Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The art of persuasion

A reader (I'll call him "Bob") sent an email as follows (identifying information removed):

Your lifestyle sounds wonderful although at times it probably gets difficult. I would like to live the way you do but unfortunately I don’t think my wife would agree to become so independent at the moment. Presently I live in [located deleted]. Eventually (in eight years when wife retires) I would like to move to a rural area of [located deleted] and live similar to what you are doing. Any suggestions would be appreciated on how to explain the advantages to my wife. I do have two kids they are grown and on their own so it would just be my wife and I.

My husband suggested that, staying within his current budget, Bob might make a few minor changes (i.e. brownbagging his lunch instead of buying a sandwich at the deli) and put the money into modest prepping efforts, i.e. slowly laying aside a month's worth of food. Bob could explain to his wife that it's his new hobby. In other words, my husband noted that gentle persuasion is far better for marital harmony than one-sided diktat.

I had no other ideas so I asked permission to post his questions on the blog and see what readers can suggest. So, dear readers, please give your best advice to "Bob" on how to convince his wife as to the benefits of greater independence and self-sufficiency.


  1. Bob -- As a "reformed" or "persuaded" wife, I may have an idea of the battle you might be looking at. While I was hesitant initially, I have opened up to the idea of becoming more self-sufficient for one major reason -- security. I, like most women, am driven by the concept of security. The form it takes can be varied: extra food in the pantry, a hefty savings account, limited or no debt.

    I think your best bet is to be open with her -- tell her WHY you're interested in becoming more rural and / or independent (eventually). The why was a big part for me and it helped me to understand my husband's motivations. Once there, I saw how I could support him by being open minded. I won't pretend that it's been easy, or that I've just rolled over. But over time I've become more open and interested myself. If cooking healthy, organic, or from-scratch meals are important to her -- encourage gardening, do research on the local farms in the area you're interested in, start building relationships, purchase local produce or meat. If it's a slower pace of life and escaping the Big City, spend some time in the area and enjoy each others company. Dream together about what you want in life.

    Show her that you're excited, but realize that it'll take a while for her to adjust and open up. Don't ask for much, if anything from her right now, just that she gives you room to do your "thing." Actions speak louder than words, so show her what you want her to see.

    Also bear in mind, that there is no such thing as complete "self-sufficiency." It doesn't necessarily mean living 100 miles from the nearest small town, being home bound due to snow all winter, and being hermits. =P

    All that to say, the blogging sphere is full of families that have made a shift toward more rural living. Feel free to check out our blog -- it's relatively new but we're just starting our own journey.

    Best wishes to you and good luck!

    City Roots, Country Life

  2. I would love some advice as well. I'm already working on a years supply of food, our emergency kits are packed, and I have been reading piles of books on all things prepping, but I really want to make the leap and move to the country. Unfortunately my husband is disinterested at best. Please help!

  3. Dear Bob,
    You are smart enough to know that this kind of life is difficult--physically and emotionally. It is only worthwhile if the person doing it is following their calling. If you bring your wife into it unwillingly, work will not be joy but drudgery. A farm so central to a couple's life and identity it is like deciding to have children. It will become life's greatest shared joy or the main source of marital tension.

    I know of only two models of farm couples, and this applies from the smallest homestead to 1,000 acre spreads. Model one is where both spouses want to live this life. They still argue and fight sometimes, but it is over relatively small matters. The other kind of farm couple is where one is committed and the other is not. They generally get divorced or the nonfarm spouse lives a life inside the home, or off the farm. This nonfarm life opportunities will be limited by the locale.

    If possible, spend some time together on other small farms or homesteads and see how deep you are both willing to go. She may surprise you.

    If however, you are both not into this, maybe you could find a compromise situation like a small town or village (where you could garden, heat with wood, and keep chickens or rabbits), but she could be near a mall or golf course, a professional career or whatever her vocation is.

  4. Hi BOB,
    Knowledge is power! I have been downloading from this ite for a couple months now: (I have over 5 GB so far)
    And my wife is not on board but she is learning that my ideas are not so bad. I buy extra everytime I shop. I stash what extra cash I can every paycheck (and lock it in the safe so it is not readily available) So far my cash stash has kepy yhe car registered and we regularly eat from our food stores. Canning setup and weekly trips to the farmers market around here is my goal for this spring. I turn 50 this spring and starting the baby steps is both fun and useful.


  5. Do what I did, I just began little things, and my hubbie finally saw that the idea was great, however I am the one doing it, he provided the money, and listens to me :).....It happened when our water was shut off for about 4 hours right at dinner time, well I used my water storage and that convinced him. He also I think just goes with the flow, what ever make the wife happy makes the family happy!

  6. Bob:
    Get on a MAJOR fitness program now. I don't know what you do, but chances are it does not have anything close to the physical demands of small family farming. In 8 years you will be in much worse condition for the demands of that lifestyle than you are now unless you work hard at preparing for it, starting today.

  7. Bob,
    About 6 months ago my husband came to me told me that he would really like to retire from the military and live in the country. The country I was okay with, but farming, gardening, canning, etc... I wasn't so sure about. Actually, I flat out dismissed it and thought to myself that my husband had lost his mind. However, he has been persistent in telling me about his dreams and when he gets the opportunity he tells me a bit about what he's learning about living a more "simple" lifestyle. After about 4 months I finally got on board. Why, you might be wondering, did I change my mind? Because my husband makes it sound like fun!

    I'm sure it will be hard work, but we have known for a long time that we didn't just want to sit around in retirement. So, why not live a self-sustaining lifestyle? I don't really see many cons, but I see lots of pros.

    For you, Bob, I would say be gentle and occasionally share with your wife what you are learning about this type of living, and show her what fun the two of you can have just being together in a wonderful place.

    We are still a few years away from retirement, but I cannot wait until the day we have a beautiful piece of property and a beautiful house where we can spend our time gardening, raising a few animals, canning, and just spend time with each other... settled, and not moving around!

    Good Luck!

  8. Bob-
    I agree with Richard.
    A self-sustaining and self-reliant life is good life - but it's a hard life.
    It's no bed of roses - especially for women.

    For a woman it can be a life of drudgery that will make her old before she's 45. I can only imagine what it could do to a woman who is older and doesn't want that type of life.

    It's something you both MUST want or it WILL NOT work.
    Rural life isn't for everyone. And half the time the type of life you are thinking about doesn't even work for couples who want it. There is such a thing as "homesteading burnout" and it happens more than you know.

    Chopping wood, weeding, egg bound chickens,no air conditioner, milking and endless days in the kitchen canning green beans or tomatoes can get old. There were good reasons that people left their farms for the city. Plenty of Amish throw in the towel because they can't take it any more.

    If it were me, I'd resent my husband for trying to change the rules so far into the marriage, and I don't think I'd be incline to leave my friends and community for an adventure in the puke-weeds.

    If I were you I'd stay put if possible and find a way to garden, raise rabbits, chickens and provide for more of my own needs. You could learn to sew your own clothing, make soap,get off foreign oil, preserve food, knit and a 100 other things right where you are.
    If you start doing some of those things now, maybe your wife will become interested too. Then a move to a different type of life will be more successful and something you both desire. It will be much easier to adjust to that "new" life if you are already living that life.

    And if she never changes her mind than you have a life that is much more to your liking. Self-reliance and sustainability isn't dependent upon geographical location. In the country or in the city it's about choices that you make every day.
    Good luck :-)

  9. As a real estate broker in rural north central Washington, I routinely work with people like Bob, who might be married to someone who is "less than enthusiastic" about a lifestyle change. Many people buy a place here, continue to work on it (build a cabin, etc.), and use it as a vacation place. That way you have a place secured in the country and can transition when you are ready. Good luck!

  10. Save the Canning JarsFebruary 2, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Point out to her the benefits of being prepared for just about any situation that could occur...something like the current snowstorm across the U.S. My friend is snowed in and can't get out of the driveway and isn't planning on digging out yet because the road is impassable as well. But she has lots and lots of food, water, heat, etc. We have ANOTHER storm coming on Sun/Monday, so she may be trapped for a full 7 days. She is NOT stressed. She is free to read and relax because she is ready (except she is a busy bee dehydrating food and baking bread...just happy as a clam!)

    Now her unprepared sister in another state has been experiencing rolling blackouts during the storm. She said it was creepy to see street lights out and have no electricity at times. But she was going to brave the weather and try to drive a few blocks to the nearest Walgreens to get some milk (wouldn't the drugstore be experiencing rolling blackouts as well?)

    I know which situation I would rather be in.

    Enough said.

  11. Bob,
    I think what Granny Miller said is just right. Learn to do some of the self-sustaining things right where you are. My husband and I are living in an apartment in Japan (military) and are growing our own herb garden indoors, making and canning chicken and beef stock, and baking bread on a regular basis. Additionally, I'm crocheting gifts instead of buying them for friends and family.
    If you have a small yard, or even a patio that receives good sun, you can grow a few vegetables in pots over the summer. I've done this several times and even though you may not grow enough to can, you may grow enough to supplement for the summer.
    Being a "prepper" or to live a life that is more self-sustaining does not mean that you have to give up everything else. Start small right where you are at and go from there.

  12. it is a lifestyle that is good, but it is not for everyone...i would suggest that bob start taking his wife on planned outings to small rural towns and outskirts of small towns. perhaps make plans to spend some time talking (as in conversation) with those already living this way. don't forget to include activities that your wife may like-visit local businesses such as flea markets, veg./fruit stands, diners etc...even rural areas have their artists and need to just feed her some creative inspiration... and if she just ain't gonna buy into your idea of retirement then maybe you will get some inspiring ideas that can be used in the big city.

  13. Bob--Know how you feel, but I'm the wife wanting to move, he's not!
    I will tell you, we've come to an agreement, we are doing as Granny Miller suggested. We are staying in our home, that's paid for, trying to be more self-reliant. No, we can't be as self-reliant as if we lived in a rural area, but we are getting a taste of how it would be. Gardening and canning are getting easier, with each passing year. Plus, we are able to add to our food storage, supplies, and put extra money away in a more aggressive manor as we are not shelling out money for a rural location.

    Items in our favor, are we live on an acre of land, my in-laws live next door, they are now on the band wagon. Plus they have a lot of first hand knowledge from gardening many years ago.

    I will say it really upset me, at first, that my dear husband, would not go along with "the plan". I have come to realize that we can do a good job here, when and if, the time is right and we both agree we will find a place. Good luck & God speed:)

  14. Had to ask--WHAT is people's obsession with milk when the power is out? LOL Milk and bread, milk and bread. Why are these people not eating vegetables and fruit, vegetables and fruit...

  15. I agree a lot with Emma. My hubby & I always thought we could handle ourselves and didn't need to rely on 'the man' for anything. A colleague gave me a book - How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It. After 2 pages, I wanted to stop reading and start shopping for items we didn't have, and up until then never really saw a reason to have them...obviously that's changed for both of us :-). We started with basic items, things we could afford each month (little bit of food storage, chain saw, non-electric grain mill, shelving for all this new stuff, etc.) and we feel a bit better, but we are far from being fully prepared. We also realized how little skills we actually knew. I got involved in historical reenactments - partly because I really like history, but mainly because the one we go to offers workshops, plus we meet a bunch of like-minded folks. One thing I've also noticed in our evolution is that we really WERE pretty dependent on outside sources and we didn't even know it! Sort of like we were in denial, so we keep on with this self-reliant lifestyle as much as we can and are always amazed at the cool stuff and people that we meet.

  16. In an earlier chapter of my life, I lived on a small farm and enjoyed it very much. My husband (ex-husband now) and I raised a few head of cattle, had a large vegetable garden, plus we both worked fulltime in our offsite jobs. It was fun and rewarding, and we were young and energetic.

    Now I'm much older and have rheumatoid arthritis and trying to live on even a small farm is out of the question. Things happen to people that they don't foresee, and those things can turn a dream location into a nightmare almost overnight. I moved into this small town, away from the farm, in order to continue to be as self-reliant as possible. It was a good compromise for me.

    I'd want to know why Bob's wife isn't interested in the farm life. If she has elderly parents, is she concerned about moving further from them? Would she miss her grown children too much? Is she unprepared for the rigors of farmlife? Does she want an easier life as she grows older herself? Is she afraid of farm animals? Does she have allergies?

    Many people have little concept of the hardships of living as Patrice and others do. It is not all sugar and sunshine. It is often living a hard-working life that takes its toll on our bodies. The reward is directly related to the amount of effort put into it.

    As has already been suggested by others, I'd ease into this subject if I had a reluctant spouse. I'd definitely mention the headlines, particularly as they relate to urban violence and chaos during emergencies. I'd go for rides through the countryside during the various seasons. I'd ask her why she isn't interested and if her concerns involve dealing with elderly parents, I'd definitely consider including a comfortable granny unit on the property so she would not feel like she is abandoning her parents (if that is even a concern).

    Moving from an urban or suburban location and going into a rural town or a farm is a major change in everything. It should not be forced, rushed, cajoled or bribed. The idea should be approached from a loving position, afterall a spouse is a human being, too, who has a right to live as s/he wishes as well.

    Bob, proceed with care.

    Anonymous Patriot

  17. Please forgive me if what I say has already been said...

    I think just watching the news from Egypt, and Queensland in Australia together might spark a discussion.

    Bill Smith

  18. There's something I've run into with friends that is an issue for all of us at times with certain friends, spouses or other family. Some people do NOT want to discuss prepping (or relocating) because these discussions naturally raise some of issues that you are worried about being prepared FOR. Many people find the things going on in the world and the way they may "hit home" to be too unpleasant, or more often just too BIG to think about. They figure there's nothing they can do to be prepared enough to make any real difference, so why keep themselves awake at night worrying over what they haven't thought of, or what they haven't done enough of. Heck, anyone of us who hasn't had to deal with that, raise your hand. Yeah, I thought so, no hands. And that's with all of us who ARE up for prepping.

    With some it's a "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" fatalism. With others it's simply "anxiety avoidance." Can't say I blame them, but I'm just not made that way. Doggoneit, I'm gonna try to do SOMETHING. Kind of a "go out fighting or go out on your knees" kind of thing. But of course not everyone is made that way. And many will NEVER change. By the time something happens that really rocks their world and their complacency, it may be too late.

    I don't know if any of this may apply to your situation, but it's something to keep in mind.

    In any event, realize that there are many DIFFERENT benefits to the various aspects of prepping (and relocating.) Chances are there is at least one that will strike a chord with her. That's where you start your gentle battle of persuasion. Skip the rest for a while and concentrate on what seems to be something SHE cares about. Of course only you - knowing your wife - can find the right place to start.


  19. Thank you all for the advice. We live in the suburbs in a very nice area in a large house 3600 sq' we only use a small portion of the house since it is just the two of us unfortunatly it's not a sellers market now. Also my wife becomes attached to a house once she lives there for a while which makes selling tough. My wife lived on a farm as a child and enjoyed it. I don't plan on moving 100 miles away from civilization something much less than that would be more likely. I think her major concern would be social issues She is very good at making friends. Our kids are grown our oldest lives in another state our younger daughter is in college paying her own way. (Without loans) She will probably move out of state when finnished with college also. My wife lost her Mom many years ago and is not close to her father.Family ties are not much of an issue for her.Her main issues would be social needto be close to a comunity and more importantly financial security (she likes the security of a weekly paycheck for both of us) and safety (proximity to a hospital).My wife likes to garden but only ornamental stuff(hard to eat that)LOL. Her gardens are quite extensive on our 3/4 acre lot.She does most of it herself. I just cut the grass and trim borders and hedges. I would need to be close enough to a town with a good nondenominational christian church that I could get to economically. I don't plan on becoming a hermit. I do plan on becomming as self suficient as possible. I do have a very small garden. I will need to loose a few lbs. but I don't have a desk job I work a somewhat physical job (I know what hard work is) I am not a sedentary person. If I was the lifestyle would be out of the question. The most important issues again are
    1) Convincing her that this type of lifestyle is sustainable financially. (no weekly paycheck)
    2) We wont become social misfits ;-)Living in the middle of nowearsville.
    3) Selling the house she has become attached to when the market allows (we have an 8 yr window)
    4) finding a place with a suitable Church (My issue)

  20. To Quote Masterharper Robinton (Pern Series, by Anne Mcaffrey),
    "Make Haste - Slowly".

    Make a list of what is needed for prepping and work them into everyday life. Food storage is just prudent. Water treatment (A Berkey!) is healthy. Power - what the power never goes out? Start with a nice quiet Honda EU2000i (I think that is the really quiet inverter generator), not the 12 HP single cylindar Lister diesel. Ammo? Hmmm start with is she a shooter?

    The four basic prep groups:
    Fuel (power)

    To start with don't buy more than a prudent one month supply (seen that blizzard/hurricane... outside? You really want to go out in THAT?!?).

    I of course am BLESSED with a wife who gets prepping better than I do.

    Remember edicts backfire, cooption is always a better choice.

  21. Sometimes we have to let go and have God show us the life He has planned for us. Bob, seems as though you need to take a step back and let things happen as they will.

  22. Bob, I read your last post and it made me wonder. And this may sound odd, but have you said these things to your wife? I mean these exact things, just the way you just wrote them? One of my greatest - okay, one of my only - faults (hee hee) is I often expect my wife to read my mind. We've been together for so long and had so many conversations, AND she DOES know what I mean or what I'm thinking so frequently that I take it for granted and forget she doesn't automatically know precisely what I have in mind. Maybe some of your wife's fears or reluctance are about things that you don't intend - like being to far from "civilization" - but she just isn't sure about the specifics you have in mind.

    Just another two cents worth...


  23. Jeff makes a great point.

    There seems to be some consensus on the idea of making a change gradually and I would agree. I have been amazed at what my wife has been willing to go along with, but it's all been a slow transition. Nothing really happened over night.

    It sounds like her attachment to the house might be your biggest hurdle. You could start looking at property and show her a few that might grab her interest. They don't need to be realistic at first -- just tease her imagination ("look at this view...").

    In the meantime, there are always things you can do and skills you can learn. I was amazed at how easy it is to raise a few chickens and have eggs to eat and sell. Perhaps you could get interested in vegetable gardening and share garden duties?

    Once my wife and I started the conversation, I look back and wonder how we came together so quickly (even though it took years).

    The longest journey starts with a single step, right?

    Best wishes, Bob!

  24. Greetings from lower Idaho! When my husband and I moved here I was a bit skeptical...however, the one thing that made me more open was that he said that if I didn't like it out here, we would move back to town....that was almost 7 years ago and it has made all the difference. Hope that helps......regards, an Idaho "horsewife"