Could there be a greater, more important survival topic than building a stronger marital union, which is the bedrock of civilization? This topic reminds me of a young man I once spoke with. He noticed a young lady and heard the Lord telling him that she was to marry him. Even though he barely knew her, he intended to declare God’s will to her, go to the altar, check off the wife box on his bucket list, and move on, clueless to the reality that winning her is a journey. I counseled him that he was trying to barge in, uninvited, through the front door, and would most likely be refused. What he needed to do was enter her heart through the back door—the door good friends use—and the door of romance, and the pursuit of her over time.
In like manner, since I became aware of the survival community, I have read many stories of those who awaken to the idea of prepping, and unfortunately, come barging in through their spouse’s front door, not realizing the spouse feels as though his/her life is being turned upside down with either shocking tales and fear for the future, or the fact that their spouse has gone wacko. Instead of approaching the gargantuan-sized project of survivalism by the back door of wisdom, consideration, and understanding, the green prepper approaches the subject without tact and an understanding of how his/her spouse is wired. Then, they are surprised when they are rebuffed by their spouse’s hostility and refusal to follow along. They lament how their adversarial spouse will just not get on board; they become a house divided, and some of the tales I have read actually ended in divorce.
Dear Prepping Brother or Sister, if your marriage turns cold or ends over YOUR prepping activities, you have missed the point of preparation in the first place. The purpose of prepping is to take care of your closest loved ones with wisdom and protection, not to hurt them and drive them away. Prepping should make your life better in the long run, not worse.
FWIW, I too, have a Prep-Adverse Spouse who alternates between support and mockery, interest and anger, being gung-ho and being ashamed. It is not easy to navigate his emotional landscape, but the challenge my spouse and your spouse presents is in itself an opportunity to hone our survival skill of human relations. So, instead of being frustrated by your life partner, see him/her as a gift to further develop your human relations survival skills.
If you are hitched to a spouse, here is my suggested route to embark on your prepping journey:
- Your First Preparation Should Be Spiritual
“Wisdom is the principal thing;Therefore get wisdom.And in all your getting, get understanding.Exalt her, and she will promote you;She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.” – Proverbs 4:7 & 8
Can you hear wisdom imploring you to prepare by storing up as much of her as you can? So often we read our Bible, but its truth does not sink in and leave its mark. “In all your getting, get understanding.” Preppers, I have seen list after list of items to stockpile, but I have never seen “understanding,” on even one of them. Most of us have not heard God’s audible voice telling us to stockpile buckets of grain, and thus we experience a lack of certainty as to whether we should fill our storerooms or simply trust God for those future times; but there is no lack of certainty when it comes to wisdom! We have His clear written word telling us something we can safely stockpile with no double-mindedness: wisdom and understanding.
Would any of your prep-adverse spouses throw a fit if you were to be the wisest one in your circle of friends and relatives? Would your spouse chafe at how deeply you have studied and understood him/her, and how expertly you navigate the geography of your marriage landscape, creating not discord, but through wisdom, build a bond that holds firm when all else may be shaken? Of course not!
How do you get wisdom? This can be an in-depth topic, but for brevity’s sake: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I define the “fear of the Lord” as knowing that there is a Creator God who is watching all you do and will hold you accountable for your actions once you die. If you have the awareness of a final judgment, it will drive you to seek salvation through Jesus, then to study the Bible, and all other God-ordained sources of wisdom. Other sources of wisdom are prayer (asking for wisdom), faith (believing God will grant it), as well as seeking for it through multiple sources as though it were gold coins and precious gems, including: counsel from experts and associates (I count reading and classroom instruction as a form of counsel); personal life experience; observation of the natural world, history, and human nature; asking questions and having discussions; Biblical meditation and pondering; and finally, direct guidance from the Holy Spirit.
In the case of your spouse, having regular conversation together can be a fountain of wisdom as to what delights and motivates versus what will offend him/her.
The other key area of spiritual preparation is to make sure you are praying with and for each other daily (which happens to aid greatly in the next point as well).
- Enrich Your Bond with Your Spouse
As a preliminary remark, imho, the only time you cannot succeed in enriching your marriage is when your spouse has a serious addiction. Addictions require targeted, professional, and experienced assistance. If you are in that circumstance, you are already in a survival situation of your own and need to address that before piling anything else on top of it.
Otherwise, if your marriage is having trouble or maybe just limping along, your priority prep should be to build a good marriage first. Marriage counseling is outside the scope of this article—suffice it to say, locate the help that you need and if your marriage doesn’t get stronger, keep searching for more help until you figure out what works. Don’t give up until you and your spouse are bonded together in love. It is true you may never get there, but never give up trying. I recommend MarriageBuilders principles.
To get you started, here are three key ways you can enrich your bond with your spouse:
- Spend at least 15 hours per week or more of nurturing, undivided attention with your spouse. This is not time together merely in the same house or car. It is spending time in a way that is enjoyable for both parties—find what you both can do together that is enjoyable for both of you. Do not drag your spouse along to something you like but your spouse only endures.
With a busy lifestyle, and especially during childrearing, it may seem impossible to get these hours in, and then, once you set time aside, it may seem impossible to actually make them enjoyable instead of fighting with each other. Regardless, stick with the program and do not give up because practice makes perfect; yes, it takes practice to have enjoyable time together, and it is a process to discover what activities you both can enjoy at the same time.
- Learn what things delight your spouse and do those things regularly, while keeping in mind, your spouse’s needs might be very different from yours. (For him, the bedroom may matter most; for her, it may be conversation.) These also can change over time. Simply stated: make your spouse’s life sweet.
- Learn what things you do or don’t do that hurt your spouse and stop/start doing those things.
- You are Both Different for a Reason
Future-seeing people are different than those who “live in the now.” Yet, both types feel ill-at-ease—they do not feel right, or “comfortable,”–with the other spouse’s viewpoint. It is not a matter of one spouse is right and the other wrong. Both perspectives have their strengths and weaknesses. My spouse’s focus becomes crystal clear during an emergency, but he has a low ability of seeing the long term and actively resists thinking about the future. He is a powerhouse of productivity when at work, fun when at play, and outperforms everyone else (like me) in an emergency whose mental functions seem to freeze up.
I have learned a lot from observing him, and the importance of this cannot be overemphasized as it even allowed me to save a little child who was choking on candy. As the realization hit the other adults in the room that the toddler was in trouble, they were paralyzed, waiting for someone else to take action. Something of my husband’s role modeling rose up in me, and I swiftly moved to dislodge the candy. This is not my nature but a strength I gained from my spouse, for I would typically be in the paralyzed cadre, thinking through oatmeal sludge before acting. The point is to appreciate and learn from your spouse’s God-given differences.
Identify and consciously discuss each other’s unique strengths, rather than fight over these differences. Try to adopt the beneficial side of your spouse’s giftings, so that you grow stronger and better. For example, most couples will be comprised of both a “saver,” and a “thrower-away.” The saver will tend to save too much, even to the point of crowding out living space, and the thrower-away will callously injure loved ones by disposing of sentimental or prized possessions. Both spouses have valid feelings that drive them to operate in that mode. They “feel” right in doing what they do, and consequently, “feel” wrong operating in any other mode. These feelings can easily lead to an inner rage at those who encroach, which can lead them to complain against their spouse and seek validation from others, among other negative reactions. Each spouse should find the strength of each perspective and learn from it. In our example above, the saver needs to practice the benefits of letting go; the thrower-away needs to be more understanding.
Most likely, you, as a prepper, have a future-seeing perspective, while your prep-adverse spouse, probably likes to live in the now without much regard for the future (far-sighted and near-sighted). Whatever the case, find the strengths in your spouse’s perspective and both emulate and validate those strengths. Chances are, if the SHTF, all of what you both have to offer will be needed.
- Act with Circumspection Rather than Your Typical Human Nature
When Queen Esther of the Bible approached her husband King Xerxes with the objective to gain Survival for her people, she didn’t rush the project; she didn’t immediately barge into the throne room with a big mouth and emotional urgency, like most of us would do. She waited and crafted a strategic course of action. She gathered understanding, and by my definition, she is the poster child of taking the back door of courtship. She understood her political landscape. She was patient, yet she did not fail to act. She honored. She captivated. She whetted the king’s curiosity. She so bonded the king to herself; he trusted her and her perspective. Read her story and do likewise.
Do you wish your spouse were united in your pursuit of preparation? Then wait a while before proposing such a life change to your spouse. Gain a deeper understanding of your spouse: how the mind of your spouse works, his/her upbringing, feelings about money, the future, dreams and plans, and all factors related to the changes you would like to make.
Take time to know your spouse and how he or she came to have the feelings they have. As a child, I was proud of my grandmother’s canning prowess and drank in the heavenly aroma in her kitchen when a batch of peaches was put up. When I was asked to get a jar of greens beans for dinner that I helped string and snap, I knew a good plate of food awaited and it was a form of security to have so many jars of green beans on the shelf for future dinners. Whereas, in contrast, my spouse’s family regularly laughed at and recoiled in horror at the gruesome-looking contents of their grandmother’s canning jars in her creepy, spidery basement. At home, they were used to food that came in cans with colorful pictures and happy giants on the labels versus their grandmother’s see-through jars featuring food products in unappetizing shapes and hues.
Can you see how these contrasting childhood experiences made indelible but extremely different impressions on how we both came to view food storage, one positively and the other negatively? I understand how my spouse would react against replicating his negative childhood memories, and need to refrain from triggering that spot in his emotions.
If you wish to introduce a prepping activity in your home, think through how you can carefully introduce the process as positively as possible. As it is said, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but I began my canning endeavors in this way. I brought home a bin of grapes and canned grape juice. It made the house smell wonderful. The jars were filled with a lovely intense purple, and every time we opened a jar, we felt a sense of delight and ownership. Next, I made crabapple jelly that shone ruby-red through the jars, and later I canned fruit from our own trees that left the house scented more wonderfully than any Yankee candle could ever attempt.
In like manner, think of ways to get your spouse on board without using alarming terms. Introduce buying in quantity as a cost-saving measure rather than “stocking up for the end of the world.” Instead of canning “to prevent starvation,” sell the idea that you are stocking up so that your family can have your secret recipe for pasta sauce, salsa, strawberry jam, or whatever conveniently on hand.
To sweeten the deal, if you do manage to save some money, one option is to take the savings and buy a gift for your family or spouse. I once bought a quantity of laundry soap on sale and with coupons, which I calculated to have saved me $60.00 over what I normally would have paid. Instead of letting that money fold back into the family budget like I did, you could use it to convince your spouse you are making your lives happier. Prepping should make your life better in the long run not worse.
- Enrich Your Bond with Your Spouse