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Dealing With a Reluctant Partner

user profile picture Becca Martenson Dec 17, 2010
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Is your partner not “on board” with the ideas in The Crash Course?  Here are the do’s and don'ts of speaking with your reluctant partner.

In early 2002, the stock market was tanking and Chris watched our savings drop along with it.  Ignoring the platitudes of our financial advisor to "wait it out because the stock market always goes back up," he began an intensely focused (dare I say obsessive?) study of the economy.  What he learned made him both angry and afraid. He ranted about the state of debt levels, the fragility of fiat currencies, and the inequities of the banking system – and I barely listened:  “Uh huh.  Really?  Gosh, that’s too bad.  Can you pass me a diaper, please?”

The movie “The Matrix” had just come out, providing perfect metaphors that made him sound pretty darn crazy to me:  He talked about having taken the red pill, and that he didn’t want to be a battery for the machine anymore.  I figured this was some kind of mid-life crisis in the works.  It was an emotional squall; I just had to wait it out, and Chris would be back to his usual self in a few months.  But the squall didn’t pass – instead, it picked up energy and became a real storm.  The harder the storm raged, the more I shut down to what Chris was trying to tell me.  He was growing increasingly distrustful of the system and fearful about the impact on his family, but I couldn’t open up and listen to what he was saying at all.  No one else I knew was talking about this stuff.  What was the matter with my husband?

After a while, Chris changed tactics, and rather than attempting to force me to his position or expressing his fear, he altered the tone of his voice.  He cooled down, came to me one evening (I remember it well) and said, “I need to talk to you about something really important.  Everything I have been reading and researching is changing my impression of what the future looks like.  I’m looking at the future through a new lens, and what I see has huge implications for our family; I need you to learn what I have learned; to look through the same lens and see if you come to the same conclusions.”  

This change in approach helped me shift my own stance.  My earlier perception that Chris was coming at me strongly from a place of fear and anger led me to put up walls to protect myself from the intensity of his emotions.  When he shifted and came to me calmly, I was able to put down those walls and listen to what he was saying.  I began my own journey of learning about the economy (we were only looking at one “E” at that point), and quickly drew the same conclusions as Chris.  It was clear that our energy-dependent lifestyle and super-sized home were not in alignment with our new perspective on the future.

And while fear of “what might go wrong” provided the initial energy I needed to sell our house and move, it was the calling of a better way of life for my family that sustained me throughout the process.  I did not want to live in fear, but rather joy.  I could tell that the life we were visioning together was a better life – more connected to the land and natural cycles, more connected to our community and our children.  While Chris was primarily motivated by a desire to provide for and protect his family, I was primarily motivated by a vision of a healthier life for my children. 

Within a year, we had sold our big house, tossed our TV, moved to western Massachusetts, got chickens and planted a garden, took the kids out of school, and began focusing on community building.

We were incredibly fortunate to maintain our unity as a couple throughout the major life shift we undertook seven years ago. Since that time we have met countless people in our seminars and at talks who describe a similar dynamic in which one partner “sees the light” and the other is reluctant to follow. Frequently, there is no happy ending to the story, and rather than unity, the relationship deteriorates due to stress and disharmony.  So many folks have approached us wanting to know:  How did Chris and I make it through this stage?  In response, we have developed a list of successful strategies for working towards unity with your reluctant partner.  We have found these to be very successful, and want to share them with you all:

  1. Be aware of your own emotional state!  This is critical.  Read the 6 Stages of Awareness and identify which emotional state you are most closely aligned with right now.  Know that your emotional state has a huge impact on your partner, as our story illustrates.
  2. Set aside time and space to talk about your concerns; don’t try to talk to your partner offhandedly or while the other is engaged in a task.  Create space for a “serious” conversation; it signals to your partner that this is deeply important to you.
  3. If at all possible, set aside your own fear/anger/depression when talking to your partner, and communicate with as little “charge” as possible.  When I need to do this, I literally ask the scared (or angry or sad) part of myself to sit aside for a few minutes so I can have a conversation from a grounded, clear place.  What settles your emotions?  I feel settled after I spend time alone in nature, but everyone has their own way to create a state of inner calm.  Whatever that may be, do it before you have the “serious” conversation about why the implications of the Crash Course are important to you.
  4. Chris’s approach was really effective:  Instead of saying, “This is what I believe! You have to believe it too!” he encouraged me to learn for myself and see what conclusions I came to on my own.  At the time there was no Crash Course, so I had to read source material from numerous books, articles, and websites; instead of love notes, Chris left important articles on my pillow at night!  With the CC, you are fortunate to have much of the information in condensed form – use it wisely.  Ask your partner to watch the CC with you, to see what s/he thinks about the material.
  5. Everyone has different processing speeds.  If you are successful in getting your partner to watch the Crash Course, don’t assume s/he will be able to instantly process and respond to the material. Allow a few days to let it “simmer,” then check in and see if your partner is ready to talk about it.  It may take a long while!  We once had a man show up at our door who had seen Chris give a talk locally a few years back; initially he thought Chris was way off base, but he wanted to come back and let us know we were right!  We plant the seeds of this information and sometimes have to wait very patiently for the seed to germinate and sprout.
  6. If after watching the Crash Course, your partner is still not convinced, take a deep breath and let it go for a while.  Not everyone is ready to engage with this material – it is pretty intense, after all.  If you can, try to accept where your partner is without judgment; again, not everyone is ready to process this information at the same pace.  Your partner may need to hear it from his or her best friend, doctor, or trusted TV personality before the underlying beliefs can shift. The information may need to lie dormant for a very long time before it reemerges.
  7. Not everyone is built to be an early adopter.  While gaining some traction in the mainstream media, the implications of the Crash Course are still understood by only a small minority of the global population.  As the situation continues to unfold, it will become clear to more and more people, perhaps your partner as well.  Be patient!
  8. Agree to disagree.  If your partner is unwilling to join you in your thinking or personal preparations, ask for his/her blessing to follow your gut and do what feels right.  I know at least three couples in which one partner is quietly preparing, and while the other is not on board, s/he is not blocking the activity.
  9. Some partners are actively hostile to any mention of the Crash Course or related information.  This can be very challenging, especially if the other partner is passionate in his/her conviction about the implications of the CC.  If you can, accept where your partner is, even if you don’t agree.  If your partner is in this category, don’t even talk about the Crash Course or related material around them; it will only serve to solidify the opposing stance of your partner.  Read what you want, prepare in the ways that seem most important, but don’t try to involve your partner in the process.  Leave them alone.  Accepting them as they are and giving them space to be without judgment will be the most effective approach.
  10. Come to a seminar with your partner (the next one is Feb. 25 in Rowe MA) or schedule a private consultation.  We have seen major shifts happen with couples in our seminars.  There is usually at least one reluctant partner in each group, and frequently there are more.  Your partner will be in a room filled with very normal looking and sounding people who share the same beliefs as you do.  Your views will no longer seem quite so crazy!  Chris and I have been at this a long time and are both in a persistent state of emotional acceptance with the material; being in a room with others who are in acceptance provides an opportunity for deep shifts to occur.  We present the information with compassion and without fear or anger.  This allows people to lay down their emotional barriers and listen in a new way. One participant from Rowe last year said it most succinctly:  “I’ve never felt so safe hearing such scary information before.”
  11. If all of these approaches are not successful and you are at an impasse facing a deteriorating relationship, please seek professional therapy to help see you through it. 

Above all, know that you are not alone. There are thousands of others who share your experiences and frustrations in working with a reluctant partner, close friend, or family member.  If you have stories to share on this subject, I encourage you to do so in the comments below.  Together, we can support each other to find our way through the challenging landscape of relationships with reluctant partners.


This What Should I Do? blog series is intended to surface knowledge and perspective useful to preparing for a future defined by Peak Oil.  The content is written by readers and is based in their own experiences in putting into practice many of the ideas exchanged on this site.  If there are topics you'd like to see featured here, or if you have interest in contributing a post in a relevant area of your expertise, please indicate so in our What Should I Do? series feedback forum.

If you have not yet seen the other articles in this series, you can find them here:

This series is a companion to this site's free What Should I Do? Guide, which provides guidance from Chris and the staff on specific strategies, products, and services that individuals should consider in their preparations.

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