In the spirit of Valentines Day-inspired dating stories that mention food, this was originally going to be an anecdotal post about what I learned dating a vegetarian—something clippy and cute but with a cautionary edge to it. I was also going to show you this picture as an illustration of how you know you’re doing it wrong…

Then I realized that what I had to say about the topic was a little, well, dark, and not so cute.

Though I wasn’t ready to admit it when that photo was taken almost two years ago, I can say now that my mysterious yoga injury was somewhat related to some vitamin deficiencies I dealt with while attempting to adopt my then-boyfriend’s vegetarian lifestyle. All I should really say about that is that some people who swear they don’t expect you to change may still act in ways that make you feel judged. The other side of the coin is that out of a desire to make our partner happy—or at least to keep the peace—too many of us, I think, try to change ourselves before checking in with our common sense about whether someone’s expectations for us are unrealistic.

Though I ended up learning a lot about how to do vegetarianism right, I did a lot wrong in the beginning. And things got a little worse before they got better. While I’d still encourage pretty much anyone to enjoy a plant-based diet, I believe that for some of us, that plant-based diet can also include small amounts of meat, fish and dairy. I happen to be one of those people—I’m strong and healthy, and all my labs are normal now. There’s also a lot to be said for being confident in your choices and not feeling the need to justify them to someone else. Stress and guilt aren’t exactly health-boosters.

What I also realized was that it’s really not an issue that’s exclusive to vegetarianism. This can apply to an omnivore dating a vegetarian or a vegan dating a carnivore—and everything in between.

Food is very personal, and a challenging part of dating is finding someone with whom your style of eating “meshes.” While many of us are secure in  who we are and have no problem just eating the way we eat (whether we’ve always been that way or have learned through experience), it’s never easy dealing with someone who feels routinely compelled to discuss why their way of doing things is superior. Has anyone else noticed that these are often the same people who insist they don’t try to impose their viewpoints upon others?

Granted, there are tons of couples with different eating habits who do just fine, and they can even influence each other in positive ways, but the operative word there is “positive.” It’s never okay to be a bully. The important thing is that if you’re healthy and you (and your doctor) are happy, you’re doing what works for you. Anyone who’s got a problem with that should ask themselves why it matters so damn much and just shut the f*** up.

And ladies, just a few words of advice: if your man makes a habit of scanning your grocery receipts looking for something to wag a finger at or lecture you about, tell him to get lost. It’s not worth fighting over. There’s someone better out there for you, and he won’t get on your case about a container of yogurt or a carton of eggs.

Have you ever dated and/or lived with someone who had different dietary habits than yours? What was it like for you? 

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