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Can I Love a Meat Eater?
I am an animal rights activist and vegan of twenty years. My partner of nearly three years is a vegan at home (for my sake) and vegetarian when we eat out together, but he eats meat when he is out on his own. He says that he doesnít want to be a vegetarian. He believes itís not healthy, even while he agrees with me about the immorality of factory farming and the suffering of animals. Yet he says he is not as committed as I am and wants to continue to eat meat even if it causes suffering or devastates the environment. He also makes contradictory statements, such as, ďI don't want to stop eating meatĒ and then ďI donít really want to eat meat that much, but I feel like I canít figure it out on my own because of the pressure you put on me.Ē I definitely see signs of rebellion; however, I also think that after weíve been together this long that he should take responsibility for his own behavior and not blame his meat eating on me.
I have tried to see this as an opportunity to develop compassion for meat eaters, but when he comes home smelling like meat, I feel disgusted and repulsed. When I hear him say that he would choose to eat meat even if the animal endured terrible suffering, I lose respect for him.
I feel that I am not helping veganism or my partner because I have not been able to consistently maintain compassion for him. In fact, I believe that he is being self-indulgent and lazy. Of course I donít want to feel these things about someone I love, so I am wondering whether I am doing more harm than good by staying in this relationship. How can I commit to someone who is harming the very animals that I am working to protect? I donít know if I should keep trying or if I should accept that I simply am not doing anyone any good by being in a relationship with someone who does not share my core values. I donít want to run away from the difficult challenges of partnership, but I donít want to stay in a relationship with someone I canít respect.
True love is a tender feeling of affection for someone we admire, trust, and like. It is an emotion that is rooted in the present moment. Love isnít contingent on a personís potential to transform or evolve into someone we might like better. When we love, we appreciate and embrace that person completely, knowing that what we consider to be ďflawsĒ may very well be the characteristics that make this individual unique and special. If we canít accept who someone is, we canít truly love them.
In every relationship there are elements of give and take and times when we get on each otherís nerves. If we find people irritating, however, does this mean there is a problem with them or with us? Our inability to deal with differing viewpoints or exasperating behaviors usually stems from our own small-mindedness and desire to control or change others to fit our idea of perfection. Our intolerances say far more about us than they do about the people we cannot tolerate.
There is nothing ďwrongĒ with your partner--nothing that needs to be corrected or fixed. Your failure to find him appealing after he eats meat and your frustration at his indecisiveness about vegetarianism arise from you, not from him. You cannot change him, and trying to do so is only unnerving you both and shredding your relationship. The solution, then, is to determine the extent of your ability to embrace your partnerís differences and choices. If you cannot respect him, are repulsed by him, and are unable to love him just the way he is, then it is time to look for a more compatible match. You deserve to be with someone who cherishes you, respects you, and shares your values. Equally important, so does he.
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