Dear Amy:

My girlfriend and I have been together for two years. This month, she gave me an ultimatum: I give up hunting or she leaves.

Every year, my best friend and I spend the opening weekend of deer season in a cabin we built on his family's land. It is the only weekend I hunt. My friend and I don't get to spend much time together, so this weekend has been our opportunity to catch up and have a good time.

My girlfriend told me this year that she didn't want to be with someone who could kill a deer. I tried to explain that hunting helped control deer population, and that it was a better way of acquiring meat than buying beef slaughtered at an industrial farm.

I went hunting this year against her wishes and killed a buck. She wouldn't talk to me for three days. Now, she says she will leave unless I promise to give up the sport, that if I cared about her feelings, I wouldn't hunt.

I do care about her feelings, and I don't want to upset her. But I don't think I should have to give up hunting because she doesn't like it.

What should I do?

Dear Befuddled:

Your letter shows why ultimatums don't usually work. (If I could, I'd issue an ultimatum against ultimatums.)

This issue will come up each hunting season; you now have a year of peace during which you can attempt to work out a compromise (ultimatums don't usually work; compromises almost always do).

Would your girlfriend be as unhappy if you went on this hunting excursion, enjoyed the experience but didn't kill anything? Could you square your ethical-hunting argument to keep the peace at home?

You could start by presenting these two extremes, with the goal of taking baby steps toward each other until you meet somewhere near the middle.