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Dear Carolyn: I graduated from college last year and moved in with my longtime girlfriend. We are engaged to be married in June. She is smart, fun and we seem like a perfect match.

About eight months ago, I read a book about animal rights, and it made me decide to stop eating meat. I started to learn more and last month, I became vegan. My fiancee isn't too supportive. I really love her, but she is pretty inconsiderate about my choice. I can accept that she continues to eat meat in front of me, but she constantly belittles my concerns and even tries to sneak meat into my food. I would like to work things out between us, but I don't want to do it at the expense of my morals.

-- Torn
A. You know, if you were slipping peroxide into your fiancee's shampoo because you thought she should be blond, her friends would be handing her hotline numbers and she'd be chucking your stuff onto the street.

Someone with so little regard for your choices, particularly a choice based in conscience, is either controlling or childish or some equally unmarryable combo of both. If she can't let a little tofu into her life without staging a covert hissy counteroffensive, what happens when the much bigger curd hits the fan? (That's a "when," not an "if," I promise.)

Before June barges in on you -- well, well before -- you need to take a cue from the food thing and deal with the larger communication failure. Your diet is just a symptom here. Listen listen listen to each other, both of you. You start it off with the topic du jour, by asking her what so offends her about veganism. Clearly she's sending a message, but whatever it is, she's trying to say it with meat. There are better ways.

She, in turn, needs to hear you explain how you feel -- about animal rights and about her scorn. It may just be that she feels threatened by your changing in substantive ways.

But even then, there's no excuse good enough for the disrespect she's been showing, and the conversation isn't over until this much comes out. If she can't get her carnivorous mind around that, consider acquiring an ex-fiancee.

It's permanent -- for now

Carolyn: I am curious of your take on the "some time off to think about things" tactic in a relationship (which my SO just decided to take). Sick torturous delaying device leading to eventual breakup, or healthy relationship tool?

-- Boston
A. You say that as if the two are mutually exclusive. The sick torturous delaying device that leads to eventual breakup can be the craven way out, sure. But when purtied up and re-flagged as "carefully weighed decision to break up," it can also be an extremely healthy relationship tool -- for sick relationships that should end.

It may annoy you to be left hanging, but how much you hang is really up to you. This is time off -- as in, not on. A breakup. Granted, you don't know whether the offness is permanent, but if you're in a cosmic kind of mood, look at it this way. Every situation is permanent until it changes, right? Until you hear otherwise, this one's over. I'm sorry.

Consider the sources

Carolyn: My parents don't particularly care for my girlfriend. They say she's nice enough but "she doesn't make you a better person." Is it worth paying attention to a statement like that? How can you tell?

-- The City
A. Ouf, they threw the N-bomb. Scathing. Your parents' opinion matters, it goes without saying. The question you have to answer for yourself, privately, is how much their opinion matters. How well do they know you, know her, know their -- um, ears from holes in the ground? Are they making a solid, supportable point? How are their people skills, if they in fact have people skills? How's their marriage? As litmus tests go these aren't perfect, but perfection is scarce in these parts.

If I were you, I'd pay not much attention to the statement itself, but a lot to their argument behind it. Have you asked for it yet? Don't be defensive; just say you respect their judgment, and you're eager to hear them out.

Possible, but probable?

Dear Carolyn: Do you think it's possible for a man to be interested even after saying he has no interest? Are men more fickle than we realize?

-- Va.
A. I think it's possible to sustain extensive sleep-and-hair loss dwelling on what's "possible." Either men and women mean what they say, or they're not worth the time it takes to parse what they say. (I'm sure some of them are decent and all, but imagine how old all that guessing would get en route to till-death-do-you-part.) Sometimes, life just isn't that hard.

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