With Valentine’s Day upon us, I phoned the authors of two recent vegan relationship books to learn the latest from the plant-based dating trenches. One thing I discovered: Animals benefit when vegans date non-vegans. That’s because having a vegan partner can lower a meat-eater’s animal consumption.

“I have spoken with many women who accepted an omnivore partner, only to be happily surprised when that person began to eat fewer animal products,” Maya Gottfried writes in “Vegan Love: Dating and Partnering for the Cruelty-Free Gal, with Fashion, Makeup & Wedding Tips,” published last April by Skyhorse Publishing. Gottfried interviewed four dozen people (mostly women) and shares their dating and relationship stories in the book.

When I reached her at home in New York’s Hudson Valley, Gottfried told me, “The trend I found writing the book is that vegan love spreads. When we live the example as a happy, healthy vegan, the people around us are often inspired to go in that direction.”

Before she started interviewing vegans about their dating experiences, Gottfried and her publisher assumed there would be “horror stories and funny stories” about dating while vegan. Instead, she heard stories of dates going out of their way to accommodate vegans.

The worst she found was a woman who hid her vegan ways from her date only to have him order her a bunch of non-vegan dishes and her to suffer silently through the meal.

“She didn’t want me to include her in the book,” Gottfried said. “She suffered because she wasn’t honest.”

Gottfried, whose own dating experiences also lack drama, told me she wasn’t expecting to hear so many happy tales.

“I was surprised I didn’t find more negative stories,” Gottfried said. “The women I spoke with were very good. If they got a negative reaction it happened so early on it wouldn’t even come to a date.”

The key to discovering whether the vegan lifestyle of one partner is going to work for both is being upfront about that lifestyle, according to Gottfried and cookbook writer Mary Lawrence, whose most recent book, “Eat Vegan with Me: Creating Community through Conversation and Compassionate Cuisine,” was released in December by Vegan Publishers.

Lawrence writes that “no matter who you date, your baseline should always be to remain true to yourself by being honest about your beliefs, assertive in stating your needs, and empathetic in understanding differences.”

When I reached her in Connecticut, Lawrence told me, “It’s about being true to yourself and letting the person you’re with know what is important to you. This is so they’re aware of your ethics right from the start.”

While relatives told her to downplay her veganism when she was looking for love, Gottfried found honesty produces better results. Reflecting on her conversations about vegan dating, she told me, “by being authentic they found people who were a better match for them.”

She writes “if we hide who we really are, we may miss out on meeting someone who appreciates our true selves.”

And depending on the vegan, her true self may or may not be OK dating a non-vegan. (See quiz.)

One of the vegans Gottfried interviewed was Jasmin Singer, cohost of the vegan podcast “Our Hen House.” She put forth a bold plan when she told Gottfried in the book that “I think there is a moral argument in favor of each of us dating our fair share of non-vegans, and converting them, before becoming vegansexuals.”

If you haven’t yet encountered a vegansexual, it is a vegan who only dates other vegans.

While some women Gottfried interviewed are in that category, others were more open to dating omnivores. An example of the latter is artist Allison Laakko, who is engaged to a meat-eater and told Gottfried: “I truly believe that a vegan diet is the right way to eat, but just like any other belief system, I don’t discriminate when someone doesn’t feel this way.”

While “Vegan Love” is focused on dating, Lawrence’s “Eat Vegan with Me” is a broader guide to creating dietary change within our own social networks. It includes a section of recipes from Lawrence’s private chef business.

A central concept in “Eat Vegan with Me” is the idea of “everyday activism,” which doesn’t require a protest march, an online petition or even a date, but the regular interactions vegans have with non-vegans each day.

“Everyday activism isn’t forcing something down someone’s throat,” Lawrence told me. “It’s being a positive role model and saying, ‘This is what I want to be normalized. I want compassion and justice to be normalized.’ ”

In “Eat Vegan with Me,” Lawrence argues that “each conversation we have, question we answer, recommendation we give or resource we provide can be the necessary seed that will some day root and grow.” However, these seeds can only be planted when vegans are “speaking with confidence and conviction, not sarcasm or condescension.”

Tone matters when you’re trying to nudge omnivores onto Team Vegan.

Because as Lawrence, who is also an English professor, notes in her book: “people change, and the reverberation of these transformations has so much potential for a massive cultural shift.”

A heartwarming thought on this day of love.

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

QUIZ: COULD AN OMNIVORE BE THE ONE FOR ME?

Excerpted with permission from “Vegan Love: Dating and Partnering for the Cruelty-Free Gal, with Fashion, Makeup & Wedding Tips” by Maya Gottfried, Skyhorse Publishing,
2017.

Questions:

1) If your dinner date ordered a dish containing meat, could you still enjoy your meal?

2) Are you comfortable explaining why you are vegan, and talking about the related issues in a calm and friendly manner?

3) Do you enjoy sharing what you love about veganism with others, such as going with them to a farm animal sanctuary or cooking them a great vegan meal?

4) Do you feel secure speaking up for your vegan needs in a restaurant or store even though your partner may not understand why they are requirements?

5) Would you be able to sleep comfortably in a home that had animal products in it?

How many questions did you answer yes to?

0-1: You may still want to try dating an omnivore or two, but if spending time with them is painful, it might be time to seek out a fellow vegan.

2-3: It’s quite possible that you can find an omnivore match. You may warm up to them if they start to express an interest in veganism, or begin to make more compassionate choices. If you never reach the comfort zone, feel free to move on.

4-5: You are such an omnivore lover! You may be exactly the person an omnivore out there is looking for. Their love for you could open their heart to veganism. Being your compassionate self may be just the inspiration they need to live a cruelty-free life.