What if your spouse or children don’t want to follow a plant-based lifestyle?
What you'll find in this post
This post begins with a description of what happened when my husband told me he didn't want to follow a vegan diet any more. After this, I share how I reacted to his choice, how it caused uncertainty within the wider family and, the most important part; the solution, which freed me from negativity.
In the second half, you'll find suggestions about what to do if your partner doesn't have the same diet or lifestyle choice as you. This section also takes in account, your reasons for following a vegan diet.
What happened when my husband decided to stop being vegan
I struggled with this for a long time. Looking back, I caused myself a lot of harm and it would have been good if I was 'in this place' ages ago! But I can't have been ready for a shift in thinking then. I am glad I am now! :)
Why I struggled to accept his decision to go vegan
I think the thing that I struggled to accept is that, we both made the shift from vegetarian to vegan together. We both understood the ethical reasons for doing so and it was actually something that he suggested. So, when he told me he wanted to return to a vegetarian diet, I couldn't understand why. He wasn't lacking in terms of food choice or dishes that he liked, and eating out isn't difficult. So this led me back to being confused about 'why' he'd changed his mind. I got to a point where I had to let it go because trying to make sense of it wasn't getting me anywhere.
The knock on effect of the decision to eat differently
Every decision we make causes some sort of reaction and with this one; family and friends were confused about what to do.
After being vegan for over a year, we decided to make the home vegan, and we mentioned this to family members. The main reason for this was, when we had family gatherings at home, some family would bring non-vegan treats for others to eat or they might want us to make tea with dairy milk, for example. We didn't want to support the industry and we wanted to give everyone a sense of clarity about our decision, which was beginning to filter into other things like, do we go for a car with leather seats or not?
So what would happen now? As expected, family started bringing non-vegan food gifts for Suraj and they expected there to be non-vegan food and drink here too.
The solution to me being vegan and Suraj being vegetarian
I let go of trying to understand Suraj's reasons and we came to an agreement that we would keep the home vegan. We felt that nobody would be deprived if they came to our home for a few hours and couldn't have animal products. We also discussed the fact that it would keep things simple for others and me. There's something very precious, safe and effortless about being able to eat anything in your home. If Suraj had non vegan items here, I'd have to question what I can and can't eat. This would be further complicated by the fact that it would bother me ethically, but I am intolerant to dairy, so I'd be unwell afterwards.
What if your partner doesn't have the same diet or lifestyle choice as you?
I think the answer to this question depends very much on your reasons for following a plant-based diet or lifestyle.
If it's because you have an allergy, you may want your home to be 'safe', to avoid any cross-contamination.
There are a range of allergies accompanied with a vast spectrum of reactions. Some people react when they consume the item they're allergic to, whereas others only need to make contact with it to react and there are those who have airborne allergies.
The cure could be that the person with the allergy needs to take an antihistamine, rest, get relief from an EpiPen, taken to hopsital or something else.
I know people who have items that they have an allergy to, in the home, but they keep it in a specific cupboard and certain utensils are used to eat/prepare those items. I know others who live with others who consume it and they get tempted so they eat it and then suffer as a result. I know others where 'those items' are eaten outside of the home and not brought back in any shape or form.
I think you'd need to keep these things in mind and figure out the best way forward for all concerned.
If your reasons are based on the need for better health, you may wish for the home to be a conducive environment for your journey to better health.
It may be that you feel less tempted if it's not within your reach. This may create an overall opportunity to have more 'good' choices in the home. It could be that you all share a goal and help each other reach it.
Of course, it doesn't always work that way! Take for example, when one person in the family is on a diet, but the others don't want to be. They may be loathed to change the way they eat to help the person who's dieting or they may see it as an opportunity to eat better. In some instances, individuals are told to cut certain foods out to avoid having a heart attack or to lose weight for an operation, which could improve their quality of life hugely. In that scenario, one may feel that they want to or should lend a hand of support and rethink the foods being kept at home.
Again, maybe you'd need to discuss it together and make a joint decision, which is fair for everyone.
If your reasons are based on ethics, then the scenario is rather different. There are health benefits to going vegan and it can prevent conditions too; but will this be taken into consideration? The drive of ethics can be powerful but it can also result in a lack of clarity, because, it's often tied up with a lot of emotion. I know families who won't allow any form of meat in their home because of ethics.
It's a point of view, which classes a certain item as 'bad' for us, others and the environment, for example. Therefore it is intolerable.
What is intolerable to one person is an indulgence for another, so you'd probably need to sit down, talk and compromise with other members of the family.
You may wish for everyone you care about, and feel some sort of attachment to, to follow in your vegan footsteps, because you see it as a 'better' choice. Of course, it may also make things easier for you. However, from what I've seen, this doesn't work, and if it does, it doesn't seem to last.
Share and let go
Whether your reasons are to do with allergies, being healthier or ethics, it's worth talking to those at home and explaining what you'd love to happen and why, but for your own sake, try not to expect it.
Mahatma Gandhi is quoted to say
"We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do."
The change being accepted, absorbed and applied by 'the world' may or may not happen but all you can do is manage yourself. If you hold on to the fact that others aren't following suit, the changes you want to make may be overcast by negativity. Better to let it go. Right?
Some gems for your journey
It's difficult but it's worth doing what you can for yourself and letting others be. It's worth recognising that they are on a journey themselves, albeit different to yours, it no less important. It's liberating to realise that everyone has a valuable gift to give. Keep going. The effort is yours and the success will be all yours! :)
“It is not for me to judge another man's life. I must judge, I must choose, I must spurn, purely for myself. For myself, alone.”
- Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha