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“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’
comes together. It is when an imperfect couple
learns to enjoy their differences.”
― Dave Meurer
Think of this as me sympathizing with you and sitting down with you to have a conversation, perhaps over a cup of coffee, as we look at this problem and talk about it.
When Things Change
When you first met your spouse and then you were married and for the first few years of your marriage, maybe neither one of you is thinking about homesteading. Perhaps something unexpected happens, and one spouse opens their eyes and wakes up, and now they see where they want to go, and the other one isn’t there. It complicates things when one gets a vision that the other one doesn’t have. I have some thoughts on this because that was my situation to a certain extent.
I know this isn’t only my story because over the last few years I have received one question more than any other and that was “how can I get my spouse on board with homesteading” or some variation of that question.
Now, my wife has never been dead against me/us having a homestead. I mean, it’s never been a huge issue for her, but at the same time, she was never on board with it all that much either. However, if you read my story on the About Page, you know I had cancer. I decided I needed to change the way I ate, the way I lived, my whole lifestyle, and the products I was putting on or in my body had to change. So, homesteading became huge for me. So, we went down this avenue where I wanted to make some changes that maybe she didn’t want to make.
I want to help others to jump through these hoops if you’re facing this as well. Maybe your eyes have been opened, and you want to go down the homesteading path, or maybe you’re on that path already, and it’s causing some conflict. Let’s talk a little bit about that.
Discovering The Issues
First, you want to find out why your spouse isn’t on board. And I would say, don’t just make assumptions, but sit down and ask him/her why is it that you have a problem with homesteading? Find out what homesteading is to them? Ask them, “what do you believe is going to happen in homesteading that’s going to be so radical that you have a problem with it?” Find out those specifics and get right down to the nitty-gritty and remember, this isn’t a time to try to convince them, this is the time to listen and say, “what’s the big issue?”
Addressing The Issues
Now you’re going to want to dig into the things that will keep them from getting on board. Maybe the issue is they think it’s going to cost a lot of money, a lot of investments in infrastructure and things like that, and no doubt it can, in the beginning, cost some money.
Maybe your spouse doesn’t like taking care of animals. Maybe your spouse doesn’t like gardening for whatever reason. Maybe they’re afraid that people are going to think they’re crazy for having such a radical lifestyle. Maybe they don’t want to be overworked; they work hard at their day job, and they don’t want to come home and have to work until late at night doing something they’re not that excited about in the first place.
Your spouse may just want to come home and veg out on the couch or go out and have dinner somewhere and hang out with friends and do the things that a lot of homesteaders don’t have time to do. Maybe they don’t want to give up on life’s creature comforts, and they think that homesteading is going to lead down that road.
Communication and Compromise
Whatever the reasons, talk with them, and then it’s time to start looking for compromises. Maybe that spouse has an idea that’s so out there that you’re like, well, I don’t even want to go there either. And I think it was like that with my wife a little bit and me. When I started talking about homesteading, she had this image of off-grid living out in the country, way off the beaten path, and for some people, that is what it is, but I wasn’t quite there. However, I did want to make radical changes and grow my own food and raise my own meat. Well, that was a little bit of a problem because we live in the city, so some changes we’re going to have to happen with our property or we were going to have to move. So, we did have to make some compromises.
My wife isn’t fond of eating meat that comes off our property, just the vegetables. We’ve been doing this for years now, and she still will not eat the livestock that we raise. But we made a compromise there; I just don’t raise so much where I expect her to eat it. The family, however, loves the quail eggs. There are certain things that come off the property that the family loves, but my wife just doesn’t want to partake in a lot of that, and that’s fine.
She does like some aspects of gardening; she loves to harvest, for example. She doesn’t like to weed, she doesn’t like to plant, but she loves the harvesting time. She loves to go out and find vegetables and bring them in, piling them on the table, and just loves to see how much we get. If your spouse is the same way, then let them participate in the things they enjoy and skip the rest. Perhaps, like my wife, your spouse doesn’t mind cooking and preserving.
Maybe with your spouse, there’s some aspect of it that they enjoy, so they want to do that part, and I say, work out those compromises. No doubt homesteading is some work. Now, if you’re going just to expect your spouse who doesn’t want this (because it’s not their dream, it isn’t their vision) to put in all the work, well, you might be expecting too much.
I think a lot of people think, well, we got to give up all of life’s creature comforts. Well, that’s why I’m a modern homesteader. I have a computer in front of me. I have a TV behind me. We have everything that everyone else has; we’re just growing our own food also. But you may have a vision that you don’t want any of those things. Maybe you do want to go off-grid, and you want to live in a different way like that. That’s fine. But maybe your spouse has other ambitions in life and wants to enjoy those things. So, you have to work these things out together. You have to sit down; you have to make compromises. You have to be there for one another.
Slow Your Roll
I think you need to start slow. This is going to be my first big piece of advice once you get past the talking with your spouse, start slow. What I mean by this is don’t bring in an excavator and do major earthworks on your property so you can put in your new permaculture food forest. If they have a problem with it and they see those kinds of changes happening very fast, it’s going to scare them, and it’s going to make people nervous.
Don’t take on more than you or they can handle because, again, if you expect them to jump in and be a big part of it, you might be disappointed. So, start very, very slow. Take on one new thing at a time and make sure you can handle the next thing before you add it. Do what you can yourself, but don’t burn yourself out. Don’t take on so much that you want to give up on it because the reality is you might be doing most of the work yourself.
“If you must be in a hurry, then let it be according
to the old adage, and hasten slowly.”
― Saint Vincent de Paul
Encourage Them To Be A Part Of Things When They Want To
I would tell you to involve them where you can and when you can. As I said, my wife doesn’t mind kitchen work. She doesn’t mind cooking and helping with the preserving. She doesn’t mind the harvesting, so I encourage her to be a part of the things she wants to do. I’m glad to have her be a part of those things. Matter of fact, doing the kitchen stuff is the stuff I like the least, so I’m very open to her doing all that she wants and involving her in every place that I can.
She doesn’t like to handle or mess with the livestock so that one’s out. But maybe yours is the same way, or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe they really love to handle the animals, but they’re not really into gardening.
Maybe your spouse loves to build things so you can get them to help you just build some of your building projects that are for the homestead, but they could care less about actually using those things. They just want to help build it because they’re really into building things.
Integrate Their Strengths and Gifts
Everybody has their thing and maybe your spouse is really good at doing bookkeeping and planning and things like that. That’s part of homesteading as well. Keeping track of the money, keeping track of the books, doing the desk work.
If your spouse really loves doing that, get them involved in that. Have them help you go through the numbers and keep track of things. Some people just enjoy things like that. So, I would say get them involved in any area of the homestead that you can.
“If You Build It They Will Come” …Around…Maybe
I would say another big thing is to let them enjoy the changes and the successes. What I mean by that is don’t rub it in their face, just let them notice it. Are you eating healthier? They’re going to notice that after a while. Maybe the property is just changing, and it’s starting to look more beautiful. You know what?
My wife loves to go to our backyard. She loves to walk among the pathways and between the trees and around the garden beds, and it’s beautiful. I mean, it’s really nice. It’s like a nature walk through the backyard, especially because I’ve incorporated a lot of permaculture in my backyard, so it has that nature walk kind of an atmosphere. Let them enjoy the changes and the successes. Let them enjoy the food that you’re growing.
Reaping The Rewards
You know what? I don’t like to brag, but I make a pretty darn good salsa out of my garden. My wife loves that salsa! I don’t rub it in her face and say, you know what? That’s coming from the garden. You know that garden you don’t want to have much to do with? No, let her enjoy those things.
Every year when I’m planning out the garden and deciding what I am going to grow, It’s like, well you definitely need to grow these things again because I love that salsa or I love those pickles (or whatever else has been a big hit in the kitchen), and we need to grow those things. So you need to definitely get some cucumbers and dill out there because I want some more of those pickles. Help them out with that and get them involved.
The Most Important Thing
I would say the biggest thing though; the number one thing is to love them no matter what. This is the person you chose to love for better or worse and you should be able to pursue your dreams; you should also be there for them to pursue their dreams. And if their dreams don’t exactly line up with your dreams, that’s okay.
Make some compromises, help them with their dreams, and just support them. You can’t control everything about the way they’re going to support you and your dream, but you can make it easier for them.
I’ve seen so many situations, and it’s sad to me that people get this homesteading dream, but their homesteading dream is so radical. It’s an off-grid, raise every bit of our own food, get away from people, get away from technology, throw all the TVs out, radical change. That’s fine for some people but not most, and there’s a whole lot of area in-between from where that radical place is at now and that where they can compromise. And I would say do that because your relationship with your spouse is more important than the whole package.
Don’t Give Up
Now I would also say, don’t give up on your dream either completely. At the very least, you can grow some things in containers, and you can just take baby steps and more baby steps until you find that balance. Again, there are so many areas of compromise between that radical, full-blown homesteading off-grid to where you’re at now. Land somewhere in there but start very slowly.
Work your way toward where that compromise is going to be and maintain that relationship with your spouse, and do not throw away a relationship for a dream that may or may not even be what you want completely. Because I’ve also seen situations where people went to a place like that with their homestead and they figured out that this isn’t quite what they thought it was going to be. And you may not even want that in the end. There might be a balance somewhere in between where you’d rather be.
So, there’s my advice. That’s my two cents worth on homesteading when your spouse isn’t on board; It’s a difficult problem. I hope that this chapter helps some of you that are struggling with this. Be motivated and have a little patience and maybe settle with a little bit of compromise, and it will help you land somewhere in the middle.