Hi Meat-Eaters! Full-discloser: I’m a vegan. Please don’t run away! I respect your choices and promise not to shove tofu down your throat while you’re sleeping.
As I write this, it is my third anniversary of being vegan. I am officially entering the level in which people start to believe it’s not “just a phase” or a “fad diet,” but a sincere lifestyle decision.
These three years of meatless living have aligned with my prime dating years. Recently, a study on “inter-diet dating” by the dating site EliteSingles revealed some fascinating trends. In summary, vegetarians are more willing to date meat-eaters than vice versa, and while 77 percent of meat-eaters would dump a partner for trying to convert them, only 4 percent of vegetarians claimed they would actually attempt to do so.
It appears there are some fears and misconceptions that need to be cleared up. I’ll be the first to admit these are not unfounded: there are certainly vegans I would not want to share a meal with, even as a vegan myself. However, that’s true in every community, and we shouldn’t let the bad apples define every subculture.
As a New Yorker (okay, fine, a “transplant”), I am privileged to exist in an environment where veganism is as normal as a spending an extra $2.30 to add guacamole to your burrito bowl—nobody even questions it. Despite living in a vegan haven, I can name just one friend in my entire vegan squad who explicitly chooses to date only vegan partners. Thus, I asked all the vegans I knew about their thoughts on dating meat-eaters.
I promise—we’re not all trying to convert you.
“I think what you put in your mouth should be the last thing to hold you back from loving someone. [In] the end we will be stronger as a couple for our differences.” – Denine
Seriously, relationships are complicated. Finding the right person takes careful consideration of values, traits, and preferences. I can’t imagine tossing off my own beau simply because he puts sour cream on his tacos. It feels insignificant—even irrelevant—compared to the ways he brings joy into my life. Considering the statistics from the EliteSingles study, I am mega grateful that he gave this vegan a chance.
What’s in it for him? Sure, we might not be able to share a Cinnabon, but we each are more than our food choices. Just as I see him as more than “a meat-eater,” I’d like to think he thinks of me as more than a vegan.
“[The] values that led me to go vegan are the same values that defined me before we got married. Since he loved me for those reasons before, he still loves me for the same reasons now.” – Jenny
A vegan lifestyle is a result of deeply held values, all of which transcend the vegan community: empathy, humility, and commitment. Are those not admirable qualities? Do many people not already look for such traits in their partners?
If you think beyond the "vegan" label, you will realize that their food prefrences are ultimately just an outward expression of these values.
“Everyone is allowed to live their life as they choose - and I'm in no position to dictate otherwise.” – Denine
We’re not oblivious. Sure, in an ideal world, we would spend every Saturday morning cooking tofu frittatas with our sweethearts, but we also recognize that our veganism was a personal choice. I have voluntarily placed myself in a minority position, and I do not expect the world to revolve around my beliefs. That includes you.
“I understand that most people are raised eating a lot of meat, especially in some foreign cultures.” – Kelly
“Eating meat is like a cultural tradition, [and] judging someone on their culture is wrong. It is true that we are more comfortable with people from similar cultures, but it's boring to not advance yourself by being with different people!” - Melisa
Since many cultures revere meat (including my own Midwestern upbringing), it takes a very specific chain of events for someone from such an environment to eschew animal products. A voluntary vegan has to endure the precise experience, or read the precise book, or hear the precise conversation—at a precise moment in their lives. I personally believe those moments cannot be forced, and some people may never experience “that moment.” That’s fine. This does not make vegans "better," and many vegans acknowledge that.
That being said, while being open-minded is enough to initiate an inter-diet relationship, a tolerant mindset must be sustained for the relationship to be successful.
“[My husband] has been conscious about reducing his consumption, but he doesn't feel strongly enough about the issues to reduce his consumption to zero. I understand that people have different priorities. I recognize it's important for people to do good in so many ways that I am not myself contributing to, so I don't feel like it's my place to judge others because they aren't contributing in some of the ways that I do.” – Jenny
If a vegan believes they are perfect or superior because they eat sans meat, then it is their arrogance—not their veganism—that should scare you off.
I once was asked to explain my position on dairy to a nonvegan friend. After my story, the friend responded, “Then what do you have to say about the working conditions for the Chinese laborers who made your iPhone?”
Touché. While I will never logistically and financially be able to sacrifice my life for every single problem in the world, veganism was my route of choice to making a positive change. I recognize that others choose different ways, like volunteering, donating to charity, buying secondhand clothes, or only shopping at local, small businesses. If I haven’t committed to every single social movement myself, how can I look down on others for not committing to my social movement?
“I would like - and somewhat expect - this person to be open-minded about my views and making changes, even if small.” – Kelly
I know what you’re thinking: “You said you weren’t going to force me to change!!” Hear me out.
Every relationship involves a reasonable amount of compromising, and this one is no different. While I do not ask for my carnitas-loving lad to give up his favorite foods, I do appreciate his efforts to make me feel respected: eating a vegan meal at my favorite restaurant on my birthday, tasting my cashew-based pasta sauce, and—you know—not waving a fork full of barbacoa in my face as a “joke.”
But just as importantly, I am willing to make similar compromises on my partner’s behalf. I will settle for an uninspiring salad if it means he gets to eat at his favorite restaurant. I will pay for his latte even though it uses cow’s milk. I will help him make French toast as long as he agrees to crack the eggs, just as one of my close friends says she will wear gloves to prepare a nonvegan recipe for a loved one.
“My boyfriend of 4 years is not vegan—we have lived together for 2. […] He is very supportive of my lifestyle and is always on the lookout for new products for me.” - Sarah
Respect is key, and—as Sarah shows—you do not need to “convert” to show your support. If the meat-eater believes they can sneak bacon into their vegan partner’s corn chowder, or if the vegan actually believes the meat-eater is an immoral a-hole, it will definitely not work out (spoiler alert).
I think, if they gave it a chance, many meat-eaters would find that not all vegans spend every (or any) second lecturing, judging, or trying to convert people. I cannot speak for all vegans, but many of us—90 percent of us, according to the EliteSingles study—are totally open to an inter-diet partnership.
If you do decide to give us a chance, remember: there is nothing sexier than the phrase, “Babe, I found a restaurant with vegan options!”