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With so many types of diets available to us these days, the chances of finding someone else without our exact same food preferences are slim. So how do we navigate relationships with others who have different eating habits? Part of the answer lies in whether your eating is tied to your principles, whether someone else shares those principles and whether that’s a make-or-break factor in a relationship for you. If, for example, you maintain a strict plant-based diet because of your strong feelings about the treatment of animals, you may have difficulty spending lots of time with an omnivore who will eat from any food source. Likewise, if your eating habits are based on healthy lifestyle choices, you might not last long with fast-food junkie.

How you answer the following questions might help you determine whether you can sustain a relationship with someone who makes different food choices than you do.

1. Can You Make Your Preferences Known Without Fear of Judgment?

In the relationships you choose, you should be able to discuss your dietary choices without receiving criticism, incessant questioning or mockery. Be confident and steadfast in speaking about your food preferences to others; if this is an unchangeable part of who you are, loved ones and potential partners should know that up front. Sometimes, you may not be able to escape at least some judgment. In those cases, you might want to enlighten them with some literature or beat them to the punch.

2. Can You Truly Accept Someone Else’s “Undesirable” Habits?

We all have our idiosyncrasies; they’re what others find charming in us (right?). And while dietary choices can be a bit more important than, say, foot-tapping or hair-twirling, it’s one more item to add to the list of things we can or cannot live with in those we choose to surround ourselves with. If a partner’s need to consume animal products or byproducts in your presence is constantly turning you off, the relationship may be doing more harm than good. On the flip side, if your insistence on eating only at restaurants that serve vegan food is cramping his or her style, this could be a red flag for the longevity of the relationship.

3. Can You Find Common Ground?

Because eating is such a central part of how we socialize and live with others, it’s important to be able to share some food together in a relationship. Where one person has more so-called limitations, it’s important that the other tries to work within those boundaries for a congenial relationship. A plant-based diet is almost always common ground, so if that is your preference, you might need to be proactive in suggesting eating locations or meal ideas. If you’re dealing with a meat-lover, try out these recipes to help drive your case home. If, however, you are into a raw vegan diet, know that you’re going to encounter more difficulty with finding a middle ground. The onus may be on you to convince someone else of its benefits — or you might actually find harmony in eating separately, together.

4. Do You Need This Relationship in Your Life?

If you answered “no” to the first three questions, here’s a heads-up that the answer to this one is probably also “no.” If you’ve made your preferences known to another, who still does not take you seriously and tries to push his or her more “standard” habits on you, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the necessity of this relationship. If it’s one you cannot remove from your life, perhaps try to get together at places that offer fare for both of you, or avoid getting together over food altogether. That may not be possible forever, though, so keep this in mind.

To put this all in perspective, I’ll use myself as an example: I eat a primarily plant-based diet, and my omnivorous boyfriend loves a “good steak.” He understands that I’ll never cook him a steak, nor will I eat one with him. I accept that he will likely always be a meat-eater; however, that doesn’t mean he only eats meat. I’ve prepared a ton of vegan meals for both of us to eat together (he has also participated), and he has always enjoyed them, even though he was skeptical at first. He is content to consume meat only when we eat out, and we agree to eat at places where we both have satisfactory options. Further, we are both endurance athletes, and we eat to fuel our bodies; I understand that his needs are different than mine, but we’re both participating in a healthy lifestyle, which is most important to me. In my particular situation, the benefits of the relationship outweigh any distaste I may have for his preference to eat meat.

Here’s hoping you can find peace and good eating in your relationships, too!

Image source: Russavia / Wikimedia Commons