No laughing matter

No laughing matter

Insensitive husband needs to stop minimizing wife’s concerns about the environment and other issues

By Patti Carmalt-Vener 04/18/2013

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Dear Patti,
Ever since my college days, when I had a boundless reserve of idealism, it has been important to me to respect our environment and do my tiny part to not add to the Earth’s problems. Without going overboard, getting stressed or being “green obsessed,” I’ve taught my children my values, principles and ideals. I’m happy with my efforts to help the natural world, but not so rigid as to be unwilling to give up those efforts for other activities. If, for instance, my husband and I go out with friends and drink beer from aluminum cans, I’m fine. Nor do I mind when he wants to use the car, even though I prefer to carpool, bike or walk whenever possible. I think my approach to environmental issues — including recycling and turning off water and lights when not in use — is healthy for the environment, as well as healthy for me and my family.  

My parents used to lightly make fun of me when I first started going green. Now my husband makes fun of it, too, only worse. This otherwise intelligent human being refuses to recycle or turn off lights, saying that it’s all silly and too big of a hassle. I’ve discussed with him the value of recycling newspapers, plastic, aluminum, etc., and while we never fight about my attempts, we’re definitely not in agreement. He’s a physician and I’d think he’d want things to be organized and clean because it’s crucial to his saving lives. I very much admire that he’s a self-made immigrant who became successful through hard work, brilliance, talent and with very little help from anyone.
It means everything to me to be a full-time housewife and mother, but I feel as if he’s minimizing my beliefs and my work on the home front, which I take very seriously.

— Marla

Dear Marla,
If you haven’t done so already, tell your husband what you wrote to me. Let him know you have the utmost respect for his abilities, brilliance, tenacity, life’s work and contributions to others. Explain to him you wish to earn the same respect from him. Just like your husband who worked hard to become the best man he could be, it sounds like you take your own life’s work and commitments as a wife and mother very seriously. You don’t wish to be average and you want to carry out your duties with forethought in the best possible way. You may not always understand how and why your husband does what he does as a professional, but you still respect his actions and should request the same courtesy from him.  It’s clear you have certain values you want you to live by and that you want to raise your children with these standards in place. Gently let him know there are aspects of your life together for which you’d like to be responsible. Remind him you have been inspired to be environmentally conscious since he met you and that you want him to respect your wishes.  
Since he spends many hours in an environment that can be quite rigid and with many rules, he may be objecting to even more rules being put upon him at home. It’s also possible that he’s used to being in charge, another factor contributing to his ongoing resistance. He may be concerned — or maybe even resentful — that some of the recycling tasks get in the way of an easy, restful way of being when he comes home from an extremely hard day at work. After dealing with many patients and their multiplicity of illnesses, the last thing he may want to do is anything involving more “work.”

Another consideration is that he may be afraid your green ideas and their associated tasks take up your time and take you away from him. Rather than argue philosophies, ask him what personal losses he’s afraid of. Why is he refusing a chore as simple as tossing a glass bottle in a recycling bin instead of the regular trash when it’s so important to you? Try to get to the bottom of why he’s not willing to compromise with you on this subject and let his know you’ll listen to his concerns. Stand your ground but reassure him you’ll do your best to make it as easy as possible for him.  

Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email Visit her Web site,


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