Dear Prudence

Help! My Husband’s Environmentalism Is Making Him a Jerk.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

A man sorting utensils and waste for recycling
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by AnnaStills/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Wife of an eco-warrior: My husband is obsessed with food waste, and by that I mean moving heaven and earth to avoid it. When we first met, he was already pretty into recycling and environmentalism. I was not an environmentalist, so I enjoyed learning more and building a composting/recycling habit. However, fast forward 15 years and he’s gotten even more intense. We recently had an incident and I’m trying to figure out if I handled this correctly.

While we were hosting a couple friends for the weekend, we went out to eat on multiple occasions. Some of our friends did not want to take their leftover food home. My husband basically badgered them into doing it. Then, when we were eating meals at home, my husband repeatedly asked our friends why they weren’t eating their leftovers, even going so far as to take the cartons out of the refrigerator and pointedly placing them on the counter. At the end of each night, my husband did a “rundown” of the fridge contents to preview what leftovers we’d be eating the next day. Then, after my friends never ate their leftovers, my husband insisted I eat the leftovers of the food I didn’t order and didn’t want in the first place! I balked and we fought.

I was livid and embarrassed on my friends’ behalf. They were clearly quite uncomfortable by the affair, and one of them asked me privately if my husband was emotionally OK (obviously the pandemic has been draining on all of us so there had been a number of mental health conversations during the weekend). I’ve tried to approach my husband a few times about this, but he insists he did nothing wrong and that I should, in fact, be thanking him for being so mindful of food waste. I think he was horrendously rude and his concerns about environmentalism should’ve come second to just … not being a jerk of a host.

What say you, Prudie? And where do we go from here? Will any therapist take us seriously if I tell them we’re coming in because my husband cares about the Earth too much?

A: Therapists have heard it all, so yes, they will take you seriously if you say your husband cares about the Earth too much. But they also have an ability to identify the real issues in relationships. Here, I’d say the problem is not your husband’s eco-warrior status but his lack of etiquette and controlling behavior with guests. He can do whatever he wants (and if he wants to take all the leftovers and make a soup or something when they’re gone, that’s great for him), but it’s reasonable to have some ground rules for how you treat people who are living in your home. For example: Let them eat what they want to eat! The topic for counseling is how you two can hold on to your values (his being avoiding food waste and yours being treating guests well) or compromise enough to move forward.

Classic Prudie

My father is turning 70 at the end of February and my mom has organized a party to get all of my siblings to attend. With everyone scattered across the country, this is a rare occurrence and we have decided to get a professional photographer to take some family pictures. I am the youngest in the family and the only one who is unmarried, although I am in a long-term relationship with a great guy. My dad and the family love the boyfriend and he has been included in the festivities. He’s met a few of my sibs before, they all approve and I’m really happy that he has been welcomed so fully into my family’s plans. Here’s my problem: I love my boyfriend and I plan on being with him for the long haul, but if we do break up in the future, I don’t want our family picture to include my future ex.