Problem: Wife Doesn’t Want Self-Reliance – But He Does

I picked this month’s “Ask Granny” question because it’s an important issue for lots of young and not so young couples.

Rouen Ducks Wandering A Small Garden Farm

Rouen Ducks Wandering A Small Garden Farm

Hello Granny Miller,
I have a question for you…I was raised on a farm and lived the life style of self-reliance and after a lot of years working for someone else I am trying to retire.  I want to get back to that self-reliant life. I know how to garden; I have just gotten some chickens and ducks.  My next is Rabbits, Quail and I want a Bee hive or two.  I do live in town so I can’t have bigger livestock there; I am looking in leasing some land. So as you see I think I am heading in the right direction.  My problem is how to get my wife of 20 years to go along with it.  She wants nothing to do with taking care of animals or canning so I am doing it all.  I don’t have a problem doing any of the work I just want her to relax and see how good this life can be and the enjoyment she could have living the self-reliant lifestyle. Now I know all of this is a lot of work and we both are hard workers so that’s not it. She thinks I am a prepper just because I want to have enough food on the shelf or in the freezer.  The one thing I have her hooked on is the ducks! She loves to see them in the pond and the silly things they do (so I may have a head start). We also have wild Mallards that come and have babies at our house every year.  This is how I got her on the ducks in the first place.  So words of wisdom, direction or help getting her to understand the direction I am headed would help.  I know she will love the journey.

You’re probably not going to like my answer.
Lots of people desirous of a more self-reliant life have a partner who is not at all interested in gardening, small livestock, homesteading, garden farming or any type of alternative or self-determined living situation.

Changing and evolving lifestyle choices are frequently a serious issue between couples – especially older couples thinking about retirement. In fact almost 80% of all couples planning for retirement will run into some type of life choice or living situation conflict or issue.

You Can Lead  A Horse To Water But You Can’t Make It Drink

What I’m hearing from your question, is that your wife isn’t interested in a different type of lifestyle and maybe doesn’t appreciate why you would want to change.
Change in a partner can be scary and confusing. Maybe she feels like you are trying to drag her where she doesn’t care to go. Or now that you are thinking about retiring you are trying “to change the rules” and upset the way things have always been done.
I don’t blame her for feeling less than enthusiastic. After all there are only so many hours in a day, and it’s not fair to expect her to ditch her life and follow your dreams. How about her dreams?
Maybe she feels like you are asking her to work harder, or possibly leave her home or move away from her children & friends? Maybe she is just plain old-fashioned not interested in what you are interested in and has other ideas and plans.
If people don’t really want a life of canning, gardening and tending animals – for them nothing is more tedious. Unless you love it – it is a life of pure drudgery and is one of the reasons people sold the family farm and moved to town. Town life is much easier.

What I think you are saying is that after years of working for someone else you want to work for yourself and enjoy life.
I perfectly understand.
I agree that it is often a better and more satisfying life choice to grow your own food and provide for most of your own life needs, instead of working for somebody else. Why work so hard just so you can be paid in a deprecating currency and then pay another person or organization to meet those life needs? Seems to make more sense to cut out the middlemen and just do it yourself if possible.

It’s The Hard Life – But It’s A Good Life

The only wisdom or advice I can offer to you and your beloved, or anyone for that matter is this:
Go slow and grow into the changes that you want.
Nature teaches us that when it comes to living things – gentle, slow and steady will bring progress.
An evolution is better than a revolution (unless we’re talking about the clowns in Washington).

If you already have a situation where you can “homestead in town” I’d stay put. As long as you have a small piece of ground and the sun shines you can grow and preserve lots of your own food. Chickens, rabbits and even a dairy goat can provide plenty of milk, meat, cheese and manure to help your garden grow.
Don’t bother leasing land.
Put your cash instead into a water filter for town water and some good garden tools.
Explore alternative heat, cooking, lighting and toilet systems.
A freezer and more pantry and household storage will probably be money well spent. Try to connect with other like minded people. It makes good sense to trade what you grow and raise to someone else for something they may grow but you don’t or can’t.

Now is the time before you actually retire to find ways to cut back on your expenses and build the infrastructure that you’ll need in the future. It takes time to acquire the necessary skills and tools to live a more independent life.
I would be very cautious about biting off more than the two of you can chew. Keep in mind that you are not going to get younger- you are growing older everyday – and there will be physical limitations and perhaps illness in the future.
Also consider that statistically, unless your wife is 10 -12 years older than you, she will probably outlive you so plan ahead.
Don’t put her in a situation where she may have to care for animals, a big garden, food storage and a sick or dying husband in the future if it isn’t something she really wants for herself.
By staying put and continuing to provide for many of your own basic needs you may find that your wife discovers for herself the economic benefits and pleasures of the life that you long for.
Who knows? Maybe by this time next year she’ll insist on moving out of town so you can get a couple of pigs and horses.
Anything can happen when love is involved.
Good luck to you and your wife in the future.


Katherine Grossman

Katherine Grossman was born and raised in the greater Washington, D.C area. But for the last 30 years Mrs. Grossman has lived a life of deliberate self-reliance in rural western Pennsylvania. She loves to garden, knit mittens; makes a killer meatloaf and has been known to deliver triplet lambs with her eyes closed. 


  5 comments for “Problem: Wife Doesn’t Want Self-Reliance – But He Does

  1. Linda
    July 1, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Very well said, Granny.

    Around our place, there is often a bit of a tug of war as I want to be a bit more self-reliant and my husband, wise as he is, sees this as a great deal of work for him. He is done with chopping wood and hauling it in during the winter and was so happy to hear that chickens are not permitted due to local zoning regulations. The garden and the canning and freezing are plenty for us at this point. I would love to have more, but it is not realistic for us. We, too, are getting older and I’m not as healthy as I would wish. We do what we can and rely on God.

    P.S. “Clowns in Washington”–that just made me laugh today!

  2. Nada
    July 1, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Dear Stephen,

    I’m not sure if you’ll ever read this, but if you do, know that it is possible.

    My darling husband was sooooooooooo not into the idea of being more self sufficient. It took a long time of patience and prayers, but he has finally come around. He’s gone from being a fancy-dressed, hair-anoid city boy to being working on three separate gardens, becoming a food revolutionary, learning to can, searching for farmland, and daydreaming about goats, chickens and growing corn.

    All I did was gently show him the reality of the world. We watched documentaries instead of blockbusters. We went to workshops instead of dinner. We talked about the state of the world instead of who the next big celebrity was. It was a slow process, but over time, his thinking has gradually changed.

    Have patience, be gentle and don’t push it. Let it evolve naturally. Just find little ways to draw her interest.

  3. M Collett
    July 2, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Good advise, Granny.
    My husband was born and raised in Detroit. He couldn’t wait to retire and start “farming”. I said you can do whatever you want but don’t ask me to join in. I will can, freeze whatever and certainly will enjoy the fruits of “his” labors. I was raised on a farm and couldn’t wait to get away. So we have reached a happy medium. Knowing that “his” garden is his and I have no responsibility in it makes it for an easier relationship. Now the next battle is’s still in the discussion and the weighing of pros and cons stage. But the jury is still out and may very well be for a few years.
    Have a wonderful summer.

  4. Phil in Minnesota
    July 2, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks for your input on this issue. Staying put and making the best of what we have is often the best advice for anyone, no matter what the problem. There is no greener side of the fence. Your happiness is not geographic. Thanks again.

  5. Julie
    July 5, 2013 at 12:41 am

    I was the one who didn’t want to have chickens and forget the canning and gardening. I remembered the hard work and heat in the kitchen when my mother did it when I was a small child. All I have to do is read the news and it changed my mind. Nothing is certain and being able to truly provide for yourself is an asset. Chickens, gardening, canning, dehydrating, solar panels, wood burning, etc… they are all part of my day now. I’m either researching or doing it. My husband has been wanting to move back to western Pa and I don’t want to deal with the cold. I also don’t want to deal with the heat! I’ve been in NC for 28 years and NW Pa looks pretty good some days!

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