issues do you run into in your relationship?
Charlotte: My boyfriend doesn't eat meat anymore, but he still eats fish sometimes. I'm not happy about that. I think it smells bad, I don't want animal corpses in my refrigerator, and I also don't understand people who want to cut meat from their diet, but still eat fish, as if fish grow on trees. At the same time, I remind myself: baby steps. I try not to be too judgmental, because five years ago I still happily ate steak.
Can you recall the most stupid fight you've ever had about this topic?
I once yelled that I would leave him if he didn't stop eating meat. I was a vegetarian at that point, and he still ate everything. Looking back on it, that was pretty dumb, because for me that would never be a reason to leave him. But I wanted to make him understand how upsetting it was for me that he still ate dead animals. At the time, he laughed at me, but not long after, he became vegetarian—by choice, after doing his own research. Now we don't fight about it anymore, and I believe that ultimately he'll become a vegan. He already eats vegan food 80 to 90 percent of the time.
READ MORE: The Rise of the Vegan Bro
Do you think dietary differences can kill a relationship?
While I've definitely made threats in that direction, I didn't fully stand behind them. I mostly tried to prove a point, but I don't know how I would have dealt with it if he hadn't become a pescatarian. I would really struggle if he wasn't.
Aleksandra (21), vegan for eight months, together with her boyfriend for four years.
MUNCHIES: When was the first time your different dietary preferences created a problem?
Aleksandra: I remember the first time we went to McDonald's. He put a piece of meat in front of my face and said, "Come on, it won't kill you." I thought that was so annoying. We hadn't known each other for that long, so it didn't feel like a good start. I didn't say anything about it. I respect everybody's choices, but that respect has to be a two-way street.
What are some of the problems you encounter within your relationship?
I love to cook, but he doesn't. Because of this, he believes he's being forced to have a vegan diet, and I tell him that he'll just have to learn to cook for himself. I never look at what's on his plate and let him enjoy his piece of a dead animal, otherwise we'll just end up arguing. At the start [of our relationship] I still mentioned it sometimes, but I would get answers like "I'm Mexican; we're supposed to eat meat." I get angry occasionally and tell him he'll just have to find someone who eats meat, but luckily he hasn't done that.
Shopping for food is difficult. When he notices something he'd like for us to eat and I scan the list of ingredients, nine times out of 10 it's not vegan. He'll stomp away and mumble something along the lines of, "It was difficult enough when you were just a vegetarian." On the other hand, going out to eat has never really been a problem. We frequent his favorite Mexican restaurant, where I order vegetables, rice, and tortillas so I can build my own burrito.
How do you work through the issues that come up?
Sometimes we spend an hour in the supermarket, looking for a snack we can both eat. I let him try vegan dishes, and slowly he's come around to the idea of eating vegan once or twice a week. It might not be fun to see meat on his plate, but there's a lot more to our relationship than that. I don't think you choose your partner based on their dietary habits. Nobody is perfect, right?
What are serious "don'ts" in your book?
Stop making those standard vegan jokes. Yes, I'm sure chickpeas are vegan. No, I don't eat five different types of grass a day. And if you ever take a vegan girl out to dinner, don't suggest getting a salad. That's such a turnoff.
Robin (22), vegan for six months, together with his girlfriend for two years.
MUNCHIES: How did your girlfriend react when you told her you became vegan?
Robin: Initially, she was shocked. The first thing she said: "Will you be able to stop eating that cheese you love so much?" I told her I'm not doing this to be a pain or to impose restrictions on her, but because I think it's it's just very important.
Do you hope she'll follow your example?
I hope she will make the same choice. She's been much more conscious, for instance, about buying makeup that hasn't been tested on animals. But the penny hasn't fully dropped. The decision has to be hers, though. Pressuring her won't have the intended effect.
Do you think these kinds of differences can destroy a relationship?
Becoming a vegan is a fundamental part of your life. If the other person has zero understanding when it comes to that decision, or if the vegan tries to push too hard, it will cause problems. Luckily, in my relationship there is a lot of understanding.
The most important thing the meat eater can do is try to understand how and why the vegan has made their choice. Also, the vegan has to know that people who eat meat aren't bad people by definition. Most of us have spent most of our lives using animal products—did we do that because we were inherently bad?
Sabine (26), vegan for 18 months, together with her boyfriend for four years.
MUNCHIES: How did your partner respond to your lifestyle change?
Sabine: At first, he didn't think it was fun, and I also had to get used to it. I remember his friends came over at some point to watch Game of Thrones. They were eating huge amounts of ribs. Even just seeing plates of ribs on the table was uncomfortable for me. I did ask myself if I should just leave for a bit.
What kind of issues do you run into?
The most difficult thing for me was the social aspect. Eating out can be difficult. I usually decide where we go, because it can be hard to figure out what works and what doesn't for someone who doesn't have the same diet. I'm happy to go to a vegan restaurant, but I don't insist on it. I want to show that it's possible to eat elsewhere.
When did you reach a comfortable place of compromise?
There was big change during my first Christmas as a vegan. He cooked a vegan meal special for me! Since then we have been able to find common ground when it comes to food. We'll have noodles tomorrow, which he'll add steak to, while I'll use portobello mushroom. I don't have an issue with him frying his schnitzel in butter. I used to wonder how I felt about it, but then I realized he went fucking all-out at Christmas to create a vegan menu. So in that light, I'm perfectly fine to get him chicken when I go food shopping. The fact that his meat is next to my vegetables doesn't have an effect on my way of living.
Do you have any advice for people who are in this kind of relationship?
Try not to control each other too much and mostly realize that you can be proud of the way you contribute by making the decision to be vegan. When other people say things like "Jesus, you must be pissed to date a meat eater," I get mad. You don't know my meat eater at all.