Preparedness – Getting the Reluctant Spouse into Prepping part 3

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 3. Part 2 is here. Part 1 is here.

Strategies for Getting the Reluctant Spouse Into Prepping

Part 3:  Cooperation and Making Changes

Continuing from the last post, now that you understand (at least somewhat) your spouse’s motivations and you have identified the lines you absolutely can’t cross, how do you go about moving those other boundary lines?

Lesson 3.  Start on common ground. 

You’re not looking to pick a fight.  You’re in a partnership and the idea is to work together, so you want to start out on the same side.  When it comes to preparedness, figure out what preparations you both agree are acceptable.  What actions are you both prepared to take in support of those preparations?  Do some team building!  Encourage a spirit of cooperation!  Synergize a new paradigm in your relationship!  Oh, wait – wrong speech.  Where was I?  Oh, yes – at least communicate, identify the steps you can agree on, and start there.  Even if it’s something small.  Your eventual goal may be a pantry fully stocked to last the family for six months, but if she is agreeable to buying a little extra food on each shopping trip, that’s a start.

Sometimes you can agree on a particular goal, but the common ground you need to find is a way to implement it that works for both of you.  When John and I were first married, we lived at the end of the road and the end of the electric line, so if anything caused an interruption anywhere on the line (which happened pretty regularly), we lost power for however long it took the power company to effect repairs. We agreed that we needed a portable generator, and that there needed to be a way to plug it into the house.  So we bought the generator and John wired a plug to connect it to the house.  The problem was that he was also traveling – a lot – for his work, and I needed to be able to run the generator.   He walked me through the process, but I know me, and I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t remember it, especially under stress. I do much of my day job – lab work – with SOPs (standard operating procedures), so I asked him to write up an SOP for me.  He did – about half a page – and I walked through the procedure with what he wrote, and then asked for a bunch of clarification and details.  He added that, and I walked through it again, and we repeated the process until I had a “book of the generator”, a dozen or so printed pages with pictures at each step with labels and arrows and such, as well as text; a procedure that was clear to me.

Even though we both agreed that the generator was a necessary item, to be effective it had to be accessible to both of us.  If I hadn’t asked for the SOP, he might have been satisfied with just showing me once and expecting that I got it.  Or, if he had recognized that I wasn’t likely to remember, he might have insisted that I practice consistently – which would probably have led to friction between us and possibly mistakes on my part from his not being around much to coach me.  In either case, my outcomes in the event of needing to use the generator might have ranged from “Yay, I did it!” to “Argh, useless hunk of metal that I can’t make work!” to “Oh, crap – fire!”  If he hadn’t been willing to spend the time and effort to make the SOP… same possible outcomes.  As it happened, I used the “book of the generator” on more than one occasion, successfully, which made life easier for both of us.

Lesson 4.  Progress in increments. 

Remember, change is uncomfortable.  It can be scary.  A lot of it at once can be overwhelming.  If your spouse is a little reluctant to begin with, and you’re jumping in with both feet, it’s understandable if she reacts negatively.  Even if she is on board with some prepping, too much too fast can turn that around.

With other lifestyle changes like weight loss and exercise, the people who are successful at it usually don’t change everything at once.  They make one change that they can stick with, and then stick with that until it becomes routine, then either ramp it up or make a new change.  The same is true with prepping, and it applies to you as well as your spouse, especially if you’re coming from a non-preparedness background.  So when you’re making goals together, pick 1 thing to do or change, and then allow time for that thing to become normal.  Or even make 2 or 3 small changes at once, if you’re both amenable, but then let those become the new normal before making the next set of changes.

I went from 24 square feet of garden space to 1200 square feet, and from 2 crops to over a dozen – over the course of 4 years.  Then I started canning, 4 pints of beans at a time.  As I got comfortable with each addition, I added something more, until I found my limit.  What we have now is as much as I can handle, and I wouldn’t even be doing this much without John’s help, but I’m enjoying it.  However, if I had started with the big garden, I probably would have given it up the first year as being too much to learn and accomplish all at once, too much work and not enough fun.  If we had started with this much garden, I don’t know if John would have gotten on board at all, or we would have ended up arguing about what to plant and how to maintain it, since neither of us knew what we were doing when we started.

If there’s something in your preparedness plan that can’t be done in increments – like a major renovation to your house – don’t make that your first change.  Take your time and make sure that you’re both fully on board and that what you’re getting is what you both want.

Lesson 5.  Make it fun.

If work isn’t rewarding, it’s drudgery.  Preparedness is work, and sometimes so are the ways of getting past reluctance.  Find a way to make it fun instead.

Spending a whole weekend without utilities for practice or to test your level of preparedness might draw groans and protests from your less-enthusiastic spouse/family.  So call it “backyard camping” instead.  Include games, ghost stories around the fire, s’mores, all the campy camping stuff.  Or if you can’t make the process itself more fun, then have a reward at the end for going along with it.  Treat the family to a nice dinner and a fun movie, or give your spouse a night at a swanky hotel with all the amenities.

If I want to take another shooting class – and I do – I’m going to have to get past my fear of failure/fumbling/doing something stupid.  I’m going to have to raise my confidence.  Pushing hard to train is not going to accomplish that, so I’m not training.  When I go out to shoot now, I’m doing it without any goal other than having fun, enough fun that I want to keep doing it.  John knows better than to push me, too.  He won’t mention that I haven’t been to the range lately, or suggest I should go.  Occasionally, he invites me to go with him when he goes, but when we go together he also focuses on having fun.

He hasn’t found a way to make HAM radio fun for me yet, but he’s a clever man and he’ll come up with something eventually.  As it is, he sneaks in small teaching moments by having the radio on while we’re driving.  He knows I’ll get curious about something he does or says while talking to a contact, and when I ask about it, he gets a chance to explain it.