I hear all kinds of stories from individuals who want nothing more than to get away from the rat race and become more self-sufficient. Their desires range anywhere from just growing their own food to being completely off the grid. The passion is high, but there is one thing standing in their way: their spouse doesn’t exactly love the idea.
“What do I do if all I want is this life, but my spouse doesn’t want to homestead?”
It’s a hard question. If that’s you asking this question, I’m not going to lie to you–I never had to win over my spouse, so I can’t put myself in your shoes or understand your desire. What I can do is reassure you that all is not lost.
You see, I grew up in a large city. I had a corporate fast-moving career. I had big-city plans that all involved being on-grid. I loved the technology, my world travels and experiences, and my home–complete with luxury–like electricity and city water, sewer, and garbage services.
I never wanted to be off-grid or doing it all myself.
Then I met my husband. We had many conversations about what we would do if we got married, and I made one thing clear–he was going to move into my house. I most certainly was not going to move to his house out in the middle of nowhere with all those animals, and snakes, and a well, and laundry line, and…you get the idea.
In the end, he won me over. Now I am just as happy as a clam living off the land and learning more and more the life of self-sufficiency every day from him. And I’d love to share with you just how he won me over. Perhaps you too can pick up some tips that could help you win your spouse over…
In The Beginning…
My farmer has lived here his entire life. The house his father built that he and all his siblings grew up in is just a mile down the road. The home we live in now was built by his grandfather. From the time he was born (also in a home nearby where the midwife lived), he has never known another life.
Although I had the exact opposite upbringing–growing up in large cities full of the latest technology–my story had a similar pattern in that it was all I knew. You can imagine then that my comfort level was in having the latest technology, best access to shopping for all my needs (and wants), and only having to work for the money I needed to purchase what was needed–not to actually do what was needed.
The compromise was that essentially we both tried to live the lives we already were, only in the same house. If I wanted amenities, I brought them to the house–and he accepted them. He even helped me by installing locks on the doors, building a pantry for me (since I was initially not going to use a root cellar), even planning to build a garage for my vehicle.
Since we both expected the other would continue to essentially live life the way we had before, we came to the relationship without the expectation of change. I think that was huge. He never expected me to join his way of life, and I didn’t expect him to adopt mine.
Both of us realized if we insisted the other did it our way, they wouldn’t be happy. Although in the beginning I tried my hardest to tempt him to move to Miami with me for a really wonderful trauma job, I knew deep down he’d never be as happy there as he was here. And I really wanted him to be happy more than I wanted that job. Likewise, although he wanted me to embrace his way of life, he knew if he asked me to give up everything I’d ever dreamed of and worked toward, I wouldn’t be fully happy either. When it boiled down to it, we wanted the other person to be happy more than we wanted to chase what we wanted.
So we compromised. Neither of us had 100% of what we wanted, but we both kept what was most important to us.
Slowly, He Won Me Over…
I know this isn’t the case with all couples, but I am sure this was key: the homestead was already set up so he could run it independently. He had already been living here, taking care of all the animals and fields. Although his brother did help, and occasionally his sister came to town to help, he was pretty much already used to running the show all by himself. There was no pressure on me what-so-ever that if I wasn’t here helping, things wouldn’t work.
It meant he wasn’t always around. It meant he couldn’t just go with me to do what I wanted to do. But the most important thing was that I didn’t have pressure on me to do things I wasn’t interested in.
I also had been raised as a very independent person. My parents made it very clear to me I was here to serve other people and serve my country and not the other way around. I had never had a sense of entitlement, so I didn’t feel as though he owed me anything. I was never upset at him, nor did I resent the animals for needing his attention. I knew when he was done with farm chores, I got him.
Obviously, the home he lived in changed as I wanted certain things. He never made me feel guilty for wanting locks on the doors, a fence for my city dogs that I brought with me, windows that opened and had screens on them, a gas stove instead of a wood one, etc. He very willingly let me have my responsibilities my way–the way I was comfortable with. I didn’t want to take care of a half-acre garden. He planted it in a cover crop, and never teased me for shopping for our food.
He let me buy meat instead of harvesting our own animals, which initially I thought I could never eat.
When I told him I could never eat a deer, elk, moose, bear, goat, etc. he didn’t hunt for a couple years.
If I was going to be responsible for meals, he let me do it my way. He let me work to get what I felt I needed–and he was never a crutch for me. If I wanted something, I worked for it.
He teased me a bit for buying things like bottled water, but he never made me feel guilty. He always supported what I wanted, no matter how weird it was to him.
He always invited me along. I was always welcome to join anything he had to do. I never felt homesteading or farming was his job, but a way of life. I wanted to join his life, and he made sure I knew I was always welcome.
Anytime he needed help, he always asked someone who knew how to help him, even if I was coming along–even if I was willing to try to help or learn. He made sure I was never in a position to feel pressured to be the only one who could help. If I couldn’t do something, or wasn’t comfortable, there was always someone else ready to step right in–and no one ever made me feel inferior or guilty for it.
Over time, I’ve learned a lot of what goes on on the farm and homestead. But even now, when I feel like I don’t have time to help on the farm or homestead, or I’m just not comfortable doing something (even if I’ve done it 100 times before), he always smiles and says, “I’ll take care of it.” I know that I can join in anytime I’m comfortable. I know he will never shame or guilt me. I know he values me more than this way of life. And he knows I feel the same way about him.
I have come to learn at my own pace, do things as I’m comfortable, and do it all without pressure. I no longer work a coorporate job. In fact, if you met me today, you may not even know it was part of my past unless someone told you.
How did we get where we are now? How did he win me over? I can only conclude it worked out this way because:
- We loved each other more than we loved our dreams or way of life.
- We came to the marriage not expected the other to ever change.
- We compromised.
- Everything was set up so he could be independent.
- He very willingly let me have my responsibilities my way–and he was never my crutch.
- I was responsible for what I was responsible for.
- Neither of us clung to entitlement.
- He always invited me and made me feel welcome.
- He always had someone qualified to help–even when I was willing to help.
- I was able to help and learn at my own pace, when I was ready, on the days I was ready.
So if you are trying to win your spouse over, and you’re looking for advice, this is what I’d highly recommend you do:
Accept your spouse exactly as s/he is. Don’t put any expectations on them, and be of the mindset that they will never change or want what you want. In the deepest place in your heart, you need to really be okay with this. If they never change, your heart won’t be broken–but if they do, it will be a sweet surprise.
Let your spouse live the life s/he wants. Don’t be a crutch, but do be an encouragement in the life they want to lead.
Invite them along, but always be prepared that they may never want to help. Never make them feel guilty.
Set your homestead up so you can be independent. If you set things up so your spouse has to help you to make something work, you are sabotaging yourself–keep that in perspective. If you can run everything yourself, you’re not going to resent your spouse for not helping you, nor will you blame them when your dream doesn’t work out, or gets hard.
If and when your spouse is willing to help, let them choose when and where to help. It’s not likely they are going to want to jump into the dirtiest, hardest part of your daily work.
If you have any entitlement in your relationship, dump it. As long as you feel your spouse owes you something–their time, money, or their desires–you are putting you first, and your dream–not your spouse. Entitlement will always lead to a “poor me” mentality, and you’re going to be miserable. Adopt instead a sense of self-responsibility–then you won’t spend your time blaming others when things don’t go your way. You’ll instead spend your time trying to figure out how you can achieve your goals, and put your energy toward that–which always produces a better response.