The level of satisfaction I derive from my love life depends a lot more on who I am and how I see the world than the number of potential mates I might have.
That headline alone is likely to ruffle a few feathers. You see, nearly 80% of all vegans in the United States are women. You read that right. For every vegan guy, there are four vegan women. If you’re like me and want to find a partner who shares your most fundamental values of kindness and compassion for all beings….well, my vegan brothers, the odds are in our favor.
So, why is it that so many of us struggle to find a like-minded mate?
There’s the obvious; vegans comprise somewhere between .5%—2% of the total population here in the United States. Because I hate the notion that veganism is some sort of elitist, exclusionary club, I’m uncomfortable saying that disqualifies over 98% of women who would otherwise be potential partners. But it does just that. When we choose only to date vegans, we narrow our options considerably.
There are two reasons you might be screaming at your computer right now.
First, I fully admit it’s harder for women who are looking for a vegan man. There are even fewer of us. So what do I have to complain about?
Second, several of you are, no doubt, imploring me to open my mind and consider dating non-vegans. I have no problem with that idea for those of you who are open to it. All the more power to you. It’s just not for me. My purpose in life is to help inspire people to include all animals in their circle of compassion, but I’m not interested in coming home and inspiring my partner to do the same.
It’s an interesting conundrum. While I’m energized by my animal activism, it can also be quite mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting work. I want my partner to be an ally working right alongside me. A woman I look up to for her contribution to the cause. Not a project.
And who wants to be taken on as a project, anyway? That’s not fair to anyone.
It takes a lot more than shared values, but they must form the foundation.
Even if you find a woman who shares your core values, you may not be physically attracted to her, or she may not be physically attracted to you. She may like city living while you prefer the country. Your personalities might clash. You may have wildly different goals in life. She may be a great match but is already in a relationship. While it’s important to remember that nobody will ever fulfill every desire you might have and that you’ll have to remain flexible on the non-core issues, a lot of stars still have to align.
But for people who are driven by a bigger purpose in life, core values are paramount. Many people who aren’t necessarily driven by something bigger are comfortable choosing a partner on looks alone, for instance, and if that works for you, great. But that doesn’t cut it for me. Looks fade, and even if your partner is Christie Brinkley, who doesn’t ever seem to age, you get used to her. The newness wears off. Those shared values, goals, and the ability to have an engaging conversation, however, remain and help form the foundation for a deeper commitment to each other.
Social media is a game-changer, but be careful.
Long-distance love has skyrocketed with the rise of social media. Like-minded people from different corners of the world who would have never otherwise met are now becoming friends, liking and commenting on statuses, chatting, calling, and, well, buying plane tickets. I’ve had a few of these beautiful little experiences myself, in fact. While it’s important to be careful and stay safe in these situations, I think this opens up a whole new wonderful world of possibilities.
But here again there are pitfalls. I’m the first to admit that Facebook is more my highlight reel than an accurate reflection of my life. I post my best pictures and remove tags when I don’t look so good. I generally shy away from pointing out my fragile, moody side. I say things I think will get a good response. It’s such an inaccurate reflection of who we really are on a day-to-day basis that we have to make a conscious effort to snap ourselves back to reality when we think we’ve found our perfect mate online. Fantasies are powerful, but they aren’t grounded in reality.
Take it slowly, people say. Get to know the not-fit-for-facebook side of the person. That’s probably good advice.
I won’t rule out the possibility that I’m simply bad at this.
I don’t want to deny the role I’ve played in my failure to find a life partner. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve acted like a petulant child at times. I’ve hurt good women and walked away when I shouldn’t have. There is one woman I regret leaving to this day. A few years ago I discovered a book called He’s Scared, She’s Scared, which is all about fear of commitment, and I recognized a lot of my own behaviors and tendencies seemed to fit the bill. I started seeing a therapist and began meditating more regularly because I saw those behaviors as roadblocks to lasting intimacy. Indeed, they are.
After recently reading the opening chapter of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven Covey, I immediately knew that finding deep, lasting love would first require I pay more attention to the lens through which I see the world. In trying to fix my love life I’d been operating largely on a basic paradigm that valued what Covey refers to as the Personality Ethic; superficial measures such as social image consciousness, techniques and quick fixes attempting to address acute problems. Instead, I needed to focus more on the deep inner work of what he calls the Character Ethic; “…things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule.”
Many of those things helped inform my decision to go vegan over a decade ago, and I’ve had a long and healthy relationship with that decision, after all. My job now is to apply those same healthy, mature qualities and characteristics to my love life. So while I may be “bad” at relationships, I have real hope that I can be better by focusing more on the deep inner work necessary in shifting my own paradigm and strengthening some of those character traits Steven Covey champions. It’ll take the same level of commitment I have for the animals, but in the end, the best things in life take work.
Yes, there are fewer vegan men looking for like-minded vegan women, and a simple model of supply and demand might suggest it’s easier for vegan guys to find lasting love than it is for vegan women. But I’m realizing that the level of satisfaction I derive from my love life depends a lot more on who I am and how I see the world than the number of potential mates I might have.
Now excuse me while I go do some inner work.
This article originally appeared on The Compassionate Man.
Photo: Flickr/ Ged Dackys