Ten Letters Re: Help With a Non-Preparedness Minded Spouse

JWR’s Introductory Note: The recent reply to a an e-mail from Trevor by The Memsahib inspired ten replies. Note that many of these were written by wives with non-prepper husbands! The final letter comes from a family that had their house nd barn blown away by a hurricane. Some sobering stuff.

Mr. Rawles,
You are truly blessed with your wife’s level of discernment and ability to communicate!. I would like to share our similar situation. Understand that I am an old Girl Scout whose former leaders took us camping from New Mexico to Old Mexico and from the beaches to the mountains. I am also the oldest of ten living children, so my life has been one of survival, therefore this “new” way of living is not unknown to me.

In contrast, my husband was an only child with limited Scouting experience. We joke about “the Boy Scout” way of starting a fire (liquid charcoal starter) versus “the Girl Scout” , “a la natural” way (tinder, kindling, firewood). Nevertheless, we have both read a lot and have felt the pressure of preparing for the future for a very long time. Two of three grown children are immersed in preparing with us, with the third one beginning to unobtrusively tune in to what’s going on. They are a blessing to us.

Not long ago, my husband ran into an old buddy who had other buddies moving into survival mode. We have all formed a solid group working together on common goals. However, I am the only wife who relates to this “survival” stuff. The men have been very frustrated with the situation. I have been very lonely for the female companionship. I jokingly told them we needed a “Ladies’ Auxiliary”. I tried to think of a way to do this at an introductory level that was meaningful and real and the inspiration came. Since we live near a coastal area, I proposed to the men that the ladies get together to create a plan for hurricane preparedness for their families. The men talked to their spouses, who were very receptive, as this is a threat we live with every summer. I am now putting together information for binders I will give them at our first meeting on Sunday, in hopes that this will be a jump off into deeper issues of preparedness for the unknown future.

As a former teacher, I had to find ways to personalize subject matter to reach my students. It could be exhausting, but necessary. The key was making the issues meaningful to the individuals. We still have a long way to go to be completely prepared, but hopefully this might give your male readers some ideas and encouragement. Even though the future looks scary, we live in exciting times! – Charlotte R.

Dear Editor:
I have to completely agree with Memsahib’s reply. I never looked at it from that perspective before. For my wife, she knows and understands why we need to prepare (that part has already been taken care of). She, like Trevor’s wife, does not want to hear any more about it. I, unlike Trevor, do share these opinions with a few buddies. An older buddy of mine explained it to me like this:

“Women (generally) want to know that they and the kids will be taken care of. They want to feel safe and secure and they want to know that their children will also be safe. By divulging into all of the issues you bring doubts into their minds that you will not be able to handle it.”

So basically, you are best off letting your wife know that you are preparing in case something happens in the future so that she and the kids will be safe. If she asks for an explanation then give her one, if not then leave it for the buddies. Most women, like Memsahib’s reply stated, just want to feel secure knowing that her man will take care of them.
Take care, – KJP

I’m really glad a thread started on this issue. It is a major issue for many people!

I’ve been very happily married for 34 years, having lived through three kids, getting through and paying off medical school, many academic job changes before starting a private medical practice, and health issues of various types. My wife has supported me in every thing I’ve ever done, but when it comes to preparing, she basically says, “don’t tell me all the scary stuff, I’ve got two more kids to raise through high school and college. Just let me know what I need to do when the time comes.” Now, that’s basically okay, as she does not begrudge me the ammo, storable food, et cetera. She views it as my eccentric hobby. Fortunately, money is not a major issue at this point in our lives, so she doesn’t really pay attention to what I buy. But, friends who didn’t give up their 20s and 30s for medical school and residency have a different situation; their wives begrudge all extraneous purchases. Also, the nurses at my clinic, without exception, all, actively refuse to discuss any of the Peak Oil or “long emergency” type future scenarios that might require preparation. These are otherwise strong, intelligent, highly organized women who run my medical practice, and run it well. But when it comes to prepping for a scenario of future change (involving less availability of food, fuel shortages, and less availability of other needed things) they do no want to talk about it. When the other doctors and I are discussing prep (whether its in relation to Peak Oil, climate change, the ongoing banking crisis, the food crisis, etc) the nurses will literally leave the room. One recently told me “I can’t work and slave, if I think what you guys are talking about might happen. I want my son to go to college, and I want to have grandchildren, you guys are talking about Road Warrior again. That makes my ulcers act up.” In reality we were discussing the banking crisis and its likely effects on the US dollar and the spin off effects on oil prices and their spin offs to food availability and costs. Literally every female nurse and doctor I know has the same attitude (as is also the case with far too many male doctors and nurses, but not as many).

Recently, I was reading about the [WWII] German invasion of Poland, and the aftermath, and was surprised to learn that in the early stages, many men wanted to move away but didn’t due to their wives’ refusal to discuss the issue. Same thing happened when Castro took over Cuba, and the same with many of the Chinese who failed to relocate to Taiwan when Mao took control.

Theory: putting all notions of political correctness on hold (where they belong), women are genetically programmed to give birth and raise and nurture children and families. Their evolutionary role is to nurture, to give hope, and be positive about the future. Talking about prep requires that one face a potential future radically different from the ongoing linear progression from here to a future that is assumed to exactly like things are now. Violating the assumption that things are going to be very similar to now is apparently not fully compatible with being a mother and maintaining a positive focus. Perhaps if we start talking about helping our grandchildren survive and thrive in a very different world (think of the book “World Made By Hand“, by Howard Kunstler), then female spouses might be more receptive. My two cents worth, – DW

Dear Memsahib and Jim:
I read the posting from Trevor in regards to his wife and your response back to him. I have empathy for Trevor concerning his wife and trying to prepare. I agree with you, Memsahib, that at least his wife is willing to let Trevor spend money on preparing and that her mind frame is just let me know when it’s time to go. That being said, it is too bad that she hasn’t come to the reality “yet” that this will happen and will open up to her husband and talk about it and help him with the preparations.

It took me awhile to realize what was going on, I didn’t wake up right away. But, when I did, I was onboard. Because, even though it wasn’t a pleasant thought and yes, dreams and hopes might be lost, in order to survive what is coming you have to prepare for it.

With everything that is happening now and at the rate that it’s happening, I’m hoping that Trevor’s wife will realize, hey, things are happening, which aren’t good, and I really need to help my husband more with this.

I don’t want to categorize all women, because I know that it’s not this way, but it is hard to find where both spouses are thinking the same way and are trying to prepare for the future. I only know a couple of women, besides myself, that realize what is going on, and is 100% with their husband and preparing for what is coming and soon to be here.
I too read James’s novel [“Patriots”] and I rather enjoyed it. It’s one of the things that really helped me open my eyes. I read the first version, many years ago and then also the new version that was released fairly recently. We even bought a “six pack” and loaned them out to friends to read. It’s a very useful tool. (Thanks, Jim!)

I just wanted to add my two cents and say that hopefully Trevor’s wife’s eyes will become fully opened and she’ll realize the magnitude of what is coming at us and will talk to her husband about it and will help him prepare. Thanks, – Susan

The Memsahib has spoken the truth as powerfully as the gospel itself it rings as loudly as only the truth could. Thank you from a guy who had the same problem. I’m glad to know the problem was on my side all along, which means I can fix it by keeping my mouth shut and talking doom and gloom with my father and brother who see things from the same perspective as me. What a bonehead I have been to force the issue all this time. I too have been blessed with a wife who puts up with my need to prepare and should have been happy to have that much all along. Thanks – Russ in Oklahoma

James Wesley:
Hmm. Converting the non-survivalist spouse. Difficult, but do-able.
Have you taken her backpacking? Not car-camping. Not RV-parking. Just good, old-fashioned, carry-what-you-need-to-live backpacking. Start with a day hike, then an overnighter, then longer trips. It’ll give her—and you—a chance to see what she’s made of.

Clip stories from the newspaper and off the Internet about Americans who have faced inconvenience—hurricanes, floods, snows, tornadoes, riots, earthquakes, volcanoes, cryptosporidium in the water supply . . . you get the drift. Supplement your clipping service by strewing and viewing a few carefully chosen disaster movies and novels. Remember that attitude change is a process, not an event. Create a climate for consensus.

Make sure your 72-hour preparations are in flawless order. Should you become “inconvenienced,” your preparations will cast you in the role of The Wise and Provident Hero. Explain to your wife that preparation is (a) a form of insurance, (b) one of the many ways you show her how much you love her.

I’m not sure what sorts of folks make up the “we” to whom you refer, but if your survival buddies are wild-eyed fringe-dwellers, you might have some difficulty persuading the Missus that you’re not “a bunch of nuts.” To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “Nutty is as nutty does.” Delay exposing her to the more extreme members of your group—the Conspiracy Theorist with a truckload of fertilizer and diesel fuel, the Rambo-Wannabe who bathes once a week whether he needs to or not, etc. Refrain from bringing Weapons of Mass Destruction into the house. Don’t use her nice dishtowels as [firearms] lube rags.

Is your wife an observant Christian or Jew? Perhaps you can reach her via the many Old Testament and New-Testament Biblical prophecies about the immediate future.
I speak as the sole Preparer in my household. I have earned tolerance and respect for behavior that is, quite frankly, outside the mainstream. The fact of the matter is this: Most people do not prepare, and most people are profoundly uncomfortable with the survival mindset. If you truly love your wife, you will bring her along as gently as possible, with hopes that, when your worst nightmares come true, she will regard you with loyalty, understanding and cooperation. – Mrs. Semper Paratus

Mr. Rawles,
Have your wife read any of the books on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita (about the hospitals and lack of supplies at the Superdome), it is scary and it does happen. The plus on some of these books is that they do show some of the good that came out of the hurricanes. So the reading isn’t all bad. Plus if she’s a health food nut getting her into the herbs and all natural remedies should be easy.

The same can be said for the [recent] levee [break]s in the midwest, no insurance, no real help from our government and a lot of misinformation. Combine that with a very real lack of food and supplies for the general public and you have a recipe for disaster. In a week without supplies people were panicking, how will they be in three weeks?

In Alaska they send home a list of supplies they want you to send to school with your children, just in case they get snowed in for any length of time (even on the military base) and a list of what you should have in your car, just in case. While we were there I read a book called “Death Stalks the Land“, it is horrible in parts and it is all about bad judgment, being ill prepared and not knowing your surroundings or the dangers that are inherent.

In most places you will not have to deal with some of the problems I am talking about here. Where you live, what is the worst possible natural disaster that could happen? Here it’s easy – hurricanes and floods, we live 50 feet above sea level to well below sea level and in the Gulf [of Mexico]. If your spouse can’t see through to TEOTWAWKI then get her started on what happens now and then in your area. Maybe you don’t have to go all worst case, but tell her she needs to learn just in case you’re not right there when something happens and you want her to be able to get your family to safety or keep them safe.

Right after [Hurricane] Katrina, a 13 year old girl was raped and her mother couldn’t help her. Children died as a result of their parents not having a good plan or the wherewithal to follow through. There were regular attacks in one of the New Orleans hotels over food and supplies.

I am like-minded for my children, I want them to be like minded so they can carry on. The survival skills they learn from us make them stronger, more self-sufficient, confident and better people. The same can be said for me, the more I learn the better I feel about my abilities to handle any situation, with my husband or God forbid, without him. Most women don’t realize how empowering this knowledge is. I mean, it’s a trip knowing I have more skills than most of the men I know.

There are some things I didn’t want to learn and my husband found some ways to get me to try them. We traded off – if I wanted to go riding, we would also do something he wanted to do and he would go riding with me and I would freeze while ice fishing. Make what you want her to learn fun or interesting. Encourage her to read some of the posts on SurvivalBlog. Have the kids help get her interested. Don’t push her but don’t give up on her learning either.

Good luck and have her post on here too, Memsahib can tell you, I haven’t stopped since my husband introduced me to the SurvivalBlog site. – Mrs. TD

Dear Jim (and Trevor),
I thought for the longest time that I was in a similar situation, save for the fact that I am the woman, and my husband is the one who never wanted to help with preparedness nor seemed to want to talk about it. For me, it seemed that my preparedness ideals came from a basic nesting instinct, a need to nurture my family in an unseen future. Although, I have to admit, it was mixed with the romantic remembrance of being on my grandfather’s homestead. However, while my husband never spoke about it, I never got the feeling that he resented it, just as Memsahib had written to you that some spouses do. My husband always trusted me in what I was doing, so I never pressed him about it.

Then one day, he nearly blew my mind. He actually mentioned getting a firearm (a real one as opposed to the air rifles we currently own). Then he looked right at me and said, “for the end-of-the-world type situation.” Since that time, he is still somewhat closed mouthed on the situation. He will talk more about the latest technology (it is his field of work) or one day “striking it rich” (yes, I married a dreamer), but at the same time, there is a father inside of him with many old-fashioned ethics and ideals, and every once in a while, he will make a simple statement, such as the one I mentioned, or we might have a simple conversation about future preparedness. Last night, we had our longest conversation about future preparedness while sitting on the porch swing, enjoying the evening air. It entailed gasoline prices, global warming versus a new ice age, and a Mad Max future versus reality.

Take The Memsahib’s wise advice. Allow your beloved spouse to trust your judgment. One day, she might surprise you, too, and make an off-hand comment. The wisest teacher (we all know who He was) never pushed and pressured. He allowed others to come to him of their own free will.

As for preparedness from a female perspective, Sharon Astyk has recently finished writing a book on Peak Oil, “Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front”, [which will be] available Fall, 2008. However, her language can get a bit raunchy at times, so be cautious if you look down upon that. In case you have never heard of Mrs. Astyk, there is an excellent article written by Sharon for women at this web site. I don’t know why, but when it comes to preparedness, the Peak Oil movement tends to attract women more than the other sub-sects.

Until then, might I suggest [the novel] “The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s a bit more subtle than you might wish, but there is the constant theme running through it of the expectation that the train will come, bringing supplies, but never does. If you have children to read aloud to, so much the better (and less suspicious). The Little House series are excellent books for children, although with sons you may wish to read, or have them read, “Farmer Boy” first. My oldest son thoroughly enjoyed it, and when I started reading the other books aloud to the younger children, he immediately recognized Mrs. Wilder’s writing style, and was happy to listen in as well. – Mama Squirrel

Mr. Rawles,
I too have had the experience of attempting to ‘bring into the fold’ an eye-rolling spouse. She read “Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse”, and felt that she could not identify with a preparedness minded group on the other side of the country. We live in Florida, and have weathered four hurricanes, two going directly overhead. Even after three weeks of no power (two weeks with the first, one week with the second, one day with the third), she still resents my storage of gasoline and propane.

Until recently. I love so-called ‘apocalypse’ fiction, and a like-minded friend of mine turned me onto a series of books by Terri Blackstock, the first of which is called “Last Light“. This four book series follows a group of suburbanites after an EMP-like event cripples the country (not to spoil the story, but the event is actually global). These people were absolutely not prepared at all, and suffered quite a bit. Also, the book is considered Christian Fiction, and focuses on the Blessings of God and faith in His power and love to get the main characters through their various trials.

My wife was only three chapters in when she began to ask “what would we do about water” and “what would we do if this happened while the boys were at school?”
Thankfully, she has began to support my various efforts more (less eye-rolling) and has actually made some great suggestions that I had not thought of. We now have a G.O.O.D. plan, and have laid in more supplies.

Thanks for your SurvivalBlog site. I read it daily and spread the word. – DT in Florida

Dear Jim and Memsahib,
I must agree with you Memsahib that many people are not mentally capable of accepting that things are about to take a turn for the worst.

We live on the Gulf coast and even after living with the devastation that Hurricanes bring, it was extremely difficult when we lost our home and barn to Hurricane Ivan. We had hunkered down next door in my Uncles home to ride out the storm. We never imagined that when the storm had passed that our home would be gone. My husband, myself 7 months pregnant, our 15 year old twin boys, our 12 year old daughter walked over the hill to go home and we were all devastated. We didn’t have a home, or a barn. Our goats and horses were standing there looking at us in a daze. We were homeless. I had read about it, heard about it, and now I was about to live it. And live it we did. We survived the nightmare.

It was quite humbling to turn around and go back to Uncles and ask to stay a little while. After a week, we borrowed my uncle’s 1970 something travel trailer that slept two. A neighbor loaned us another travel trailer that slept another two . My daughter slept in the kitchen/dining area on a cot. And, being pregnant, my hormones were not real happy. Bringing another child into this world to nothing. I didn’t want to face it, but I didn’t have a choice.

Now, I am the survivalist [of the family]. I have survived the worst, and if and when I face the next hardship, you can bet your full tank of diesel that I will never ask anyone for help again, I wont have to.

I have to agree that when ones spouse isn’t able to face it, then you must prepare quietly and understand.

My husband just chuckles at me when I bring home 50 pounds of sugar when it is on sale.
Thanks to you Jim for such a wonderful site. I have learned so much. – Roxie