When the stock market crashed in 2008 I kinda, sorta… panicked (to put it mildly). I was convinced that economic collapse, martial law, and the end of the world as I knew it would arrive by the end of the year. So the next day while my wife and I were at the grocery store, I started dumping armfuls of canned food into the shopping cart.
“What the hell are you doing?” she said, looking at me as if I were taking a leak on the Spaghettios. I had told her that we needed to stock up on extra food, but I never said how much. Although my wife had no problem with preps for hurricane season, she had no interest in anything beyond that.
As she looked at me, her face a mixture of anger and confusion, I suddenly realized that if I didn’t handle this carefully, it would be a huge strain on our marriage. Rather than get into a fight in the middle of the grocery store, I put some of the food back. On the way home, I explained my concerns to her. She thought I was overreacting (and it turns out she was right), but we managed to avoid getting into a heated argument.
Over the next few months I was careful to purchase things I knew we would use anyway (“just a hedge against inflation,” I said). Eventually she admitted that an economic collapse or some other widespread disaster could happen and that it didn’t hurt to be prepared, just as it doesn’t hurt to prepare for hurricane season even if a hurricane never hits. Today, she’s not as into prepping as I am, but she’s definitely on board.
So how did I pull this off? Did I nag her every time we went to the store or send her daily posts from the Economic Collapse Blog? Not at all. Instead, I got advice from other preppers who have been in the same situation, I read articles on how to better communicate with one’s spouse, and I was very patient.
Here are 9 tips I picked up along the way:
1. Start Small. As I mentioned above, the first thing I did was start buying more of the food we already ate. I explained the concept of eating what you store and storing what you eat, and she didn’t see the harm in buying things that we would use anyway. If I had panicked and spent $1000 on freeze-dried food, she would have been so angry she probably never would have listened to me talk about prepping again. You need to use the same strategy with your spouse. Start with items that are small, affordable, and that you can use anyway.
2. Communicate Your Thinking at Appropriate Moments. You probably have several reasons why you want to prepare for disaster, but don’t overwhelm your spouse with all your reasons all at once. Instead, bring them up one at a time the same way you would bring up other interests: when it’s appropriate. For example, if you’re watching the news together and see a report about a natural disaster, you might mention that you want to get a water filter in case the tap water becomes unsafe to drink. But you don’t want to bring that up while you’re watching a movie or during a dinner date.
3. Put an Emphasis on Safety. It will be much easier to get your spouse on board if you emphasize safety. Most people have an innate desire to feel safe and secure, so they’re more likely to see the logic behind prepping if you point out that it will make them safe. For example, if you hear about a home invasion in your part of town, you could mention that beefing up your home security might be a good idea.
4. Watch the Right Shows and Movies. Watching zombie/apocalypse survival shows and movies will help your spouse to better visualize why it’s important to prep. You’ll want to keep it real, though, so focus on movies that are a little more realistic. For example, your spouse will probably be more willing to prep for something like an earthquake than a zombie apocalypse. Then again, a show like The Walking Dead might interest him or her in guns or wilderness survival. It really depends on the person.
5. Use Real Life Lessons From Real Life People. Do you have an acquaintance who’s been personally affected by a major disaster? If so, it’s an opportunity to point out how much better off that acquaintance would have been with some disaster preps. This is usually more effective than just watching the news or movies–it seems more real. If you don’t have any acquaintances like that, get to know some. Join a prepper group and listen to people’s stories. Real life examples of people who have made it through disasters will get your spouse thinking.
6. Avoid Conspiracy Theories. Never, and I mean never, use conspiracy theories as a way to convince your spouse to prep. Whether the conspiracy is true or not is beside the point. Even if it is true, telling your spouse about it could make you seem paranoid. And if you seem paranoid, then all your disaster preps might start to seem paranoid as well.
7. Avoid Arguments. This might be difficult if your spouse is really opposed to prepping, but the truth is that arguing will only make it worse. A reasonable discussion is fine, but saying, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, but I do!” isn’t. If the discussion starts to take a bad turn, you might want to change the subject and talk about it again some other time.
8. Seek Your Spouse’s Input. This is a frequently overlooked tip because why would you ask a non-prepper a prepping question? But the point is to get your spouse involved. For example, if you’re putting together a bug out bag, you could present it to him or her and ask if there’s anything you should add or remove. The more your spouse feels involved, the more likely he or she is to take an interest.
9. Give It Time. Above all, be patient. If you have the mindset that you need to get your spouse interested in prepping right now, then you need to change your mindset. Not only is cramming your views down your spouse’s throat disrespectful, it’s futile. You can never force someone to become a prepper; it has to happen on its own. Use all the tips above, but bide your time. Pressing the issue too often could backfire.
Now of course, you don’t have to get your spouse on board if you don’t want to. But the fact is, your prepping efforts will be stronger and more effective if your spouse is involved. You’ll learn from each other, help each other, and be much more prepared than you would be otherwise. Your spouse might never be as “into it” as you are, but if you can at least get him or her thinking about your family’s safety, you’ll have made a huge difference.
What to read next: 15 Reasons to Prep Even if Doomsday Never Arrives