“The more that vegetarianism is now or becomes an expression of the deepest part of you (beliefs about spirituality, the self and ethics) the more you may have to silence that self in relationship to a meat-eating partner. That may be fine for you. You simply need to be aware that this is happening. The relationship with your partner has such depth itself that it also speaks to this deepest part of you. But if you have made any compromises around meat eating by your partner, that is, cooking it or having it eaten in front of you, you may come to feel as though this deepest part of you is splitting in half. A part is betrayed by your partners meat eating; a part is supported and enlarged by your partners love. You have to balance what you feel you are sacrificing in yourself and what you need to sacrifice in the relationship. This is not easy.” – Living Among Meat Eaters, Carol J Adams
I can still remember the phone call to Pat from interstate to tell him I was going to transition to veganism.
His reaction was within the normal parameters of first contact between a vegan and non-vegan – he couldn’t understand why I would want to be vegan and seemed rather irritated by the very mention of it, warning me that I ever dished him up tofu that it would be the end of us. Despite the unforeseen and somewhat radical change in his girlfriend of six months, it didn’t take too long for him to be supportive of my beliefs and accommodating in cooking for me and in finding dining options we could both enjoy.
Over the time we have been together there has been a bit of an evolution in our relationship around veganism; I have always been open in sharing various things I’ve learnt as I learnt them, pertaining to the health, environmental and ethical implications of meat-eating. I share these things, not in an effort to cohere or guilt my loved one into “coming around to my way of thinking” but rather to increase intimacy and his understanding of my identity and beliefs. I think at times I could definitely have been accused of being too passive, then at other times to dogmatic in my communication with him. He knows that it’s an important thing to me, but it’s not the only thing either.
Pat has decided for himself that veganism would compromise his masculinity and though I don’t agree that it would, I understand why he could feel that way. At the same time, he has listened to my vegan ramblings and decided to use dairy free alternatives to butter, very little milk and an experience with a green egg means that he doesn’t cook eggs for himself these days either. Due to food poisoning many years ago, he does not support KFC – hell for chickens – and he has albeit quit beef and corrupt McDonalds. I am incredibly proud of these changes he has made, especially given that he used to eat two T-bone steaks a week when we first started dating. He is no longer frightened by my vegan meals, he has been opened minded about meat and cheese alternatives and I would go as far as to say that he actually enjoys them. I would previously only cook whole-food plant-based meals but I have come to see the value of using these alternative products that are now available whilst cooking for non-vegans (I am going to look into zero waste options for these). We have hopes for the future to grow, gather and raise our own food. In other words, for him to be an “ethical omnivore” and though I find this term offensive – it is the best term we have for describing a deeper understanding of who you’re eating rather than what you pull out of the fridge at Coles.
Pat has stood in the supermarket reading the labels of curry paste without fish sauce to make me dinner, called pizza shops to ask if they use milk in the dough and been receptive to me introducing and gifting him ethical food and clothing. He has changed with my influence, and I have changed with his. He has so many wonderful qualities, and our relationship has such depth, the fact that he currently eats animals is outweighed. I make that compromise and am aware that it is a compromise of my self, for the relationships sake. Some days this doesn’t really feel like a compromise, other days I am supremely challenged by it. However, I feel this happens with various issues (political, religious, parenting approach differences, heck even just not putting the toilet seat down) in almost all relationships. I continue to choose him and will continue to choose him as he has shown me love and devotion I never felt I deserved and has made me happier than I could have ever imagined.
Carol J Adams poses this helpful guide in regards to intimacy between a vegetarian/vegan and a meat-eater;
Does the relationship allow you to be who you are?
Does the relationship allow your partner to be who he or she is?
Can you openly talk about important matters?
Can you discuss your differences about eating in an even tone?
Do you know where you stand on emotional issues and can you say so to your partner?
Are you able to identify what is acceptable and tolerable in the relationship and what in unacceptable and intolerable?
Are you able to stay emotionally connected to the other partner even though you they think, feel, believe and eat differently than you do?
Can you accept your partner without needing to change, convince, cajole or fix them?
I recently listened to an episode of Knowing Animals called Sex with Vegans (or not) about a cohort of vegan women who only want to be sexually intimate or date with other vegans. This is due to the exchange of bodily fluids with a non-vegan being off-putting and the acknowledgement of a potential lack of spiritual cohesion between a vegan and non-vegan. Whilst I am comfortable dating a meat-eater, many people are not, which I understand. We have long known that we enjoy the company of people most like us and hence, share our same values. Who we choose to date is an incredibly personal, we all have our ideals and our deal-breakers. Who you choose is your choice.
Thanks for reading,
References and Resources
Living Among Meat-Eaters – Carol J Adams
Episode 20: Sex with vegans (or not) with Annie Potts: http://knowinganimals.libsyn.com/episode-20-sex-with-vegans-or-not-with-annie-potts
3 Steps to Reconnect When You Feel Disconnected From Your Partner: https://www.gottman.com/blog/3-steps-reconnect-feel-disconnected-partner/ (The Gottman Institute is my go-to for all things relationship psychology!)