My sister just emailed me, looking for some big-brotherly advice about going vegetarian. She’d love to do it, but one thing’s stopping her: her boyfriend loves meat.
She’s free to make her own choices, right? Absolutely. And it’s not like her boyfriend’s telling her she can’t make the change. But… they live together. When you live with someone, you share many things, including meals. Making two meals a night, or denying one partner the foods he or she likes, can cause tension. Already, my sister tells me, the subject’s got her bf worried.
I do think she’ll make the switch. I’ve been a vegetarian for ten years, and our aunt and uncle have been vegetarians even longer. Vegetarian fare has always played a big part in our family meals, and my sister, like me, loves the range of vegetarian dishes available. She knows it’ll improve her health overall. Her relationship, though, is important too.
Having only ever dated one vegetarian in the last ten years, I have some experience with this dilemma. Here are five tips I gave my sister, which might come in handy for you too:
1. If you’ve just begun living with a meat-eater, begin by establishing a set number of “vegetarian nights” per week—three is fair to start. Stick to them.
2. Get your partner interested in the possibilities of vegetarian food. Pick recipes together, then hit the market for fresh produce. This not only results in delicious meals, it’s a nice dating activity too.
3. For the four “meat nights,” you can either choose to join your omnivorous significant other in simply reducing meat consumption, or opt-in to the full 7-days-a-week veggie lifestyle on your own. Most vegetarian dishes can be made side by side with a meat-based option anyway—without doubling the cooking time. Tacos, chili, pasta, pizza, stir fries, and a lot of casseroles can all be made together, and separated out in the last step.
4. If you’re planning to eat dinner out, make it on one of your vegetarian nights. Obviously, it’s easier to stick to separate diets when someone else is cooking the food.
5. Never nag. Lead only by example, whether at restaurants or at home. In my experience, after a few months of sharing weekly vegetarian or vegan meals, or just eyeing your delicious meat-free masterpieces, your partner will either make the switch too, or cut down his or her meat intake to once or twice a week.
This is a beneficial choice for both of you. You’ll spend more time together, try new meals you’d never have thought to try, and be healthier for it.