I met my girlfriend via CrossFit, in one of our mutual box' nights out. She's amazing! Quirky, smart, hot as fuck (did I mention she does CrossFit?) and overall my favorite person in the world.
But there's a problem – she eats animal flesh.
Perhaps that doesn't sound too problematic to most people but for me as a vegan, with strong opinions on animal rights, it does present some challenges. Reversely, she probably had no idea what she got herself into when she came over for that first tofu dinner I made her.
This is something I've gotten a fair amount of questions on: how do you live together, vegan and omnivore? While we certainly don't have everything figured out, I do want to share what we've learned after living together for over a year.
When I see someone eating meat, I also see the long road from animal to fork. The scared little piglet on a cold, concrete floor. The innocent pig, jailed for its entire life. The scared hog being ushered onto a truck. And the terrified being seeing its brother's throat slit, while waiting for his own turn.
It can be tricky to reconcile this perspective with your relationship to the meat eater.
In the case of our loved ones – be it girl- or boyfriend, family, or friends – how can these people lovingly stroke their pets with one hand, while paying the butcher with the other?
Here's the thing: most omnivores don't seem to see it that way.
I firmly believe that everyone would go vegan if it wasn't for the many defenses and justifications we're taught from childhood. The most common ones are variations of these four:
"Farmers love and treat their animals well. What we read about in the news are extreme cases."
"Animals are stupid and don't understand what's going on. Basically walking food."
"There are no good alternatives. We can't get all the nutrition we need from only plants."
"Meat's already dead. I can't make any difference."
So if you point out the flaws of these statements, people will turn vegan? Unfortunately it's a bit more complicated than that, or you wouldn't be reading this article right now.
There's a difference between learning facts and fully internalizing their knowledge.
You can tell someone of the atrocities of the slaughterhouse, how the industries are killing our world, and just what animal products are doing to our bodies. It might still do nothing to change their way.
The person you're talking to needs to pause to actually think it through, start to take personal responsibility for their actions, and decide what kind of person they want to be. Heavy stuff.
Bottom line is: people are generally not evil, we simply see the world differently and most people haven't even stopped to think about their actions.
Just because you feel very strongly about your way and can speak to its superiority (yes, veganism is better) doesn't mean you can shove it down someone else's throat.
Here's what I would tell any vegan going into a relationship with an omnivore.
Be proactive! Being vegan is still not the norm, so take the lead and research menus before picking a restaurant. Bring some snacks of your own if there won't be any vegan options.
Cook together your shared food. We often boil rice, stir-fry veggies, make a salad, etc, together. Then I add tofu and she adds whatever she wants.
Invite them to your world. There's so many amazing vegan options nowadays, so try them out together! My girlfriend doesn't want any other tacos nowadays than the ones we make with vegan minced meat.
Be clear about your limits and speak your feelings openly. Some vegans don't want any meat in their house, others are okay with that but like to keep separate cooking tools. You need to figure out what you're comfortable with and communicate that. Depending on your situation, don't forget to talk about how to bring up future children!
Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. There's no vegan option for Christmas dinner with the folks and you forgot to be proactive about it? Suck it up, have an apple and some salad and treat it as a learning experience.
With that said – don't let anyone give you shit about your choices. As vegans we're bound to be the butt of jokes from time to time but if someone's not respecting what's important to you, perhaps they're the wrong person to waste time with?
Experiment with replacements and see if your loved one is up for switching. It can be quite practical not having to buy two sets of milk, cheese, etc.
You don't have to share and do everything together just because you're a couple. Let them go try whatever meathouse they want with their friends, while you can join a vegan potluck.
Learn to cook good, vegan food! I used to be proud when I managed not to overcook pasta but after going full vegan I decided to improve my cooking and now I love cooking my girl a hearty vegan dish.
Finally, don't try to convince or change your partner. This really goes for all relationships – you need to accept them 100% as they are, with no reservation nor assumption they will ever change.
I would lie if I said I wouldn't be incredibly happy if my girlfriend one day saw the world as I and chose to be vegan as well. But even with no chance of that ever happening, we need to either accept our omnis as they are or simply walk away.
Personally, I'm staying, hoping I get to cook her vegan tacos in our retirement home.