She’s a vegan. You love your bacon cheeseburgers. Can you make it work?
It’s a lot more common to be a vegan now than it was just 10 years ago. You can buy meat substitutes and vegan mayo at Walmart, while mainstream restaurants like Chipotle and Subway have dining options for vegans. It doesn’t seem like the differences between you should be so great, right? But like any other personal philosophy about which people are really passionate, this could become an issue if you don’t approach it with caution. Here are some tips for how to bridge this gap and make your relationship work.
Be Respectful of Each Other
All relationships are founded on mutual respect. Whether you practice a different religion, vote for different political parties or even disagree about being a sports fan, you know all couples have their differences. The key to making it work is in agreeing to treat each other with respect. You don’t have to become vegan or convince her to start wearing leather; just appreciate the fact that you have different preferences, and try to accommodate both as best as you can.
Drop the Stereotypes
There’s a popular image of a vegan, and it’s not always the most flattering. Vegans are often stereotyped as being hyper-militant about their choices, but many vegans are quite respectful; there are various reasons why someone may choose to become vegan. Don’t make assumptions about what your girlfriend may believe — ask her.
Be a Good Listener
Most vegans feel strongly about their dietary choices. It is likely your vegan girlfriend has a lot of knowledge about her diet because it requires commitment. If something is that important to your partner, she would want you to at least listen to why she feels so strongly about her actions. It’s also important to know what your girlfriend is avoiding. For example, some vegans avoid plastic bags because they may be processed with chicken fat to make them more slippery; other vegans only focus on avoiding more obvious sources.
On a similar note, show an interest in her passion. Spend an afternoon with her at a vegan food fair, or watch a vegan documentary like “Forks Over Knives.” Even if you don’t find any of it personally convincing, she’ll love the fact that you tried.
Non-vegans who love to try new foods are likely to have a lot of fun dining with vegans. Some vegan food may sound strange to outsiders, like seitan (wheat gluten that has a meat-like texture) and nutritional yeast, which is used in some cheese substitutes. Keep an open mind when trying new foods, and you may be pleasantly surprised. How good any food tastes depends a lot more on the preparation than on the ingredients. A lot of vegan food is so tasty you would never even know it was vegan unless someone told you.
Use Caution When Buying Sex Toys
Vegans know all kinds of products contain animal-based ingredients, which is something that doesn’t make it onto the radar of most non-vegans. Make sure you’re really paying attention when shopping for sex toys and supplies since many contain animal products.
Lubes and dental dams are especially likely candidates to contain products of animal origin. Even if dental dams are made out of latex, many contain casein (milk protein). Rubber toys and massage oils can also contain casein, so make sure to look for ones containing vegetable glycerin. Edible underwear and flavored lubes can also contain animal products.
Do Your Research
Much like the sex toys example above, most non-vegans are shocked by the amount of things that contain animal products. For example, you might think of ordering a pumpkin spice latte with soy milk and no whipped cream as a nice surprise for your girlfriend, but the pumpkin spice syrup probably contains dairy milk.
Watch out for hidden animal products in bath and body products, candy and even cleaning supplies. It can seem like a hassle at first because you’re not used to it, but you’ll find it doesn’t take that long for label reading to become a habit. If you have a smartphone, expect to use it a lot to look up the question, “Is _____ vegan?” The only thing more disappointing than buying something you incorrectly think will be vegan is to be on the receiving end.
Be on the Lookout
Going out to eat is part of dating culture for many people; you’ll want to find restaurants that are accommodating to both you and your vegan girlfriend. Fortunately, there are more restaurants than ever that have a variety of choices, even in smaller cities. It’s awkward for vegans to be at a restaurant where the only thing they can eat is a salad, or to be at a party where there’s nothing they can eat at all. Keep your car stocked with a few vegan snacks (bonus: most are non-perishable!) to avoid any grumpy episodes because there’s nothing around to eat.
Being in love with a vegan when you love meat is similar to the challenges faced by any other couple with mixed interests. You can make this work if you keep your focus on your love and respect for each other.