Opposites often do attract. In many instances, those differences can actually enhance a relationship. But when huge differences that involve values or morals arise, compromise and negotiation techniques can be tested in major ways. Some examples of issues that center around our values might be politics, finances, religion, sex—in other words the categories most often listed on dating site profiles. We find that one of the most important areas of concern often ignored at first is dietary lifestyle: what we eat, how we eat, where we eat, what time we eat—you name it. But especially when a meat eater partners with a vegetarian or vegan, sparks can fly.
Before exploring ways of keeping the peace in what is known as a “multivore relationship,” we need to realize that food is much more than a source of energy. We live in a food-centric culture where cooking and eating are activities which can be ways of relating to not only our partners, but also other people in our lives. We eat before and after softball games, concerts, 12-step meetings, and family holiday visits. Everywhere we turn, we hear invitations like “let’s go to a movie, then grab a bite to eat.” Food is so important that we even post photos of our meals on Facebook and Instagram.
So when we find ourselves loving a meat-eater or a vegetarian or vegan, it doesn’t need to be all that difficult to navigate. Bottom line: communicate openly and honestly, compromise and negotiate in a respectful manner, and be thoughtful and creative when planning meals and dining out.
Here are some tips to survive your multivore love relationship.
Communicate in a Respectful Manner
As with so many issues that can cause conflict in our relationships, we need to validate our partner’s point of view. Validation sounds like this, “It makes sense to me that you have an ethical issue with me eating meat since you love and value animals so much.” Or, “I can understand that you grew up in a family where meat and potatoes were your normal meals.” Most important, know that validation does not necessarily mean agreement, but it shows your partner that she gets where you’re coming from.
Have an Open Mind
• Be brave! Try some new meat-free dishes. They may taste better than you think.
• Be open to meat-substitute products. When cooked properly, tofu can actually taste pretty good.
• Challenge yourself and surprise your partner by trying to cook a vegetarian meal.
• Order a pizza without the pepperoni or ground beef.
• Initiate talking with your vegetarian/vegan partner about her feelings about you eating meat around her.
Vegetarians and vegans:
• This is a tough one, but consider still picking up your partner’s groceries or take-out orders even if meat is on the list.
• Consider still cooking for your partner even if meat is a part of the meal.
• Provide a guilt-free and criticism-free zone for your favorite “carnivore.”
Establish Creative Ground Rules
Here are some examples that might work for partners living together. Come up with your own list and start each statement with “we” and keep it positive.
• We research restaurant menus together before going to that establishment.
• We decide who shops for which food items.
• We search online together for meal ideas.
• We use separate dishes and pots and pans.
• We honor each others’ food choices even if we don’t agree with them.
Finally, work as a team and see this as a gastronomic adventure. Keep talking and eating and before you know it, you might even wind up closer and having some wonderful and fun experiences.
Dr. Robyn Zeiger is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with a private practice in Silver Spring, MD. Her clientele includes both individuals and couples. Stacey Williams-Zeiger is the owner and Principal Broker of ZEIGER REALTY, INC., an equality owned residential commercial brokerage licensed in DC, MD and VA.