Preparedness – Getting the Reluctant Spouse into Prepping part 1

KR Training assistant instructor Kelli Kochan presented this material at our 2017 Preparedness Conference.  With our new Preparedness Level 1 and Level 2 classes coming up January 6-7, 2018, this information might be useful to those thinking about attending, or wanting to motivate a spouse to join them.

Strategies for Getting the Reluctant Spouse Into Prepping

Part 1: Introduction to Reluctance

What follows in these four posts is the gist of the presentation that I gave at Paul Martin’s Preparedness Conference back in January.  Why the long delay?  Well, Karl and Paul asked me to write this up as soon as the conference ended.  I said, “Sure, but I have this deadline at work and I’m not doing anything else until I get that done.”  Then I let that one thing lead to another.  You know how that goes – there’s always another thing – so, no excuses, I kind of blew it.  But, I finally got it finished, and I hope you’ll still find it useful.

The idea for this presentation started at Paul’s Preparedness Conference a couple years ago.  We were chatting as we were packed up afterward and he mentioned that in the feedback comments someone had asked about a talk on getting spouses interested in prepping.  I thought I might have some ideas about that, and I bounced a few of them off John on the drive home, but at the time, the Conference was formatted around one-hour talks, and I didn’t think I had enough ideas for that, so I let it go.  The topic came up again last year, so I spent some more time thinking about it, and with the option for a 30-minute talk, I told Paul I was in.

A note on pronouns:  I’m going to use she/her throughout as a pronoun for “your spouse”.  Please don’t take this the wrong way, I don’t mean to imply that it’s only women who are reluctant or don’t want to be preppers, nor to offend anyone who prefers different pronouns.  It’s just that I’m a “she” and I’m speaking from my own point of view, and it’s less cumbersome to stick with one.  Please read she/her to be any pronoun that fits your personal circumstances.

When I saw Paul’s blurb about my talk, that I was going to speak about my journey from reluctant spouse to prepper, my first thought was, Who said I was reluctant?  I’ve been right alongside John this whole time!  I’m glad he wrote it that way, though, because it changed the way I was thinking about both myself and my approach to the topic.  Yes, I’m an enthusiastic prepper – about some things.  Less so about others.  And that is true of all of us – we’re all reluctant about some things, even as we are enthusiastic about others.

John is a tinkerer with electronics, and has been for years.  As part of that, he’s been a HAM radio enthusiast, and since we’ve started prepping, he’s gotten much more involved in it, both as hobby and as part of our emergency preparedness.  He would love for me to get my technician’s license, and occasionally reminds me that it would be good if I were at least legally allowed to use the radio for communication in an emergency.  I have zero interest in HAM as a hobby, and although I know on a rational level that it would be good for me to have the license, I am reluctant to put in the effort for something that doesn’t interest me.

I have a garden.  I didn’t get into it for prepping.  Mom had a garden when I was growing up, and now that I have space for one, it gives us something to talk about and brings us closer together.  Over the years, the garden has grown and last year, I started canning some of the produce.  John is mildly interested and likes a few of the veggies, so he started helping out.  Last fall we attended a canning seminar given by a woman who is an extreme food saver.  She has an entire room in her house, where most people would have an office or game room or library, full of shelves that are full of food.  She stores food under beds, in closets, on top of cabinets.  She said of knick-knack shelves, “You don’t need knick-knacks; you can store food there!”  You can bet that if I ever suggested that John get rid of his historic railroad lantern collection so that we could store food on those shelves, he would develop a sudden and strong reluctance to food storage!

We’re all reluctant about something, at some point.

So, how do you get a reluctant spouse interested in prepping?  By understanding, as I came to do, that it’s not about the prepping.  It’s about the motivation underlying the reluctance.  It’s about real communication with the other person to find and understand that motivation. It’s about learning to work with that.

Reluctance is just unwillingness to do something, and it can range in intensity from something like, “Meh; don’t wanna,” to “Oh, hell, no!  Not gonna, and you can’t make me!”  It presents as anything from procrastination and other avoidance behaviors to outright refusal, depending on the situation.  Sometimes we’re reluctant to do something but eventually acquiesce because the consequences of not doing it outweigh our reluctance (e.g., we get tired of being nagged, or we don’t want to lose a bonus, or our health gets to the point that we must see the doctor or end up in hospital anyway), and sometimes we manage to avoid the thing until it goes away or we do.

Why are we reluctant?

  • We are avoiding fear.

It can be fear of a happening or event, or just fear of failure.  We avoid walking on dark streets at night because we fear getting mugged.  We don’t go to the dentist because of the noise of the drill, and the discomfort of holding our mouth open for ages.  We don’t try out for the band or apply for the awesome job because we are afraid we will blow the interview and everyone will know we’re not good enough.  And when it comes to prepping, we don’t make a will because we are afraid of death and don’t want to have to think about it.

I am a decent shooter.  I used to shoot competitively, and I can brag (modestly, of course) that I have taken a revolver that I hadn’t touched in 2 years and shot a perfect score on the CHL test. Even so, when I haven’t been practicing routinely, you couldn’t pay me enough to make me attend a shooting class, because I avoid the fear of slipping up and doing something dumb in front of my friends or the instructor – who is also my friend and who I don’t want to think less of me.

  • We are avoiding change.

Change is uncomfortable and can be scary even when the change itself is positive and beneficial.  We don’t put in for that promotion because it would change the dynamic between us and our coworkers, or it would mean moving to a new and unfamiliar city where we don’t know anyone.  For anyone who didn’t grow up in a culture of preparedness, getting into prepping requires two changes that can be monumental: first a change of mindset and then a change of lifestyle.

  • We lack resources.

We’re reluctant to go back to school and get that degree we’ve always wanted, that would help us get that promotion, because our job takes most of our time and energy, and if we quit the job, we won’t be able to afford it.  We’re reluctant to start saving seriously for retirement because we have a mortgage and a car payment and we don’t want to have to eat beans & weenies or Ramen noodles every day.  We’re reluctant to start prepping because we’ve seen what all the cool preppers are getting and we don’t have the money to buy all that stuff.

  • We lack interest.

This is the root of my reluctance with the HAM radio.  I have no interest whatsoever, not even in learning it purely for the knowledge.  Without interest, the learning would give me no immediate reward.  This also ties into resources – our time and energy are finite. The time and energy that I would have to spend to learn the subject and study for the license exam, and then to continue to practice so that I could actually be effective if I needed to communicate on the radio, is time and energy that I instead choose to spend on things that interest me and are more immediately rewarding for me.

In the rest of this series, I’ll present eight lessons that I have learned that might be useful for reducing your spouse’s reluctance toward prepping.

Part 2 of the series is here.