A reader sent me a link to this advice column, where the LW vents about her partner of 20 years going vegan. She says:
“There are worse problems than a vegan partner, but I am not handling it well. I go through periods of avoiding eating and cooking with him. I don’t want to offend him, and I don’t want him to offend me. I don’t believe veganism is a good choice for personal or planetary health, and I feel healthier on a low-carb diet; we both realise we are not going to persuade each other to change diets.
He has lost lots of weight and looks great, and is happy with his choice. But I feel sad that he may never cook another delicious chicken dinner for me, and I am seething underneath that he immerses himself in vegan “propaganda” and has withdrawn from the family culinary traditions. To be fair, I lack a love for beans and avoid starch, so he isn’t left with much choice except withdrawal. […] I really miss connecting over a good dinner and wish he would go back to being an omnivore.”
It got me thinking: How does your partner’s diet affect you? Would you “seethe” over something like your partner going vegan if you’re a meat-eater? Personally, I think this LW sounds selfish and petty. “There are worse problems than a vegan partner”? Yeah, no shit! I mean, it just doesn’t seem like something to “seethe” about. Maybe feel a little inconvenienced? Ok, sure. A little sad that maybe some family culinary traditions might come to an end or change? Fine. But how about creating some new traditions? Or – gasp – learning a little about this new diet, embracing the change, trying out some recipes that the whole family might like, and appreciating the benefits from this new lifestyle that are already apparent?
Have you ever had a significant other make a major dietary change? If so, how did it affect you (if at all)?
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
hfantods February 7, 2019, 10:00 am
I agree seethe is a strong word. I think if a partner were to make a dietary change it would be different but not insurmountable.
Really just wanted to plug this week’s The Sporkful podcast. The host Dan Pashnman interview Dan Savage and it’s really interesting! Talks about relationships and food.
Peggy February 7, 2019, 10:23 am
The seething reaction is a bit strong. However ,her partner changed after 20 years-it is not like she knew he had a vegan diet when she met him.
Food,eating habits etc. are often part of a couple’s compatibility and bonding and I can understand that she feels disconnected by this change. The solution-if there is one-is to find meals and or other activities that they can both agree on or enjoy,like Wendy said. Likely,the “vegan propaganda” will decrease in time-he is just currently so thrilled and happy with his new diet.
Anytime someone changes drastically-stops smoking,or stops or starts drinking, becomes a gym rat etc.-there is bound to be a change in the relationship dynamics. Change can be good-but it is not always easy.
Northern Star February 7, 2019, 10:28 am
I don’t think it’s petty to be frustrated by a partner not being able to eat a meal with you ever again. These two are at polar opposites, so that’s the reality. She needs the protein from animals that he won’t eat and he needs protein from plants that she won’t eat. And it would indeed stink to make separate dinners every day. Especially if cooking used to be a bonding time.
But I do think she needs to do a little self-reflection and realize how restrictive her own low-carb diet is, and that she’s half of the problem here.
csp February 7, 2019, 10:36 am
So I am a vegetarian (not vegan) for 25 years and I am married to a meat eater. I do all the cooking and he eats what I put in front of him. So it works. He will get meat that is easily heated in the oven or in a crock pot. For the most part, I am low key about this stuff. However, if he wants to try a restaurant, we have to see if there is something for me to eat. So I basically pick most of the places we go. Vegan is much harder. So you can’t go to a lot of places or they just eat a small garden salad. I know it is frustrating for my husband if I eat this small thing and he continues to eat for 30 minutes. I think for a woman, this could be harder if you are stuffing your face and he is eating a salad. I think when a husband does this, it feels like more of a judgement then in the reverse.
Vathena February 7, 2019, 10:41 am
My husband was diagnosed with Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes a little over 2 years ago (the day after election day 2016, when he was sent to the ER and then admitted. Not a good day for so many reasons!!) He had just turned 49 and been a vegetarian since college; I’d also been cooking and eating vegetarian almost exclusively for 10+ years, with occasional exceptions for Thanksgiving turkey and such. Since his diagnosis, he has to be pretty careful with counting carbs so he can inject the proper amount of insulin with each meal. He started eating some meat again, because meat is easy – no carbs to raise blood sugar! It’s virtually impossible for a vegetarian to have carb-free protein sources – even with low net carbs, beans and tofu etc. would still need to be compensated for with insulin. I would not say this to him, because I fully support every step he feels is necessary to deal with this serious health issue, but it’s not been the easiest adjustment for me. I am germ-phobic with cooking meat, and the ethics of it still bother me although we do our best to get meat from the farmer’s market and/or the free-range organic stuff at the store. We also still don’t eat it that much, just a few times a week. But it’s mostly fine, and I definitely don’t “seethe” over it!
Portia February 7, 2019, 10:42 am
That’s a little harsh, though I wonder how much has to do with the initial evangelical veganism new vegans can fall into, plus an unwillingness to try out new recipes that would work for the both of them. You can’t just expect people to adapt, you’ve got to find middle ground if the relationship is going to work (something that applies to many things in relationships).
Both my diet and my husband’s diet have changed over time and, for the most part, it’s pushed us to find new and interesting options for meals. I’m a vegetarian, he’s an omnivore work minimal carbs. Some of it has been a challenge, but the end result is that he now eats more vegetarian and I spearhead the effort to incorporate new and interesting recipes. He’s very supportive, though I’m sure some of it has to do with culinary creativity on my part and not trying to make him go veggie.
Portia February 7, 2019, 12:28 pm
Oh I meant harsh of the LW, but I also don’t think the LW is selfish/petty. I think the LW recognizes (rightly) that neither is going to “convert” the other, but both are throwing up their hands and not finding the middle ground that is there.
Copa February 7, 2019, 10:45 am
I have a few friends who went vegan in the past couple years, and they act smug/morally superior about their veganism. For example, one now uses her Instagram as a platform to talk about veganism, but it gets a bit over-the-top about how it’s not morally defensible to eat meat, how omnivores are mass murderers, etc. I don’t disagree with every point made, even as a non-vegan, but it’s in-your-face and tiresome. I know this isn’t how all vegans are, but this is what came to mind when I read the LW’s comment about vegan propaganda. If I were dating or married someone who adopted a vegan (or other new) diet, I wouldn’t care if I didn’t have to deal with judgment or moral superiority. Otherwise, I’m not very picky and I’m sure I’d get on board with being open to new meals. I can understand why it’d be an adjustment for a partner, particularly if you previously held a lot of traditions and bonded around cooking, but “seething” is an overreaction.
In my current relationship, I decided I wanted to change my diet and started at the beginning of the year, so I jumped on the Whole30 bandwagon. My boyfriend happily joined in a couple weeks after I started. I didn’t ask him to or suggest he do it, but he’s an easy-going guy and I suppose he thought maybe he’d benefit from it, too. We spend more time cooking together now, and it’s been fun for us to try new recipes together. Some have been laughably mediocre (e.g., that time we made a “cheese” sauce from cashews), some have been great!
Skyblossom February 7, 2019, 11:49 am
If the main change is that the husband has a different diet, fine. If the diet comes with a constant helping of superiority and suggestions that the LW is a murderer then that’s terrible. If he is making comments like that I think she needs to tell him to stop it. He ate meat for decades without being a murderer and she will continue to eat meat without being a murderer. He has found the diet that works for his body and she has found the diet that works for hers. Because I have a science background I’d have to throw in that we have omnivore bodies and omnivore teeth and since I am an omnivore I will eat some meat.
I’d draw a boundary about insulting comments. They would have to cease immediately or we would never be in the kitchen together and we would never eat together. I think everyone has the right to not be constantly insulted by their partner and the partner should be called on it if it is happening and should be made to understand that it stops.
MaggieB February 7, 2019, 12:56 pm
I’m an omnivore and I too would have a really hard time if my husband went vegan. But the part that mostly rubbed me the wrong way is that she “doesn’t believe” it’s a “good choice” for “planetary health.” That’s just flat-out willful ignorance.
9Lucidity February 7, 2019, 1:35 pm
I raised an eyebrow at that, too. Neither my husband nor myself have ever made a drastic dietary change, but we have added in a lot more vegetarian and vegan meals over the past few years, specifically because of the benefits to both personal and planetary health. We’ve been able to find plenty of easy, delicious recipes.
I could see being a bit frustrated if he ate a completely different diet, though, because that would make cooking difficult, and likely mean higher grocery bills.
Loo February 7, 2019, 5:57 pm
No, the LW is correct.
anonymousse February 7, 2019, 8:28 pm
Undoubtedly you could link numerous articles on the other side of the argument, too. One of those links is an opinion piece from someone who raises cattle on a small organic farm about how cow shit made her land healthy again doesn’t really make the point for the kind of farms that supply the majority of the beef that is eaten. I urge you to google images drone footage of factory farms in this country. The mass slaughter of beef cattle is on a level that is unsustainable. We aren’t the only country that relies on factory farms, either.
Eating mostly vegetables is better for the environment. I believe you could even say veganism is. There will never be 100% vegan diets on the planet, so to argue that it’s not sustainable is kind of pointless. The last article you linked made the point that everyone needs to eat less meat. That will help the environment. Most of these pieces are in regards to traditional farming methods, which quite honestly aren’t sustainable. But there are new methods. Technology hasn’t bypassed farming. There are much more efficient ways to grow plants than are mentioned here. New advances are happening all the time that will make farming more efficient, less costly and use less water.
Ele4phant February 7, 2019, 7:30 pm
Well – I think that a lot of the crops vegans rely heavily on (soybeans in particularly) are pretty resource intensive, so not great for the environment.
And there’s also the argument that if everyone relied on a plant based diet that would mean more land having to be cultivated – hence the loss of habitat and all that.
That said, industrial meat farming is terrible for the environment, so more people being vegans could very well be “better” in relative terms.
Really we just have too many people to live in anyway that is good for the earth as a whole.
anonymousse February 7, 2019, 8:30 pm
And the truth is most soybeans are produced and used for….drumroll…..
The animal feed industry!
ele4phant February 7, 2019, 9:00 pm
Undoubtedly meat production is bad. No disagreements there!
Meat is an efficient as a food source for human beings, and it does take up less space. Like, literally a feed lot will take up less space than a crop of vegetables that contain a commensurate amount of calories. Although absolutely they pack in more pollution given their small size.
I do feel like the “best” option for humans is a *mostly* plant based diet, with some amount of meat and/or animal products.
As long as the shift as a whole is to less meat, I don’t think that has to be on the individual level. A subset of people can follow a strictly vegan lifestyle, a small subset of people could stick to a meat heavy diet if they were so inclined, and most people should strive to eat more vegetables. I think it’s about the balance overall. The human race as a whole, should be shifting more from meat. It may vary person to person.
Certainly as a race we eat way more meat than we need to, and if we ate less that would be better. Should everybody become vegan? Eh, I dunno about that, but totally onboard that we should eat less meat overall.
And there’s no getting around the moral issue of the meat industry. Its absolutely legitimate to not eat meat or meat products for ethical reasons about how animals are treated.
anonymousse February 7, 2019, 9:14 pm
But what about all the resources going in to raise all the millions of cattle we slaughter each year? Driving across the country all you see is corn and soy grown for animal feed.
I don’t think meat consumption is really the best use of resources. Not the way we do it.
There are new methods of farming.
Skyblossom February 9, 2019, 5:06 pm
Looking up the statistics, it takes 12 pounds of grain per pound of beef raised. The statistics are all over the place from 6 pounds of grain to 20 pounds of grain and some only count the grain fed while in a feedlot. Calves are “finished” in the feedlot. They are fed before that, usually grass, hay and maybe some grain. It takes a lot of acres to raise one cow/steer to slaughter. If the land was used to grow vegetables instead of grain you could grow far more vegetables than are needed.
That said, I do like to eat some meat. Chickens take the least amount of grain per pound of meat and pigs also require less than beef.
anonymousse February 9, 2019, 5:11 pm
I’m actually not vegan or even vegetarian anymore. We go in phases of doing so, however. We probably have one meal of meat or fish about once a week, otherwise vegetarian. I eat eggs, but not much cheese anymore.
commonsense February 7, 2019, 1:10 pm
She is NOT seething because he is a vegan “and I am seething underneath that he immerses himself in vegan “propaganda” and has withdrawn from the family culinary traditions.” She is seething over the amount of propaganda he reads and that he will no longer involve himself in family traditions that are food related. Why is it that some people will focus on the one extreeme word and not even really try to help the LW.
anonymousse February 7, 2019, 1:18 pm
Is it a surprise he doesn’t want to partake in the meat filled traditional meals? He didn’t become vegan AT her.
We’re not helping, because the person didn’t write into DW. We’re discussing the topic.
JD February 7, 2019, 2:04 pm
Pretty ironic user name considering you don’t even realize this isn’t someone writing in for advice.
Bittergaymark February 7, 2019, 1:13 pm
Vegan is very restrictive. It just is. My best friend is vegetarian and we have ZERO issues. But vegan is much trickier. Just travel alone with a Vegan can be maddening… It can prove rather limiting. The use of the word propoganda leads me to suspect that the LW’s partner NEVER shuts up about being a vegan… which can be rather taxing as well…
Miss MJ February 7, 2019, 2:02 pm
Yeah, my best friend is a vegetarian and we have no issues finding places to eat. But once a year or so I get together with a larger group of college friends and a couple are vegans and it’s so freaking hard to find places to eat. (And I’m totally willing to go meatless for the weekend. Not vegan, though. I need eggs, milk and/or cheese.) You almost have to start planning the next meal while you’re eating the one. And, if she’s low carb and doesn’t do legumes or carbs, and he won’t eat meat or dairy, then there’s not a whole lot of sharing they can do. That’s two sets of groceries and two separate meals every night, more or less.
SpaceySteph February 8, 2019, 6:31 am
In my house we only cook every other night. With having a kid who goes to bed early and 2 working parents we found that it made evenings less stressful if we could just heat up some leftovers most nights. It really doesn’t add much time for most recipes to double it– sure it takes a little longer to chop 2 onions instead of one, but the cooking and cleaning is virtually identical so it definitely saves time overall.
The OP and her husband could do something like that– take turns cooking one night and eating leftovers the next while the other spouse cooks.
anonymousse February 7, 2019, 1:15 pm
I don’t the think proselytizing is strictly a vegan attribute. A new keto or other fad dieter will be excited and have a lot of things to say about their new diet. Insert any new and exciting thing in someone’s life.
If you’ve ever been a vegetarian or vegan, you’ll have the same thing. Many people telling you how unhealthy your diet is. How you need meat. How protein is only really in meat. How they just can’t imagine how you do it. I’ve even had people (an ex’s mother) try to hide meat in my food, to prove that I do like it.
Anonymous February 7, 2019, 1:16 pm
PS — Seething is a great word. And I suspect I would seethe just as much as the LW…
JD February 7, 2019, 1:16 pm
Ya I don’t care what you eat as long as I don’t have to hear about it all the time. Except pizza, I always want to hear about pizza. I don’t think, as the one that cooks, I would be really able to accommodate if my husband decided to be vegan, as it would just be so limiting. Vegetarian wouldn’t be as much as an issue for me. If he wanted to cook it then whatever makes him happy.
Heck, im 36 and my mommy still makes me a part of what she makes without onions 🙂
ktfran February 7, 2019, 1:51 pm
Agreed. I do most of the cooking and meal planning too. If the husband suddenly went vegan, I’d likely tell him to fend for himself. Vegan is extremely restrictive. I’d be able to accommodate pescetarian or vegetarian, not vegan though.
We base a lot of our life around meal time, dining out, etc. I think we’d have a hard time connecting if our diet’s were that vastly different.
JD February 8, 2019, 8:39 am
Same here. We eat together every night, and as a whole family about every night unless son is at an activity. I feel it would really change that dynamic and could be difficult to adjust to. Plus, a lot of my food budgeting and planning is based on leftovers. I hate spending money on anything unecessary, I’d rather it go better places, and I pack my husbands lunch every day with leftovers. A drastic diet change could really impact that and really increase what we spend. That would not be great. I will spend a ridiculous amount of money on things I want, when I can, but I really cringe at spending more money than I have to on things like milk, garbage bags, etc. I have our meals down to a really low cost per meal, while still very healthy, it would really suck for that to be doubled or tripled, limiting nice meals out or trips or, shoes.
Fyodor February 7, 2019, 1:19 pm
I was for a while, super strict about carbs/calories while losing weight (I have relaxed a bit). On top of that I am mostly kosher while BOF* is not. While she was mostly supportive, I think that she got annoyed with not being able able to go out to places or that I would eat chicken while the family ate pasta.
One thing that the author gets at is that like 80** percent of people on particular extre diets are very preachy about it and that gets tiresome.
*Bride of Fyodor
JD February 7, 2019, 1:35 pm
Ya I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t preach about their “diet”. I am sure it exists but I have yet to meet that person.
Rangerchic February 7, 2019, 2:54 pm
My husband thinks meat should be at every meal and I eat meat but I don’t necessarily have meat with every meal..since I am the dinner planner/cook for nearly all dinners he doesn’t complain. However, since I am the main cook for dinner I’m sure he would have plenty to say if I decided to go vegetarian or vegan. I’m sure he would be disappointed. It would mean I fix my dinner and he fixes his dinner (I don’t cook two different dinners…even when he kids were young and picky).
We are all currently doing the Whole30 (husband and daughter too) though and that’s been tough giving up certain food groups. But there is an end in sight to the main diet. Then we hope to keep eating clean but adding back in some of our favorites in limited fashion such as cheese and bread.
And I don’t preach about the diet we are doing as I wouldn’t want to be preached at! I’ve told a few people at work (especially when they offer off-diet food). But that’s it. They ask how it’s going and I tell them. I don’t tell them they should try it or try to convince them of a better way to eat or anything.
Pumpkin February 7, 2019, 3:07 pm
My ex went keto for a while, and it was horrible. He tracked every single macronutrient, insisted I do it too so I wouldn’t “tempt” him, and shamed me when I ate things that had any carbs in them. I remember having a salad one day with ranch dressing on the side, and I heard about the evils of ranch dressing for hours. If I have to track so closely that I can’t even have a teaspoon of dressing, I’m out.
GirlChris February 7, 2019, 3:10 pm
My husband was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2010, which requires a gluten-free diet. He’s also is lactose intolerant (pretty typical for Celiac sufferers), so he is mostly dairy-free too. Going gluten-free and ~80% dairy-free has been a huge life change for us. It was a struggle for the first few years, but we’ve adapted and think I’ve become a better cook and baker because of it.
ele4phant February 7, 2019, 7:10 pm
Eating together is an important bonding time for me and my husband.
We basically eat together every night.
We take turns cooking for one another, thinking of what would make the other happy.
We enjoy trying out new restaurants together.
I would be really sad if all of that evaporated because we were on radically different diets.
Also – seems like he’s pretty whole-hog and preachy about his diet (and judgmental of hers). That’s no fun either.
I feel this woman. Is she over the top in her resentment? Maybe, but there would be a huge impact on my relationship if my husband radically changed his diet and started giving me shit about mine (the one he used to share with me).
SpaceySteph February 8, 2019, 5:25 am
I’ll out myself as the more restrictive eater between my husband and I. I am Jewish but was raised without any kosherness of any kind. My parents are still mega-not-Kosher-lovers-of-bacon. But over time I’ve adopted some of the rules. I stopped eating pork before my husband and I started dating, but only quit eating shellfish a couple years ago and I did discuss with him that I was thinking of doing it, but that I knew it would affect him too.
I don’t tell him what he can or can’t eat when we’re out, but since I do the meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking, we don’t really eat those things at home anymore. Sometimes we will have bacon to make for breakfasts, or like the other week we made both pork and beef ribs, especially if we have company, but its rare.
Also there are some restaurants that we don’t go to because there’s really nothing on the menu for me. Most places have some chicken, though, so I am usually ok. It’d be much harder as a vegan, and especially if you live in a less cosmopolitan area where there aren’t many vegan options. Coupled with the fact that OP doesn’t really eat beans and even if they did have a vegan restaurant, the OP probably couldn’t find anything there.
There’s certainly worse things (dude could have been a Trump voter) but the idea of being unable to go out to dinner and enjoy a meal with my husband would bother me.
ktfran February 8, 2019, 9:10 am
My brother in law is Jewish and while he only keeps kosher at home during passover, he does follow the food rules throughout the year. No pork or other cloven hoofed animals. No shellfish. No meat and dairy at the same meal.
He and my sister do fine. The biggest difference was the no meat and dairy at the same meal, but she has adjusted the way she cooks, as has my mom when he visits.
Before they got engaged, they agreed to raise their children jewish. He practices his faith whereas my sister doesn’t. She does like the traditions, but that’s it. She did get my brother in law to agree that their kids don’t have to follow the dietary rules except during passover. My nephew has had pork and cheese and meat in the same meal.
Hazel February 8, 2019, 6:02 am
Such great reasonable comments here- I started reading expecting to hear how awful and annoying vegans are, and tales of how dreadful some vegan was once, so they should all be burned at the stake (pretty much what you get on most comment sections) but no, pretty much all sweet reason. So impressed.
Kate February 9, 2019, 12:27 pm
Oh man. I’m only commenting because I think you’re so off-base, Wendy. For people who really connect with or have strong feelings about their diet and nutrition, not being in line with their partner can be crushing. And I think “seethe” is a perfectly reasonable work for LW to have used regarding vegan propaganda. (And would have been appropriate for any type of diet propaganda – be it paleo, vegetarian, IF, low-carb, keto, whatever. The literature can be polarizing and often much more politically fueled than scientifically.)
Wendy, you seem to have trouble relating to issues that you haven’t experienced or don’t have strong feelings about, yourself. If this LW was writing about her and her partner’s political views, I have a feeling you’d have had a very different reaction. For some people, food is as important as politics. You’ll probably react and say that’s crazy – but that’s exactly the problem. It’s not crazy, and you can’t see that.
Annalisa’s answer in the original post was much more empathetic and thoughtful than anything you said here. I’d recommend anyone interested to go read through her answer.
Dear Wendy February 9, 2019, 4:58 pm
I wasn’t giving advice, Kate – I was introducing a topic for discussion.
Dear Wendy February 9, 2019, 5:05 pm
And how’s this for the appropriate use of the word “seethe”? People like you who “only comment” to tell me how base I am, to tell me that I suck at my job, that I “have trouble relating to issues I haven’t experienced” make me seethe. I have been writing an advice column for nearly 15 years, with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people having been directly — and lots more indirectly — helped by my advice (and I have their many, many, many updates to confirm this); do you really think I have experienced all the issues they wrote in about? Or do you think, you fucking know-it-all, that maybe I have an ounce of empathy and compassion that allows me to understand, if not always relate to, issues I have not personally experienced myself?
I have had a WEEK, and I just can’t right now with people like you.
JD February 9, 2019, 6:06 pm
Hugs for your weeks wendy. One of those delicious cocktails you posted is in order.
Dear Wendy February 9, 2019, 7:11 pm
Thank you – ha, I guess I probably could use a cocktail!
JD February 9, 2019, 9:41 pm
I decided i could use a cocktail but since I rarely drink now two make me theist social human ever. Spoke to my father in Australia, and old high school friend. I really should not be trusted with two drinks anymore.
bekahtravels February 10, 2019, 11:06 am
Loved all the comments and discussion until the last one… Thanks Wendy and commenters for respectfully talking about such a nuanced topic!