One of the most common questions I get when I mention that I live with my boyfriend and that I am vegan, is whether or not he is vegan too. When I say no, they immediately respond with ‘then why are you with him?’. And to this day I never know how to respond to that question. So in an attempt, here follows a rather soppy post of appreciation for my boyfriend, Henry.
Henry and I at 19, in my university halls
For background, I met Henry in secondary school. We have now known each other for around 10 years at this point, and have been dating for just over 5 of those years. We now own a home together and are slowly but surely filling it full of fur babies to grow our little family together. But before we dated, he was (and still remains to be) one of my best and closest friends. He was my best friend long before he ever became my boyfriend. He has been by my side through all of life’s ups and downs, from going into university, to entering the job market, to moving out of home for the first time. And to this day he supports me in everything I do, which also includes my veganism.
I will never be the type of person who will ‘force veganism’, but I also do not hide away from the facts behind it. That chicken on your plate was once a living being, with it’s own life and thoughts and interpretation of the world around it. It didn’t have to die, but by continuing to buy meat you add to this cycle of killing animals for your own consumption. If after I tell you all of this information you still choose to eat meat, then fine. But then don’t sit there and say you love all animals when your food choices clearly state otherwise. And this realisation was something that Henry never shied away from: He knew that his actions and his words would sometimes contradict each other, but he has been so open to learning new things that he inspires me everyday to try something new and to be open to new opportunities.
Henry and I at 25, being cheesy tourists on our trip to LA in 2018.
When me and my partner moved in together, he agreed that we would not have any meat in the house. The only exceptions I have made are for fish fingers, eggs and cheese, but even these are a rare occurrence. Everything else is vegan friendly, so the majority of our meals together are vegan. Recently he has decided that he wants to go vegetarian: My partner loves to cook and as such watches very many a YouTube video about how to prepare stunning dinners. But he watched one where it involved preparing lobster and he made the connection between the living animal becoming the dead meat on your plate. I also like to believe that he has seen how easy it is to avoid meat products and animal products all together, and so never feels like he has to miss out on any of his favourite meals. Yes I have helped to show him alternatives, but he made the conscious decision to give up meat on his own terms and in his own way. Which is really all we can do sometimes.
Veganism is not about living the perfect life. It is about living a life that causes the least amount of harm possible. And this is a concept that is constantly changing and evolving as more and more information comes out and nowadays people are going vegan for a whole variety of different reasons: for the animals, for the environment, for their health, for fitness reasons, for cultural reasons. Every single vegan has their own story and their own journey into veganism and it is not my place to force someone to follow veganism for the same reasons that I do. I have found that veganism only works, and only becomes a true lifestyle choice, when you have a very clear and personal motive for going vegan.
But the reasons why I am with him are not simply determined by his willingness to go vegetarian. And I don’t think that veganism should be the only reason why you are ever with a person. Yes your morals and values need to be compatible, but the biggest thing for me has been the amount of respect he gives veganism. When I said I wanted to go vegan he simply said ‘ok, if that’s what you want’ and has never stopped supporting me. Whenever we go out for dinner, he makes sure that I can eat something there first. If he is out somewhere and sees a new vegan treat for sale, he will pick it up for me to try. He doesn’t make me sit in steak houses, or attend spit roast dinners. He will take me to rescue centres and nature reserves rather than zoos or aquariums. He respects that veganism is an important aspect of my entire personality and accepts and encourages this without any caveats.
So why am I dating a non-vegan? Because he is funny, kind and caring. He is one of the loveliest people I have ever met and he inspires me everyday to be the best version of myself possible, be it in the gym or in my career, or even in my vegan culinary pursuits. It also helps that he is makes me cry with laughter on a daily basis, and always knows how to cheer me up. He is also insanely handsome and still gives me butterflies even after all of these years. The fact that he eats eggs or cheese once a week barely registers on my radar, and it is not something that I would ever consider a deal breaker. This doesn’t mean that I care about animal welfare any less, or that I am not that committed to veganism, it simply means that I have a partner who is learning and growing and we are building a life together that helps to promote all of the ideologies that we as a unit share. Henry is passionate about health care policy and mental health initiatives, and while I am not as clued up about this as he is, I am still learning so much from him that is helping me to understand more of the world around me and how I can help different causes that I would never have known existed were it not for him. We grow together. Slow progress is still progress and we are learning together every day.
Also, people need to stop thinking that a person’s relationship defines who they are as a person. Both Henry and I are separate entities that have our own ideologies and desires that are separate from each other, but the joy of a relationship is learning how to mix these together and to build a lasting relationship with someone that is based on mutual respect and understanding.
So that is why I am dating a non-vegan.