Let’s just say this is a divisive one! So for all the transitioning, new and established vegans out there, I want to explore the million-dollar question – can vegans successfully date non-vegans? Is it a deal-breaker, or can a long-term relationship still blossom?
According to a poll by Veggly (an exclusively vegan and veggie dating app), more than half of vegan daters (52%) wouldn’t even consider entering into a relationship with a meat-eater. Plus, around 12% would even refuse to date a vegetarian.
If these stats are true, then clearly non-vegans are quite literally off the table for a good chunk of those pursuing a vegan lifestyle – which isn’t exactly surprising.
Personally, I’ve been in a relationship with a non-vegan for a couple of years now. When we first met I was pescatarian, then around 6 months in I went veggie for a week, before quickly deciding to go fully vegan. Being in an established relationship when I made this change definitely encouraged me to be more open to working through our differences.
That said, dating a non-vegan undoubtedly has its challenges – both in terms of everyday practicalities and your deeper system of values. So let’s take a closer look at all the considerations to help you establish what feels right for you, and how you can successfully navigate a relationship if this is your decision.
Can Vegans Form Long-Lasting Relationships With Meat-Eaters?
Many vegans will say no – they couldn’t be in a relationship with a non-vegan. Veganism is an all-encompassing lifestyle choice. They would simply be incompatible with someone who doesn’t share these foundational values. Other vegans will be more inclined to keep an open mind. They may feel that this can be navigated with non-judgemental support and communication.
Generally speaking, I think it’s great to know your values and, by extension, the things which aren’t for you in life. So many of us seek validation in all the wrong places – trying to prove our worth to guys that were never right for us in the first place. In the process, we often forget to ask the most important question of all. Are they right for us?
On the flip side, being too dogmatic with your vegan philosophy can shut you off from opportunities to meet all sorts of wonderful people. Veganism is a personal journey towards a more enlightened path, and everyone’s journey will be their own. Non-vegans aren’t bad people – they might just never have thought to question something that is so normalised by society.
The danger of only dating other vegans is that you’re basically looking in the mirror. And, if you go through life like this, you’ll only find yourself in an echo chamber. Of course, you need to share common values with your partner, but there should also be space to challenge each other and inspire growth.
I’m not saying that a die-hard meat-eater will probably ever be the right choice for you. But, if someone is supportive of you being vegan, curious to understand why it’s important to you and open to incorporating more plant-based food into their diet… then yes, this could absolutely be the start of a great relationship.
Why It May Be Difficult to Date a Non-Vegan Partner
To build a healthy relationship with your non-vegan partner, it’s helpful to have an awareness of some of the struggles you may face, so that you’re better equipped to overcome them together.
You have a different system of values
There’s no getting around it – someone who eats meat is going to have very different belief systems from someone who refuses to eat meat. And, especially when you’ve done the inner work to unpick your inherited eating habits, it can be really difficult to get your head around how anyone can still think that it’s okay to consume animal products.
Just remember, though, that at one stage in your life – you were probably this person!
Ultimately, only you can judge your own unique relationship and decide whether you have enough shared values to build a life that feels in alignment with your best self. If you’re feeling unsure, then ask yourself some honest questions about your partner:
Are they kind?
Do they show compassion in other areas?
Are they open to new ideas and possibilities?
It’s even worth asking your partner directly what their values are in life if you want a real understanding of how compatible you’re likely to be in the long term. The more you and your partner can talk together in a supportive and loving way, the smoother this is going to be to navigate.
You don’t want to cook meat or have it in your fridge
Sharing a space brings its own set of practical everyday issues, which some vegans won’t mind but others may find difficult. From being confronted with animal products whenever you open the fridge to splitting the bill on the weekly food shop, it can be tricky ground to navigate for both parties.
As always, mature conversations that aren’t framed as an attack or approached from an overly-emotional standpoint are going to get the best results. Rather than moaning, try your best to be proactive and solution-oriented.
You’re desperate for them to share your world-view
If you’re always on at your partner about animal rights and making them feel terrible for eating meat – whether silently judging or outwardly criticising – this can be a real turn-off. Not only will you likely see defensiveness, but they may even begin to shut down emotionally in other ways.
Similarly, you should never accept jibes or unkind remarks from your meat-eating partner. You may get this from family members or society at large, but it isn’t acceptable from the person who should always be your biggest supporter and cheerleader.
It’s a good lesson that isn’t solely related to the question of veganism: always lift your partner up as opposed to tearing them down.
5 Tips to Make a Vegan/Non-Vegan Relationship Work
Now that you know some of the challenges you might face, here are my top tips to make a vegan/non-vegan relationship work – from real-life experience!
1. Ensure that they are supportive of your choices
First things first – before you start planning the wedding and naming your kids – I think it’s super-important to make sure that your partner is supportive and receptive to your vegan lifestyle choice. They need to be completely on board with it and understand that there will be compromises that need to be made throughout the relationship for it to work.
This doesn’t mean that they need to be prepared to go vegan somewhere down the line, but it helps if they are open to new ways of thinking and are willing to keep an open mind. If they really care about you, they should want to take an active interest in things which are important to you – from your food choices to the moral reasons that underpin your vegan lifestyle.
2. Show mutual respect for each other
If the vegan vs meat eater battle lines are drawn on your very first date, then… this isn’t a great sign of things to come.
But no matter your individual views, and most especially when the going gets tough, always make an effort to speak to your partner with kindness and respect.
The truth of the matter is that your partner may never show any desire to go vegan themselves, and you have to be okay with that. The key to a long-term happy partnership is knowing that no matter your differences, you are batting for the same team.
3. Communicate your wants, needs & boundaries
There are some immediate and longer-term considerations that you’ll want to talk about to make sure you’re on the same page as your non-vegan partner. For example:
Am I okay with a shared fridge? – if the sight of meat upsets you, you’ll need to communicate this.
Will I prepare or cook animal products for them? – as a vegan, you’re under absolutely no obligation to do so (I personally don’t), so make it clear if this is something you’re uncomfortable with.
Do you want to split the food bill if they’re buying animal products? – if you don’t want your money supporting the meat or dairy industries, then talk to them about this.
Will you raise your children vegan? – it may seem like a question that’s a long way off, but if you have strong views on this, you’re going to want to know you can agree ahead of time.
As with all of our wishes and desires, relationships necessarily involve compromise. When you know your boundaries and deal-breakers, you’ll have a clearer view of what you can and can’t accept in a relationship. You can then get this ironed out early on so that there aren’t too many surprises later down the line.
4. Make shared dinnertimes plant-based
Cooking different meals can be a real pain. In my relationship, I enjoy cooking so typically do the majority of it. There are so many great vegan options and alternatives now that my non-vegan partner is more than happy to eat plant-based meals the majority of the time.
Usually, he’ll eat meat if ordering out or having a takeaway, or perhaps he’ll make the odd adjustment here and there to a meal, like adding sliced chicken instead of falafel or popping an egg on some avocado toast. It rarely involves cooking separately, though.
You don’t have to be a great cook to make tasty and accessible plant-based food. There are plenty of easy swaps you can make for vegan versions of your favourite classics, like lasagne or burgers. Even if your partner is an unwavering meat-and-potatoes lover, perhaps you can eat vegan one night a week and gradually increase it? Or try a tasty vegan meal delivery service? See what works best for you!
5. Be a role model: don’t try to change them
My final piece of advice for making a vegan/non-vegan relationship work is perhaps the one I’ve struggled with the most, but the one that’s been most important – not just in terms of veganism, but for my understanding of healthy relationships in general.
You mustn’t try to change people. Yep, read that again.
The best you can do is accept someone exactly as they are (ignoring any tempting ‘potential’). If they aren’t right for you, then that is a decision for you to make, not a challenge to prove yourself right and bend them into your vision of how they ‘should’ be.
My partner is now a good 75% vegan and working towards eliminating meat altogether. Ironically, it’s only since I let go of any expectations that I’ve witnessed this slow transition. Importantly, I know that he isn’t doing it just to please me – it has been the result of his general growing awareness of the health, ethics and sustainability of veganism.
Focus purely on yourself and your own vegan choice. Be the change you want to see in the world. In my experience, this is far more powerful and also fosters a safe space in which others are prepared to grow and change.
Relationships With Non-Vegans Can Work If You’re Willing to Put the Work In
Can vegans date non-vegans? Yes! In my experience, working through something like this may even bring you closer than if you unwaveringly shared the same worldview and beliefs from day dot.
That said, there is no shame in deciding that a meat-eater will never be the one for you. It can feel impossible dating as a vegan, so to find a vegan community it might be worth trying a vegan dating app. This way, you’re guaranteed to connect with like-minded people.
What are your feelings about relationships with non-vegans? Are they destined for a short-term fling or can they mature into something that lasts the long haul? I’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences!