Vegan Salt –the blog

{February 14, 2010}   Loving the Omnivore

Can a vegan and an omnivore live happily ever after?  Should they even bother dating or will their differences be too great to overcome?  This charming short film from this year’s Sundance Film Festival got me thinking.

Enough vegans are completely turned off by animal eaters to warrant their own term:  vegansexual, coined in 2007 by a researcher in New Zealand.   Omnivores reading this just laughed out loud, or rolled their eyes.

Are they right to sneer?  Is it elitist, judgmental, or overly demanding to insist someone give up bacon and ice cream or have no hope of getting past the first date?  Is it akin to racism, or refusing to date someone of a particular religion or political orientation? Well, no and yes.  Unlike race, your diet is something you determineVegansexuality (that term even makes me smirk a little) is a bit like dating only fellow Obama supporters, Christians, or atheists.  And yes, I think it can validly be called judgmental.  So could preferring brunettes, or people who are taller than you, or girls who shave their legs, or guys who aren’t WWF fanatics.

Unlike dating only people who enjoy The Beatles, dating only vegans means narrowing your options to 1% of the population.  If you aren’t bisexual, cut that number in half.  Then take out those far too old and far too young, and those already matched up.  There might be 2 people for you to choose between in your area!  You might as well only date Sociology majors with a minor in History.  Why would anyone choose to narrow the field so drastically?  Well, there are plenty of reasons:

  • Ease of shopping, cooking, and eating out together.  Not only will  food-related get-togethers be drama-free, but when it comes to clothing, furniture, and such, leather and silk won’t be an issue of contention.
  • Never having to see your partner rip an animal leg apart with his teeth, or accidentally getting animal bits in your mouth second-hand from kissing after a meal.
  • Peace of mind on how children will be raised, should you choose to have them.
  • Sex appeal.  Like it or not, vegans smell and taste better.  Biochemistry aside, if you see your partner’s body as a graveyard for other species, the mental image certainly can kill the mood.
  • Last but not least, shared outlook and ethics!

Aye, there’s the rub.  In any relationship, there will be differences.  There will be compromise.  But mutual respect is critical, and not everyone can truly respect and love someone who, for example, is homophobic, or likes dog fighting.   Once you reach the point of understanding that raising and killing select species is utterly barbaric and cruel, it becomes difficult not to be a bit judgmental of those who delight in tearing into dead animal flesh.  Or, at the very least, to be a bit wary of their callousness.

To be fair though, I’m spoiled.  My partner is an incredible, compassionate, caring person, and he’s vegan.  No, I didn’t demand or even ask that he become vegan, and I would have loved him anyway, but the fact that he wanted to be vegan, and now can’t see himself ever going back, only gives me something else to love about him.  I see his refusal to exploit other species as everyday evidence of the good person that he is.  As someone else put it, “When a guy is willing to slaughter and eat (or just pay someone else to do the killing) another animal, I don’t think I could ever fully trust him to be compassionate. How could I be vulnerable or in love with someone like that?”

Now I realize that not everyone will be so lucky as to meet the perfect person and find that he or she wants to be vegan.  Most people who eschew animal use will struggle with loving an omnivore at some point.  Vegansexuals, meat-lover-lovers, hunters’ wives, I want to hear your stories!

What do you do when you’re already in a great relationship when you decide to make the change, if your partner has no interest in veganism?  What compromises have you made and how have they worked for you?  If you’re single, do you seek out vegans first and foremost, or do you look for good people in the hopes that they’ll change their eating habits due to your good influence?  Would you go so far as to call yourself a vegansexual?  At what point, if ever, would you give your partner an ultimatum;  me, or the turkey dinner?

Disclaimer: As with any polarizing or controversial issue, (politics, climate change, overpopulation, religion) there are certainly couples who have lasting, mutually pleasing relationships despite sharing opposite views.  When I expressed surprise that a vegan I met online was married to a meat-eater, he told me he couldn’t hold it against her, since he’d been one himself for over 40 years!  If you’re in a mixed-diet relationship, how do you make it work?  Have you found a compromise you’re both happy with, or will you forever hope your partner will come around?


Married to a Meat-eater says:

Great post! I, being the wife of a meat-eating husband, wanted to comment on the post. I am only recently vegetarian, so I am not sure my thoughts on the matter count, but hey- I’m posting them anyways! I absolutely love, love, LOVE my meat-loving husband. This man could eat meat morning, noon, and night. I knew this when I met him and this fact will likely never change. My husband has been supportive of my vegetarian/vegan journey, even though I know he thinks I am seriously missing out! My compromises have been to not push my choices on him and to still cook meat dishes for him a few nights a week. The cooking of meat has been the hardest part, however. It is hard to feel as strongly as I do about a vegetarian lifestyle and then to touch the meat I am cooking for him for dinner. To be fair, my supportive husband has encouraged me to make vegetarian dishes the other half of the week.

It works for us, although I am sure many of you reading this think I am either crazy or a half-hearted vegetarian for still touching and cooking the meat dishes I cook for my husband. Honestly, because of the love I have for my husband, if it came down to my husband or my choice to not eat meat, pass the steak! Judge me if you want.

Krys says:

Of course your thoughts count! Unlike me, you’re IN the omnivore-veg relationship. I am curious to know a couple of things: how long has it been since you were a meat-eater, and has your husband been exposed to the same materials and information that changed your mind?
I don’t know that this will be the case for you, but many veg converts start out not caring what their significant others eat, but find that it bothers them more as time goes on. I actually DID end up giving my ex an ultimatum because I was repulsed by the fact that he could watch videos of cow slaughter and then eat the cheese that caused it. But I’m certainly not here to judge you for not judging your husband. I wish you both the best. Thanks for having the courage to speak up!

In a truly compassionate world where torturing and killing animals for food and clothing was not the norm, I think vegans dating vegans would be considered acceptable and desirous.

I have been dating a non-vegan for almost two years. She is very supportive of my veganism and we have an almost vegan kitchen (no meat, no eggs, no milk and cheese is rarely used). She offered a vegetarian kitchen when I moved in but it has progressed over time. When out, she used to eat meat, then vegetarian, and now eats vegan with me. She’s on her way to becoming vegan. She’s fabulous – I never pressured her, but we do have conversations as to why veganism is important to me, and what happens to animals as a result of people not being vegan.

I think things would have been different if she were not open to listening and learning, but then I think she would have been a different person altogether.

Jane says:

A vegan dating a non vegan is atrocious. It basically means – you don’t care about animals. You are willing to support a killer. Would MLK date a KKK member? Absolutely not. Even if the majority of the population was racist – he wouldn’t. Why? because you are making the issue seem as though its not that serious. Oh – it’s OK you are racist. It’s OK you support unethical animal treatment. It’s OK to rape a cow for its milk. That’s what you say when you date a meat eater. You choose selfishness with that choice over helping animals, and it’s disgusting.

Jessika says:

Are you kidding me Jane? I think part of the lifestyle is being a caring person and not judging others based on personal choices. I have a meat eating boyfriend and I’ve been with him for 3 years. I just make sure that I pick the meals so that meat doesn’t come into the equation. He can make his own choices. I’m completely in love with him and wouldn’t up and leave him because he chooses to consume animals. As long as we vegans are doing as much as we can on our own I think that’s whats important. We can’t force anyone to do anything and if it just so happens that people we love eat meat then that’s how it is in the real world. My whole family eats meat and I’m not about to just take off because of it. We’re all people, were all equal and we have to respect each others decisions.

Well, think about this, Jane; the majority of omnivores married to vegans wind up eating many vegan meals, as it is simply more convenient (and delicious). In fact, I have heard MANY stories of vegans turning their omnivore partners vegan. It can be a fantastic thing: an opportunity to encourage veganism. Remember that for many people (especially we vegans, since most of us weren’t born vegan), eating meat isn’t something done out of a speciesist thought process… it’s done out of ignorance and a lack of knowledge. Personally, I would take any opportunity to inform another person of the horrors of factory farming, the health implications of an omnivorous diet, and the environmental impact of the meat, dairy, eggs, fur, wool, silk, pearl, leather, etc industries. Please don’t be so quick to judge, and remember that unless you were fortunate enough to be raised vegan, you were once the “killer” that you now abhor.

[…] blog Vegan Salt inspired my random Shakespeare allusions when she asked, “Can a vegan and an omnivore live […]

Meg says:

Well, ironically, I still find my husband’s picky eating very inconvenient even though we are both vegan — though our diets are somewhat closer now than when we were both omnivores (he was Mr. Carnivore, I was more somewhat “flexitarian”). It would be nice to be able to buy and cook the same foods to share more often and not have to worry about him finding something to eat even at vegan-friendly restaurants. It’s certainly nothing I’d divorce him over, and it’s more a pain for him than me, but if I could wave a wand and change that I probably would (and I think he would, too). Though, then I might end up eating more like him. I could do that already, but I do prefer to have a more varied diet for health reasons. If I were dating, I’d certainly find similar eating habits a plus, though not a strict requirement.

Having similar ethical beliefs is much more of a requirement, though, and that neither starts nor ends with veganism. My husband and I have always shared those to a great degree, and those didn’t even change much since we were non-vegans, but how we practice those ethics has changed with new information and reflection. But I think that even if someone with similar ethics to me wasn’t a vegan that they’d be the sort of person that would end up as a vegan — which is probably why my husband and I ended up becoming vegans together. The question then is whether or not I’d want to be a part of that process. While I’m usually all for vegan advocacy, I wouldn’t want to base a relationship around it and feel that I might get hurt if I was too hopeful.

We do have loved ones that are not vegans. In fact, we know very few vegans offline, and none are people that we see regularly or know very closely. So, I know that I can love someone who disagrees with me even about stuff that is very important to me. However, I would hate to be faced with that everyday, even more so than I am already. My home is my refuge away. I wouldn’t want to see see or smell dead animals being roasted in the kitchen or come home to a new leather couch. I don’t have children, but I think that I’d have a very hard time raising children with someone that I disagreed with on such big issues. Would I do it for someone I loved? Maybe. Sometimes it’s hard not to love someone. But it’s definitely not something that I would seek out.

Whether a vegan and omnivore can date each other successfully really depends on those two individuals, not on their other choices in life. One major determining factor will be the level of compassion they both feel towards each other. Another major determining factor will be what drove the vegan to choose that path, e.g. is veganism simply a doctor-mandated dietary choice for health reasons, or is it a compassion-driven lifestyle choice for moral reasons? When veganism is only a dietary choice is may be easier to accept an omnivore as a partner. When veganism is a moral compass it impacts most or all of your decisions in life, and omnivores often use very different moral guidelines. Choosing an omnivore as a partner in this case may lead the couple into conflict repeatedly.

There are people of all types who date others thinking they will change them in one way or another, but this is not a recipe for success. Loving someone for who he or she is, not for who he or she “could be,” is the way to happiness. For that reason I wouldn’t recommend that a vegan date an omni thinking they’ll convince him or her to go vegan, or the other way around. Have you heard that cheezy 70s song “Just The Way You Are?” There’s some truth in it.

In my case I chose veganism for compassion and environmental reasons; the health reasons were an added bonus. When I was dating years ago I tried dating omnivores and vegetarians but found that their perspectives and lifestyles were very different than mine. For every thing we had in common, there were two things that were different. I knew that I wanted to share all of my mind, all of my heart, all of my dreams, all of my body, and all of my life with someone. Only another vegan would ever truly understand these things in me, and I would only ever truly understand these things in another vegan. I had to narrow the field.

That left me, as you said, with very few choices – especially here in my area – so I went online and contacted people from coast to coast. I figured we would write and phone first, then if it went well we could buy plane tickets. Finding the right person is worth that! I tried several sites like Match, which were useless back then; at that time they were like Facebook for the desperate and predatory. I finally ended up on Green Singles, which was a morals-based service. It wasn’t all vegans on there, but there were lots of very interesting people, including a vegan who later became my wife.

Bottom line:
> health-only vegans: try dating an omni and see how it goes.
> environmental and compassion vegans: stick with other vegans.

[…] Vegans and Omnivores Living Together! It’s Anarchy! Posted on 2010/07/14 by Know Thank You In her Twitter stream today Vegan Salt brought up a very interesting issue she had blogged about on Valentines Day: can vegans and omnivores successfully live together as a couple? […]

steve says:

As a thought.

Assuming that in a vegan-omnivore marriage the omnivore is more likely to share vegan meals than vice versa then taking 2 vegans and 2 omnivores and assuming that the omnivore has 50% vegan meals.

(V + V) + (O + O) = 2V + 2O
(V + O) + (V + 0) = 3V + O

So the vegan + omnivore relationship is more effective. Rubbish I know, but you see the drift. A comment on VeganOutreach that always stuck in my mind, you need to be effective, not right.

Linda says:

I became vegetarian while in my current relationship. My partner eats meat and I sometimes cook it for him. It absolutely repulses me – but sometimes I feel generous. It was his idea to go vegetarian but he didn’t end up doing it. I find it hard to plan meals for the two of us, and try to discuss doing separate meals as he is a very picky eater and I feel like I could eat healthily and cheaply if I only cooked for me. I love him and it’s definitely not a reason to break up. I do hope that one day he will at least give it a try. The other day i made a tofu spinach lasagne that he loved, so hopefully we’re on the right track.

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