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Vegetarians in Paradise
Words from Other Birds

From time to time Vegetarians in Paradise presents informative articles by guest contributors on subjects of interest to vegetarians and vegans. This month we feature an essay by Richard Schwartz, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Staten Island, New York. He has written a number of articles on Judaism, vegetarianism, and animal rights. His articles can be found at http://arrs.envirolink.org/ar-voices/schwartz

Mixed Marriages:

When Only One of You is a Vegetarian

by Richard Schwartz, Ph.D

Just as marriages involving religious or racial differences require a high degree of tolerance, so do marriages between a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian. Since there already is a great deal of stress related to the institution of marriage, as indicated by high divorce rates, perhaps some suggestions related to reducing friction between mates with different dietary preferences will be of some value.

There are a number of factors that will affect how well a couple with dietary differences get along:

  1. Was there a change in the diet of either spouse after the wedding?
  2. How strongly does the vegetarian hold his/her view? Does she/he regard it as a moral crusade or only as a personal preference? Is he/she repulsed at the sight of meat?
  3. How strongly does the non-vegetarian hold his/her view? Does she/he deeply resent it when a strong case is made for vegetarianism? Or does he/she respect the vegetarian position and perhaps even agree with it, but just feel unable to adopt that diet?

    While the above factors should be considered, it is hoped that the following suggestions will be helpful in most situations:


  1. Recognize that the issues that you agree on are far greater than those where you disagree.
  2. Recognize that your spouse did not adopt her/his diet to hurt you or make life more complicated for you. Try to respect his/her decision, whether it is based on what she/he regards as great moral principles, on convenience, on conformity, or habit.
  3. You might want to take advantage of the many vegetarian substitutes for hot dogs, hamburgers, and other meat-based meals.
  4. Try to be creative in experimenting with new dishes that do not compromise your position.
  5. Never attack your spouse's point of view, especially in public.
  6. Compensate for any friction related to dietary differences by stressing important areas of agreement.
  7. Try to find restaurants where you can eat together, without either spouse feeling that her/his principles are being violated.


  1. Play an active role in shopping and preparing meals. Try to show that vegetarian meals can look appealing and be tasty.
  2. Invest in a few good cook books and try to come up with perhaps 7 or 8 easy recipes that you can both enjoy without too much bother.
  3. If you lack time for meal preparation, you might find valuable ideas and recipes in Meatless Meals for Working People: Quick and Easy Vegetarian Recipes by Debra Wasserman and Charles Stahler.
  4. Try to be a positive role model. Try to let your good health, cheerful attitude, and tolerance serve as a positive example of a vegetarian life.
  5. Don't talk about your diet and the many benefits of vegetarianism unless your spouse is interested.
  6. Use your improved health and vigor to be a better spouse.
  7. If meat is not served in the house, be understanding if your spouse feels that he/she needs to eat meat outside sometimes.
  8. In some cases, having vegetarian books and magazines around the home might entice the spouse to peruse them and learn more about the benefits of vegetarianism.


  1. Try to see the positive side of your spouse's diet. Recognize that she/he may be having a hard time defending his/her diet outside the home and that some support at home can be very helpful.
  2. Don't indicate "how much easier life could be if you could just throw a steak into the oven."
  3. Appreciate any improved health and increased vitality your mate has due to a vegetarian diet.
  4. Recognize that if you eat vegetarian food you are not compromising any principle or belief, while your spouse would be doing so if she/he ate meat. Consider, for example, that all meals served by the Israeli military are kosher, so that nobody's beliefs will be violated, even though many Israeli soldiers do not normally keep the kosher laws.
  5. Try to find some good vegetarian recipes that are convenient and enjoyable, and that you can share together.

In conclusion, recognize that, as important as it is, eating is not all of life, and please don't let any disagreements spoil opportunities to share life's great pleasures and opportunities.

Click here for past Words from Other Birds Articles

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