Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: My partner is obsessed with saving the planet

Dear Virginia,

My partner is driving me mad. He's never been much of a wage-earner, but for the past year he's become obsessed with saving the planet. He goes mad if I put things into the wrong recycling bin, spends a fortune on photocopying Greenpeace leaflets and is always emailing the council about carbon footprints. If I complain, he makes me feel guilty by saying I don't care about looking after the environment. Meanwhile, I am doing two back-breaking jobs just to keep us afloat. What can I do?

Yours sincerely, Tillie

Caring about the environment isn't a career. It's something to incorporate into an already busy life, or something to campaign about when you have a minute. Even environmentalists are paid to do their jobs. Your partner can't afford the luxury of carrying out all this voluntary work.

To my mind, it's not, either, as if the global warming stuff is a given. It's a theory – one that thousands of ordinary people and scientists regard as piffle. If you had lions baying at the door threatening to eat you and your family, and your partner were spending days and nights crouching by the gate with a gun, protecting the house, this would be an extremely sensible way of using his time, even if he weren't paid for it. But global warming? It's a point of view. So his pre-occupation with it over putting food on the table and contributing to the maintenance of your home appears nothing less than gross selfishness.

But is it? I'm afraid it sounds as if he is actually becoming something of an obsessive, and paranoid into the bargain. He likes to spend his time attacking people – like you and the council – for doing what he sees as bad things. His position is one not of self-fulfilment or industriousness or, indeed, selflessness but, rather, one of 24-hour antagonism.

But perhaps he's not really lazy, but terrified, for some reason, of trying to make a living. I wonder if he's so frightened of failing that he can't bear even to make a start. This obsession with global warming may well be an enormous smoke screen to shield him from your accusations of him being a lazy slob. Or, perhaps, to shield himself from his own accusations. His whole occupation now seems to be based on, and thrive on, fear.

You might be able to overcome your resentment about all this by seeing him as slightly mentally ill, a person to be pitied rather than reviled. It could be that, if you could bear doling it out for a month, sympathy, compassion and understanding of his fear might help him. It's funny how a very subtle shift of attitude, often even not actually articulated, can have an enormous effect on a relationship. It's difficult to keep up a one-man fight if the partner you are fighting with is, suddenly, on your side.

But failing that, it sounds if it may be time to try to extricate yourself from this unhappy man and leave him to fight his barmy war alone. When someone's more concerned about re-using plastic bags than the welfare of his nearest and dearest, it's time to get going.


Take responsibility

Although I think it is very admirable to be mindful of how we can all help our ailing world, I also believe in the old adage which says 'charity begins at home'. Your partner would do well to have his own house in order before trying to save the world. He would create harmony, rather than discord, which would be of far greater assistance in global matters. But it's not just about your husband – you are sounding very much like a victim with no power, so perhaps it's time for you to take responsibility for your part in enabling this partnership to continue in such an unbalanced way.

Kate Rhiannon

Polegate, East Sussex

Divert his zeal into a job

Tillie could attempt to divert his zeal into a properly-structured role which is of genuine benefit to society. She could suggest he apply for a voluntary role with green/recycling campaign groups, or preferably a paid position. Or the former might lead to the latter, by boosting his CV and formally consolidating his enthusiasm. By rendering his eco-enthusiasm as more of a formal work capacity, this might help the partner put it into perspective vis-à-vis his own allocation of time, energy and resources: if he officially spends several hours daily in a proper campaign role (rather than being a self-driven 'one-man band'), he might feel he has done his bit for the planet each day, and realise that a lone individual can't possibly save the planet single-handed. Hence he might become more realistic and leisure-orientated during free time, and less uptight and preachy.

F Harvey

Hotwells, Bristol

Find a solvent partner

If I were Tillie I would tell him that the best way to save the planet would be to volunteer to be a crew member on a Greenpeace boat. Once he was gone, Tillie could buy some new clothes from the savings made through no longer photocopying Greenpeace leaflets and suitably attired she could find another partner, one who was solvent enough so she had to do only one job.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk