The health benefits of a plant-focussed diet are causing a huge rise in the popularity of vegetarianism. On a global scale, people are taking notice of this more ethical (depending on your point of view) and environmentally friendly way of eating. People are drawn to claims of boosted energy and possible disease prevention benefits. Many people feel that going vegetarian promotes physical and mental wellbeing.
If you are one of the thousands of individuals interested in transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle this article will help you navigate the tricky waters of what to do when your partner isn’t on the same page! Careful preparation for how this change could affect your relationship will help you to avoid conflict and calmly prepare for any challenges ahead.
Note: These tips can also come in handy when dealing with how your choice affects children. However, many people go vegetarian without making any changes to how their partner or family members eat. You may only change the meals that you eat, but that can still cause some issues with the folks around you.
Fear of Change
The human mind naturally fears change and prefers stability – this is an evolutionary trait which keeps us generally safe and content with life. However, many people experience a ‘tipping-point’ when the fear of a change is outweighed by the drive or desire to do something different.
What was your ‘tipping point’ for wanting to become vegetarian? Perhaps it was seeing an emotive movie about animal welfare or learning about the health impact of meat. This is the ‘spark’ or ‘fuel’ you will use to overcome fear and make changes in your life. However, this is YOUR tipping point and cannot be transferred onto another person, it is highly personal.
Your new desire to change your diet will inevitably impact the lives of those around you, especially your partner. But, since your partner has not had their own tipping point experience, if you suggest, or even hint, that they should make drastic changes to their diet (especially involving some of their favourite foods) they will more than likely experience fear. This is perfectly normal and to be expected. This fear can be significantly reduced with good communication and planning.
Understand the Impact
The first step is to think about the impact your choice will make on your partner. This will help you understand and plan how to better prepare yourself and them for your transition. Note: We are talking about your transition. Do not assume they are ready or willing to make such a change. In their own time, your actions may inspire change but it would be a big assumption, and imposition on their free will, to assume they would like to follow your choices.
Start your exploration of the situation with some questions:
- Do you typically eat together and who does the majority of the cooking?
- Can your partner prepare food for himself/herself – what did they do before you came along?
- What percentage of your shared diet is meat-centric?
- What aspects of your social life are focussed around food?
- What is it you want for yourself and why? – For example, Are you cutting meat out or just cutting back on it? Have you been directed by a medical professional to make this change due to illness?
- What are your boundaries and where are you prepared to be flexible? For example, preparing and cooking meat for others?
- What fears or concerns might your partner have (about their food or your decision)?
Communicate What you Want
The ability to calmly and rationally discuss your life together is key to a successful relationship. Finding the right time, place and information to deliver to your partner will be much more effective than simply blurting out your decision to radically alter an aspect of your shared life together in a text message. Plan and prepare for the best way to communicate your desires and needs to your partner:
- Learn the benefits vegetarianism offer so you can confidentially talk about your decision.
- Think about the foods you and your partner enjoy together and research vegetarian alternatives.
- Empathise and listen to their concerns (you may find underneath the fear, you share similar desires).
- Understand this is your choice and cannot be forced upon anybody (use “I want” not “we” or “should”). You may have to compromise. That’s what relationships are about.
- Plan your transition, small steps are easier to adopt and more successful in the long run (for both of you).
There is a misconception that healthy food is bland and tasteless. Find flavours, textures and temperatures that work for you both and enjoy experimenting to find what hits the spot. Planning is crucial to tasty delicious vegetarian meals – simply swapping some meat for a lump of tofu won’t win you any points! However, there are meals, like salads, pasta dishes and stir fry, where meat can be easily added or taken away.
Trying out new foods and new restaurants together can be a lot of fun – eating the same over-cooked vegetables and plain salads is a lot less fun. After communicating what you want and understanding your partner’s needs you can look for ways to ensure your food meets all your nutritional, social, financial and taste requirements.
To change your diet and find harmony with your partner, you will need a variety of recipes and probably some new cooking skills. Here are some quick tips for the new vegetarian chef in you:
- Meat adds flavour – Find new sources of flavour in herbs and spices.
- Find quick wins – Add more vegetables to an existing favourite and gradually reduce meat content.
- Plan your meals – Last minute frozen meals do not empower a health conscious diet. Plan out your options so that you have plenty of variety and don’t always opt for vegetarian junk food.
- Research recipes – Reviewing food photos together could spark some dining passion. Pinterest is your friend.
- Add instead of taking – Adding new foods and flavours is more comfortable than taking favourite foods away!
Your choice! Your life!
In the end, it comes down to personal choice. How you choose to nourish yourself with the items you put into your body is completely up to you and learning as much as possible about plant-based nutrition will give you the confidence to stick to your decision.
If your partner is at least willing to try a few new items, you might find that gradual steps, new and exciting tastes combined with information about the health benefits (especially increased energy and libido!) can steer them towards your way of thinking. However, you might not. They may be very, very happy with meat for every meal and have total resistance to change, and that’s ok too.
By listening to the fears and objections of others, seeking middle ground and gradually taking small steps you can achieve huge positive changes in any area of your life, including improving your health and wellbeing with a plant-based diet.