I have spent years—and I mean years—studying relationships. I wasn’t raised by happily married and loving parents, and I didn’t witness anyone in my world experience healthy relationships. Instead, I was surrounded by hurt people hurting each other, and I craved knowing what a healthy and thriving romantic relationship might look like.
I looked for it everywhere, including in places it couldn’t be found—like in bad boys, broken men, and wound-mate bonds. As you can imagine, my relationships were nowhere near the level of health that I knew deep in my soul I deserved to experience.
And so, it’s been my own personal mission to understand relationships: what makes them work, what makes them thrive, and what makes them emotionally healthy.
I was convinced there had to be a way to create a healthy partnership. I’ve read just about every reputable book on the topic, and been actively working on my spiritual health, with the help of meditation and three amazing spiritual teachers and healers who don’t practice any specific religion or dogma.
I even prayed for couples to be brought into my life who were happy, healthy, and thriving. And guess what? It worked!
With this help, I began to understand that a healthy partnership is not only possible, but that I am the major component that determines whether I experience this sacred level of connection. I’m happy to report that finally, at age 40, I’m in the healthiest relationship of my life.
Recently, it occurred to me as I chatted with a friend about how thrilled and proud I am to finally experience a healthy romantic relationship, that culturally we work so hard to improve our physical health with trendy workouts and diets, but then we spew our emotional toxicity all over the next person we date.
It’s kind of a problem. A problem that took me my whole adult life—thus far—to sort out.
Then it dawned on me that being in a healthy relationship is a lot like going vegan. And yes, I’m being serious. The core principles and tenets are the same.
So, here are the top five ways that going vegan and creating a healthy relationship are almost exactly alike. You’re welcome.
1. It takes effort and focus. (Real talk: it’s hard.)
If being vegan was easy, everyone would be doing it—same thing with healthy relationships. Going vegan requires intention and focus. We have to be willing to put work into it each day to be successful, because when we first begin, there’s temptation—cheese and meat!—everywhere.
I’m not kidding. When I first went vegan, everything I wasn’t supposed to eat surrounded me everywhere I went: restaurants, dinner at friends’ houses, and even my own fridge.
Getting through the first week left me horrified, like I was doomed to fail. But I kept choosing those salads and bringing my own food everywhere I went (homemade hummus, veggies, and Siete chips are my besties and I often keep a stash in my car). I stocked my fridge full of vegan goodness and went on a quest to find the best vegan cheeses known to humankind (I found them, too—Follow Your Heart, Daiya, and cashew cheese. Yes, please!).
Not surprisingly, it’s the same for healthy romantic relationships. First, everywhere we turn there are unrealistic, unattainable, and purely ridiculous images of what romantic love is. I was besieged by Hallmark movie love on every channel; well, especially the Hallmark channel, which I dig, but when you’re calling in a true partner it can skew your perception considerably.
It seemed like everywhere I turned there was a life coach saying you can find the “man of your dreams” if you follow this five-step formula. But my soul knew better. I’d had “Hallmark Love” before, and it crashed and burned faster than a cheesy, feel-good rom-com. I realized that it’s not enough to run wildly into each other’s arms and live happily ever after.
Happily ever after is day-to-day life—it isn’t the closing scene, end of story. For lasting, healthy, non-wound-mate love you have to understand that love is a freakin’ verb that requires daily action to show your partner that you care.
My partner and I are so committed to seeing each other thrive that we regularly ask: “What would make your life awesome right now?” And then we do that for each other. Love is not a onetime event; it’s a choice you make every day—just like begin vegan.
2. You have to cut out toxic sh*t that hurts your body and mind. (Real talk: no more cheese and toxic people.)
When you go vegan, you have to cut out routine foods that are difficult to digest and often toxic to your body. Cutting out animal protein means we’re no longer saying “yes” to allowing animals who have been killed into our bodies, and instead are committed to keeping our bodies free of harmful toxins.
I live in a fairly rural area, so I’m lucky if the restaurants have more than one vegan dish available. And some days, I’m over that vegan burger, which means I better make sure I packed some delish food with me so that I don’t cave and order a real burger.
To be in a healthy partnership, we have to cut out toxic sh*t to thrive. That means no more bad-mouthing relationships with our friends or watching TV, movies, or videos that promote a lifestyle that’s in stark contrast to the kind of relationship we hope to create.
I know from experience that most single, hetero women engage in serious man-bashing, and I was no different early on in my life. I loved to sit around with my friends and chat about what idiots men were. But guess what that did? It kept us disconnected from a truly loving relationship and from seeing all of the ways in which men are amazing and brilliant and beautiful.
I feel sad that I wasted so much time talking sh*t when I could have been finding all of the reasons to love men (there are so many!). I had to say good-bye to my trash-talking friends when I was finally ready to experience true love and partnership.
3. You get to try things you’ve never tried before. (Real Talk: it’s a new adventure!)
Going vegan expanded my palate. I went to new restaurants I had never ventured to before and began cooking new dishes that I didn’t know existed previously. It opened up a whole new world to me.
I would walk into a vegan restaurant or café and be filled with delight, which still happens to this day. I can feel my cells light up with excitement from trying out that gluten-free, vegan mac and cheese with jalapenos. I’ve become a food adventurer, and you can be, too.
Healthy love is the same; we get to step into creating something we’ve never had before—a relationship that fully honors our partner and ourselves while taking full responsibility for all of our emotions, feelings, and reactions, and then co-creating something extraordinary from there.
During conflicts, we get to find the win-win (after feeling our feelings and doing our internal work of course) and create new solutions neither of you have ever tried before. Whether it’s a new tantric practice or a couples dance class or a whole new flow to our day-to-day life, being in a healthy partnership allows us to expand into new territory.
I’m over-the-moon proud of my partnership because we do all of the above. We recently got into a spat while driving—I have passenger seat control issues, okay?—and we immediately took a time-out, tuned into why we felt triggered, and then checked in with each other to see if we were ready to talk it out.
Once we were both game, we shared what we’d learned about ourselves and talked about what we can do in the future to navigate these snafus with even more grace. I felt like a freakin’ relationship all-star. Is there anything more adventurous than that?! I think not.
4. Very few people can handle it. (Real Talk: not everyone is capable of this, but you are.)
Veganism, while certainly popular, is nowhere near the daily reality for the majority of our population. Neither is healthy love. Most individuals say they deeply desire partnership and then simply hop from one dysfunctional relationship to the next.
Same with physical health. People will gladly hop from Keto to CrossFit to yoga because it’s on trend, but they don’t actually consider what the best choice is for their body.
While my family and friends thought I was straight nutso for cutting meat out of my diet—I also don’t eat gluten/soy/corn/sugar/caffeine/alcohol—I didn’t care. I’ve come to live an exceptional life, an extraordinary life, a life few have the courage to live. So yes, that means I’m going to try out everything that will take me deeper into this.
When I set my intention to call in my husband and gave myself a timeline, even my inner child was rolling her eyes. I could hear her saying, “Really? You think you can take your ‘virtual PhD’ in relationships and actually turn it into a healthy relationship?” Why yes, I can, and yes, I did.
Don’t follow the herd. That sh*t will have you eating McDonald’s and jumping in and out of torrid affairs that break your heart.
5. You’ll glow. (Real Talk: you’ll get compliments galore and more likes than you can imagine on social media—although, that doesn’t actually matter.)
When we eat clean and healthy, our skin and chakras glow (no, really), and we emanate a higher vibrational frequency. When we’re in a healthy, loving partnership—not a trauma-bonded, wound-mate craze-a-thon—we glow. Not sidelined by petty arguments, blaming, and criticism, we are empowered and it shows.
When I don’t eat dairy or meat, I feel that glow and people come up to me to tell me that I look like I’m aging in reverse. I’ve even been called an “ageless goddess”—I’m not making this up!
Ever since this healthy relationship came into my life, I’ve experienced the same thing—how I look has changed and I’m more grounded, more grown-up, more me than ever before. We literally wear on our faces and bodies how we live, so it’s best to choose a path that will light us up and make us glow.
You know, like being vegan and creating a healthy, loving partnership.
AUTHOR: KRISTIAN STRANG