On Food/Lifestyle Disputes At Home
In "Therapists Report Increase in Green Disputes" in the Environment section of today's New York Times, Leslie Kaufman reports that American households have become a battleground for beliefs about the environment.
While no study has documented how frequent these clashes have become, therapists agree that the green issue can quickly become poisonous because it is so morally charged. Friends or family members who are not devoted to the environmental cause can become irritated by life choices they view as ostentatiously self-denying or politically correct.
Problems arise when the individuals in the family (or couple) are at different points in their awareness of actions and purchases that affect the environment.
Changing the family diet because of environmental concerns can be particularly loaded, Ms. Buzzell [a therapist] added. She warns wives and mothers not to move a family toward vegetarianism before everyone is ready.
When I read that last sentence, I cringed. Not because of the "wives and mothers" bit, as we learn that women tend to pay more attention to these issues, so change/desire to change the family does more often begin with them. And it wasn't "vegetarianism" rather than "veganism," as though my husband went from omnivore to vegan overnight, I do understand that most people stop eating flesh first.
What made me cringe was that everyone had to be "ready" before making a change that the planet needs so desperately. Does Planet Earth have the time for everyone to decide they're "ready" to give it a break?
But then I remembered that, as a vegan, I purchased and prepared the flesh of cows and chickens for my husband for nearly six years because I knew that if the change didn't come from him he would likely end up resenting me, plus he might even go back to eating and using animals. I didn't have the same urgency in my environmentalism back then, or more accurately it wasn't related to animals. It was all about other things we could do to tread more lightly on the earth.
I do think the adult-adult relationship is different from the adult-child relationship, particularly with young children who are formulating their values based on what is said and done in the home. My adult-adult experience was that it was actually painful at times to live with
someone who ate animals and I wondered how long I could deal with it.
What I had going for me was that early on my husband said, "I feel the
same way you do, but I'm just not ready yet." If he had said, "I'm
never giving up my steak" I don't know if I would have lasted that
long. We didn't go to therapy for this issue, because I knew that
talking about it wouldn't help, not to mention the likelihood of a
therapist in South Florida understanding my position was nearly nil.
Let's face it, the longer you've done something, the more attached you are to it and to the rationalization you employ to keep the behavior going. But here's my question: For those of you with significant others who are not vegan, do you have a time line with benchmarks in your head? Is it purely a matter of months or years for you? Do you discuss veganism or environmentalism frequently? Are you in one of the American households where disputes are common?