2 April 2014

Convincing your partner about lifestyle change

An email arrived last week asking a question that I know a lot of people think about. There are a couple of different parts to this question so lets see if we can come up with an answer. 

The email from 'Madam X' said in part:

I know you don't give advice freely; however, I am four years from retirement. I feel that I am in a box without a hole even to breath through! And, the Mister isn't nearly on board with the values evolving within me. So.... I know Hanno became convinced when you quietly started your own "revolution" within your lifestyle. How did you keep your focus?

Retirement and other major life events often make us stop and think about what we're doing. Retirement seems to be the one milestone when we ask ourself some big questions and it makes us question where we are and where we're going. BTW, I think we should ask ourselves these questions at the turn of every decade but I don't think many people do it. Retirement is when changes are made. We either think about changing and plan to do it, or realise that if we are even going to change, this is the prime time to do it, but something stops us. There are also questions about capability, sustainability and responsibility. We hope that what we want to do with be within our capabilites, will last for a long, long time and that we do what we should be doing - for ourselves and our family.

But how did I focus on my revolution? Looking back now it seems like a difficult thing to do but at the time it was so easy. I was absolutely convinced that what I wanted to do made the best kind of sense. It would solve the dilemma of me not returning to work and it would allow us to significantly lower our cost of living. I believed early on that if I could work at home and make my home and life productive, that would supply many of our needs, and then just living life would provide structure, interest and purpose. In that early stage I didn't think that I would dive so deeply into home life but as I started working in my home and new possibilities starting opening up ahead of me my days became more interesting and my plans more achievable.

The main reason we could live that way was because we had no debt. We owned our home and we had no other debt so we didn't have to earn as much as we once did to get by. If we could reduce the cost of living by making a lot of what we used to buy, we'd both be able to give up working full time and we could spend much more time doing what we wanted to do. How could we not want to live this quiet, gentle and simple life? But...

When I told Hanno what I wanted to do, he thought I'd lost my marbles. =: - 0

When he rejected my plan outright, I decided to keep going alone. I had seen the possibilities, I'd thought about this a lot, I was convinced it could be done. Hanno was still working, he hadn't had the opportunity to see first-hand what my day-to-day life had become and he still believed that to live to our standard, we needed to work. With the help of one of my sons, we'd already enlarged the vegetable garden, we got a few more chooks to ensure a continuous supply of eggs and then it was up to me to see how much I could reduce our grocery bill. I didn't need anyone to help me with that. It was a matter of teaching myself how to make bread, soap, laundry liquid, sauces, relish etc. and taking up the needles again to sew and knit my way into a new life. It was only when I did all those things that I realised simple life was also frugal, healthy and environmentally friendly. Even more reasons to change!

:- )

You see, Madam X, I was absolutely convinced that living this kind of life was possible, and in many ways, was a reward for all the years of hard work we'd put in along the way. Knowing you're doing the right thing and sticking to it sounds difficult, but it's not. It was the life I wanted and it was so exciting to wake every morning with another day ahead where anything was possible.  It was exciting to see how much I could make and change and how much I could reduce our grocery bill. I did all that alone and quietly for a few months, with Hanno delighted that there was home cooking every night and occasionally the smell of fresh bread and cakes when he came home, I built up my skills and kept thinking about this life being part of the future for both of us. After a few months, I told Hanno what I'd been doing and showed him how much money we'd saved and how we could continue doing that if we both worked in our home. He had loved the changes I'd made at home. He loved the fresh vegetables, the home cooking and the savings, and he saw that working at home had changed me in significant ways. I was happy again! Soon after, he closed his business and came home to work alongside me.

Success and self belief is a powerful thing. I am lucky that much of what I did early on was modelled on how my mother and grandmother worked in their homes - when I started doing the work, it felt familiar to me. Not everything went according to plan, I had bad experiences along the way, I made mistakes, but my belief in my ability and the lifestyle itself kept me working away at it. When I started one thing, many other projects opened up to follow. Now I tell those I talk to to just start one thing and the rest takes care of itself. What you start with will always open up something else to try or learn.

You have to remember that you're convinced your retirement will be better if you live like we do. I think you're probably right. But your husband doesn't read the blogs you read every day, he doesn't read the books. You have to remain convinced and keep working at it, just like I did. Let him see what your plans are, show him the savings, cook his favourite meals, talk about your future. If it works well in your life, and he sees it makes you happy and reduces your cost of living, he'll probably come around. But you have to keep the faith and be the driving force until he develops an understanding of what you're trying to do and the benefits it will bring both of you.  Good luck!

If you've been in this position, how did you convince your partner?

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