I am writing about this because it is, aside from money which I have talked about in the past (recap, prioritize and take a long view), the biggest roadblock I see people having in preparedness. I see folks whose preparedness efforts are stalled or seriously slowed, sometimes resorting to hiding spending or prep stuff from their spouse (not a good idea for numerous reasons). I see marriages (I am going to use the term marriage but if you have a long term partnership that is similar it applies also) strained with bitter survivalists and their frustrated spouses. Different folks make decisions differently and it is very results based. If what you are doing works then by all means keep it up and feel free to discuss it in the comments section. If what you are doing doesn’t work then please read on with an open mind. Hopefully I can help, if just in some modest way.
Here are 3 basic concepts
It really helps to have a spouse with whom you share a similar long term vision. The way to do this is to really get to know someone and make you’re your big long term goals are aligned or at least compatible before committing to a lifetime with them. Somewhere between happily dating for the long term and seriously considering getting married Wifey and I had a series of conversations on what we want our life to be like, how we want to raise children, where we want to live, etc. We both had a few things that were really important to us and if I recall correctly we each had one or two things that were deal makers. We didn’t fight about it and weren’t mean or anything but both of us had a couple things that were serious enough for us to potentially reject the other as a spouse. We did some talking and thinking and figured out what we could compromise on and that we could both accept the others non negotiable issues.
It is sweet and cute to say that love will make it all work out but real life doesn’t usually work that way. If you want to live in rural Montana don’t marry somebody whose dream is a condo in LA or an apartment in NYC as somebody is going to lose to some degree. (For those who choose a partner then have a significant change of heart on something that puts them at odds with their spouse over long term vision I don’t really know what to tell you. Maybe some ideas here will help.) If you want kids and your spouse doesn’t that is an issue. If you are dead set on raising the kids in a protestant church but you are dating an equally devout something else that is an issue.
Next is fairness. No unilateral decisions on major topics. To me major topics would be things that affect your everyday life or reach a monetary point where they are significant relative to your situation. I look at it sort of like a 2 person council where both people have a veto. If Wifey decided we should sell everything we own, donate it to some cult and go live in their compound in French Guyana that wouldn’t work. Why should I get to decide we should liquidate and move to a little ranch 200 miles from anything in Wyoming? Along the lines of fairness money which is left after the basics of everyday life like shelter, food, utilities, etc should be spent on things you both want to do and or divided pretty equally. Not always exactly the same parse but it should be pretty even over the long run. Yeah that is a harsh pill to swallow but it is fair and right. (Sometimes the survivalist wants to consider everything they want for preps as essential expenses and thus outside of this sort of give and take. Unless the spouse is on board that just isn’t going to work. For us it is figured out on a case by case basis. Some purchases come from our money and others come from mine.)
The last is respect. Sometimes I hear, though it is fair to observe that I am just getting one side of the story, about someone openly dismissing or mocking the concerns or desires of their mate and making decisions by decree. A wife or husband who says that you can’t buy a couple extra cans of soup or a bag of rice at the store because they think it is not necessary. There is no way that I would ever put up with someone treating me like that and neither would my wife. We are both pretty strong personalities so that is not an issue in our house.
I look at it like this. My wife is very important to me. That means things which are important to her are by default important to me, even if I do not understand or necessarily agree with them. At times we have spent considerable time, energy and money on stuff I would not do otherwise, because it is important to her. Lord knows the same is true for her with all the crazy I bring into our house.
Now onto more specific ideas:
-We have had success with floating an idea and letting the other person have time to think about it. Simply mentioning “I have been thinking about…..…” and then waiting a few days or a week or two then talking about it again. This lets the other person think about something, figure out how it relates or affects other things and maybe do some research. This lets them be in the right frame of mind and prepared for a future conversation.
-Don’t set yourself up for conflict. If at all possible avoid this or that situations in favor of more open ended ideas and then deal with the finer details. Instead of we have to do/buy/etc this plan/thing/lifestyle talk about the broad concept you are interested in. Even if you have something specific in mind leave wiggle room to come to an agreement. Also don’t push for a decision on anything right away, especially the first time it is being discussed. Think shades of grey not black and white. The worst case is one where it is yes or no right now that is pretty oppositional as you obviously want to do something right now. You are leaving your spouse no room to maneuver and they either have to go along with your crazy scheme or not. They are either with you or against you, more likely against you otherwise you wouldn’t be having the conversation. Frame the situation in your favor by giving both sides room to maneuver and come to an agreement when it naturally occurs. Better to get most or some of what you want in a week or two than none right now.
We have had luck with one person telling the other about a broad concept they would like to pursue and after they have some time to think about it comparing ideas on how to get there. Example, awhile back we needed furniture, pretty much a whole house worth. Instead of necessarily discussing every piece Wifey wanted to have a furniture allowance so to speak. My wife mentioned this and that we were only going to be able to find so much stuff sitting by dumpsters so we would need to spend some money. After I thought about it a bit the idea seemed sound and I proposed a dollar amount. I think we had the same idea but her letting me come up with a starting point for the discussion/ negotiations was a good way to go. It means that you have an agreement, if not a perfect one, right from the beginning. We have done the same type of thing in numerous other situations.
-Don’t make your spouse be the bad guy. Bring ideas to your spouse that are affordable, logistically feasible, fair (remember, every free dollar is not yours to spend on preps or whatever you want) and pass the common sense test. My wife spiked down my dream (thanks to the Matthew Bracken books) of retiring onto a sail boat like Gabriella Reece in her prime and I have buzz killed Wifey’s ideas to get all sorts of animals that were for sale on Craigs list; having a horse/ alpaca/ pony when you live in an apartment would not work well. However these are extreme cases and it rarely happens. Spending every dollar you have in savings on a sweet rifle is a stupid idea and you don’t need the spouse to tell you that. Not surprisingly, most folks don’t want to move to a shack out in the woods and rather like indoor plumbing. While I am in general on the side of the paranoid survivalist in the relationship I can see that sometimes their expectations or ideas are not very realistic.
-Lastly I have observed that a good way to get the spouse (within reason) to go along with what you want to do is to go along with what they want to do. Or more accurately the opposite is true. I’ve seen folks get into a tit for tat cycle with this and it just makes everybody unhappy. If Wifey wants to do something I am about always agreeable. [With the small to medium stuff if it is important to her we make it happen though the exact dollar amount or timetable may need to be adjusted. For the big stuff we tend to share a common vision of where we are going so it generally falls into place pretty well.] Conversely we act on a significant amount of my ideas. Considering I am a paranoid and have all sorts of crazy ideas that is pretty darn good. The end state is that, within economic and logistical reason we both get most of what we want.
These ideas and concepts have worked pretty well for us. We don’t really have conflict or tension about this kind of stuff and I am able to action a lot of goals and ideas which other folks have difficulty with. Hopefully this will at least give you some ideas.
How have your experiences been when it comes to marital decision making and survivalism/ preparedness?
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