This is a question I got a while back that I wanted to share with all of you. I think this topic gets overlooked a lot, considering how many people deal with it on a daily basis. Our relationships are so important, and when it comes down to it, they’re all we really have. So when things get tense in your relationship, it can feel like everything is falling apart. Making the decision to stop eating animals is a big one and it intimidates a lot of people. The close people in your life may react badly to it. They might think it seems really limiting and difficult, or just like too much work. Luckily, it’s none of those things, and your relationships don’t have to suffer at all to maintain a cruelty free lifestyle.
“Hello Allison, I’ve been vegan for about six years now but I’ve had some challenges recently. Ever since I moved in with my non-vegan boyfriend, everyone I’ve talked to thinks I should compromise on being vegan. This usually has to do with making non-vegan purchases and choosing family dinners. Do you have any suggestions to make staying vegan easier in this situation? Is it unfair of me to feel uncomfortable buying meat or to pressure him into eating vegan more often?”
Let me start off by saying, I know exactly how you feel. When our friends, family, and significant others don’t understand our decisions or life choices, they can be very unsupportive and downright cruel and isolating without even realizing it. It sucks. It makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong, even when you’re not. I’ve been in that situation countless times and it’s always upsetting to be told that you’re being inflexible or unaccommodating because you don’t want to give up your values. I have good news for you, though, you don’t have to.
My boyfriend is also a meat eater, and we’ve lived together for just over a year now. Our differences used to frustrate me, but at the end of the day, I love and respect him no matter how he eats. I always want him to feel completely satisfied with his food, and never feel deprived of anything. It can be difficult to provide someone else with meals when they have a very different idea of what food is than you do. I personally don’t purchase or cook with any animal products, even if they’re for someone else. It doesn’t matter if I’m not eating them, if I’m paying for it I am supporting it. He knows he can buy and cook animal products in the house if he wants to, but he also knows I wouldn’t like it, so he usually opts to have whatever I’m making, otherwise, he picks up something else for himself and that’s that. You don’t have to allow someone to pressure you into supporting an industry that goes against your values. I know how hard it can be to deal with that at first, but the people you love do care about you, and in time they will come to realize that you can’t be bullied out of your beliefs.
When I first started removing animal products from my diet, my family and friends were constantly trying to get me to cave and start eating “just a little” meat or dairy. “Do it for your health!” and “Don’t you think it’s rude that you’re eating a different meal than everyone else?” were lines I heard pretty regularly for years. Over time, though, they not only stopped trying to get me to turn back to eating meat, but most of them became vegan too!
I know that not everyone will stop eating animal products just because they have a good example, (and you shouldn’t expect them to, that’s a headache you don’t need) but if you try to be the best role model of a healthy, happy, balanced plant eater that you can, it will absolutely change the way your loved ones feel about the subject. Once they see how comfortable you are with your life choices, they will become more comfortable with them as well.
I can be the most stubborn person sometimes, and I’ve always been of the opinion that if I’m cooking for someone, they should be happy and eat it, or just cook for themselves. My sister, however, has a very different opinion than I do on that subject. She is newly vegan, and still cooks non-vegan meals for her husband who is a staunch meat eater.
She has a blog of her own where she gives advice on dual dining on a budget that might be helpful for you.
I don’t think it’s unfair for you to not want to sacrifice your beliefs so that the people around you can be more comfortable with the way you live. You are obviously a very strong person and committed to this lifestyle, so own it! My boyfriend avoids vegetables and fruit like the plague and it’s a pain in the ass. So, finding vegan recipes that he likes has become a complete necessity. It’s made him go from fearing my cooking to loving it, and now he’s more comfortable with eating vegan food than ever. Take your boyfriend’s favorite comfort foods; spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, mac ‘n’ cheese, brownies, (anything!) and find a good vegan recipe for each one. This way he never feels deprived of the food he loves and you don’t need to worry about keeping the fridge stocked with animal products.
I suggest if you are going to a family meal that you treat it as a potluck and bring a vegan side so that you will have something you can eat, and so that others can try it and see that vegan food can be delicious. I always do that. I bring a vegan treat to every party or event I attend. That takes some of the pressure off of the people around you who are worried that you won’t have anything to eat while you’re there.
Unfortunately, we can’t please everyone, so there will always be some people who are uncomfortable with your choices and there’s nothing you can do about that. Accept this and know that it says a lot more about them than you. Fearing change is universal, but progress is inevitable. Know that you’re on the right side of this issue, and that you’re far too strong to be deterred by mean words and other people’s opinions. If a loved one says something hurtful about your lifestyle, know that they probably didn’t really mean it and forgive them. If a stranger or someone you don’t know all that well puts you down for your decisions, tell them to take a hike! If you didn’t solicit their opinion, then your life is none of their business.
Hope this helped! Remember, you are your own person, and your beliefs and values come first. You can still love, provide for, and be close to the people in your life without sacrificing how you see the world. You don’t need to change yourself to make others comfortable. Stay true to who you are. The people who matter will stick around.
Here’s a quote I love that I hope will stay with you during these difficult times,
“To live in accordance with how one thinks. Be yourself and don’t try to impose your criteria on the rest. I don’t expect others to live like me. I want to respect people’s freedom, but I defend my freedom. And that comes with the courage to say what you think, even if sometimes others don’t share those views.”
-President José “Pepe” Mujica of Uruguay on the secret of happiness.