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.
This is Part 2. Part 1 is here.
Strategies for Getting the Reluctant Spouse Into Prepping
Part 2: Communication and Miscommunication
In this I’m going to talk about understanding your spouse’s reluctance and your goals to reduce that reluctance. To be clear, I’m not a psychologist or a marriage counselor, and I don’t play one on TV. On the other hand, John and I have been together for over 18 years and married for almost 17, and you don’t miscommunicate with someone for that long without learning a few things. These are some of the things I’ve learned, and I’ll illustrate with examples from our life.
Lesson 1. Listen.
The experts will tell you that the foundation of communicating is to actively listen to the other person, to really hear what she is saying. On the face, that sounds like a straightforward task, though it takes a bit of work. It’s not always that simple, though. Sometimes you think you’re listening, but what you hear is not what she said. Once when John and I were dating, in the midst of a conversation – what it was really about, I don’t even remember – but in the middle of it, he said, “I’m looking for a woman who is strong enough to take care of herself when she needs to, weak enough to let me take care of her when I need to, and smart enough to tell the difference.” I replied, “That’s great, because I’m looking for a man who is weak enough to let me take care of myself when I need to, strong enough to take care of me when I need him to, and smart enough to tell the difference.” And we were both happy with that and went on with our conversation, and lived happily ever after. Well, except that we’ve been fighting negotiating aggressively ever since about where that line really lies, about which of us takes care of me at what time, because even though we both said the same words, we meant two completely different things and we each interpreted the other’s comment in light of our own positions.
In fact, we’ve butted heads or talked past each other about a lot of things over the years, and even though we’ve come to understand each other much better in that time, we still miscommunicate and misunderstand each other, because our life experiences and perspectives are so different. Early in January, we had a cold snap. We carpool to work, and on the drive home the evening before, as the weather was closing in, John was acting worried. I asked him about it and he said, “Houses around here aren’t built to withstand extreme low temperatures for long periods of time.” John grew up down here. I grew up in Montana. To me, “extreme low temperatures” are well into negative numbers, and “long periods” of such last several days to weeks. The predicted freeze was supposed to be one night, down to about 26-27°F, and John was talking in general terms – “houses around here” – so I really didn’t see what he was worried about. I found out the next morning, when our water pipes were frozen inside the wall of the house, thanks to the thin layer of insulation between the outside wall and the pipe.
So the first thing is to listen, actively. And then stop and ask yourself, What is your spouse really saying? Their words may make perfect sense to you in your own head, but do you know that what you heard was the intended meaning? Encourage her to explain what motivates her reluctance, and work to understand that. Often, it’s not a matter of all or nothing, but of degrees. Putting up an extra shelf for food storage may be fine, but throwing away the knick-knacks or spending the retirement account to fill every nook of the house with food may be not so fine. Extra food and medical supplies, emergency cash and a portable generator may be OK, while an underground bunker is not. One of Paul’s examples was a lady who had no problem with preparing for natural disasters, but did not want to hear any talk about the possibility of economic collapse. Find out what and where your spouse’s boundary lines are.
Lesson 2. Examine your own motivations.
Your spouse is only half of the communication equation. Ask yourself: What are you really trying to accomplish, and why? What are your reasons for prepping? That is, what events are you preparing for? What are your reasons for wanting her to be involved? And to what degree? Do you just want her to accept your prepping activities without grousing about it, or do you want her to whole-heartedly jump with both feet into the bunker with you? When you know what you really want, ask yourself what you’re willing to accept.
While you’re at it, consider this. Just as you’re asking her to do something she’s not really willing to do, there may be things that she would like you to do that you are reluctant about. Not necessarily prepping-type things, but something. What are your reasons to be reluctant? Where are your boundary lines? Are you willing to overcome that reluctance or at least give some ground, as you’re asking her to do?
Once you understand (at least somewhat) where your spouse is coming from, and where you are coming from, you can start finding ways to work toward your goals and move some of those boundary lines.