This post was published on the Vegetarian Resource Group blog

Relationships are complicated enough without adding a vegan diet into the mix, so what happens when your significant other doesn’t also eat vegan? He or she may believe that romantic candlelit dinners or one day living together and planning meals together are now impossible, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

My fiancé comes from a meat-loving family, but now that we live together and therefore eat together, we’ve found ways to make it work.  Today my fiancé eats a meat-free diet 90 percent of the time, and most nights he’s doing the cooking, too! Here are the ways in which I’ve positively introduced him to vegan dishes:

  • Avoiding fake meat products

He draws the line at fake meat because he doesn’t enjoy the texture or taste, especially because he still eats meat. So to add protein into our meals, I rely mainly on beans, whole grains, and vegetables instead.

  • Cooking separate dishes when I do want to eat fake meat products

I like to add veggie crumbles to my pot pies, chilies, and pasta sauces whereas my fiancé likes to add ground beef. To please both our palates, we make two separate dishes with all the same ingredients expect for the meat or fake meat. All it takes is an extra pot or dish. He cooks his own meat before we cook the rest of the meal and uses separate cooking and serving utensils to avoid cross-contamination.

  • Easing him into the colorful world of fruits and vegetables

Tomatoes and spinach used to be on his black list when it came to fruits and vegetables, but I’ve learned that if I use baby spinach or petite diced tomatoes, he’ll comply. When they’re small, I can sneak them into a dish without him noticing!

  • Cookbook shopping and meal planning together

We spent a weekend afternoon at the bookstore, choosing vegan cookbooks together, so we could ensure that we both liked the recipes. Now that we have cookbooks we both like, we sit down together once a week to choose recipes. We both look at the ingredients to ensure that we’ll both enjoy the meals. His favorites are crockpot meals because he can come home from work to dinner already made!

Dining out doesn’t have to be a problem, either. My fiancé lets me have the final say on a restaurant when we dine out because he knows that my diet may limit our choices. He always has me pre-screen the menu and make the final call on whether or not we eat at a particular place.

Perhaps your significant other isn’t quite as patient during this process. Then I would recommend pre-screening a menu and making the restaurant recommendation before he or she has the chance to suggest another location. Think about his or her tastes, too. If it’s a vegan restaurant, are there dishes he or she would enjoy?

If these tips sound too good to be true because your significant other isn’t so accepting of a vegan diet, begin by establishing some ground rules and communicating openly. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Are you comfortable having meat and dairy products in the house? If so, do they need a separate place in the refrigerator and/or separate cooking materials?
  • Will you cook separate meals or the same meals most of the time?
  • What won’t your non-vegan significant other eat that you will?
  • What restaurants in the area can accommodate both your needs and tastes?
  • Is your non-vegan significant other willing to exercise patience when picking a restaurant in an unfamiliar area (like when you’re traveling together)?

You don’t have to date a vegan to continue happily living your vegan lifestyle. You just have to be willing to work with your significant other until you find a routine that works for you both. Remember to be patient and understanding because this may be a new process for him or her!