Monday, March 26, 2007

vegan relationships

As many of you know, I am in a mixed relationship—that’s right, Andy is an omnivore. I know this is quite common these days, but it is still a hotly debated issue. Hell, I’m still sometimes torn over dating someone who can consume animal products. On the one hand, I haven’t always been veg, and not everyone progresses at the same rate. On the other, how is he okay with taking part in so much cruelty and exploitation?!

First, a bit of background on my situation. I met Andy nearly 3 years ago, when I was a mere vegetarian. We lived on college together (that’s Aussie for “in the dorms”), so what we ate was never really an issue—I got the veggie meal from the dining hall line, and he didn’t. When we went out to eat, we checked the menu before going to a restaurant to make sure there was at least one veggie option. Basically, it was not a big deal. Though I was vaguely aware of the ethical implications of not eating meat, it wasn’t something that had clicked for me yet (obviously, I was still eating dairy and eggs) and so I wasn’t bothered by his diet.

After a semester together, I went back to the US and he stayed in Australia. I had 18 months to finish my degree and whatnot, and then I was planning on coming back for grad school. (We didn’t plan on a long-distance relationship, it just sort of happened.) About 2 months after I got home, though, I went vegan. I think I told Andy about it, but it was never discussed heavily.

Fast-forward to last May—the first night I was back, when discussing what to have for dinner (and breakfast the next morning, and the rest of our meals), it really hit Andy that I am vegan. He realised how serious I was about animal rights and how committed I was to a cruelty-free lifestyle. It also really hit me that I was going to be living with an omnivore. I realised that, though Andy is compassionate and does care, he was not willing to commit to a vegan life.

Luckily, there was never much question of cooking separate meals or anything like that. No WAY was I going to be touching meat for him, and he didn’t expect that. He was willing to eat vegan meals so that we could eat together (isn’t he wonderful?). The only non-vegan items were milk in his tea and cereal, and sometimes poached eggs for brekky. And, whatever meaty dishes were offered when we went out to eat (which is practically never) or to a friend/family member’s house.

I must admit, it bothers me to no end that he is still not vegan. He’s read some of the books I have, he’s watched most of Earthlings, and he knows all of the reasons for a plant-based diet. He’s transitioned slowly to soy milk in his cereal, and now his tea as well, but he just “isn’t willing to give up his breakfast”. I try not to push—nothing is worse than a pushy vegan. I try to be patient and encourage him when he does make shifts. I try not to get pissy when he eats meat (imagine how hard this was at xmas, with meat at every meal). I try to convince myself that I am okay with his diet. I think that’s the best thing to do. He may never come around, but I will always hold out hope that, maybe, he’ll become vegan someday. And I always appreciate the changes that he’s made to accommodate me.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I hadn’t been partnered up when I went vegan. Would I limit myself to dating other veg*ns? Realistically, I don’t think it would even be possible. Plus, it would probably close doors on some very worthwhile relationships. Sure, dating a vegan would be easier, but then, what relationship is easy?


krystyna said...

Hi Theresa!
I'm glad that I found your wonderful blog. I prefer vegan food too. It is fantastic! I have to read more from your blog, so I'll be back!
Vegan and omnivore relationship is not easy, but it's possible.
Peace and Happiness to you!

Emmie said...

I was a vegetarian when I went into my current relationship. He was an omnivore and we set up some simple rules (basically like what you've already said) : I don't touch meat. Raw meat does NOT go in the fridge, ever. Meat in the freezer is ok, as long as it's ready made food and not something that's going to make all my pots and pans disgusting. Eating meat out is also ok, as is eating at friends houses but don't expect any making out until you've brushed your teeth (just the idea of him tasting of meat freaked me out). After a few months (2 maybe?) he decided on going vegetarian too. I wasn't forcing it on him, or giving him guilt (Although that's what people keep saying, that I forced him to go veg, like he doesn't make his own decisions?). In the end it worked out great for the both of us. Now we both enjoy vegetarian and vegan food and there's absolutely no tension or frustration with food any more.

Theresa said...

Thanks Krystyna!

Emmie--our situations sound very similar. I wish Andy would just say "I'm vegetarian" instead of being so wishy-washy about it, because he really is. We get the same thing though--everyone thinks I make him eat vegan meals, and how could he possibly give meat up? But what they don't think about is the value of eating together (and how damn good the food we eat is!).

bazu said...

Theresa, this post really REALLY spoke to me. As you know I'm in a mixed relationship too. Just like you, I value our relationship and don't want to be a pushy vegan (although I sometimes am). We don't have anything non-veg except cheese and sometimes junk foods with dairy in them (like cookies or something), and I know that sometimes when I'm gone Daiku sneaks in some meat! I don't mind that as much as what you call wishy-washiness. (is that how you spell it?) Daiku is, in practice, a vegetarian. He just hasn't taken the mental leap of feeling comfortable calling himself one. I struggle with that, since, I am obviously different. I think he would feel threatened- as soon as he calls himself veg, he will have limits and rules etc. I don't know what to make of it, other than being grateful that I live with someone who is open to vegan food and thinking and to not having or cooking meat in the house. I know some people don't even have that.

But a small part of me is still waiting for the day when ... you know...

Steve said...

Hi Theresa,
Thanks for sharing - I enjoyed reading. I want to offer my best wishes in your relationship and life. Good day!

vko said...

How odd- I was just thinking the other day what it would be like to date a vegan.

My man is an omnivoire too and of course veers towards veggie when he is with me- and lately it's really beginning to bother me when he eats chicken (he never eats beef or pork with me). It's difficult, but he is more and more aware and hopefully as we all hope, our partners will commit to a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Guess we need to remember to be patient- but I feel your frustration- how can they continue eating what they eat in the face of all that cruelty & pain.

KleoPatra said...

Oooh, a very interesting post, gives me pause for thought!

i am also in a "mixed" relationship, in more ways than one. What's difficult for me, one of the most difficult things, is that my pal Peter USED TO BE VEGAN. Like hard-core... when he was in college, mostly for health reasons, tho he does appreciate and care about animals... He's currently back being omni, tho always veg*n when we're hangin', and has been for many years now. I'm hoping he'll see the light once again.

Thanks for an interesting post... i think i'd like to see lots of folks' comments and opinions on this...

Neva Vegan said...

Thanks for such an interesting post. After having dated omnis I married a vegan, and lo and behold, we often disagree, but at least the food stuff is easier!