Say what you will, but food is a foundational part of most relationships. It’s how we express our love, how we treat ourselves and how we celebrate our successes in life. But, how do you make things work when you’re a die-hard vegan and the love of your partner’s life (apart from you) is cheese? Or when you’re looking to cut down on the amount of meat you eat, and your partner won’t even entertain the idea of a meat-free Monday?
Here’s how to approach relationships when different dietary wants and needs are at play:
1. Communication is key
Because, y’know, you’re separate individuals with separate wants and needs, you’re bound to like different foods. When you’re in a relationship, it’s so important to stay true to what you think and feel—which applies to every area of a partnership, as well as food.
If you compromise too much (a certain amount of compromise is, of course, completely healthy and necessary for successful relationships), you’ll end up resenting your partner for removing you from your values.
Making sure that you communicate what you do and don’t like to eat is fundamental to keeping you both happy—even if you realise you don’t actually like many of the same foods. If a food makes you feel a certain way, say so. If you’re wanting support to embrace a healthier lifestyle—ask for it.
2. Create a ‘love list’ on the foods you both enjoy
Whatever your dietary preferences, you and your partner can surely agree on wanting to enjoy your food, and that regardless of what it is, it should make you feel great.
When you’re faced with very stark, very obvious contrasts in your diets (AKA you want to incorporate more fish and your partner hates every type of fish with a hot, fiery passion), it’s easy to get bogged down in how hard it is for you to make food and eat together.
If you both make a ‘love list’ and include all of the foods and meals that you truly love to eat and make you feel good, you’ll likely be surprised at the crossover. Get specific. If you only like to eat rice at lunchtime, note that down so that you can compromise with your partner before making it definitive. Once you’ve both made your lists, you can then compile the results into a ‘master love list’ that you can turn to whenever you’re feeling frustrated at how complex cooking for the both of you can be.
3. Keep the base the same
If your partner is as passionate about their red-meat consumption as you are with your veganism, this doesn’t mean you can never enjoy food together.
Using your master love list, come up with some dishes that can work as a ‘base’. For example, a nutty rice salad with veggies can work for the both of you—and you can just tweak the other components to work. That might mean adding lamb cutlets to your partners dish and baking some pumpkin, eggplant or tempeh to add to your own.
Once you’re focused on the food-loves you have in common and are willing to meet in the middle for the majority of your meals, you’ll be surprised at how much easier eating together feels—and how much extra bonding time cooking together creates.