With the growing number of "mixed" vegan marriages and relationships, discussions of how to convert or tolerate a meat-loving spouse heat up vegan web sites and email exchanges. It seems people intuitively realize that a shift in diet manifests itself throughout the rest of life: that we are in some sense what we eat. For this reason, suggesting a loved one change his or her diet nearly always provokes some reaction. Superimpose issues of morality on that "gut reflex," and you have the makings of a minefield. The following tips will help you minimize explosions:
Appreciate and encourage any steps your spouse has already taken to explore a vegan diet.
Consider the following scenario: you're a vegan, and your spouse or partner wants to support you but does not feel as passionately about animal rights as you do. Before judging your husband for this lack of concern for animals, recognize and acknowledge the sentiment behind the gesture. In your compassion for animals, remember not to overlook the important humans in your life.
Nothing paralyzes an intimate relationship like feeling judged. Rather than convincing a somewhat willing partner, your disdain will more likely provoke defensiveness and anger. Instead of curious, your fledgling vegan becomes defiant or resentful. In either case, the chances of lasting dietary change diminish.
So ... how do you support an omnivorous partner in his or her moves towards a more vegetarian and vegan-friendly lifestyle? The way we ideally help loved ones in any period of change: with compassion, presence, and understanding.
Decide which is more important to you: your spouse the person, or your spouse the potential vegan.
No one can make this decision for you, but knowing the answer provides you with necessary perspective. If you love your partner unconditionally, but would prefer s/he not consume flesh, then the relationship will always take precedence over the diet. On the other hand, the differences in diet might represent fundamental emotional and spiritual differences between the two of you. In this case, your disagreements over food and animal rights activists as catalysts to further discussion about your overall relationship.
It is important that you explore your feelings carefully and honestly, as they will inevitably affect how you deal with the situation. Sometimes we site morality to avoid vulnerability or responsibility. Other times revulsion or empathy stems from a seemingly unconnected trauma. Discovering that your commitment to veganism has an emotional component does not diminish your "argument." Rather, sharing that vulnerability with a loved one often provides the missing link to understanding.
In any case, you will need to pay attention to your reactions and subtle shifts in your partner's attitude and mannerisms. Anytime one person makes a huge lifestyle change for someone else, resentment and expectation can go unchecked and then explode. Asking direct, but non-confrontational questions at the moment help diffuse conflicts. As a result, you might even grow closer through these challenges.
Learn how to explain detoxification symptoms in understandable terms.
One common pitfall occurs when an omnivore begins to replace meat and dairy with healthier options and feels SICK! Sometimes the feelings pass quickly; however, a heavy meat-eater may experience severe constipation, nausea, and headaches for quite some time. Especially if the person is unsure of his or her commitment to go vegan, s/he will probably say something like, "If this diet's so healthy, then why do I feel so sick? I was healthier eating meat."
Even you might wonder why adding fiber and extra vegetables to someone's diet could make them feel so crummy. The answer is "detoxification"-the process whereby the body replaces toxic substances with higher-quality nutrients. The body's degree of toxicity and the speed of the dietary switch determine how many toxins hit the bloodstream before being re-processed and eliminated through sweat, urine, and feces. Most people don't realize that any increase in fiber demands an increase in drinking water. If an aspiring vegan does not drink enough water, then s/he not only slows down the elimination process through sweat and urine; dehydration may also cause the fiber to back up in the colon.