Should you ditch a non-green spouse?

In the end, who among us does not choose to be a little less right to be a little less lonely.
~Robert Brault

I don’t always troll HuffPo.

Sometimes I troll Grist.

Dear Umbra,

This is a personal question, but hopefully you can help. My husband and I met when I was 20. I “woke up” to the destructive nature of our consumer lifestyle at 25. Still in love with my husband at age 30, I am wrestling with our vastly different levels of commitment to changing said lifestyle. I would like to go to a therapist that can bring us together on this issue, but I can’t find one that shares my concern for the environment. I’m tired of compromising my values. He’s tired of compromising the conveniences and luxuries he feels he’s “earned” at his corporate job. I feel trapped; he feels judged. Do we keep compromising, or do we divorce and find more like-minded mates? Do you know of any resources for people like us?

Michelle F.
Milwaukee, WI

As usual, Umbra gives both sound advice (seek couples therapy) and some not-so-sound advice (buy DIY flaxseed lube, among others).

I can’t really say what I would do if I were in Michelle’s shoes. My own lifestyle would likely turn away a lot of potential suitors…somehow I struck gold with my roommate. Without concrete examples, I can’t really tell if Michelle’s problem lies with the relationship or with her environmental attitudes. Is she one of those the extreme greenies? I can see someone drawing the line at going car-free or without air conditioning, but who really knows? I certainly couldn’t live with an enviroconsumerist eco-bible-thumper.

I’m no psychiatrist, but Michelle’s desire to see a therapist that shares her “concern for the environment” makes me think that she’s seeking justification for her lifestyle. Umbra points out that even a “green” therapist isn’t necessarily going to take her side. I wonder what kind of difference having a therapist that has a “concern for the environment” makes. The root of the problem is a relationship that she feels is becoming incompatible; in my opinion, the therapist’s environmental views don’t matter. The more important thing should be “can this person help us work it out?”

As I mentioned above, Umbra’s other suggestions are ridiculous and unhelpful. If he wants to “come to the green side” he’ll do it. Maybe instead Michelle needs to look at what’s causing the relationship to be strained and then compromise. Maybe her ideas of what’s “green” are a bit…out there. Of course, Grist being what it is, god forbid Umbra dissuade anyone from the path of the green. Instead, she offers suggestions for Stupid Green Products. Okay, not all of them are stupid, but the whole thread of reasoning sucks. “Bribe your husband with local food and take crappy vacations to places he’s probably not interested in!” Wasn’t this the problem in the first place?

Truthfully, though, sometimes you can pull it off. For Christmas I’m taking two of my best buddies to a local brewery. But that’s more about trying free beer than it is about being green. Actually, the brewery isn’t even…what’s the word Umbra uses? Oh, yeah, “biodynamic,” whatever that means. It’s just a brewery. But it is local.

My advice to Michelle? Stick it out and compromise if you have to. The truly green things in life aren’t those that get advertised. They certainly aren’t advertised on Grist.

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One Response to “Should you ditch a non-green spouse?”

  1. I dunno, I think you’re looking too closely at the specifics, and fruity-ass writing, on this one and missing the point. The vacations, the food, the lube (not purchased, but diy from seeds), these are all just specific examples of a general idea of trying to show him that you can lean towards environmentally friendly without giving up comforts.

    Is it greenderful? Not really. Is it better than nothing? Yeah, probably.

    It’s not about turning him green so much as painting his nails and dying his hair. It’s just giving him the opportunity to say, “yeah, babe, this is cool,” instead of “you are a loony in hemp panties.” Of course, all this requires his active interest and participation, but that depends on the strength of their relationship.

    I don’t think Umbra gave bad advice here, just very Grist advice. And having asked her question where she did, I’ve a feeling that’s about what Michelle wanted. Sure, some of her ideas are a little silly, but it’s not the specifics that matter as much as the idea of approaching the situation from a different angle. When he can see that there’s aspects of environmentally conscious living that he can enjoy (seriously, fresh eggs are fucking amazing), then maybe he can start to enjoy that aspect of her personality as much as he enjoys the rest of her. Yes, the parts of the “lifestyle” he likes might be mainly superficial, and he may never decide that greenism is for him, but, as you say, it’s not about conversion; it’s about acceptance and compromise.

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