Meat eaters and vegetarians CAN happily live together

Guest post by Minerva Siegel
Samuel L. Cutting Board Set by ThreadDeli

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was nine (with two years of veganism); my husband is a meat-lover. Our friends ask us how we coexist in the same house all the time — assuming we must fight often about meat. That’s not the case at all! It’s totally possible for vegans/vegetarians and meateaters to live together peacefully, if both parties are willing to listen to the other and work with their comfort zones.

I’m the first vegetarian my husband’s ever been in a relationship with, and he wasn’t sure how to handle it at first. He made it a Way Bigger Deal than I ever did, which I was surprised by. He was so worried about being inconsiderate! He used to avoid eating meat around me out of fear that I’d be offended or upset by it, and he even tried out vegetarianism when we first met. He lasted a whole six months (“six miserable months,” he’d say) before deciding it wasn’t for him. I’m still grateful that he at least tried! Ultimately, however, I respect his autonomy and right to choose what he puts into his own face.

When he asked me to move in with him his biggest anxiety wasn’t about splitting bills, or how we’d get along seeing each other daily, or any of the other typical issues that new couples worry about. His major worry was about my vegetarianism, and how he could go about eating what he wanted to without upsetting me.

I’ve never made a big deal out of him eating meat. However, when he brings meat into our home, there are a few things I ask him to do to make me more comfortable with it…

Know your meat

When I met him, he’d eat whatever frozen meat patties or nuggets were on sale — regardless of brand. This made me unhappy, because animals are treated awfully when mass produced for most grocery store brands. I won’t go into the gory details, but I encourage you to look into it for yourself.

So, I had him research where his meat comes from by brand. In the end, he decided to start buying meat from local, pasture-raised animals that were killed humanely (if there is a way to “humanely” kill something that doesn’t want to die, that is). Now, when he buys meat, at least I know that he’s not supporting the horror show that is the mass-market meat industry!

Get organized

When we moved in together, one thing that needed to change pretty quickly was how we stored meat. I hated opening the fridge and seeing a bloody, leaking hunk of carcass sitting front-and-center on a shelf. We discussed it, and considered buying a separate mini fridge just for his meat, but ultimately purchased solid-color, plastic containers for the meat to go into. That way, I don’t have to see any of it and if it leaks, he can easily clean it up without getting it all over the fridge shelving.

Let’s get cooking

My husband loves his slow cooker, but a problem we ran into was the house constantly smelling like nothing but meat for days at a time, which I eventually found upsetting. The solution? We put the slow cooker in a guest bedroom, opened the window in there and closed the door to it. I just burn scented candles (I’m a little obsessed with these tea lights!) when he makes meat in the crockpot, and between the light patchouli smell of the candles and having the slow cooker sealed off in an unused room, the house doesn’t end up reeking of cooking meat.

Clean up time

When we eat together, he always makes himself a meat-version of whatever I’m eating, and he never expects me to cook him meaty meals or clean his meaty dishes. He’s really so thoughtful. I wouldn’t mind doing his dishes, but he’s always very careful about rinsing off every kitchen item meat touched and putting it away in the dishwasher so that I don’t have to deal with it.

Meat eaters and veggies can totally coexist peacefully in the same house; my husband and I are proof of that! The key is to be considerate of each other, and to communicate about any issues that arise in a constructive and kind way. A lot of people assume that we must resent each other or get into arguments over my vegetarianism/his carnivorous tendencies, but that’s totally not the case with us. Be creative, kind, and communicative, and you’re sure to make it work!

Comments on Meat eaters and vegetarians CAN happily live together

  1. It can absolutely work if one isn’t nagging and/or constantly making fun of the other. When I met my husband, I would eat meat on a weekly basis. Then 2 years in, I decided to become a vegetarian. It was kind of hard to come out as a vegetarian to him at first, but we never made a big fuss after that. Since I used to be a carnivore, I can stand the smell and the thought of seeing meat in the fridge. Even though, truth be told, my husband eats way less meat at home now that I don’t cook it anymore.
    What we do (I’m the one cooking in our household):
    – if I make a vegetarian dish, he’ll add whatever meat he wants on the side
    – If I make a non-vegetarian dish (shepherd’s pie, quiche, savoury cake…) I usually split it in half, with one half vegetarian, one half non vegetarian
    – what’s off limit is me cooking raw meat and cooking veggies in a pan full of meat juice.
    It’s been ten years, it works for us.

  2. My husband is an omnivore and I am a lactose intolerant vegetarian. We’ve been lucky in that this was never really an issue. I chop it up to that fact that we both respect that other one has made an educated choice about their food. No one’s choice is perceived as better or somehow more educated then the other’s.

    That mutual understanding has framed how we approach all things grocery shopping/ cooking/ eating out.

  3. Agreed, it can work! I am vegetarian and my husband is not. At home we love cooking together, and we largely make vegetarian meals but sometimes he would make some kind of meat on the side to add to his. He has always been very open about trying new things, which is awesome and really has prevented any problems. I’ve definitely changed his mind that vegetarians don’t just eat salad! The only times it ever caused any strife between us is eating out, especially when we first started dating – I am picky about restaurants just because they don’t always have good vegetarian choices! But he has grown to understand I’m not just being indecisive 🙂
    Another issue has been his family, actually – they’re a very midwest, meat-eating family – they have never given me any trouble and I never have expected them to accommodate me, but early on his mom thought I would eat chicken, and when she makes a “salad” it’s the kind layered with mayo. (Just one of the many ways we relate to Marshall & Lily on How I Met Your Mother!) I’ve never said anything because she loves cooking for her family, so I’ve just learned to not go to their house hungry. Even then I feel like I have to eat things I wouldn’t normally because if she thinks someone doesn’t like something she made she takes it personally. Any one else have problems like that, not with the spouse but the in-laws??

  4. My husband, who does most of the cooking, is content to eat vegetarian meals that we share. He eats meat at restaurants and occasionally cooks meat for his own lunches or when I’m not home for dinner. When he does, he cooks on the deck. Works for us!

  5. Great article! I’m the vegetarian and my husband is the meat eater and honestly, it has never been a problem. The only thing I ever struggle with is finding recipes that satisfy us both.

  6. This was a great article that I can definitely relate to! I have been a vegetarian (I eat seafood) for 15 years, and my husband and I have been living together for 9 of those years.

    Part of what I’ve learned is that we BOTH have to be flexible, especially when we cook together. It just makes things easier on us both. He has gone out of his way to cook me me some AMAZING vegetarian dinners, and I’ve gradually become much less staunch about my vegetarianism. Just because I love tomatoes, I would still never put them in something I was cooking for us both, because I know how much my husband hates them. He knows that sometimes I will eat something cooked in beef broth, or if it has a little bit of bacon in it. If he’s going to have a steak, we make enough vegetarian side dishes that I’m completely satisfied with the meal. He allows me to choose what I do/don’t eat, and I don’t ever restrict him in the kitchen.

    We’ve also become friends with a local butcher at a meat shop, who surprisingly shares many of my vegetarian philosophies. Turns out we are actually fighting the same fight against the mega-meat industry.

    • Just an FYI, someone who eats fish/seafood but not other meat is a pescatarian, not a vegetarian. It can cause real issues for vegetarians when people think they can eat fish because someone’s known someone who says they’re a vegetarian and they eat fish – I’ve even seen a menu at a restaurant that had dishes marked as vegetarian when they contained fish. It seems to be common to have confusion, perhaps because “pescatarian” is not as easily recognised as “vegetarian”. But for anyone reading this, at least there is a word to make things clear. It’s not nice for a vegetarian to have a meal at, say, a friend’s house and be told “Of course the food’s vegetarian, it’s only got fish in it!”

      • I’m technically a lacto-ovo pescetarian, but I have made a valiant effort over the years to not be pretentious about my eating habits, and to not judge others for theirs. You can go crazy with the semantics of diets that under the umbrella of vegetarianism, including a diet that eats foul, but not red-meat or seafood.

        I have found that there is a lot of backlash from both the vegetarian community and from meat-eaters if you eat fish – which is even worse if you eat chicken. I’ve heard there is a similar judgement from vegans toward other vegans who eat honey. The more lax I have become as a “vegetarian”, the more I reflect on not being defined by what do/don’t eat. I will probably always refer to myself as “vegetarian” because that’s still whole lot easier for others to comprehend.

        • It’s completely up to you what you eat, but if you simply say you are “vegetarian” yet eat non-vegetarian things it can cause problems and confusion – granted, mainly for other people not you, since you are fairly flexible in what you eat. It’s not pretentious to use the words which are accurate to describe things. It may seem easier for people to comprehend, but if a word is used inaccurately then it’s not true comprehension. Of course it depends on context, such as how well you know someone, and what level of information they need (for example, if they need to know because they’re cooking for you, or if you’re just having a casual conversation). I appreciate that in some situations it would be appropriate to simply say “vegetarian”.

  7. I am also a vegetarian (life long) partnered with a meat eater in Milwaukee. We also have a 2 year old who we are raising vegetarian. My partner is totally respectful of me and we eat vegetarian at family meals. He will occasionally cook meat later in the evening after I go to sleep, but that’s about it. The harder part is actually finding restaurants that have great veg options and meat options. We have a few fav places, but I would love it if we had more options!

  8. My husband’s biggest worry of moving together was the food. So the one condition for him was “no carcass in the fridge”. Which was fine with me. I had been vegetarian a few years of my life and now eat meat out of the house sometimes (avoid red meat). At home it is all veggie. There were a handful of exceptions to the rule over the 10 years we’ve been living together, mostly when I wanted to make some traditional dish for get togethers and such, but he was ok with those too.

  9. I’m vegan married to an omnivore. It works because I do all the shopping, cooking and clean-up, and thus everything’s vegan which my husband’s also happy with. If he wants to eat something non-vegan (say at a restaurant) I don’t have to prepare it or deal with it. He understands why I’m vegan, and we’re both respectful of each other. We’ve been together around fifteen years, so it seems to work.

    I know other couples where one is vegetarian or vegan and the other isn’t, and it seems to work the same way – the meat-eater deals with their own non-veg stuff and everything else can be shared. People with children seem favour raising the children vegetarian/vegan but also allowing them to decide for themselves. For example, a friend has two children (both still young) who were both raised vegetarian but one has chosen to become vegan even though neither parent is. Another couple’s child was raised vegetarian but as he’s got older (although he’s still young) he occasionally chooses to eat meat in certain circumstances. As long as attention is paid to proper nutrition (which is true of both veggies and omnis!) children can be very healthy on a vegan or vegetarian diet. It’s definitely something the parents need to talk to each other about first and decide how they’ll approach things, but it can easily work, just as omnivore/veg*n couples can also work.

  10. I have been thinking about this post for a while. Neither my husband or I are vegetarians, we eat a fairly consistent Paleo diet. One thing we wish we could afford easier was ethically/humanely raised meat. Right now our budget doesn’t allow for that as well as I would like but in the future I hope that changes.

    What did strike me is this co-existance and acceptance of the other person also works for intermarriage. My sister and her fiance are entering into an intermarriage, she (and I) were raised in a Jewish home and he was raised Mennonite. Neither of them are particularly religious and neither want to commit to the other’s religion. They have both spent time learning about each other’s religion and respect each side of the family and the choices that are made. My sister has made a request that God can be mentioned but not Jesus in their wedding ceremony and are working hard to make sure it is religiously neutral so not to offend either side of the family. It is all about the respect of each other and the compromises to make sure everyone is comfortable.

  11. It’s always nice to hear other stories about vegetarians and meat-eaters cohabitating 🙂
    I’m a vegetarian who’s mildly allergic to dairy, and my husband is a meat-eager who is allergic to eggs… so the only dishes we can share are purely vegan! I do the majority of the cooking, so I just make a lot of vegan salads and entrees, and my husband will add chicken or fish to his. Or what also works well for us is we make a couple vegetable sides and then we each have our own protein – tofu or a veggie burger for me, and meat for him. He likes to tell people that he’s started eating healthier, and eating a lot more vegetables because of me! Things he thought looked “gross” before like kale or lentils, he will now request. And he has learned to make some great dishes that we can both share – his vegan version of spaghetti bolognese is amazing! I do wish that those meal kit delivery companies (Blue Apron, etc.) would come up with a plan for couples like us though – with meals for 2 that come with separate proteins. I’ve tried a couple of them and we’ve just picked vegan meals and added meat to his, or picked meat-based meals and swapped out half the meat for tofu for me. But… business opportunity there for someone, maybe! Clearly there are enough of us mixed-diet couples out there 🙂

  12. I thought it could work but in my experience it can’t. I’ve been vegetarian all my life and I’ve been with my husband for the last 7 years who is a meat eat. I thought it worked well until one night he served me meat sausages in a sauce claiming he made them out of chickpeas. When I cut the sausage it was pink, it was definitely meat. When I confronted him calmly, he acted very defensive and still stuck to his story. I feel so betrayed by this and I will always be wondering what is in my food whenever he cooks for me.

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