What to do When Your Partner Isn’t Making the Same Healthy Changes as You + Plant Based Sage-flavored White Gravy (oil-free)

February 1, 2020 / Molly Patrick /

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Have you ever made significant changes in your life and your partner had zero interest in making these changes with you, so you went ahead on your own?

I see it happen a lot in our community, and I have first hand experience with it.

We’ve always heard that couples either grow together or they grow apart, but I believe that there’s room for another option.

We’ve always heard that couples either grow together or they grow apart, but I believe that there’s room for another option. I think it’s possible to have a successful and loving relationship even when one person makes big, beautiful changes in their life and their partner does not embrace those changes. This is assuming that both people want to stay in the relationship. If one person wants out, nothing can (or should) save it, and big lifestyle changes for one person might just be a catalyst to end the relationship. It happens.

However, if you and your partner really want to stay together and one of you is growing and changing and one of you is not growing and changing in the same ways or at the same time, there is a way to make it work.

When I met my wife, I drank a shit ton of alcohol, I smoked all the cigarettes, I ate an unhealthy vegetarian diet, I drank coffee, I loved cookies and donuts more than life itself, and I didn’t make moving my body a priority (unless it was to walk to a liquor store or a bakery). Fast forward twelve years – I have been sober for five years, I wouldn’t dream of putting a cigarette in my mouth, I eat a nutrient dense Whole Food Plant Based Diet, I don’t drink coffee, I don’t eat sugar (thank you Lighten Up!), and I have a daily movement practice that I never skip.

As a side note, if I sound really damn boring, that’s because I am. I am super damn boring. And I am totally okay with this. I traded fun and excitement for happiness and joy. It was a trade that I would do a million times over.

My wife no longer smokes cigarettes, but she does drink some alcohol, eats meat once in a while, drinks one cup of coffee everyday, enjoys eating chocolate, ice cream and cake, and she is not ashamed to announce that she is lazy and hates working out (but she does go to town in our garden and on the tennis court, so she’s not as lazy as she gives herself credit for).

My wife and I used to have a lot in common, now we have less in common because I have made some big ass changes in my life. So how does this work? How are we still happy together after twelve years when one of us has changed dramatically, and the other hasn’t made the same changes?

The answer comes down to one word, and that word is acceptance.

Radical acceptance in ALL directions.

And the best part? Your partner doesn’t even need to be on board the acceptance train to make this work. You can (and should) do it all by yourself.

There are three parts to this.

Accepting yourself.
Accepting your partner.
Accepting your partner’s response and reaction to you.

Let’s unpack this and see what we can find.

Accepting yourself
Going through expansive personal growth and change is not easy. You face things along the way that make you howl in pain. You learn things about yourself that make you flinch. You face scary shit that you’ve been doing everything to avoid. You peel back the layers and remove the padding that has protected you your whole life. You get real. You get raw.

For as beautiful as the outcome, it’s not a pretty process. It’s bumpy, it’s scary, it’s uncertain.

Your job is to accept and love yourself through all of it. Accept yourself through the pain, the realizations, the frustrations, the regrets, the mistakes, and the breakdowns. Accept the things you could have done better. Accept the path you are on. Accept your decision to change. Accept the person you are becoming. Accept the person you no longer are.

When you have unwavering acceptance for yourself, nothing and no one can stand in your way.

Accepting your partner.
I’m not talking about accepting the things that you like about your partner or even the things that you find mildly annoying. I’m talking about accepting them for exactly who they are at any given moment. You accept their imperfections. You accept the way they love you. You accept how they operate in the world. How they sleep. How they fart. How they talk on the phone. How they express their feelings. How they eat. How they drive. How they entertain themselves. How they parent. Their sense of humor. What they choose to do on the weekends. You accept every little crevice of them.

Now let’s be clear—accepting someone and setting personal boundaries are by no means mutually exclusive. If your partner has a trait that is not working for you, accept whatever it is, and then set a boundary. Accept and set a boundary. Accept and set a boundary. And repeat.

Here’s what this might look like in action:

“I understand and accept that when you worry, it comes out as anger. I don’t feel safe when you are angry, so the next time you are triggered into anger one of us needs to leave the house or room until it is safe for me again.”

By accepting your partner and setting boundaries when necessary, you are showing a great amount of respect for yourself and your partner. You are also teaching them how to treat you.

If there’s something about your partner that you absolutely cannot, will not, no way accept, then maybe it’s time to explore why you are with them.

Accepting your partner’s response and reaction to you.
Part of accepting your partner is accepting their response and reaction to your changes and growth. If they don’t like what you’re doing, they have the right to feel that way. If they miss the “old you”, they also have the right to feel that way. You should absolutely accept how they feel about your changes, but it is never, ever your responsibility to take care of their feelings, to make them feel better, or to fix how they feel. That my dear, is on them. Your job is to love yourself enough to accept and allow them to have their feelings and go through their process, even if it’s hard for you to hear.

Part of accepting your partner is accepting their response and reaction to your changes and growth.

Your partner’s reaction to whatever it is you’re doing (or not doing) has nothing to do with you.

It has everything to do with whatever feelings are coming up for them based on your changes.

Maybe they’re afraid you will want them to change. Maybe your new healthy habits make them feel weird about their not-so-healthy habits, the ones that the two of you used to share. Maybe they know they have some work to do on themselves and they have fear around that. Maybe they don’t know how to connect with you now that you are embracing a healthy lifestyle. Maybe 10 million things. It doesn’t matter. It’s not yours. Put it down. Let them sort themselves out. And you focus on you – beautiful, fabulous, courageous YOU.

By accepting your partner’s response and reaction to your changes and letting them sort out their feelings around it, you never have to feel obligated to do something that goes against your goals or the general direction in which you are headed.

So maybe it’s not grow together or grow apart. Maybe it’s more like, you reach for the damn stars, regardless of what your partner does and you radically accept in every direction along the way.

Now, I didn’t pop out of the womb knowing this stuff. It took me many years and many hours of counseling with one of the best relationship counselors out there. I first had to understand it and then I had to put it into action. It wasn’t always easy and there are times when I still stumble. But ultimately, this is the template that has allowed me to be unapologetically ME while enjoying a thriving relationship with someone who does not make the same choices as I do. She’s happy. I’m happy. The relationship is happy.

When you accept yourself, accept your partner, and accept your partner’s response and reaction to you, your perspective will shift and you will be able to continue to focus on what YOU want to do and not what someone else wants you to do, while at the same time, respecting your partner and not having your differences compromise the relationship.

The next time your partner isn’t being supportive of all the changes you’re making in your life, that’s okay. You can’t change them. You can only change yourself.

Breathe in acceptance and breathe out love. Over and over again.

You got this.

Do you have a partner who isn’t on board with your new healthy lifestyle? Talk to us about your plan going forward in the comments below.

Plant Based Sage-flavored White Gravy (oil free)

Makes about 2 cups
Author: Molly Patrick

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour (30 g)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (470 ml)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, non-dairy milk (120 ml)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon white miso
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

Instructions

  • Place the flour, nutritional yeast, sage, onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper and paprika into your blender and process for about 10 seconds, until the ingredients become powdery.
  • Add the vegetable broth, non-dairy milk, soy sauce, miso and coconut aminos and process until smooth.
  • Transfer to a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and gently simmer for 3-4 minutes until thickened.
  • Transfer to a container and add the dried thyme by crushing it between your fingers as you add it, and stir.

Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with acceptance.

Xo

Molly

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Written by ex-boozer, ex-smoker, Co-founder, and CEO, Molly Patrick. They will help you eat more plants while throwing perfection down the garbage disposal.

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39 Comments

  1. Carla on February 1, 2020 at 9:22 am

    My husband is not on board. He actually won’t let me buy plant based foods because they are too expensive. I try to sneak in what I can.

    • Corinne on February 4, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      I’m sorry it’s so hard for you.

    • Chris on February 14, 2020 at 12:10 pm

      “We can’t afford to feed you. We can only afford to feed me.”
      Yeah, I was married to a man like that.
      It’s not a way to live.

  2. Go Jules Go on February 1, 2020 at 10:28 am

    Sharing this post right now! Having spent the last 6+ years going through ALL the changes -divorce, veganism, back to school for a Masters, moving cross-country, new home, new job, adopting healthier lifestyle habits- I faced a steep learning curve in the ‘acceptance / boundary setting’ arena with friends and family members who either didn’t understand, or seemingly didn’t support, me. Thanks for being a North Star that I’ve been able to turn to time and again since going vegan in 2016; the more I adopt the approach you describe here, the better life gets. And it’s pretty dang awesome.

    Off to write a letter for Rick!

  3. Caroline on February 1, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Excellent post Molly. Wish I’d known this a couple of years ago when I went vegan and my Honey decided he wasn’t sure we could be together. We had a talk and I told him I didn’t need for him to change but that I did for my health (and now the animals and our beloved planet). Fast forward and now he speaks up for me when we’re out saying, @She‘s vegan so can you help her with the menu.“ Plus 2 big changes: now he prefers brown rice(did the slowly adding brown to the white rice til he was done with white rice) AND 2 days a week he eats vegan/WFPB. It’s all about acceptable. Thanks Molly❤️

  4. Maura Messmer on February 1, 2020 at 11:27 am

    Hi Molly!!

    I know that we don’t know each other, but, my heart cannot thank you enough for putting into words all that my soul feels…unfortunately, my husband always has a really difficult time understanding or accepting any changes that I have to make given personal or for medical reasons. You’ve allowed me to understand that I am ok and that I deserve only all the best, whatever that means….so, from the bottom of my heart, thank you…

    Always lots of love,
    Maura Messmer

  5. Mary Ann Scanlon on February 1, 2020 at 11:41 am

    I go back and forth between acceptance and not accepting my spouses WOE. Mostly that’s because of my fear that he will become ill. He is on board with evening meals and juicing. I still do all the batching and he participates in helping with day of recipes and always does the evening cleanup. He still hangs onto phrases like “everything in moderation “. Which of course pushes my red hot food button. I am able not to react most of the time. I had a success recently. I asked him if he wanted to go back to the SAD for evening meals. (Not that I would). He said NO. Wow. Why is that? My BP is in normal range. I don’t want to go on meds. Wow, he’s noticing and happy with the change. He still hasn’t gotten over the carrot hotdogs though. (That was our second PBNO meal together.) so I find if I don’t nag him he’s more open to learning. I’m buying a copy of How Not to Die. He likes the stuff out of How Not to Diet. Maybe he’ll pick up the book and do a little reading. It’s definitely a process.

  6. Brooke Shaffer on February 1, 2020 at 11:56 am

    That was spot on! THANK YOU MOLLY😃

  7. Sam M on February 1, 2020 at 11:57 am

    Thank you so much for this, Molly! I only wish I had read it before spending 10 days on vacation with my parents who must drink at least a bottle of wine each night and spouse who (along with my parents) prefers meat at most meals. There was too much tension around mealtimes, no matter how accommodating I tried to be. I ended up eating several meals alone because they wouldn’t go to a vegetarian restaurant with me. Thank you!

  8. Kim Wagner on February 1, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    5 stars
    Thanks again Molly for your words or wisdom and reminders! When I met my now husband I was vegan, he was not. I was training for a marathon and he loved to brag that his only muscle was his right calf (he was a truck driver). I fell in love with his sense of humor, his fiercely protective nature, his kindness towards my family, his adorable looks and oh my goodness so many wonderful qualities. We were vastly different but also so very much alike in other ways. Over the years I have nagged him about his eating habits for fear of having to watch him suffer an awful illness like both of his parents. But when I get the urge I remind myself “While I want quantity of years with this lovely man, I want him to have quality and his version of quality can be different from mine.” He has quit smoking and is working on cutting back tobacco chew. He loves peanut M & M’s at 230 am and that is okay with me. He shops for veggies with me, eats CFDG meals 1-2x a week with me, helps with with my prep, and thanks me everyday for the meals I prepare for him. Acceptance is a gift and a skill that we practice daily. Thank you again for the reminder of what is important. Kisses and hugs to you and Luanne and my card to your uncle will be in the mail tomorrow!

  9. Tabitha on February 1, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Molly! Thank you SO MUCH for posting this. This hits home so much, I let my husbands comments regarding a specific change I’m trying to make affect me. So much that I question if I should even try to change because of the problems it may cause in our relationship. Your post puts it all into perspective. It’s not about how he handles my growth, it’s about me growing. Ive decided that I can accept how he feels and I will not take it personally, because if I do, I will never be the person I long to be. Thank you and much love.

  10. Kelley on February 1, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you for this very well-said, fundamental truth. It’s resonating with me so deeply, as the very crux of what is important for me to work on right now: Radical Acceptance in All directions! Hurrah! I’m so grateful for your insight and willingness to share your experience.

    • Molly Patrick on February 3, 2020 at 10:13 pm

      Hi Kelley,
      Cheers to radical acceptance. It will set you free!
      xo
      Molly

  11. Michelle Christine on February 1, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    My husband eats the Standard American Diet. However, he supports my plant based life by visiting the Farmer’s Market with me weekly and also understanding that after surviving breast cancer, I spare no expense when it comes to buying healthy, life enhancing food. My son (18) has autism and has a limited palate. So, dinner often involves the three of us sitting down together but all eating different food. As you wisely point out, mutual respect and acceptance make it all work.

  12. Denise on February 1, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    Thankyou for this post. I too am sober: ten plus years. Acceptance is really hard. The hardest for me is to accept myself how I am, right now, even if I’m suffering the consequences of my poor food choices. As for others, right now I’m able to let my family just be. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. Thanks again, Denise

    • Molly Patrick on February 3, 2020 at 10:14 pm

      Lots of love headed your way, my dear.
      xo
      Molly

  13. Marijke Rottiers on February 1, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    I think I need to practice this mantra in other ways in life than just food related stuff.
    My partner is (finally) on board with batching weekly together with me, but he cannot eat everything we make.
    The things he CAN, he enjoys so much.
    I will try to remember: I can accept him.

    • Molly Patrick on February 3, 2020 at 10:14 pm

      Yes, you really can apply this to all areas of your life.
      There is such freedom in it.
      xo
      Molly

  14. Tina on February 1, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    Love this post!
    My husband & I went vegetarian together about 9 years ago. 2 years in I was vegan. Another 2 years I was WFPBNO. He’s still vegetarian (eggs & dairy) though he eats all the WFPB food I make & loves it.
    Do I wish he were totally vegan? For his health especially, yes! But he was such a bacon/fried chicken/burger guy for so long that I am amazed he chose to give all meat up!
    We’ve been together for over 38 years now so I can attest that acceptance is key. 💜

    • Molly Patrick on February 3, 2020 at 10:21 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Tina.
      It sounds like you have an awesome relationship.
      Cheers to acceptance!
      xo
      Molly

  15. Kelly Young on February 1, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    I have a meat-potatoes man and 3 crap-driven toddlers. I joined weight watchers too to have more people cheering me on to health. Im outnumbered and tired. Mentally i could go WFPB tomorrow- if i only had to worry about me. But life gets in the way and 3 diff meals is too much. I need to get more rigid for myself-if only just having a soup ready to eat. It is really hard but i still get the meal plans and dream of the day my kids will be old enough to try things. I at least owe them a good example of that (even if they don’t participate fully).

  16. Lisa on February 1, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    This right here is point on Molly!

  17. Ellen on February 1, 2020 at 6:37 pm

    Implementing a “more plant-based” diet. So far, husband on board, although we haven’t had an actual discussion about it.
    Birthday card to Uncle Rick in the mail this week.

  18. Antonia Gambi on February 1, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    Totally get this & see it so much in my marriage. I need to work on no trying to control his choices (I am doing a 100 times better than before)
    We are both quite good at the acceptance with each other with the odd little hiccup ❤ & we have grown together, sideways, backwards & forwards …. great read Molly

    • Molly Patrick on February 3, 2020 at 10:24 pm

      It takes practice, that’s for sure.
      Lucky for us, life gives us plenty of opportunity to practice (am I right?!)
      xo
      Molly

  19. Cecile on February 1, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    Always appreciate your take on things Molly!!

    For dirties who would like to work on more acceptance, I can recommend the work of 2 amazing ladies :
    – Tara Brach hss amazing free podcasts online, and books but still on my pile to read
    – Byron Katie books on The work are absolutely amazing and help super fast.

    That said, Richard will receive a b-day card from Netherlands 😁 I hope he’ll be flooded with cards !!!

  20. Melissa on February 2, 2020 at 5:22 am

    This post is pure fucking gold. Thank you. Thank you. Radical acceptance has been popping up in random places for me as of late, and this just hit me like a bomb, in a good way though. 🙂 The gravy looks pretty amazing as well.

  21. Cecily on February 2, 2020 at 7:21 am

    Thank you Molly…
    Cat card was mailed to Rick yesterday.
    I’m breathing in acceptance and breathing out love. Over and over again.
    I’ve got this!
    Cecily

  22. Donna Goth on February 2, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Just put a card in the mail for Richard. My brother also has PSP so I somewhat understand Richard’s struggles. It’s traumatic.

    I also have a husband who is miles apart from a plant based diet which makes it more challenging to do. But your thoughts on the matter are appreciated.

    As I re-read my two prior paragraphs, they scream “PERSPECTIVE!”. Things could be a lot worse than what he eats vs what I eat.

  23. Jamie on February 3, 2020 at 7:19 am

    My boyfriend and I are accepting of each other’s choices. Thank goodness for that. But does anyone else feel that those choices are starting to lead down two different paths?

  24. T Stack on February 4, 2020 at 10:38 am

    My husband ate like a 6 year old when we met. Chicken nuggets, double cheeseburgers, egg mcmuffins, relentless candy during the afternoons, and never anything green (except M&Ms). His only veggie was canned corn. Eleven years later (as the result of a major meltdown on my part where I had no idea what to cook to make him happy and not feel like I was killing him) he’ll eat what I make for him… but he “hates” salads, zucchini, sweet potatoes, winter squash, oven roasted potatoes, mushrooms, rice, international flavors (except Italian), buddah bowls, tempeh, seitan, sauce on his penne, any pasta other than penne… you get the idea.

    I can make all sorts of fabulous foods (with the meal plans or pinterest) but I don’t want to force him to eat foods he “hates.” I love him and want him to enjoy his food but he really has no interest in expanding his palate. The other night I made him penne with butter at his request, and I was anything but an example of acceptance – banging around the kitchen, slamming the dish down in front of him and sulking all the rest of the night. It felt like his goal is to die before he’s 40. (His grandfather died of his third stroke at age 42, both of his parents have heart disease. His triglycerides are 600+ and he’s waiting to make diet changes until he hears from the doctor – but he won’t GO to the doctor.)

    This post came at a great time for me. I need to understand that whatever time we have together, I don’t need to make it miserable by begging for him to eat healthier. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

    • Molly Patrick on February 4, 2020 at 1:13 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experience – that means so much.
      I know it can be hard. In my experience people are much more likely to make better choices when they feel supported, loved, and accepted.
      If they do start making healthy choices, awesome! If not, that’s okay too. It’s his life and he has every right to make the choices that he wants to make.
      Sending you lots of love and high fives for being open to this message!
      xo
      Molly

  25. Anne Weisbeck on February 9, 2020 at 3:56 pm

    My boyfriend still eats the SAD diet at times, but I am very lucky that he is completely accepting of whatever I want to cook at home.

    Could you tell me what type of squash is pictured on the plate with the gravy and salad? And is it cooked with the peel still on? It looks really good, and I’m always looking to try new veggies?

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on February 10, 2020 at 8:25 am

      Hi Anne! Thanks for stopping by. The squash is kabocha squash – it’s really delicious. And yes, it is cooked with the peel on – the peel softens and can be eaten with the squash. Here’s a blog recipe to make a batch. ~Karen

  26. Yva on February 22, 2020 at 11:02 am

    Is there an acceptable substitute for white miso? I am having difficulty finding miso in our local stores. Thanks!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on February 22, 2020 at 12:54 pm

      Hi Yva! Miso is one of those ingredients that is difficult to mimic – it’s a savory, tangy, salty flavor. Often it is found in the refrigerated sections of health food stores and many markets. Asian grocers are also likely to have it. Our substitution document has some suggestions, but I don’t know that they will help in this recipe. Looking at the recipe, it would be completely possible to leave the miso out, if you cannot find it, and the recipe will still be delicious! ~Karen

  27. Luz on May 19, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    OMG reading this blog is like describing myself at my actual position; married to a person that said he will be supporting on my woe journey but brings junk food and not wfpb to the house when goes grocery shopping.

    Thank you very much for sharing this information I have something to look and move forward on my healing 🙏🏼

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on May 19, 2020 at 12:27 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Luz! We’re so glad Molly’s post resonated with you and gives you a strategy to stay focused for you. Another great post to check out is this one. You got this! ~Karen

  28. Laureen on June 25, 2020 at 4:38 am

    5 stars
    Molly, I want to thank you for being there for me with your blog posts and free recipes. I briefly signed up for your batching meal plans a while ago, but it just didn’t work for me at that time (meaning I was unwilling to consistently put in the work). I’ve gone back and forth for years between attempting a WFPB diet and being vegetarian or even pescatarian, but at least I have not eaten any land mammals in 4 years. My husband enjoys most of the CFDG recipes I have tried- but then often he “pollutes” them by adding some cheese and/or shredded chicken breasts or ground beef. I don’t cook meat for him, but I do often purchase it (at his request) when grocery shopping. I’m considering setting a boundary that he needs to buy his own meat. I love this man with all my heart and he is generally supportive of me, but I know the meat is killing him- along with the cigarettes I quit a few years ago but he still smokes. This is hard, but your encouragement helps.

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