Family Survival: The Spouse

When thinking about “Family Survival” it is important to have your spouse on board with the emergency plan and emergency preparedness.  Here are some ideas to get you started talking with your spouse about emergency preparedness

Over the years I have discovered several things about the non-survivalist by talking with friends, relatives as well as my wife her and network of friends.  Male or Female, there are a few common themes among people who do not prepare.

  • Ignorance
  • Selfishness
  • Despair
  • Fear
  • Arrogance

Ignorance – This is a trait that is hard to believe in this day and age post 9/11 and Katrina but it emergency-preparedness-survival-familydoes still happen.  It usually takes the form of “They” will take care of us.  “They” are usually the government (Federal, State, Local) but it could also be international groups or charities.  I know a gentleman who never thought about preparedness until FEMA said have a 3 day supply of food and water on hand for emergencies.  Now he has started doing this but won’t hear of having more than a 7 day supply of preparedness products.  Unfortunately Hurricane Katrina was not enough to prove to him that the government cannot always be there to help you and everyone should take emergency preparedness a little more seriously.

Selfishness – This trait is perhaps the most difficult to overcome. Grasshopper and the Ant tale; The Ant works all Spring, Summer, and Fall to prepare for the winter while the Grasshopper spends his time in the sun enjoying every minute of it thinking the good weather will last forever.  “I won’t sacrifice today’s pleasure for the possibility of future return.”  This often results in denial of the coming shortage or disaster.

Despair – This trait takes a unique form, I saw it in adults when I was just a kid.  The world would be so horrible after a “Nuclear War” that I wouldn’t want to survive, therefore I won’t.  This is a tough nut to crack since despair often doesn’t respond to reason.

Fear – Fear often looks like despair but is much easier to deal with because all hope has not been lost.  People are often afraid to put together a plan or talk things out with their family or spouse because they afraid to think of the possibilities and don’t have answers to the issues they will be facing in a “Family Survival” situation.  The truth is…none of us have all the answers.  We can only prepare so much and the rest will be left up to being able to improvise during a disaster or TEOTWAWKI.

Arrogance – This can often takes the form of “It can’t happen here because this is the United States (or Canada).”  or “Things like that only happen in 3rd world countries.”  But it could happen here and because of our society’s reliance on electricity & oil….things could be much worse.  In 3rd world countries people are used to going without and they are used to living off the basics.  In modern countries, a disruption in everyday conveniences such as electricity could cause wide spread panic.

How to talk with your Spouse

Schedule a meeting (Yearly, Twice a Year, Quarterly)
Planning a meeting is an important part of getting your spouse on board with an Emergencyemergency preparedness family meetingPlan.  It is vital for both partners to sit down together and come up with a unified plan to present to the rest of the members of the family.  As the head of the household, others will look to you and your spouse in the event of an emergency for direction and leadership.

  • Start small. When talking with your spouse about emergency preparedness it is important to start off with a short meeting discussing why this is an important part of the overall family plan (financial, education, raising kids, etc).  Ask your spouse to come up with ideas for the next meeting on food, fuel storage, water, shelter, etc.  By working together it becomes more of a team environment and less about “you”.
  • Avoid scare tactics. When talking to your spouse (Husband or Wife) avoid being overly dramatic about the “What If’s” that are out there.  Instead talk about historical events (floods, storms, riots, food shortages, etc) and come up with a sense-able plan to either “Bug Out” or “Bug In” as well as food, water, transportation and shelter plans. (Read Book: “Back To Basics“)
  • Make it fun. Instead of a tiresome chore, plan to do some fun stuff as a part of your emergency planning.  Go on a camping trip, plant a garden, take a class on storing & preparing food, go to your local pistol & rifle range, go hunting, go shopping, take an emergency medical course.  Bottom line make it fun for everyone involved.
  • Having both partners fully up to speed on an Emergency Plan protects you both from being left in the lurch should the other suddenly not be available. In an emergency, communications can go down, freeways become parking lots and reaching your loved ones might become a distant memory.  Having a plan that both spouses know will give you peace of mind knowing that if something goes wrong, your spouse will be able to take charge and know the plan (what to do, where to go).  (Read Book: “Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness for the Family“)

My spouse and I have discussed the effects of stores running out of food and supplies as well asemergency-plan,survival-planning, survivalist the events that could lead to long-term problems and societal disruptions (Solar Flares/EMP, Economic Collapse, Earthquakes, Severe Storms, etc). Basically I took several possible events and showed her how the most likely outcome was a loss of modern conveniences and the need to survive for up to 5 years as if it was the mid-1800s.  By putting a time limit on these events (6 months for weather or labor strikes, a few years for the worst events) it really helped to put things in perspective with my spouse and removed some of the fear and scare tactics.

My spouse is now more involved with emergency preparedness because she feels that she may need to help her children (and husband) through a few bad years in the future.  She is also more keenly aware of the “Achilles Heel” of our family’s well being which is a combination of electricity, food, water, shelter and fuel.

A great book to get you started talking with your spouse and family is “Making the Best of Basics” by James Talmage Stevens

You might also like: Family Survival: Let’s Not Forget the Kids

Photo credits:

Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

40 thoughts on “Family Survival: The Spouse”

    • Your wife doesn't think prep is important…so, approch food prep survival as affordable survival. Look at how food prices have gone up by 30% in 1 1/2 years(thanks Obama). And thanks to debt, hyperinflation will hit soon…that will really make food go up. Look at the survival pyrimid on this site for the amount of food needed and double it if you can afford the price and room.

    • I just don't understand women who bury their head in the sand over providing for their family. It seems so selfish and shallow. I'm the one who preps in my family and I'm glad to do it.

  1. This is a great read. I have been working on our complete survival plan and talking about it with my wife. 2 months ago she thought I was kind of crazy, now that she has seen the BOB's and food supply we have she is starting to get interested. By talking to her and preparing in the event of a BO, she will very helpful and know what to do instead of me/us in a panic trying to get out town. We have 2 young kids and it very important to us to be prepared for them . My wife is not at all an outdoors person and so talking with her and preparing our BOB will help her comfort level in the outdoors as much as possible.

  2. One thing that I didn't see mentioned but might be just as important as getting a spouse supporting preparedness, is getting the kids involved. I personally don't have kids, but when I was a kid my folks were very focused on instilling skills into me and my brother that would help us should the worst happen and they were unable to take care of us. I know that most folks don't want to think about there being a time when their kids will be outside of their protection, but it is a real possibility. Granted you probably don't want your irrational 7yr old knowing how to start a fire, but simple things like starting to teach them responsibility, how to garden, hunting, fishing, simple cooking and other skills can mean their success or failure in the "survival game" should you not be able to watch out for them for whatever reason.

    • We got our kids to pack their own "BOB" as they put in coloring books paper pencils, favs dvd's, books etc. They were involved for their age and would pull their suitcase on wheels! They loved getting their BOB's ready!, anytime we went somewhere they would get their BOBs and were ready to go. As they got older they repacked their BOB's and soon were carring their own 3 day supply plus extra for the family. It does not take long and they learn fast and this lession will help them their entire life! My kids now think if you don't have a 30 day supply you don't have anything! So when the hurricanes come they are all ready for what must be done!

  3. i hope i'll have a wife or even girlfriend that would understand survival the way i do. it beats confiding in Fido the dog for comfort.

  4. To Chefbear58: Yes getting your kids involved is very important. I am just starting with my 5 year old, I have found that he has my sense of direction and not his Moms. He is learning how to use a compass and has his own for example. I would love to see this site do an article on kids and how to get them involved.

  5. I am blessed with a beautiful wife who shares in all aspects of the prepper lifestyle with me. On the day we met I asked what she liked to do. She replied “read and camp, and not that [email protected]$$y camping either.”
    I asked her if she would marry me right then! She said no, but I won her over. It is wonderful to have some one who shares my passion for living.

  6. LOL! As a wife, some of this is really amusing! However, I'm not a 'girly-girl' in any way. I actually find it disturbing that so many of my gender are so opposed to prepping. I was raised in the stix by parents who both hunted, camped, hiked, fished, etc. And they really instilled alot of skills into my brother and I. They would point out plants that were edible while we were walking through the woods, and tell us how to harvest and prepare them. They always exlained that if we were ever out hiking and got lost, we would need to know this stuff. So, now my prepping is just building on what my parents taught me.

    Luckily, my husband is on the same page as I am also. He's a 'city boy' that I took under my country girl wing. But he was in the boy scouts and loves the outdoors. I now have him hunting and fishing regularly. This has become a great hobby/obsession that we share(we had a great time going to Gander Mountain together to pick out a good belt knife, and browse the hand guns).

    But I know that I really am lucky to have a spouse that is there with me on this.

    • 'She who must be obeyed' is fully on board also. The problem is that if you aren't prepared (and it isn't always the wife) then it is easier to deny that it can happen than to admit that you might not be able to provide for your children's welfare. You were blessed with parents that taught you to be self reliant. I pray I have done as well for my children. As I watch them with my grand kids, I think I have. It is the stress of one being aware and one thinking 'they' will take care of everything that is difficult.

  7. I figure in the worst case scenario I may can trade my wife for a slice of bread,best case a whole bologna sandwich. If i get the sandwich i am hauling @ss before they want it back.

  8. I have to bring up one thing for those of you with kids to think about. It came up while I was telling my wife about an Apoc book I was reading. Her words– if it gets that bad, get the kids and get out. I will meet you at the retreat. Just leave me what I will need. — That was a slap in the face I wasn't expecting and had not ever considered. My wife works for a school. She said she would not leave until all the kids had been picked up. And if waiting meant that her kids might miss a chance of getting out, she would want me to leave her behind. Try bringing that up…

    • 357Chaos,
      I just found your post. That is a tough situation. I empathize with her desire to save all the kids; problem is that some of them will never be picked up in some scenarios. You might be faced with caring for more than your own. Without making light of a serious situation, you might need to stock a lot more peanut butter. The good news is that in most cases, the school will probably not be open when TSHTF. If it is pandemic or terrorism or storm or economic collapse, the lead in will probably be such that the schools are closed for safety before the need to GOOD becomes apparent. Not always true but for hurricanes for example, you don't expect to need to stay at school. Riots are another issue but then plans can be laid for a bail out after a given time provided there is not a lock down. A GOOD rendezvous is not necessarily a bad thing, provided a plan can be put into place for when and how. Communications between the two of you might be critical so I'd look into what kind of radio is needed for each. Not knowing your situation and location, I can't make recommendations but the two of you should be able to agree to a plan for how long to wait and when to go.

  9. The garage sale is something I hadn't considered. My daughter loves to shop online and finding the 'weird stuff' her dad wants is fun for her. I can find it but she can find it cheaper and it is a triumph for her skills. In the mean time, she got interested in some aspects of prepping. Playing to their interests is a really good way to involve our spouses and families. Especially if they are not forced into dealing with TEOTWAWKI. We're not dealing with TEOTWAWKI or even TSHTF; we're only talking about the idiots who run down to the store 12 hours before the biggest snow storm in a century is about to hit and expect to find everything they might want to help keep warm and fed. You know it's TSHTF and I know it's TSHTF but she doesn't have to know it's TSHTF; it's only a snow storm. She who must be obeyed got really interested in carrying her concealed weapon after seeing an add for Crimson Trace. The lady in the parking garage that intimidated her two would be attackers with a little red dot was an epiphany for her. Now her Sig and her AK have Crimson Trace. Both acquired after we found out that her 'classic' S&W .32 can't be fitted with the lasers. Keep the exposure low level (if I get too pushy she gets, shall we say, determined and I've lost the argument) and wait. Something will click. In the meantime, just make sure you do what you can to keep the family safe.

  10. Hi everyone!
    I'm not so fortunate to have my girlfriend on board when it comes to preparing for anything. She doesn't like the idea of doom and gloom, and gets depressed whenever I talk about it. I can't have a serious discussion about it because it just leads to a fight. All I want to do is be prepared, and I'm finding that planning for the worst is kind of a lonely, and exaustive venture. She would kill me if she knew the preparations I've been making about storing food and buying equipment but I feel it will be necessary in the long run. Short of breaking up with her, is there anything I can do to get her to stop being depressed and have her realize that while she may be miserable now being prepared and having a plan will put her at ease!?!

    • Josh,
      The catch is to not be "doom and gloom". TEOTWAWKI is scary and there is no reason to start there. Hurricane Ike is a good example. It took the government 10 days or so to get everything back up for our area of town. Our preps let us be comfortable and help out our neighbors. No gloom, no doom, just a level of comfort that we would not have had if we had not been prepared. What ever the most common natural event is for your area, that is what you want to be ready for. Once she gets used to the idea that surviving doesn't mean Mad Max or Mutant Zombie Bikers, then you can address the next most likely event. Even the government is telling folks to prep. In some cases, 3 days, in other cases a week but if "they" say to have supplies on hand to last until they can come to the rescue, who are you to argue.

      • I have gotten her a little used to the idea. She has mentioned canning food and using a dehydrator, but when it comes to things like an exit strategy in a GOOD situation, or selecting arms for defense shes not quite there yet. I think deep down she knows whats coming, and is afraid to face it and would rather deny than face the truth. I live just outside of Chicago and I don't want to be around here when SHTF. I have several plans to get out, but like many other things what I'd like is to have someone to bounce ideas off of and someone to help with the responsibility of planning and packing in case a major event happens.

        • Well, you have a start. Around Chicago you might look for an event that would cause a GOOD. Tornadoes can obviously cause a SHTF but rarely a GOOD. Could lead to a discussion of a BOB in the car though. If you live close to any refineries or railroad tracks those might be the most likely cause of a GOOD. (Train derailed caused a "get out now" about 3 miles down track from me – missed us but close) or if you are in the open, we've faced a wild fire danger for the first time in memory. The key might be a "I know I'm being a bit paranoid, but we ought to be able to grab and go if a train jumps the track and releases ammonia" We actually had a multi-car collision West of Houston on I-10 that caused a 1/2 mile evacuation due to an ammonia release. Think about the nasty gases (Chlorine, ammonia, natural gas, etc) that could be passing close to your home. If you have to grab and go, you'd want a place to go too, a bag to go with, etc. As for weapons, see if you can get her to read about little Lizzy
          My wife KNOWS I will get involved in such a case, I'm incapable of not doing so, – the only question remaining is my odds of survival. Since she wants to keep me around ( only the Good Lord knows why, but she does want to ) she wants me armed.

          • Right now my 2 main exit strategies are the highways ( if they are passable and if there is fuel available) and if the highways are blocked there is a rail line about 10 miles north of here. In a GOOD situation, my most likely escape route is that rail line. I've followed it all the way out and know where it goes, although I probably need to study it a little more and take notes. Most of the trains that pass through the suburbs move slow enough through all the towns that having a bad train accident around here is slim. We have had a few small quakes around here and tornadoes aern't much of a problem, so my main focus really is on some kind of economic collapse. I've stored a small amount of food, and medical supplies away for a very rainy day and I'm pretty much complete with my equipment. Its been over 3 months and I'm still waiting for my FOID card from the State of Illinois. I keep trying to get through to them but the line is always busy.

          • I think my girlfriend is still warming to the idea, but I don't think she wants to think the impossible can happen. I always tell her its better to be prepared than to have something happen and not be ready at all. Its just a matter of changing her mindset to being more open and being prepared for anything.

  11. I started a BOB and then like some other commentors my wife got interested. I let her take over my original BOB wich was just a tactical messenger bag (which she has packed almost to perfection) and I moved onto a bigger bag with whatever else we need.

    My wife is kind of naive in the fact that we don't live in a great apartment neighborhood and she doesn't pay attention to things. I've been teaching her tons about situational awareness (about who lives where, to use her surroundings, like reflections to see whats behind her, etc.) and we've had many talks of "What to do when…". Just the other night I taught her how to clear and sweep a room JIC I wasn't around when SHTF to do it.
    She kinda laughed through some of it and maybe she didn't take anything from it. But atleast I can sleep a little better knowing that if something happens to me she might remember SOMETHING.

  12. this might sound stupid but if you havent watched the mini series Jerico and can get your hands on it have her watch it and discuss between you what you would do in that situation, I think that show woke a few people up to what if ?

    • I second this! I just watched it against recently. One of my all-time favorites. Sadly, it's not a miniseries but a TV series that got canned after two seasons. But it's still worth watching. And yes, so incredibly relevant.

  13. So here is my delema. My husband is not as willing to do this as I am. I have a decent handle on some things. I have our BOB's for us and kids and dogs. I have water. I need more, always need more. I am working on food storage. It is harder to store that and keep up with it. My family is growing and they eat non stop. I am working on getting a garden. I live in a very HOT dry climate and this makes things hard to keep. So having shelf stable is key. But, getting my kids to become self reliant is easier than getting my husband on board. He does not want to think about it, b/c I feel, he worries more. Where I look at it as, if we prepare, we can work through a TEOTWAWKI situation better. If it were all up to me, we have the resources and I would have a year of food and water on hand, a garden done and off the grid. But, I scare him when I tell him that is my dream. So is there any other women out there that feel the same?

    • Jackie, a different problem with a man than a woman. For a guy it is often seen as a doubt about his ability to provide for the family. Rather than "prepping" try to get him involved in some of the outdoors things like camping, geocache activities, anything that can be done with the kids outside is good. Also look at the short term events that happen at your location all the time and get ready to deal with those events (NOT prep you understand, just reasonable precautions against something you KNOW will happen again). Once you start down those paths, 'extending' the precautions just a little more for comfort is easier to do than 'prepping' for TEOTWAWKI.

  14. Hi all! I'm new here. I grew up in a European country that collapsed economically when I was a teen, so I actually have lived through a SHTF situation (and we weren't prepared, so it was tough). I've been apprehensive about our future for the past four years, but was in denial, because it just felt like God was giving me the finger. "Oh, you think you escaped? Think you're safe now? Here, have a second helping of SHTF, ha ha ha!" I refused to believe this can happen to me twice, know what I mean? But then hurricane Sandy happened, and I snapped out of my denial in a hurry. We weren't affected too badly, thank goodness, but other people were. I've been prepping ever since.

    Why did I just tell you this? You'd think my past would be the perfect trump card when trying to convince and uncooperative spouse, right? WRONG! I've been married to my husband for a long time, we have two kids, and see eye to eye on just about everything… except this. He is the ultimate grasshopper. I can't count how many times I've talked to him about this, told him I see the same warning signs now as I did when I was a teen, and how we have to be prepared for anything. He agrees and says go ahead, and that he wants to be a part of it… But it's just words so far. He isn't involved. When I try to involve him most times he says it isn't the right time (which is never is, it seems). If I show him what I've bought or planning to buy, he often goes, "Do we REALLY need THAT?" Last such comment was on fuel tablets, for example. He's an optimist who loves creature comforts, so forget dragging him outdoors into a wilderness survival situation in the guise of a "camping trip". I've tried every approach sited in this article, none of it has worked. He indulges my preparations, and he's not a Scrooge, so money isn't the issue, but I can tell that he clearly thinks my prepping is just an expensive hobby. He doesn't believe anything bad will happen, and if it does it wouldn't last for more than a week or two, so that's all the emergency supplies we need. When I tell him this was exactly my parents' attitude, which resulted in us very nearly starving and freezing for good 3 YEARS, he says, "that was different" but doesn't actually explain how. If I push too hard it ends up in a fight. Grrrrr.

    So bottom line is, I agree with those who say it's impossible to change someone who isn't in the right state of mind. The vast majority of them are just in denial. They are on the defensive cause they don't want to have their illusions destroyed. Maybe we get lucky and S doesn't HTF so fast, maybe things will get worse gradually. And if our spouses actually lose some of their everyday creature comforts, then they'll see just how handy our emergency supplies can be. Maybe that'll be their wakeup call. It's a difficult reality to accept, but our time would be better spent doing all the heavy lifting than wasting it trying to convince someone who simply doesn't see the world as we do.

    • I'm in the same boat as you. My girl friend wants to ignore the possibilty of a long term SHTF scenario because I think she hasn't connected the dots between whats happened in the last several years and what could happen in the next few. I think your spouse is of the same midset. He doesn't want to part with the comforts of a normal life in order to survive in the future. To be honest, I don't either. I find myself spending money when I shouldn't, because I want to enjoy life. I don't want to put certain things on hold but my preps would be a whole lot better for it. I've even debated whether my girl friend is the best one to have around when things go sour. If something happened tomorrow and we had to bug out, I'm not so sure that she would be alright enough to be able to pack up and leave. I think for a few days she would be in complete shock as to what happened, and be completely useless as a human being functions, when its critical to be able to think on your feet. At some point you have to consider, if your really serious about being prepared…how good is your mate to be able to respond to certain stimulus and how likely is it they will be prepared?!

      • Thanks for your reply, Josh. It's a tough call. If you're merely dating someone, not sure if you love them or want to spend your entire life with them… Then yes, you should give it serious thought. Then again, if you decide it's best to part ways, and then nothing happens, you end up missing out on what could potentially be a superb relationship. As I said, it's a tough call. In my case, though, it's not even worth thinking about. No way in hell would I kick to the curb the person I've spent nearly two decades ( and still have a great, solid marriage) with, the person I love to death, the father of my children, someone I believe to be my soulmate. So, it really depends on your situation.

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  16. Just take it slow, not too much at one time:

    "We've been stuck in the city too long, wanna plan a beach trip or something?"
    "Or something, like something else instead? Like camping, maybe?"
    "Uh, yea okay. We'll finally put your stupid bags to some use then, for sure"

    "I'm glad you didn't call the cops, it's getting pretty cold outside, poor guy"
    "Yea well, I know this side of town is new to us and it was just a misunderstanding, but if that hobo had been a serious home invader with intent – if he had been here for money or even you?"
    "Alright, alright! We can go LOOK at some guns this weekend"

    "… … …okay, what is it? How's the world gonna end? You've been patient long enough, tell me everything. I do want to know. What should I really be concerned about right now?"
    "For real, are you serious?! Oh my god, alright – umm, let's go grab a bite somewhere quiet"
    "Okay, just take it slow, yea? Start with this 'national debt ceiling' crap"

  17. I am lucky! My wife is a veteran like myself S.F.(RDF) so she is an expert shoot with her gun and mine! As well have had gone through several very bad hurricanes and winter storms, her parents live up in the ntains above Denver,Co. so shws why and how to be ready for just not the storms but the people who did not prep even a single bottle of water or food! At the end of 4 days when those that are hungry/thirsty(they were waiting for the gov to showup 5 minutes after storm is over!) are now realizing they are SOL! They will be coming for anyone who they think has supplies, and will take those supplies by any force needed to get them! Forget your family or friends who thought ahead they might have to bw stopped with deadly force! You must have the mindset to survive! and so does anyone with you. If there is one person that can't do it get them off the front line as they will swarm over and through this weak spot. Not everyone will at first be able to protect their family/friends with such force till they see what happens if they don't! Once people know and realize you will protect and have help in doing so will go to a easier target. We had this happen with the 4 storms in 5 weeks as 3 streets over did not want to join up(they were asked) We pushed on a group of 12 to 18 people who were scoping out targets and saw over 21 adults with guns just asked for a non-existant street and we told them never heard of it. 3 days later 2 of those neighbors showed up and told us the 3 houses in a row were broken into and robbed! The people inside thankfully were not seriously hurt but required medical help(we provided the stiches and stuff) police were called showed up 6 hours later and report filled. Cops saw how we were setup and told us that we were doing good as several homes were broken into around us, So those who did not prep will come after thoses who don't look hungry/thirsty!!!


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