I grew up in the South in a county that had more pigs living in it than people.Every October, my hometown celebrated everything pork during the “Ham Festival,” and all neighboring towns had at least one ‘meat and three’ restaurant, named for a dish that emphasized the (the three vegetables that came with it remained unnamed).In my younger days, vegetarians were mythical creatures living thousands of miles away in California.

When my wife and I started dating, I have to admit it was tough.

In my family, like many others, cooking and eating together was an event — a way to celebrate, to mourn, to bond, to strengthen our relationships.

So how do you nurture a budding relationship when one of your main bonding experiences is a challenge? So if you’re a meat-eater dating, cohabitating with, or married to a vegetarian, open your mind and use these tips to make your food differences a blessing, not a curse.

Establish a Reasonable Set of Rules It’s important to know what grosses out your vegetarian partner, so figure that out early.

Do you need a couple of separate pans, skillets, or cutting boards reserved for “meat only” prep?

Does the sight of raw meat make him or her dizzy and nauseated? My wife actually doesn’t require a separate meat pan, as long as it’s thoroughly washed after use, of course.

And she’s willing to pick up my favorite sliced deli meat at the supermarket, but I’m not going to send her into the butcher section to select a T-bone.

Bonus Tip: For any vegetarians who might be reading this, I encourage you to be flexible when setting the rules.

If you turn into a meat Nazi, your partner is going to be less flexible when it comes to acclimating to a life with less meat in it.