Love is a cattle field: When diets divide relationships
March 1st, 2012
05:00 PM ET
Share this on:

Food brings people together. A great deal of bonding can happen over a pot of soup, but when one person wants chicken noodle while the other wants vegetable, it can turn into a food fight - and not of the John Belushi variety.

Couples expect the normal relationship woes – sex, money, respect – but with the growing prevalence of dietary restrictions and interfaith marriages, the kitchen is increasingly turning into an all out turf war.

This shouldn't be a surprise, says psychotherapist Karen Koenig – food is an "anything-but-simple subject."

"How we feed ourselves and each other says a great deal about how we feel about ourselves and our loved ones," says Koenig, who has written four books on eating and weight.

Dean Thompson, 41, of Austin, Texas, and his girlfriend, Amanda Abbott, 39, know the anything-but-simple nature of food all too well. Thompson is a vegan; Abbott is not.

"The first time I brought Dean over to my family's home for a meal and he just put salad on his plate, passing up most of the huge gourmet meal my father had cooked, I remember thinking this might be a problem," says Abbott.

"At first, I knew it was an issue, but did not notice or think of it as such a big issue," says Thompson. "Most people I was around did not eat like me, so it was not so 'weird' for me to be different in that way."

While the couple says there were always moments of contention, Abbott and Thompson said their culinary contingencies reached boiling point when their now 2-year-old daughter was born. They have since started counseling.

At the time, Abbott was struggling to produce enough breast milk for the baby and Thompson suggested they feed their daughter vegan-friendly almond milk.

"Dean did his due diligence in showing me some studies, and after a long discussion with our pediatrician, I surrendered," says Abbott, who admits she is a cheese lover and grew up on cow's milk. "This was extremely hard for me since most of our friends and family were in my ear with their opinions on how crazy it was to only give a growing child almond milk."

While neither says they will change from omnivore to vegan or vice versa for the other, Abbott says she does find herself cooking more vegetables and eating more healthily.

"I had done the 'regular American diet' for more than 30 years previously. I know what it is like and I have no desire to go back to it," says Thompson.

Lindsey Rosenberg, 27, and Daniel Weisinger, 31, an engaged couple who live in Berkeley, California, say they also argue about how their child will eat, even though that child doesn't exist yet.

Both are Jewish – they met on the Jewish dating Web site JDate.com – but Weisinger keeps mostly kosher, avoiding pork and shellfish products. When they started dating, Rosenberg confesses she just thought he was picky and that her home cooking would change his ways.

"I was dearly wrong," she says.

"If I ever bring bacon or shrimp into the house to cook for myself, it's like I may as well have brought in rotting fish guts," says Rosenberg. "You know how a small child reacts to broccoli on their plate? That's how he reacts to those foods in our home. He insists on turning the stovetop fan on full blast, opening all the windows. It's a hilarious reaction."

Like Abbott and Thompson, it came down to compromise. When they started dating, Rosenberg refrained from cooking any pork or shellfish and changed her ordering style at restaurants so they could share dishes.

To reciprocate, Weisinger always made an effort to eat whatever Rosenberg cooked that was within his dietary restrictions.

"In our early months together, I made a quinoa dish with turkey sausage (instead of pork sausage) and kale. Quinoa and kale were totally foreign to this picky eater, but he didn't make a peep, even though I could tell it was a stretch for his more conservative palate."

Relationships, like gravy, aren't always smooth, and couples must learn how to whisk through the bumps, says Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology. Here a few of her tips:

Respect: Regardless the reason for the choice – religion, ethical conviction, medical – it is critical that one person not mock or otherwise ridicule or put down the choices of another partner. That runs both ways:  If one person is a committed vegan, he or she may need to get off his/her high horse and not make it a moral indictment of the partner who does not choose to eat that way, because that is a choice that may not be amenable to that partner. Find ways to voice preferences that are not disrespectful.

Communicate: Such different choices only work if there is clear communication about grocery shopping (perhaps one person will not buy meat for the other), meal planning, restaurant choices etc.

Compromise: If the person with more restrictions also does the bulk of the cooking, then there may need to be a way to meet halfway so one doesn't feel there is no choice but vegetarian, etc. It may also require both parties to step up to the plate and cook together.

Meet halfway: Cook together or surprise each other with a restaurant choice that suits the preferences of the other.

Be an opportunist: If the husband is a card-carrying vegetarian and finds it hard to go to places where steaks are the "thing" on the menu, but the wife loves her steaks, then a great time for the wife to eat her beloved steak is on a girls' night or at lunch.

Create space: In some dietary restrictions (like kashruth), there should not even be proximity of one food to utensils, pans, etc. Create zones in the kitchen that respect those choices.



Next entry »
« Previous entry
soundoff (243 Responses)
  1. Marty Maayan

    Good job indeed with that. Surveys have been verry easy and i've dont them with ease and then i've downloaded ! really enjoying this now ! Thanks !?

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/WeChat-Speed-Hack-Coins-Generator-2014/717077978348029

    September 30, 2014 at 5:45 pm |
  2. Lulzgag

    It's pretty much a food psychosis when mother is convinced "almond milk", a highly man-made processed product, is better for a new born baby than it's mother's milk. Now if these people were fanatic Santorum fans, that would be the ultimate in brain washed insanity.

    March 7, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Reasonably Picky

      Did you even read the story? The mother was having problems producing enough milk, and it was the father that suggested the almond milk. Good grief.

      March 7, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  3. Shabooboo

    I just went vegan a few weeks ago after being vegetarian for over a year. My boyfriend is a meat-eater, but I don't think it really is an issue for us yet. I cook almost all the time. When he wants meat he cooks some. No biggie. Everything I make is delicious anyway.

    March 5, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  4. compassion

    i used to eat animals and animal products. but i've come to realize the effects of those habits - i don't want to hurt animals, i want to protect the planet for future generations, and i'm also vegan for food justice (human rights) reasons. i would find it difficult if not impossible to be in a shared household or in a relationship with someone who didn't share my values of compassion and justice for other people, for the planet, and for animals. granted, some are not yet aware of the impacts of our food choices on others; but once one knows, the decision becomes one of "i want to help" vs. "i don't care, i like 'my' steak, milk, cheese, fill in the blank." i couldn't be with someone who put their eating habits above the needs and lives of others. i like the video at VeganVideo (dot) org. it's pretty short and not graphic if you have time to watch it to understand why so many people are choosing vegan. :)

    March 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • just kidding!

      If you wanted to protect the planet, then why are you eating what is good for the planet?
      Plants release oxygen into the air.
      Animals only release carbon, and methane.
      Yet you eat what's good for the planet, and not what's bad for the planet.
      and youre vegan for "human rights" reasons? What human rights are being violated by omnivores?
      You wouldn't share your home with someone who didnt share your compassion, or values for human life?
      You make no sense what so ever!
      First of all "compassion" means to understand or accept for others what you do not understand or want for yourself.
      Secondly, what does being vegan have to do with "values of human life"? You do know that omnivores, dont eat people, right?
      you must be extremely blissful. Because you are most extremely ignorant. And if ignorance is bliss, then your bliss must be unsurpassed!
      Eat some turkey, or fish, cuz clearly the vegan style has left a big hole in your brain, that is seeping out stupidity in great volumes!

      March 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Truth™@compassion

      On most any summer weekend, I can take a forty minute drive to the mountains of Colorado, and within hours, catch my limit of trout. From there, I can eat for about a week. Fried or blackened are my preferred emthods of cooking. My environmental impact is a dang site less than yours given the amount of pesticides you support putting into the soil, not to mention all the effort it takes to transport.

      How about thsi: You do your thing, and I'll do mine. Or is that too simple?

      March 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
      • Rick

        Truth.....sounds good to me. I am a long time veggie, but what you say sounds like a reasonable position. While the trout doesn't sound like something I want, the mountains of Colorado thing is enticing,

        March 7, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Lulzgag

      Okay Gandhi, I bet you also LUV cats and can't stop thinking about cats. You want to hug every cats, right?...

      March 7, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • KJC

      I am not a vegan, but I do understand that for some people, certain lifestyle decisions are more or less their personal "religion." I think it's ok not to marry someone who does not share your deepest beliefs. I might be a little more confused if you refused to have any non-vegan friends, but I don't think we should be so hyper-critical of someone who is self-aware enough to recognize their limits in an intimate relationship. Whereas other people jump head-first into a relationship and assume they can sweep profound moral and lifestyle differences under the rug, at least this person is taking an honest look at what he/she can handle.

      March 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  5. just kidding!

    It doesn't matter if your omnivore, or herbivore!

    Everything you eat turns to s*hit!

    March 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  6. Truth™

    Here's an oldie, but a goodie:

    – How can you tell you are talking to a vegan?

    – Oh, don't worry, they will tell you. Repeatedly.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Rick

      Wow, can't argue with someone who claims to have a trademark on the truth (capital T)

      March 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  7. just kidding!

    1). soy should never be given to baby boys, as it turns into estrogen (a female hormone) when you eat it.
    2). Cheese is not a vegetable, so if you eat it, you are "not" vegan!
    3). Corn is not a vegetable, its a grain and contains gluten!
    4). Meat eaters dont hate animals!
    5). Just because you dont eat meat, doesn't mean you dont eat dead things. Remember any vegetable or fruit you eat was alive, before you killed it and ate it!
    5). A food allergy is not a choice!
    6). Vegans are not "allergic" to meat.
    7). Don't not eat meat because of dogma, god doesn't care if you have a burger on Friday.
    8). Vegans must take a large amount of supplements to maintain health.
    9). Pork is not the food of the devil. (have you tasted bacon? Its heavenly!).
    10). Vegans dont live any longer than omnivores.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Diet Rite

      "5). A food allergy is not a choice!" BTW, nice list. An addendum to your list: barring anaphylaxis, having an allergy to something is not something you can declare simply because you broke out in a rash, had an intense toilet episode (ITE) or because you believe it to be true. If you haven't been tested, you cannot truly claim to have an allergy – chiefly because you could be wrong about what you had a reaction to unless that food item is all you ate.

      I thought I was having an ITE from eating rare beef. After having my blood tested for food allergies, it turned out I was allergic to, among other things, garlic. I've tested this on several occasions since being tested and, yup, sadly, it's the garlic.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:22 am |
      • just kidding!

        100% right you are! If you suspect a food allergy you should get tested. Ige and sometime even igg blood test (RAST test), or the skin prick test.
        But to the vegan in here that can't bare to be with someone because of what they eat, you dont need a prick test, as you've left little doubt that your a prick! (pun intended).

        PS: sorry to read, that your allergic to garlic. It seems when we become allergic to something its generally something we really enjoy!

        furthermore, at first glance a garlic allergy doesn't seem so bad. But when you realize that most restaurants put garlic on nearly everything, and nearly all processed food (even at the super market) has garlic in it. then you realize how difficult it is to avoid it. And how easy it is to have a reaction to something you thought was safe.
        food allergies are serious, and complicated to live with.

        March 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Shabooboo

      Vegans aren't vegan to live longer. We do it because we believe in it. We feel being vegan makes a difference in the world. All plants have some amount of phytoestrogens. And we don't take a "large amount of supplements to maintain health." That's total bull. Dietitians recommend everyone take supplements because it's hard to get the right amount of all nutrients. The only supplement I take is one 250mcg b-12 pill once per week. That's such a large amount, right? Idiot.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
      • just kidding!

        I didnt say that vegans were vegan to live longer. I just said vegans dont live longer. Don't put words in my mouth.
        And soy doesn't have "some" phytoestrogens, soy has large amounts. So large that they interfere with normal hormonal balance. So why some doctors "believe" they may help protect you from heart disease, other doctors "know" of their bad side effects. Such as a lower sex drive, sterilization in men, development of man breast, depression, confusion, malaise, stupor, higher risk of cancers. soy no matter how you look at it is not healthy. But it's easy to grow, and very inexpensive. Thats why its so widely used, not because of any "good health" reasons.
        And ask any dietitian, about being vegan, and they will tell you that it is more difficult to get all required nutrition on a vegan diet. And supplements are required!
        And youre wrong, omnivores can get all the nutrition needed without the use of supplements.
        and b4 you call anyone an "idiot" you should be sure your not an idiot yourself.
        All vegans aren't vegan for the same reason you are, and to assume so makes you again an idiot. If you dont know what youre talking about, then keep your mouth shut and learn!
        im not vegan, and I dont take any supplements! Now you try to not take any supplement and you will land yourself in the hospital with things like anemia, malnutrition, and heart palpitations, and on and on and on!
        I dont believe you personally are vegan to "make a difference" if you are vegan at all!
        The only proof I have of you being anything so far, is the simple proof that you are an AZZ! That call people idiot. And it doesn't matter what you eat, you have to kill it before you eat. So get off your "im better than you" pious attitude, and realize youre just another piece of sh*it pretending you fly like a bird, when youre just floating like the turd you are!
        There! Put that in your garden and eat it!

        March 5, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
        • Shabooboo

          Animal products also contain vast amounts of hormone. Also, doctors do not know anything about nutrition other than the basics. Asians are so unhealthy, right? Yeah, Chinese people have been eating soy products for a couple thousand years and you're gonna say it's unhealthy. Okay, how exactly are you qualified to make that assumption?

          How exactly do you consume your recommended 4,700 mg of potassium? A banana only has a few hundred milligrams of the nutrient. A serving of fish only has about 600 mg. So what if veganism requires a few supplements. Big deal. Plenty of people should take supplements, regardless of their diet. And anyone can suffer from anemia, especially women who are on their period.

          For someone who says they don't deserve to be called an idiot, you sure don't comprehend the basics of you vs. your vs. you are. Veganism is a lifestyle. If you eat vegan for your health and no other reason then you aren't a vegan; you're a strict vegetarian. Sorry, the label is quite specific.

          Ha, you're pathetic. Most everything is fortified, even your precious cow's milk. Yes, the nutrients in your cow titty juice isn't natural. I know exactly what I need to consume in order to be healthy. You have probably never even picked up a book on nutrition. You come onto a vegan article to complain about veganism and you don't even know a single thing about it. That's really sad.

          By the way, I don't even have a garden. I'm too lazy for that. I'm done wasting my time on you. You're just another ignorant and biased person and there's no use talking to you. See ya.

          March 5, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
        • KJC

          Interestingly enough, CNN had an article in 2007 that basically said Americans ALL eat a lot of soy, because it's one of the things we feed to the animals we eat. In addition, soybean oil is an additive in a LOT of foods. So we actually all have a lot of corn and soy in our diets. http://articles.cnn.com/2007-09-22/health/kd.gupta.column_1_high-fructose-corn-syrup-corn-refiners-association-soybean-oil?_s=PM:HEALTH

          March 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
      • AJ

        Reply to: Vegans aren't vegan to live longer. We do it because we believe in it. We feel being vegan makes a difference in the world.

        Yep, veganism is like a religion. People don't do it for health, they do it to have "something to believe in", to have an agenda to push. Even when their health starts failing, many vegans have a hard time giving it up, it has become something they define themselves by and become lost without the "vegan" title.

        March 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
        • Shabooboo

          Yeah. So do Muslims, Christians, Catholics, and any other person with a belief out there.

          Stop spitting out lies and being a waste of space and maybe someone would take you seriously.

          March 5, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
        • Vigilantveggie

          I have recently decided to become a vegan myself, but not for any animal rights reasons you may suppose. I joke with my friends who accuse me of such by answering "I've killed a cat just for jumping on the kitchen counter"...of course I'm just kidding.

          One point I do want to make: the tons of grain we use to feed our livestock could feed the world, with grain left over! So for all of you meat eaters out there, perhaps you would just consider cutting back to lower the demand, in hopes our grain surplus as a result could be used for better purposes.

          March 8, 2012 at 5:46 am |
      • Doktor WhatuSay

        Everybody needs supplements? Anybody with a brain bigger than a mollusk knows that supplements are what they say they are, they make up for something you aren't getting in your diet naturally. And eating naturally, isn't that what being a vegan is supposed to be about?

        If you are truly conscious about being kind to living things, why don't you just drink water and take more supplements. You'd be happy taking Soylent Green, perhaps.

        And what is it about vegans who work so hard to make their food taste like meat, cheese and BACON?!!!!

        March 7, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  8. Best

    And what a whimp, and bad mother than woman was to give in to her insane, devil vegan husband, for stopping breast feading her child & giving her child almond milk instead! that is pathetic on her part! stand up for your child, not for your twisted husband.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  9. Best

    I am disgusted at the vegan thompson man in this story-he accually is implying almond milk is better than mother's milk? that is treason against God's creation! so according to male chauvs like him, women's breasts are purely for sex instead of nourishing our children! what a cave man barbarian veganism is! that has crossed the line way too far! and no, never date or have children with someone who eats differently than you, save the headache. opposites=divorce. vegans are devils in disguise!

    March 5, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • compassion

      hi best. i understand your frustration - breast feeding is by far the best solution. i think the article could have been more clear - the husband wasn't advocating almond milk over mother's milk; he was advocating almond milk over cow's milk. the mother in the article was having trouble lactating, so they were looking for an animal-friendly, healthy alternative. i'm sure they would've stuck with 100 percent mom's milk if she had produced enough. good for them for checking into healthy, safe, kind solutions.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  10. Arnold neoh

    When there is plenty of food human creatures are very selective and when there is little food they eat any living thing. Its not just about food human beings can even hate another human being for the way they are.

    March 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • Jeanette

      "Devil vegan"? Overreact much? Sounds like it was a compromise–they are BOTH parents of that baby, after all. Also, did you miss the part about how the mother wasn't producing enough milk? They had no choice but to supplement with something other than breast milk.

      March 5, 2012 at 9:35 am |
      • Jeanette

        ...huh, I don't know why this comment went here, it's not in reply to this comment. Disregard :)

        March 5, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  11. RunnerGirl70

    I don't think I would want to be in a relationship where someone said I could not bring food I enjoy into my own home because of their dietary choices (not allergies or medical conditions such as diabetes, but a choice to not eat meat or animal products) . If you are that opposed to meat, then you should really find someone of like mind where there will be no consternation about diet later, especially when kids are involved.
    As for me, I like my steaks and chicken and pork too. I also like vegetables, lots of them. What really gets me is folks who are "vegetarian" but don't eat vegetables. FRENCH FRIES ARE NOT A VEGETABLE. IF all you eat is cr@p, then being "vegetarian" is useless.

    March 4, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  12. A

    Although all the comments about how couples should not have such problems with each others' diets have merit, this ability to coexist can completely break down when children are involved. Should the child be vegan? Eat kosher? Like religion, when a set of parents have different standards by which they live, each standard has the possibility of becoming a point of contention when deciding by which standards the children should be raised.

    March 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • im joking!

      I kinda agree.
      I think parents should be more inclined to make the kids eat healthy, and any meal should be balanced! And if you give in to a child because he's screaming and crying for a candy bar. Then you have no business trying to eat healthy for yourself. It's disingenuous at the least, and can harm your child, and ruin any good eating habits you may have instilled in him/her. You have to be firm, but loving with children. And candy or snack cakes is no substitute for love or care. If you are vegan, then you have to pay close attention that the children are getting everything in their diet to help them grow, learn, and function to their fullest potential. If you like to eat meat, thats fine too, so long that youre not filling his ateries with cholesterol. The main issue again is not about what the adult likes or dislikes, but the main objective is the health of the children.

      March 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  13. im joking!

    Doesn't matter what you eat!
    Because it all turns to crap in the end!
    Lol I thought it was funny!

    March 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Are you kidding?

      As someone who cooks for a household that includes people with life threatening food allergies, I have to say that any comparison between that situation and people who just decide to eliminate one or more food groups from their diet is apples to oranges. And, I really don't see the big deal in living with someone who eats differently than you....if that puts you into counseling, I'd bet the farm that it is not your only issue as a couple.

      March 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • im joking!

      Im not really sure why you would make that comment in the form of a reply to my last post...

      But here's my take on food allergies!
      Asking someone to eat a food that they are allergic to, is the same as asking someone without food allergies to drink liquid plumber. As the end result could be the same for the both of you!

      Food allergies are a very serious matter and should never be taken lightly.
      And if you dont eat something like peas because the texture grosses you out, then your not allergic, just picky, and probably whiney too. there is nothing wrong with not eating something because you dont like it, but it's a far cry from not being able to eat something because you are allergic. Im always surprised at how many people dont know the difference.

      March 4, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
      • Jez

        You are completely wrong. After 9 years as a Vegan, any sort of Meat/Fish are untenable and and completely undigestible, not to mention wholly undesirable. It is not a matter of being "picky" -I have zero desire to begin eating dead things again. As your "allergies" are important to you, Vegans have no desire to eat dead matter and get sick thereby. You are judging the choices of others and making your issues more lofty.

        March 4, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
        • im joking!

          you apparently have trouble comprehending my replies, or youre just desperate for an argument?
          But let me say this.. Not eating meat is anyone's "choice"!
          A food allergy can't be compared to to a vegan eating a steak 9 years after not having meat, period. At worst, you vomit!
          You can't compare vomiting with anaphylaxis! You may vomit when having an anaphylactic attack.
          but vomiting alone doesn't even begin to compare to anaphylaxis.
          Look it up! There's a huge difference.
          And furthermore show me where in a single post that I have said anything negative about not eating meat? I dont understand your negative attitude!

          March 4, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
        • just kidding!

          im not sure if your comprehending what my replies are.
          Your interpretations are a little off kilter. But I digress!

          Are you kidding?
          You can't compare vomiting which is the worst thing that will happen if a vegan eats meat.
          You can't compare your minor issue to anaphylaxes!
          One would send you to heaven. And the other you get a tummy ache.
          Im surprised that im even replying to your pathetic argument.
          Now if you were a vegan who ate strychnine then you night have a comparison. But your not.

          March 4, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
      • Doc Realman

        Allergies are the universe's way to tell you you don't belong here, you are on the wrong planet. Live it or live with it!

        March 7, 2012 at 11:25 am |
1 2
Next entry »
« Previous entry
Pinterest
 
| Part of
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,659 other followers