Marriage takes work. We all know that, even if we aren’t married. And things are not always rosy and blissful in the best of times. For preppers, unless you lucked out and married someone equally keen on being ready for any eventuality great or small, you have probably run into friction with your spouse before over any number of things concerning the survival of the family unit.
A sorry few, people who perhaps came later to appreciate the security and comfort afforded by a lifestyle of readiness, started down the path of the prepper sometime after they were married only to find out their spouse, their would-be partner, was either disinterested or outright hostile to the whole idea.
Needless to say, this can be a serious obstacle to preparation, materially and otherwise. At best, a spouse who thinks the idea of prepping is not worth the time or consideration will likely not invest the time into the requisite skills and practice, squandering their potential to become an asset in times of crisis. At worst, one who is hostile to the idea for whatever reason will actively disrupt and hamper your efforts through a variety of tactics.
Neither of these outcomes is ideal, and should not be acceptable to a serious prepper. Instead of rolling your eyes and plodding on, look at the “conversion” of your spouse as another challenge or milestone to accomplish on your way to readiness. This article will give you some food for thought on dealing with a reluctant spouse who is not ready to get on the train just yet.
Is a Reluctant or Hostile Spouse Really a Problem?
I say yes. If you cannot count on your family, who can you count on? Depending on your spouse’s attitude, you will either have someone who could be nominally useful, someone able to assist you when the SHTF, but through ignorance or omission of action is now just another body that needs taking care of, to a borderline emotional terrorist who will actively stifle and sabotage your planning, purchasing and training.
Reasons for this behavior vary. A disinterested or ambivalent significant other may blithely believe that bad things simply “don’t happen around here” or “won’t happen to us.” They may think that the conveniences of modern life, emergency services and law enforcement or governmental oversight will take care of them and fretting over disasters and crises is simply foolish. Some may keenly feel the negative social labels salient to the word “prepper,” and not want to see themselves classified as such.
More hostile behavior may come from those partners who are opposed to preparation on the basis of a perceived waste of financial or time resources on something they see as stupid, ridiculous, or frivolous. They may have strong and negative emotions about the entirety of prepping due to the opinion of friends or family, fearing scorn and ridicule from others. People like this are usually very socially tuned to other’s opinions, and will resent anything that would impinge upon their status, something like a husband or wife who is a “tinfoil hat-wearer,” “kook,” “survivalist,” “nutcase,” or some other appellation.
Whichever category your spouse falls into, it is up to you to convert them to the cause, or at least reframe their complaints in such as way that the worst of their complaining is neutralized and you can both maintain a happy household and carry on with your plans.
It won’t be easy, it will probably not be fun, but it must be done.
Assessing the Severity
I’m not talking about a disaster, for once; I am talking about your spouse’s animosity! But just like the crises we are preparing for, we must correctly ascertain the scope and severity of our better half’s bad attitude before we act. Underacting will do no good. Overacting will create friction or alienate them. Be smart.
If your spouse is merely bemused by the idea of you prepping, and nothing more, you probably don’t need to do anything more than endure some good-natured ribbing and prodding with grace. A sane spouse will usually understand that bad things happen everywhere with no rhythm or reason and it is cheap insurance to be prepared.
A spouse with more significant reservations may be concerned about financial expenditures and how they compare to value added; the classic “is the juice worth the squeeze?” question. If you spend much time practicing and researching your skills and other things, this may be a classic cry for attention. Some spouses may have a private concern that your serious worry over something they perceive as unlikely may be symptomatic of mental instability. This will require a little more care, facts and reasoning to disarm.
A wife or husband truly hostile to the idea of your prepping for anything more serious than a power outage or leaky faucet will be a challenge. They may find the prospect embarrassing, or think you are literally howl-at-the-moon crazy for suggesting it. Whatever their reasons, they are vehemently opposed to the concept and will usually resort to hurtful tactics to get their way. They may resort to mockery, belittlement, insult or isolation to bring you into compliance. Getting one of these people on your side will be difficult or impossible without divine intervention or a serious dose of reality. You might have married poorly.
Whatever kind of uncertain or enraged spouse you are dealing with, you have options! You can change your approach, change their mind, or both. Below I’ll give you a few pointers on how best to approach both.
Gaining Acceptance and Converts to the Cause
Based on the assessment of your honey-bunny above, you might try the following strategies.
For a spouse who is not taking the operation seriously, or gently teasing you over your “seriousness,” you don’t need to change their mind all at once. If I were you, I’d disguise skill building and other essential activities as bonding time or outings. Things like camping, a trip to the shooting range, building a fire, working out and so on are much more palatable when presented as just something fun or adventurous to do.
Don’t try to get them to accept your philosophy on the topic all at once, or get upset because they are making light of it. Just like giving your dog his medicine is best accomplished by hiding it in a piece of hamburger, you can dress up a “boring” skill-building exercise as a “fun” date! No I didn’t compare your spouse to a dog. Well, I sorta did. Never mind that, it was a good analogy. Moving on…
To counter the fears of a spouse trying to curb your enthusiasm (and spending) by throwing the money-flag on the deck, take the time to educate and inform. It helps if you don’t actually come across as unhinged or too intense. Explain that what you are doing, the things you are stocking and the skills you are developing are to ensure the things you care about most, i.e. them, and the rest of your family, are safe and cared for no matter what happens.
This is tough rhetoric to argue with unless they are borderline sociopathic. Be prepared though to address spending concerns with a budget, or with impenetrable justifications. They had better be good, and not thinly propped up excuses to buy toys and gear. You only need so many guns, tools, or whatever. Stocking food, medicine, needed supplies and so on is important too, and any honest prepper should be planning with the big picture in mind, not using it as an excuse to fulfill a hobby or apocalyptic fantasy.
If you are coping with that most troubling of spouses, The Unbearable One, you have your work cut out for you. Assuming they do not control the finances (and you) you might just have to put your head down and march on. Shoulder your burden as best you can. A worthwhile approach may be a sincere, head to head, heart to heart talk.
Hear them out. Ask, and request specific answers to, questions about why they are so opposed to the idea of being self-sufficient. Be patient, they might have a highly emotional hang-up for a (to them) good reason. If you are able to address it, or assuage the worst of their grievances, you might be able to achieve peace, if not win them over enough to make a proper partner out of them. Understand going into it that there is no guarantee you’ll be able to reach them.
Whatever the outcome, if you are committed to prepping no matter what, take the appropriate steps as best you can without sundering your marriage or home.
Doing What Needs to Be Done
Let’s say you are on your own. Your spouse is not ready to become a proper partner in your endeavor. It’s up to you. Carry on, but make sure you are acting ethically and in the best interest of your family. If you have a budget you must adhere to, don’t exceed it. Life is not just prepping, not for most people, so running your finances into the red for pallets of beans, bullets and a generator will not go over well at all.
You can take an incremental approach to acquisitions. For food, water and medicines, buying an extra portion or case here and there to be cached will soon turn into a modest supply, and raise no eyebrows except for the most miserly penny pinchers. You can do the same thing with ammunition, first aid supplies and any other necessities. Now actually stashing them may soon become a point of contention no matter how understanding your spouse is: most people will not stand to see their closets and cabinets overtaken by supplies, to say nothing of entire basements and rooms.
If you are your family’s breadwinner and still facing stiff resistance to purchasing vital supplies, stiff enough that household peace is threatened and no amount of negotiation and discussion can cure it, you may need to resort to making purchases and storage a secret. It is a sad thing, but not the saddest, as being caught in a crisis completely dependent on external aid would be worse still. Weigh all factors in the balance and decide accordingly.
If you are enduring mockery or ridicule despite your patient efforts to the contrary, then keep a stiff upper lip as our English cousins would say and carry on stoically. Doing what needs to be done, doing what’s right is seldom easy or even celebrated. You must have the backbone to see that the task is done. If you capitulate on something this important, and then tragedy strikes later, it will kill you twice. You will die your first death spiritually knowing that you could have done differently, but let nagging stay your hands. You will die again when injury, starvation, exposure or disease claims its due, and you perish physically. Don’t let that happen.
I firmly believe that a light hearted approach will get you much farther down the road with the reluctant than sweaty, glaring intensity. Sure, prepping is serious, but being an advocate might have blinded you to the way “outsiders” perceive prepping as a whole. Some folks honestly think it is a movement akin to a militia or something similar. Others only know what they have seen so salaciously represented on terrible TV shows about the subject.
If you can approach the subject with good humor, facts, and the honest, confident assertion that you are doing this for the family, not as a hobby, and not to curry favor with likeminded friends or groups you will thaw most of the staunchest critics. At its basest, you are not a “prepper” at all: you are simply someone who gives a damn about their loved ones and you are not willing to leave their fates to chance, neighbors, the government or anything else.
Don’t take yourself and your prepping so seriously that you cannot be taken seriously by the uninitiated.
A recalcitrant spouse is an obstacle to happy prepping, but also an opportunity. Take the time to address their concerns and neutralize their objections without giving up your cause and you can turn that obstacle into an asset.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.