Make compromises within a relationship that don’t mean sacrificing your values

Guest post by Aurora
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When I was thirteen, I became a vegetarian. When I was twenty, I transitioned to veganism. In the meantime, I developed a lot of ideals that revolved around ethical consumerism — something discussed a lot on Offbeat Home. I chose not to shop at certain big box store chains, and tried to either thrift clothing or buy items that were sweatshop-free. I had a lot of time to fantasize about my future and prospective living situations, and the idea of a vegan, eco-friendly, ethical household was appealing to me. So when I met my now-fiancée and the topic of moving in together came up, it was apparent that some compromises were going to have to be made on someone’s end.

She loved shopping at stores that marketed affordable merchandise, she was used to certain brands of cleaning products, and she loved her bacon and steak. And while not feeling like a vegan guest in my own home was important to me, I also didn’t want to infringe on my fiancée’s enjoyment of the foods she craved.

The compromises didn’t come without some heated discussions. I reneged on a lot of my personal, ethically-based shopping rules while she cut down on the amount of meat she ate, and what she did eat she cooked herself so I wouldn’t have to touch raw meat. We chose to buy cleaning products that don’t test on animals while I loosened up on the list of chemical ingredients that made a product off-limits to my vegan sensibilities. I stopped supporting certain popular animal rights organizations that have questionable advertising and protesting strategies in exchange for smaller organizations that did more to rescue animals rather than just focusing on a person’s diet. I want to make it clear, though, that I don’t feel like my personal values were compromised — I’ve simply decided that there are better ways to go about supporting causes I believe in.

While having these conversations with my fiancée, it occurred to me that a lot of my choices that tried to incorporate ethical consumerism were a lot about boycotting. And if boycotting certain products, stores, or services works for you and your value system, then I’m all about doing that. Certainly, I still boycott meat, dairy, eggs, and products that test on animals. But boycotting isn’t the only way to support your ethics and value system.

I decided that from now on, instead of focusing exclusively on cutting things out of my shopping list, I’ll do things that support causes I believe in — looking for volunteer and social opportunities in the area.

Maybe instead of refusing to buy products that use stearic acid, I’ll volunteer at a local animal shelter and make sure my own pets aren’t procreating irresponsibly.

I can donate my money to responsible organizations instead of refusing to buy things from organizations or corporations I feel have different value systems from mine.

And there are a lot of places that could use volunteer help that don’t necessarily negate the specific issues I’ve mentioned. Maybe you are uncomfortable with cheap clothing being made in sweatshops. But maybe you can’t afford to buy expensive American made clothes and maybe solely relying on thrifting isn’t getting you the things you need (like, underwear, socks, and plain white t-shirts). So maybe you decide that, since you can’t figure out how to combat those specific issues, you’re going to do good by volunteering at the hotline of a local rape crisis center. Or you’re going to work a soup kitchen, or donate goods to a women’s shelter, or volunteer at a hospital that services veterans.

There is a lot of screwed up stuff in this world. I think that commenter LXV, who was quoted in the Ethical Consumerism Condensed, said it best:

In the end I think the best you can do is find the little corner of the world you are going to make less shitty. If we all improve our corners maybe we’ll eventually meet in the middle of the room and find we’ve made it a pretty good place.

It’s easy to stretch yourself too thin when it comes to trying to fix the planet. If you pick one or two causes that are important to you, and focus on doing things that result in a positive impact, that can make just as much of a difference as boycotting.

Changing a few things I do or buy (or not buy) to support my value system doesn’t make me a worse person in the long run. And I’d like to think that even if I’m supporting an organization that does good but that doesn’t necessarily negate the bad of another organization, the karmic overflow will balance everything out.

It’s completely possible to make compromises when creating a new family unit that don’t mean sacrificing your values. There’s definitely more than one way to do good in this world, and when you find out the ways that mesh with you the best, it’s a really rewarding feeling.

Comments on Make compromises within a relationship that don’t mean sacrificing your values

  1. I love this, recently I was really worrying and feeling like a hypocrite because I had changed some of my views on which charities I would support or how I would support causes I believed in, a friend sat me down and just told me ‘Its ok to change and compromise, because you are not going to stay the same forever and so the way that these things affect you will not be the same either. You need to remember that every time you make a big life change or even a little life shift your priorities will change and that’s OK!’ The same is true when you are in a relationship, even more so since now there are two separate sets of priorities. I think as long as you can keep the lines of communication open things will balance out eventually!

    • This is so true! What’s important to me right now might not be as important 10 or 20 years from now, and it’s definitely different that what was important to me 10 years ago.

  2. “But boycotting isn’t the only way to support your ethics and value system.”

    Very much this. Often messages around ethics are filled with things you *shouldn’t* do and *shouldn’t* support – and that’s fine up to a point. But there are so many things you can do to make a positive in the world – not just minimise your negative impact!

    Also, do what you can. No one can be 100% ethical in every part of their life – it might just not be practical, given the society they live in. That’s fine. You do what you can. And you should always feel good about that, not guilty about not doing more.

    • As an example of doing what you can: I strongly support ethical farming. I just get so sad when I think about chickens who live their whole lives in a box, given only liquid nutrition. So while I am vegetarian and avoid eggs, my husband really loves to eat chicken. He has compromised by eating chicken that is at least grain fed – a step towards respecting the raising of the food we eat.
      Mostly it isn’t practical to eat only respectfully raised chickens for availability and cost reasons. So I don’t sweat it too much when he can only find commercial chicken at the store. But we do what we can where we can.

  3. I LOVE this article. What I really got out of it is the importance of positive change. That’s something I strongly believe in: instead of focusing on what you can’t do, figure out what you can do and then do it! It’s okay not to be perfect, just try to be a little better than you were before.

    (Why yes, I am a sort of motivational speaker in my day job. Is it obvious?)

    Also – Chihuahua – Husky mix? That sounds like a very interesting dog!

  4. Boycotting to me always feels so negative. I agree that feeling that I am causing positive change is important. I like to think that I am consciously choosing where I spend my money instead of actively avoiding certain products or places (except Walmart. I hate that place and do purposefully avoid it).

    I choose to buy my fruits, veg, and meat primarily from local producers because I want to support local agriculture.
    I shop at small local stores because I want to support my local business owners.
    When I get a coffee, I go to my local Brew Ha Ha because they make little snow man designs in my latte and are super delicious.

    I also don’t judge people who are not in the financial situation where they are able to make the ethical choices that I can. I’m very fortunate that I can afford to buy local produce and meat etc without causing financial hardships for my family.

    • All the “this” for that last part! I’m currently on disability and it really impacts the way I’m able to spend my money. There are a lot of small, local things I’d like to support, but I’m just not in a financial position to help.

  5. “In the end I think the best you can do is find the little corner of the world you are going to make less shitty.”

    1000 times this! Compromise happens, life situations change, even value systems are malleable and morph sometimes as you age and your personal experiences grow. Ideology is important…but the most important thing is to live a life that brings you satisfaction while still allowing you to be happy with the person you greet in the mirror in the morning.

    The main thing is that you are staying true to the kind of person you want to be while figuring out ways to hold on to that truth within the framework of the life you are actually living.

  6. I loved this! I agree with many of the other commenters on “finding your corner of the world” and realizing that you are not screwing up your values simply by altering your focus – all things I have struggled with in my path to find myself alongside my significant other. But what I focused on with this was how you are able to compromise with your significant other without losing yourself or your beliefs. And that is beautiful.

  7. When I first started dating my now husband, we read a book together called “Two Jews can still be a Mixed Marriage” about how to combine traditions and honor eachother. There were a lot of things wrong with the book, but it started a conversation for us about how to each honor what is important to us while not losing ourselves to the other person’s equally valid expression of the religion. Now there are some things that we do, just for eachother, that are on the margins of our comfort levels, but not outside them. And that’s what matters. Helping the other person express themselves while still being free to be yourself!

  8. This is a great article. My friend just got out a 13 year relationship and engagement. It was messy, and one of the first question she asked me was if she should date guys that aren’t vegans like her. I explained that I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing anything, and even though you might have a few long not fun discussions ultimately you will find common view points. I respect my husband’s points of view, and he respects mine. Though he will never understand why I never want to eat a hot dog again.

    Just two cents, this article addresses the issues of underground culture criticizing the idea that you compromising your ideals for something more mainstream. But I found sometimes my husband gets comments about going more “liberal” with his lifestyle. He eats meat, I don’t. But we both agree it isn’t my job to feed him, therefore he eats what I cook. If he doesn’t like it, he can make his own chicken. When we eat out with friend and family he sometimes get “I can’t believe she’s letting you eat that!” or “I couldn’t take out meat in my diet!”

  9. I whole-heartedly love this entire article. I agree so much with the concept of focusing on the impact you can make with positive actions (where you spend your money) vs negative actions (where you DON’T spend your money). I don’t want to start a debate, but this is why I have such a huge problem with a lot of animal-rights groups. It’s all about what’s WRONG with animals in captivity, but very little time or resources are put towards preserving wild habitats or helping facilities that hold animals do a better job. So as much as I agree with some of the ideals, I can’t support the organization. It’s hard to realize that you have to break from what you thought you believed, and even more difficult to find that the organizations you were supposed to hate are the ones doing the work you support! But in any case it’s about making a decision based on what YOU support and believe, not what others decide is the appropriate path for you to follow.

    • Oh gosh, this! When I first became a vegetarian, there were, ah, certain popular organizations that I looked to for guidance. But now that I’m a vegan and I feel it’s important to be an ambassador to the cause, I only support organizations that I know are doing good work – like you said, I look for things that support wild habitats (I have signed sooo many positions to keep wolves from being de-listed as endangered) and helping rescue abused farm animals and providing them with a good home. It’s so important to be aware of what a certain organization truly supports.

    • To be fair to them wildlife conservation requires completely different skills and knowledge from captive animal rights. I’m on the other side – I work for a wildlife conservation charity so I can tell you all about lowland heath restoration work, and a fair bit about recreating peat bogs, the pros and cons of re-wilding vs. managed habitats and various other topics. But I haven’t got a clue what’s a healthy stocking density for farmed chickens, whether they really need access to grass all the time or if an outside space they’ve scratched bare is ok, what kind of antibiotics are safe for pigs, what kind of enrichment cows need and so on. A friend of mine does know all that but when I told her about a debate at work over the best type of tree for a new site she said “What? Types of trees? A tree’s a tree isn’t it?”

      I suppose you could get an organisation that does both, but it would be completely different departments handling each aspect. But in practice the nearest you’ll get is an organisation that fundraises for anything and everything animal related and then gives grants to the organisations doing the work.

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