Being Green: The New Relationship Stressor?

Being Green: The New Relationship Stressor?

Michele Berger
Published: 01/19/2010

Photo: arte_ram, Stock Xchng

No question about it, relationships—with partners, family, friends—are hard. Throw the environment into the mix and there’s just one more thing you have to see eye to eye on.

Should you recycle at home? Ride your bike or the subway to work? Not take that trip you were planning so you can avoid unnecessary greenhouse gas emission from your plane ride?

Yesterday’s New York Times ran an intriguing article about the correlation between the rise in green awareness and increased tension between individuals trying to be more eco-aware and their partners, spouses, families, and friends. The evidence that this is happening seems, to date, pretty anecdotal, with therapists stating they’ve recently seen more fighting triggered by how-much-must-we-change-to-save-the-planet impetus.

In the past few years, I’ve had a “green awakening” of sorts (something Leslie Kaufman, the Times reporter, alludes to), becoming far more aware of how much humans really affect the environment, and what we as individuals can do to halt further damage. (Some involved in this cause say the problem’s moved beyond individual action and requires top-down corporate and governmental change—but that’s a topic for another day.)

As far as I can tell, my move toward green-ness hasn’t yet become too trying for family and friends. My boyfriend and I have talked about composting. Should we do it, period? At home? Should we save our food waste and bring it to the green market nearby? How much of a burden will it be? He’s been a good sport, receptive to—and practically excited about—the prospect. My family members still nod and smile good-humoredly when I ask them to not use another new plastic water bottle or lightly chide them for not recycling.

Like everything else in relationships, it comes down to communication, I think. Are you speaking your mind? Are you listening to what those around you say in return? One therapist in the Times article suggests people can move past these green struggles by treating each other gently. I like that. Perhaps if we’d treat the earth that way, too, we could eliminate the need for these arguments altogether.

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