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E Cochran
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Been married for 24 years. Raised our kids. Always growing a garden, going camping, etc. Had chickens and goats for awhile. Always said we wanted to buy land and homestead.

So last August we found a place and bought it. It was wild, completely overgrown, heavily forested but it had a house and barn on the northern edge and a creek running through the middle. I was in love with it. My spouse said so too. So what's the deal?

Every. Single. Project ... my spouse seems to think the work will just miraculously do itself as if we buy the materials and they will *poof* put themselves together, the shovel will dig the berms, the ponds will form themselves, the fence will sprout from the ground. "We can work on that later," is the catch-phrase. But then "later" never comes.

AND if I try to push a project and jump in to do it without waiting for help that I know I won't get I hear a litany of "That won't work because X,Y,Z" with no suggestion otherwise to help and X,Y,Z being the most ridiculous way anyone would ever have approached the project to begin with and not the path I was planning to take. 

I'm at my wits end and extremely discouraged. How do I motivate my spouse to DO something, HELP with something, SUPPORT me in something? I thought we were building this together, I thought that was the plan and I've communicated that more than once to no avail. I'm seriously to the point of selling the place, selling all the animals, and giving up ... which would literally kill me.

Any suggestions?
 
James Freyr
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I would read to your spouse what you just typed for us. Just speak how you feel, ya know? I used to sugar coat everything I said to past girlfriends, afraid to upset them or hurt their feelings, so I kept things inside. Gee that really worked awfully. Now that I'm 40, I don't keep things bottled up anymore. Been with my wife 9 years now, and we've managed to grow together instead of growing apart. It's also interesting how much people change. I am a completely different person than I was 10 years ago, so is my brother, my sister, and everyone I know. You have a life too, your happiness is important, and at the end of the day, only you are responsible for you.

This may be terrible advice and maybe why I'm a gardener and not a counselor. I do hope other people chime in to help and if this is bad advice, they tell me "James, you're not a good counselor, go back to gardening" and provide you quality advice that will help and not make things worse.  But I do hope this helps
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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My strategy towards these types of things, is that whomever is doing the labor gets to decide how the labor is done. If someone isn't providing labor, then they don't get a say in how things are done. In my kitchen garden, we have three gardeners with three radically different ways of gardening. Doesn't matter. Whomever is putting the seeds in the ground today gets to put them in how they want to.

 
Tyler Ludens
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E Cochran wrote: I thought we were building this together, I thought that was the plan and I've communicated that more than once to no avail.


Did he ever communicate this to you, that you're building this together, and did you mutually agree on what "this" is?  

Looking back to when my husband and I were talking about buying land, I don't recall if we ever really hashed out what "this" was going to be.  I know my husband wanted to move out of the city, but he never communicated that he wanted to raise animals or farm in any way.  So all of those kinds of projects have mostly been on me, because I wanted them.  He helped a little, but not like it was also his project, just "helping."  It's only been since we started seriously working on restoring the watershed and managing for wildlife that he's gotten really interested and it seems to be his project as well as mine.  We're gradually developing a mutual vision, after 20 years here!  I think a mutual vision needs to be decided on at some point, and agreed to.  If it isn't, the most the other person is likely to do is "help" and only if you ask every. single. time.
 
Travis Johnson
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Sadly I am a councilor of sorts; my current wife and I do DivorceCare for our church which is to help people heal who have been hurt by separation or divorce.

But that being said, I am empathetic towards you. My second wife was like what you describe, never doing a thing to help, complaining about me spending time on getting the sheep farming thing going, and even doling out a weekly allowance for the "farm" along the way. But of course enjoying the tax write offs at the end of the year and bragging to her friends of all the stuff "we" were doing. We did end up getting a divorce and it was tough to see her try and maneuver to get her half of the farm. She never did, but that is another whole story...But do not be misled, divorce is one of the most emotional damaging things you can ever go through. It is not like breaking a stick where you can put the clean break back together again, it is like breaking plywood with shards everywhere; kids, careers, dreams, financial...more hurt than anyone really comprehends.

So I know the frustration you face, and while I sort of feel like I am saying, "do what I say, and not as I do", because I did go through a divorce, met my current wife and that we work so well together, the truth is that second divorce was devastating; then and even now. (She is constantly taking me to court)

My questions are, and these are not judgments against you, but maybe questions you should ask yourself, is: what are your expectations? Because I can tell you this in honesty. NO ONE is going to complete you. As much as I love my current wife, as much as we work well together, as much as we are motivated to expand this farm...at the start of the day and at the end of the day I must truly be happy with myself to be content. That psychobabble about finding a soul mate, and all that crap, is just crap. No other person is going to be so ideal that they make you feel complete. First you have to be happy with yourself.

Where does that start?

That starts with being content in the moment. You sort of eluded to this, and don't think I am calling you out on this because I am not. This is a tough issue that I face daily, but it really is about perspective. Instead of trying to hurry, hurry, hurry to get all the things done that you listed, realize that actually DOING them is the fun part. There will always be another swale to build, there will always be more trees to plant, and another hugel would sure be nice. What about just stepping back...even if it is just you building that swale and smiling and saying, "this is kind of fun." When the end goal is the source of happiness, a person is always chasing the dragon. Find happiness in the moment and you find a lot more joy in life. I used to do this with woodworking projects. I was so intent on finishing the project and starting another that I was never happy actually using my tools to create. Fooey with that; realizing in the midst of something, even if you are alone in doing it, you are out on YOUR land, doing what YOU love, building something for YOUR future; that is the perspective that breeds contentment my friend.

Ignore me, or ask more questions: I do care about people and I am always a PM away.

 
Marco Banks
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Let me echo something Travis spoke about: expectations.

It's been said that married couples fight about four things: money, sex, children and Christmas.

In truth, they fight about one thing: expectations.

All of us have a set of expectations about a million different things.  For most of us, there are expectations that we hold closely that we don't even know that we have.  In fact, the only time we come to realize that we've got these expectations is when people fail to meet them.  Then we tend to respond in a couple of typical ways: anger, disappointment, silence, sadness or some combination of these. 

So . . . while it may have seemed that your expectations were clear, and that the two of you had an understanding of sharing the work load on this new piece of property, somewhere along the way things broke down.  You'd hate to have to get a signed contract on these sorts of things, as people normally do in the case of a business, a lease, etc.  A contract is simply a well-written set of expectations that legal binds both parties to their end of the deal.  A marriage is a contract of sorts, and people like to know what they are buying before they put their money down.  But no contract can anticipate every expectation of the other.

Perhaps you need to list your expectations.  Once listed, find a time to sit down and work through them.

We find ourselves saying, "I shouldn't HAVE TO TELL YOU, because if I do, it means you don't care."  Well . . . for most people, you DO have to tell them.  I can't read my wife's mind, and she can't read mine.  Perhaps it does take away from the specialness of having her just intuitively know what I want, but telling it to her is a whole lot better than feeling the disappointment of her not having a clue.

Get to the expectation level.  Make your list.

Have him make a list of his expectations, and then put them side by side.  And once you've done this, let the negotiations begin.  Don't get angry, as that solves nothing.  Don't withhold affection or do passive aggressive shit to get under his skin.  That also does little more than undermine the trust of the relationship.  But come back again and again to the table and talk it through.
 
Anne Miller
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Travis Johnson wrote:Where does that start?  That starts with being content in the moment. .... What about just stepping back...even if it is just you building that swale and smiling and saying, "this is kind of fun." When the end goal is the source of happiness, a person is always chasing the dragon. Find happiness in the moment and you find a lot more joy in life. I used to do this with woodworking projects. I was so intent on finishing the project and starting another that I was never happy actually using my tools to create. Fooey with that; realizing in the midst of something, even if you are alone in doing it, you are out on YOUR land, doing what YOU love, building something for YOUR future; that is the perspective that breeds contentment my friend.

Ignore me, or ask more questions: I do care about people and I am always a PM away.


Marco Banks wrote:Let me echo something Travis spoke about: expectations.

It's been said that married couples fight about four things: money, sex, children and Christmas.

In truth, they fight about one thing: expectations. ...


Perhaps you need to list your expectations.  Once listed, find a time to sit down and work through them.

We find ourselves saying, "I shouldn't HAVE TO TELL YOU, because if I do, it means you don't care."  Well . . . for most people, you DO have to tell them.  I can't read my wife's mind, and she can't read mine.  Perhaps it does take away from the specialness of having her just intuitively know what I want, but telling it to her is a whole lot better than feeling the disappointment of her not having a clue.

Get to the expectation level.  Make your list.

Have him make a list of his expectations, and then put them side by side.  And once you've done this, let the negotiations begin.  Don't get angry, as that solves nothing.  Don't withhold affection or do passive aggressive shit to get under his skin.  That also does little more than undermine the trust of the relationship.  But come back again and again to the table and talk it through.


Everyone has given you great advice.  I would like to add my thoughts.

Is your husband working a full time job and you too?  That makes trying to homestead even harder.  You are both tired and/or exhausted when you get home from work and now there are things that need to get done at home.  That in its self is exhausting.  As Joseph said "that whomever is doing the labor gets to decide how the labor is done"

Do what you can do and don't expect too much more.
 
Maureen Atsali
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In our home I have had to accept that I am the farmer, and the husband is not.  We can talk about "our" plans, and he is enthusiastic about the idea of the end result... But it is a rare day that he will actually pick up a tool and go to work.  My dreams of us laboring side by side in homestead harmony... Just not going to happen.  I have accepted that, and set to work with the mindset that the farm is my project.  Yes, sometimes he comes out and tells me I am doing it all wrong.  All the time in fact.  I shrug it off, and do it my way anyway.  (Had to grow a pretty thick skin).  When he does decide to participate, he usually drives me nutty, but I try to just roll with it, and try not to discourage his efforts, even if his way is totally not what I wanted.  My husband just made a total mess of my 3 sisters plot.  Spacing is crazy, its not on contour, he wanted to monocrop maize, he rushed, trying to do it faster.  Yeah, it made me twitch.  But I tried to be thankful that he showed an interest.  And yesterday, when I started putting the beans in the 3 sisters, he came and told me I was doing it wrong!  It rubs, but later I laugh.  See the motto of my farm?

So I say, let go of those expectations of team work, and look at yourself.  What will make you happy?  Prioritize what is most important, and then get to work.  Don't worry about "doing it wrong", just enjoy doing it.  Let the negative commentary roll off. 

And who knows?  Your spouse might really be paralyzed by a fear of doing it wrong.  Or they might be overwhelmed by all that needs doing.  Hard to know what is in a persons head.

If this is your dream, love it.  If it was your spouses dream and you just went along for the ride, now you are miserable and resentful?  Bail.  If its not what you love, it will suck the life out of you.
 
Craig Dobbson
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E Cochran wrote:

I'm at my wits end and extremely discouraged. How do I motivate my spouse to DO something, HELP with something, SUPPORT me in something? 


Motivating people isn't easy.  But there's a trick I've learned over time... you can get them to motivate themselves with simply rewarding them when they do something you want them to do.  At first it might be just small stuff like emptying the food scraps out to the hens once.  Reward that in some way, as soon as it happens and make sure they know why they are being rewarded.  Our brains are wired to seek out rewards and to repeat behavior that leads to rewards. If we reward people appropriately and consistently when they behave in ways we like, they will be more likely to repeat those behaviors in the future.  The flip side is that if you punish a person for doing the thing you want, they will resent you and that's what builds up walls between people.   It seems to me like you're not being rewarded for your effort and moreover, you're upset by the lack of spousal assistance, which is a punishment of sorts, in it's own way.  I can see how that would make you want to give up.   

When my wife does something that's helpful and out of her normal work flow(clearing snow, hauling wood in for the stove etc), I make damn sure to say "thank you" and tell her how much I appreciate the fact that she took time to help make my life a little easier.  Sometimes I even give her a big goofy kiss. 
These are not her favorite tasks but she'll do them because she knows I'm grateful and I will likely express it in a nice way.  Of course this is a system that works in both directions and benefits all parties involved, so I do my fair share of tasks for her too.  It's about helping each other out and knowing that they appreciate it.  You may have to start really small, but I bet if you tried it, you may just be able to turn your spouse around.  The alternative isn't much fun, now or in the future.


I've found this video to be helpful in understanding how people operate in relationships.



 
John Weiland
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Craig Dobbson wrote:
..... you can get them to motivate themselves with simply rewarding them when they do something you want them to do.


Yup, it's called 'clicker training' based on Skinner's 'operant conditioning' and adopted to that animal training method  It does work, no doubt, on humans as well....far better than negative reinforcement.  But the reward must be a tangible one to the recipient.  But relevant to the thread as well is Marco B's notion about expectations.  Each will have slightly or greatly varying expectations of what 'country life' will entail....AND it can change over time.  So tough topic, but ultimately if you want some task done you may have to do it yourself and negotiate the type and duration of assistance while occasionally reformulating the relationship/homestead 'plan'.
 
Anne Miller
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Maureen Atsali wrote:  My husband just made a total mess of my 3 sisters plot.  Spacing is crazy, its not on contour, he wanted to monocrop maize, he rushed, trying to do it faster.  Yeah, it made me twitch.  But I tried to be thankful that he showed an interest.  And yesterday, when I started putting the beans in the 3 sisters, he came and told me I was doing it wrong!  It rubs, but later I laugh.  See the motto of my farm?


Maureen, that is a great post, reminds me of my DH last year.  He weeded my perennial Monarch Garden for me by pulling up my chicory.  I was able to save one.  It now lives with my cherry tomatoes in a pot.  Later, he pulled up all my sweet alyssum so his milkweed could get more sun.  They could have been trimmed back but no he pulled them up by the roots.

When we had our farm, years ago DH  took care of the outside and the tractor work.  I feed the animals, watered the garden, took out the trash and did the inside work.

Now that we have the ranch he does the outside stuff and I do the inside and my garden. I really don't want a motivated spouse.
 
Laurie Dyer
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I'm curious as to how the division of labor has worked up to this point; you've been married 24 years, has it always been this way? Or have tasks always been managed by the two of you?

My husband and I have been married 22 years, and it's taken a looooooong time to find a groove/rhythm for division of labor. But we live in the suburbs; totally different than your situation. The way it works for us, when it comes to projects, is this:

One of us brings up a project. At this point it is simply shared daydreaming "Wouldn't it be great if we could tear down our house and build a small, efficient house with a dedicated sunroom/greenhouse in it?" then we discuss different ways of doing it. At this stage, it is pure brainstorming, no constraints of reality yet.

Then we talk it down in to something doable. "Okay, obviously we aren't going to tear the house down, but what if we put in a greywater system?"

Next we discuss its feasibility. "Yeah, greywater is not a thing here, and there are loads of codes to work around."

Then we discuss if there's a way we can "downsize" the idea. What's something we CAN do? "Can we install a laundry to landscape system?"

Then we discuss its priority. "Would a laundry to landscape system be of more benefit than replacing our windows?"

Then, when we give the project the a green flag so to speak, we talk about who's going to head up the project. If it’s something that needs precision and meticulousness, my husband usually does it. If it's a situation where good enough = good enough, then I do it. I am usually better at speed vs quality, hubby is the reverse. If it’s a project that requires two people, we will sort of schedule it- "can you help me with thus next Saturday?"

General rule of thumb is that once someone starts a project, the other does NOT get to criticize/give advice/offer suggestions, except in extreme circumstances. And if "helpful advice" is given, then the person doing the project gets to say, "do you want to do it?".

Now, keep in mind that these discussions may take place over several weeks/months/years. And they are very informal, we'll chat while we're driving somewhere, or playing cards at night...and right now we've got more plans and dreams than actual projects.

But I think it would be good for you to sit down with spouse, and discuss plans and a timeline. Perhaps spouse is overwhelmed by all the stuff that has to get done?

Please keep us updated!
 
Craig Dobbson
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A wise man once said that everything that once lived, can be composted and live again.  He also said, if you stand around too long, doing nothing,  he might just compost you too.  LOL

I think it was in reference to interns that aren't worth their weight in hay.

(just a little joke) probably
 
Tyler Ludens
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Anne Miller wrote: he does the outside stuff


That looks motivated to me!
 
Tasha Snoddy
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You've gotten some great advice here. Expectations, being open with yours, etc. It sounds like you guys are at a transitional faze and I'm  sure that brings a lot of stress. It also sounds like you're very frustrated and that can sometimes lead to exponential frustration over everything and I'd bet he is feeling that if you're anything like me.

The helpful thing I have found is to try very hard to step back and see what he is feeling. It sounds opposite to getting what you want, but it's very helpful in realizing how best to motivate him to help you. I know I get wrapped around the axle about things and become so focused on what I want that I sometimes totally neglect what he needs. Did that a lot this past year and it only made things worse. Once I knew what he wanted/needed I found that in helping him with that it made me way happier and we were able to communicate better and work together better. Showing him respect and gratitude for unrelated things you like does loads to help our relationship (everybody enjoys respect and gratitude...even when we feel like they don't deserve it in a certain area). And I notice he started doing the same thing towards me. People say "well why do you have to be the first one or why do you have to make all the effort?" I can only say that in changing my mindset it changes his and worked way better than I expected versus forcing him to see it my way.

I hope you take this as just what worked/works for us... and not as some kind of cut on your frustration. I'd be pretty frustrated by what you described as well. Best of luck!
 
E Cochran
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Wow. Thanks for all the great responses!!

Frustration is a great word for what I'm feeling and it touches on most of what others have mentioned:

Expectations - I share my expectations, which he agrees with ... but if I don't bring it up he most certainly won't either. And he won't say something other than what I've voiced so it's not a conversation and really makes me wonder what he really wants.

Division of Labor - He will feed animals if he has to. He will play with the new babies (we just had triplet goats yesterday). He will climb a ladder and carry heavy things ... but only if I can't and specifically request it of him. He also will do dishes and cook, if I ask. And he loves to can and dry foods if he feels like it. And that's pretty much it. In our 24 years of marriage he's had moments where he actually did help out. At one point he was unemployed (half our marriage at this point I think...sigh) and decided, because he read it in a homesteading magazine, that the homestead would be his job and he would put in so many hours a day working on it. When he followed through, I was thrilled. But that was before we bought our land and just had 1/2 acre or so. But he does none of this willingly or without request. Nothing is ever his idea.

- I plan. I'm an architect by profession. I look at a pile of rubble and design a home or a barn or an aqueduct before I even pick up a pencil. And he lets me do so. I do 90% of the cooking, cleaning, gardening, food preservation, animal care, building, list making, prepping, yard work, purchasing, etc ... I do 100% of the organizing, motivating, kicking butt - but that's my deal. I'm tired of doing it all. I've tried in the past to not do it all hoping that he will have some space to figure out what he wants and take charge of something (anything) but it never happens. Whatever I don't do just doesn't get done.

Rewards - Haha. I laughed over this bit. We have two pyrenees puppies and they are all about the rewards so my mind immediately thought of that system. But my husband isn't a dog. He's an intelligent human being with whom I should be able to reason. I do tell him thank you. And I go out with him alone whenever he wants.

Reality - Yeah, the conversations about what we want happen. They start as dreams and then are filtered by the reality of what we can do and what we can afford. We do those well and are almost always in complete harmony over that aspect of things. That's what makes the rest so much harder. How can we agree on what we want and then only one of us follow through with it? He never gets beyond the chiseled down plan unless I drag him.

For example: We planned out a chicken coop/barn. Because we live in a floodplain we have certain rules that apply. I don't like them but I'm clever enough to work around them. We can only build sheds/decks/etc if they are under 200 sq feet. So the chicken coop is 10 x 20. Easy, right? And we wanted it along the north boundary of our property to serve double duty as a fence. So I go out and stake out the first hole for a post, come up with a way to measure the rest of the posts and lay it all out. Took me about 15 mins. It takes him 2 hours to put in the first post because ... there was a root in the way. A small root, from some tree that our neighbor already cut down, easily chopped through. BUT he then had to dither about moving the hole and if he did how that would affect all the other holes which would affect the placement of the whole chicken coop and and and ... at 1 hour and 45 mins, I chopped through the root and finished digging the hole completely and utterly frustrated with the whole process already. 3 weeks have passed and we have 6 posts in the ground and nothing more done.

Plans -
1) I'm going to try to get him to make a list of his expectations for the property while I make mine. It may be a long wait but at least he'll have it on paper.

2) I'm going to make a list of all the projects that need done, ask for his input, and then let him pick which ones he wants to tackle on his own (with my help as needed but only by request). Maybe if he has a goal and I stay out of it he'll take charge, make a decision, show some interest...

3) Try to ignore my wishes for a husband that would actually wake up in the morning, excited about the day, and suggest "Hey, we need to get project X done today. Get up and come help me please. I'll make some tea and omelets while you dress." (does that man even exist? - I know they do... my dad was one such person.)

4) Relax more and pursue what I want to do without expectation of his help. Maybe if he sees me accomplishing something he'll want to help more.

Anyway, I appreciate all of the ideas and thoughts and motivation. I'm not feeling quite so frustrated and alone in this walk.
 
John Weiland
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E Cochran wrote:....does that man even exist? - I know they do... my dad was one such person.


Just a curiosity for the Annals of Psychology, but in the realm of ♪"I want a girl....just like the girl that married dear old dad..."♪♫, I'm wondering why you chose the partner you did instead of one closer in behavior to your father.(??).  Also, has your husband ever discussed or hinted at some mild depression?  Sometimes the discussed embracing of a new life in the country feels good and seems enthralling until one is dropped into it and then the plans might still be envisioned, but the motivation gets tanked by what has historically been known as melancholia.

I think the list idea is a good one....keeps one focused on tasks that were noted as having high priority of need as well as "doable".

And yes such men exist....or at least they do in fictional form! 
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E Cochran
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John Weiland wrote:

Just a curiosity for the Annals of Psychology, but in the realm of ♪"I want a girl....just like the girl that married dear old dad..."♪♫, I'm wondering why you chose the partner you did instead of one closer in behavior to your father.(??).  Also, has your husband ever discussed or hinted at some mild depression?  Sometimes the discussed embracing of a new life in the country feels good and seems enthralling until one is dropped into it and then the plans might still be envisioned, but the motivation gets tanked by what has historically been known as melancholia.

I think the list idea is a good one....keeps one focused on tasks that were noted as having high priority of need as well as "doable".

And yes such men exist....or at least they do in fictional form! 


I mentioned to my husband at one point that he might be mildly depressed but he says he's not. I fight depression all the time, especially this past year or so after my dad died. In some ways my husband is just like my dad. They were both dreamers, liked to travel, liked to explore new things, liked to learn ... but my dad had a work ethic that my husband doesn't share. My dad literally had two jobs in his whole adult life and he never retired. He died last March at 79 years old still working every day. My husband has had 19 jobs in 25 years.

I guess I just need to marry a fictional man! LOL
 
Tj Jefferson
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I agree with John Wieland, something sounds like the person has changed (maybe so long ago now that you have forgotten) but women are generally pretty good at knowing character. Unless you either knew each other for a short time prior to marriage or married out of rebellion/distress, I think the "dad" character was in there.

This sounds more like a couples counselor issue than a Dear Abby issue to me... No shame in that, I have seen far too many people double down on "try harder". It is far more valorous to get some appropriate help.

My wife and I had a rough time as I went through several career changes. There was spite, resentment, word fighting, lack of affection, etc. She married me because she saw her dad in me (which is an honor, the guy is awesome), and we just needed someone to help communicate. May need it again!
 
John Weiland
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Tj Jefferson wrote:
I have seen far too many people double down on "try harder". It is far more valorous to get some appropriate help.
My wife and I had a rough time as I went through several career changes. There was spite, resentment, word fighting, lack of affection, etc. She married me because she saw her dad in me (which is an honor, the guy is awesome), and we just needed someone to help communicate. May need it again!


Hey, we could do "group" together! 

But seriously, I've often thought that where to place the rocket mass heater and how many hugelbeds to install would be decisions that paled in comparison to what many couples were going to experience once they bought their little piece of heaven.  The relational issues will arise in myriad ways once it's just the two of you under the stars.  Like you, Tj, my wife saw her father in me, but with a twist....as he died young, her image of him as "all powerful, all capable" was etched into her 10 year-old mind and to a certain extent she admitted she expected the same from me in the early days.  This was cause not only of interpersonal anxiety, but some neglect on her part of many of the chores/projects she had said she wanted to engage in.  Then, as things often do over 30 years, the tables reversed and I became less active where as she began to surge with energy and projects.  So I'm more infamous now for starting projects, but never finishing them.  I suspect that's true for a lot of men, but just musing on that last one.....   So strangely enough, we seem to both be settling into a better more comfortable routine and set of mutual expectations.  Still not great, but better than before. 
 
Joel Bercardin
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I don't have a lot to add to this discussion, which because of so many perspectives is already a good deliberation.  I'll only make the point that it's wise (or realistic) that people decide whether they want to contribute to their household/family (self-support kind of orientation) or, beyond raising food for themselves, want to make their living (or as much of it as possible - $$ being part of that) from their efforts on their land.  Either route is valid.

Trying to make a living from raising crops and/or livestock is what I think of as farming.  From personal experiences, travel, and observation I've never seen a couple or family who can do that without the willing and skilled effort of both partners (and ordinarily, the kids too).  A hands-on farmer's role nearly always involves a marriage-type relationship at its core... it's a very hard row for a single individual to hoe.  I'm not saying there are no joys and satisfactions in a household making a livelihood in this way, but it's very serious, dedicated business.  The adults, at least, are necessarily interlinked in their roles and labors.

In my own case, my first wife thought she might be up for this, but within less than three years she fled the reality (shattering a family, sadly).  My second partner and I dreamed more of a shared dream, and my partner is a very physically active and comprehending person with many skills.  Yet we ultimately both realized she is first and foremost an artist, and tremendously enjoys doing artwork (and has brought significant money into our financial stream via her work).  So we settled on growing healthy food mainly for ourselves, and we tend to give what surpluses there are to the local food bank or to other homesteaders we know, in trade.  Locally, the reality is that it just isn't worth the effort to try to sell small surpluses.

We're busy enough here, and not lazy, and have a good life.
 
Cd Greier
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Marriage is the most contrary commitment most of us ever make! My spouse and I waste a lot of time and money on our homestead because of miscommunication and stubborness. One of us will do something their own way and we end up ripping it out and re-doing it. Example: The house we moved onto our property had only an electric stovetop but we don't have a powerline out here so we brought in a gas stove. Unfortuately, it took up way too much floor space and we decided not to get a gas line either. Hubby took it out (and it was a bear to carry up and down the many steps) and re-installed the electric top even though we don't have sufficient solar to run it. Now I am researching the costs of putting in and using propane. Goodness only knows if, this time, my efforts will be thorough enough and he will follow through accordingly.  Although it is painful on many levels, we have learned that both of us make mistakes and we ultimately work it out together.
 
Travis Johnson
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I don't have much to add here anymore either, I have probably said enough, but sometimes a little dose of reality...spoken in kindness and love...helps. A lot of people may not realize this, but STATISTICALLY SPEAKING; more women are choosing divorce. The other thing that is substantially increasing in divorce is "Gray Divorces" which are marriages beyond 20 years.

I am not saying any of this in any sort of judgmental way, but sometimes it is helpful to know the stats so that change can be made. We see this all the time in advertisements where it may show 75% of accident fatalities were due to people not wearing seat belts for example. Here I hope it may just say, "oh my, I did not realize I am in a high risk situation here." And as TJ Jefferson said, there is no shame in a little professional counseling either.

One thing that has not been talked about either has been abuse. If there is ANY kind of abuse...find a safe place. There is no shame in that either, it is the responsible thing to do, and their are tools (the law) that can protect you. No healing can occur between you, or within you, when abuse is happening. PERIOD.

But as much as people can feel close knit on a forum such as this, the one thing I dislike is distance. If I could E Cocrane, I would SO invite you to my home for coffee, let you just open up, share and vent all your frustrations so that you could feel better. I wish I could do this for anyone on Permies that is hurting. I really do care...

I am always open to a Private Message now, or in the future...
 
Travis Johnson
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One thing me and my wife do to keep us from being overwhelmed at farming, is to limit ourselves to one big project per year. In that way we spend our energy on one worthwhile project, and several little ones. Over the years some really big things have been done, just not all at once. It takes time, but we experience less burn-out and ourselves, our marriage, and our farm is much better for it.

The biggest demise in Homesteading that I have found, is burn-out. Where I live, my observation over the last 42 years has been that it takes about 8 years for that to happen. I suggest picking 3 things to excel at, for instance a garden, an orchard, and maybe a livestock of choice and doing those three things really well. Trying to do EVERYTHING is just too much and there is no "permanent" in agriculture (permiculture) when a person experiences burn out and sells out.

Is my farm idyllic? Hardly...we have issues to address and our priorities often change...this year to farm expansion and then erosion mitigation which has suddenly become a VERY big deal. Ultimately though, we only do what we can handle, there is only 24 hours in a day after all, but the perminant part of agriculture here...the permiculture is ensuring the next generation takes the baton and carries it forth. The wonderful thing about agriculture is, someone in the family loves agriculture and will want it to continue. Now it may not be a son or daughter, it may be a grandchild, cousin even a nephew or niece, but someone will want to farm. Heck it may even be an adopted child, or friends that you have met like in the case of Paul Wheaton. (I am not a huge fan of titles...just about lasting relationships). Finding that person, educating them, encouraging them...now that is where the heart of permiculture resides...and the joy.
 
Gail Gardner
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:My strategy towards these types of things, is that whomever is doing the labor gets to decide how the labor is done. If someone isn't providing labor, then they don't get a say in how things are done. In my kitchen garden, we have three gardeners with three radically different ways of gardening. Doesn't matter. Whomever is putting the seeds in the ground today gets to put them in how they want to.



That's great advice. The same thing applies to decision-making. If a person refuses to help make decisions, they do NOT get to complain about the results later. As I used to say, "if you don't like how I'm doing something you refused to do, next time do it yourself."
 
Gail Gardner
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Cd Greier wrote:Now I am researching the costs of putting in and using propane. Goodness only knows if, this time, my efforts will be thorough enough and he will follow through accordingly.  Although it is painful on many levels, we have learned that both of us make mistakes and we ultimately work it out together.


You know you can buy or rent 20 lb propane tanks? At least you can where I live. The local feed store carried them and RV places would have them.
 
Cd Greier
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Dear Gail, Yup, 20 lb propane tanks are what we currently rely on but they aren't sufficient to heat our cabin-house when we get -40*weather. Anyway, we are still only seasonal residents so when we can afford stay full time and to link up our household to a giant propane tank (refilled annually by the supplier), that's how we'll go.
 
Todd Parr
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E Cochran wrote: In some ways my husband is just like my dad. They were both dreamers, liked to travel, liked to explore new things, liked to learn ... but my dad had a work ethic that my husband doesn't share. My dad literally had two jobs in his whole adult life and he never retired. He died last March at 79 years old still working every day. My husband has had 19 jobs in 25 years.


I think you were looking for your father, and found a man that reminded you enough of him that you fell in love and married him.  When you found out he doesn't share all your father's traits, you got frustrated and resent him for not being your father.  I can understand the frustration. It would be hard being with someone that jumped from job to job and didn't help you work toward your goals, but at the same time, it isn't fair to try to make him into someone he isn't.  You had to know pretty early on, because he would have had to start job-jumping pretty early to have that many jobs in 25 years.  Rather than trying different methods to motivate (change) him, I think you need to accept that he will always be exactly as he is now, and decide if you can live with that or not.  His way of living isn't right or wrong, just as yours isn't.  It's just his way and everyone should have the right to live their life as they see fit.  Best of luck to you. 
 
Nicole Alderman
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E Cochran wrote:
I mentioned to my husband at one point that he might be mildly depressed but he says he's not. I fight depression all the time, especially this past year or so after my dad died. In some ways my husband is just like my dad. They were both dreamers, liked to travel, liked to explore new things, liked to learn ... but my dad had a work ethic that my husband doesn't share. My dad literally had two jobs in his whole adult life and he never retired. He died last March at 79 years old still working every day. My husband has had 19 jobs in 25 years.

I guess I just need to marry a fictional man! LOL


It sounds more like he has ADHD to me, than depression. My husband has ADHD, and is very similar in liking to travel, explore, learn, etc. He thankfully works very hard at his job and does great there, staying on task and being very efficient, because he knows what he has to do at every moment. But, at home, he often can't think of the things to do, and when he starts thinking about the, he very easily gets overwhelmed by too many things to get done at once... and then nothing gets done. He's gotten a lot better at this in recent years, but it was a major struggle when we first got married. People would wonder about our dirty kitchen and old moldy milk jugs left out, but the kitchen was his responsibility (I cleaned the rest of the house, and we both worked). So, I waited for him to take ownership and clean it...but he never did. Now that we have kids, he really takes the initiative, but he didn't use to, and I honestly can't tell you exactly what changed, or if it was anything I did that helped him change.

Another thing that happens with my husband is that he just plain doesn't see things that need to be cleaned or done. He could walk past a piece of trash he put on the porch for MONTHS, and not even realize it's there, let alone that he should clean it up. He forgets stuff, too. He'll say months ago that he'd make me a shelf, but totally and entirely forget about it. Both his forgetfulness and lack of observation are not his fault. I can't be mad at him for it. My mother was also very forgetful, and I think being raised by her, loving her, and knowing it wasn't her fault she forgot stuff, has really helped in my relationship with my husband. His brain is wired differently, and that's okay!

Isn't permaculture about seeing resources and how we can best incorporate them into our little ecosystems. You don't get mad at a duck for pooing everywhere, you fence off the areas you don't want poop in, and keep them where you want their poop. You don't get mad at the mint for taking over, you plant it somewhere where it's inclination for taking over will be most useful.  Try and see your husband's strengths and inclinations and put them to work for you.

And, it might be you need to step back and just let him do his own thing. And, if he wants to move all the post holes, perhaps let him. It doesn't make sense, and takes a lot more time, but if you step in and do it for him, he's probably going to think "Why did I even try? I can't seem to do anything the way she wants, and she's not happy when I try, so I'll just let her do it, so I don't have to hear about it." Both my husband and I end up refraining from helping the other for that very reason: We tried it once, the other told us we didn't do it right, so we just let them do it and don't help.

On the topic of finding out what he wants most, I tried to post this earlier, but for some reason it didn't post. ANyway, I ran across this really neat way of prioritizing goals, in which a list of goals is formed, as well as a list of values/criteria (saving money, helping the environment, growing more food, having fun, improving your relationship, helping the community, etc) is formed. Then, each person ranks the goals in terms of how they stand up to the values. The numbers then get tallied, and you can tell which goals you probably want as your highest priotity. I read about this on Copper Moonie's Advanced Retreat Center which is a permaculture retreat in Washington, and one of the members is here on permies.



Maybe you and your husband could sit down, create some goals and criteria, and see how you rank each. It might help you figure out his goals a bit better and keep him from agreeing with you about everything, even if he doesn't necessarily agree. (I think a lot of husbands pretend--either conciously or subconciously--to agree with their wife's goals just to keep the peace. I know my husband sometimes does.)
 
Cd Greier
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Are you making ends meet? I couldn't understand why my husband couln't stick with a job during some very rough years but we both learned that he can't be an employee. He is a real go-getter at his own business but the man can't follow others! Clearly this is frustrating in our personal relationship but we hang in there anyway ; )
 
E Cochran
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Still the battle rages on ...

We've been working on a fence now for a year ... an entire year ... Want to know how much we've gotten done? We have one corner post set done and we bought the roll of fencing the other day after much discussion about what we were going to do. Then when we get to the farm with the fencing, my husband discovers maypops growing in the fence line where we were going to start the fence so, of course, we couldn't start the fence there. We discussed then starting the fence in a different local and my son and I even cleared a path, but then my husband found yet another clump of blackberries growing so, of course, the fence couldn't go there either.

Then we decided, another long conversation ensued, to fence the west line on the south side of our property (we have a creek that splits the land). We hand carried posts and tools and such to the location, put in one post, and quit for the day because it was 100 degrees out. Okay. Too hot to work in the sun. I get that. So we decide to start going out to work at 6 in the morning - but ... the alarm goes off and I get up but he refuses to get out of bed whining that he didn't sleep well (mind you I've had 3 hours of sleep and still got up knowing that we'd been done by noon and I could take a nap).

Instead of working on the fence, which I can't do by myself, I harvest more blackberries, take care of the cats, milk the goats, and spend 30 mins digging on a pond, which involved moving a wild grape vine because heaven forbid I cut down one of the thousand or so growing on our property. Then I mow the drive and fill water troughs for the animals. And go back home (no we don't live at the farm yet because the house still needs renovated as if that's ever going to be done) where I mow the yard and then don a bathing suit and scrub out the hot tub and clean down the patio and dogs etc.

by 4:30 I had to pick up my mom, and we went out for margaritas because I needed something to keep me from strangling my husband who had the nerve to then blame me for his loss of sleep because the light on my phone came on and woke him up. What did he accomplish today? He walked 3 miles after I dumped him out of the car and sat around playing on his damn phone.

When I say I want a motivated spouse, this is what I mean. I want him motivated to DO something, not just talk about it and then blame me because he didn't get off his ass. Sigh.
 
Charli Wilson
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This thread has been really helpful to me.. as my other half does similar things! Last night after we both got home from work- I fed the cats, cleaned out the chickens, harvested raspberries, redosed the hydroponics, cleaned the fish tank.. etc etc. He played games on his phone. Then complained when dinner wasn't made yet. He is entirely as capable as me of making dinner!

But I have no answers for you I'm afraid. My main weapons is inviting someone else round to help me do jobs- my OH then gets upset that I'm relying on someone else and helps me do the tasks.
 
Todd Parr
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It's been 24 years.  He isn't going to change. 
 
Ferne Reid
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For what this is worth ... I'm a Christian counselor, and I do something called temperament therapy. Most people have never heard of it. In my almost 10 years of experience, I've discovered that many of these types of conflicts are due to the fact that you and your spouse are wired differently.

I am GUESSING at your spouse's temperament based on what you've said ... but I'm guessing he's the type who does not feel comfortable doing something he isn't sure how to do, he doesn't like to feel controlled, he's a perfectionist, and he is not motivated by punishment or reward.

I am GUESSING that you are a git 'er done kind of girl, that you tend to just jump in and figure it out, that you are more interested in having it done than having it perfect, and that you also do not like to feel controlled.

The cool thing is that marriages between people with different temperaments can actually work really well ... as long as you can resist the urge to kill each other. That's because you each have strengths that the other doesn't have. The key is to learn to work with them rather than fighting them.

If you'd like to know more, feel free to pm me.
 
John Weiland
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Ferne Reid wrote:....marriages between people with different temperaments can actually work really well ... as long as you can resist the urge to kill each other. 


Isn't that pretty much the definition of marriage

@Charli W.:  "He played games on his phone. Then complained when dinner wasn't made yet. He is entirely as capable as me of making dinner!"

I might venture a "dinner complaint" like that if I was feeling bold......but would have to remove the shotgun from the corner in the kitchen which, speaking of capable, wife is more than competent at operating.
 
E Cochran
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@Charli Wilson I hear ya. Glad to know I'm not alone ... not glad for our situation just glad to commiserate with someone else.

@Ferne Reid Hrmm ... problem is neither of us is that stereotypical. I'm an architect. I've been planning for months - drawing, designing, sketching, drawing, revising, discussing, planning, consulting, and drawing some more. I'm far from the person who just jumps in and sorts it out as I go ... but I fully recognize that all plans have hiccups and are sometimes more suggestions than written in stone and I'm able to adapt as needed. I used to be a perfectionist, type A, sleep when you die kind of person. All architects are. But I've learned and grown out of that. I've yet to meet anyone who can control me. I am still a perfectionist when it comes to things like making sure the foundation piers of our house are built correctly so our house doesn't collapse on us and constructing a fence so it doesn't have to be redone in less than a year. But I'm fine with a bowl of mac and cheese on the run for supper, wearing clothes a second time as long as they don't smell, and exploring different options for things.

My husband is a perfectionist in worrying that the gallon water jugs all have their handles facing the same direction when we put them in the cabinet, or how we wrap the chain to lock the gate, or where the car is parked in the driveway (ie how close to the grass it is) but would rather just throw something together and call it good when building something that needs to last just so he can get it done and not have to work anymore. He can't sacrifice a few hours of sleep for a week even knowing he could take a nap later in the day so that he can work in the cooler temps of the morning and get something done, because it's not how long he wants to sleep. But hasn't once taken into consideration that in 24 years of marriage I have gotten maybe a handful of full nights of sleep and still manage to get up and work my ass off.

Seriously, the more I talk about this the more I wonder why the hell I've stayed married to him for this long. All we do is argue. Every single thing is a challenge and I'm so sick of it. It's zapping my energy and my joy.
 
Anne Miller
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E Cochran wrote:Seriously, the more I talk about this the more I wonder why the hell I've stayed married to him for this long. All we do is argue. Every single thing is a challenge and I'm so sick of it. It's zapping my energy and my joy.


There is a book that I believe would be a big help to you.  Your local library probably will have it.

Your Erroneous Zones by Dr Wayne W Dyer
 
Judith Browning
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We've been married forty two years and lived together off and on for five years before that.  The biggest thing I can see that changed a lot of our challenges was to work on having fewer  'expectations' as others here have said. 

For most of my frustrations, my change of attitude and outlook made all of the difference.  It's too easy to blame the one closest to us for failures in lifestyle challenges....relax and give them room to breath and try to help them find out what they truly want in life.   A parent child relationship just won't work in a marriage.....

I suspect, and may be way off base, that your husband is agreeing with what you want in order to keep the peace and might not have a clear view of what he really wants out of life and in a relationship....just along for the ride at the moment.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.....and it might explain his less than enthusiastic responses to doing the work you have planned.

This new adventure should be fun, hard work maybe, but fun for both of you, exciting...if it's not I would question every part of it and maybe throw the whole idea up in the air and rearrange to suit you both. 
 
E Cochran
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Judith Browning wrote:

For most of my frustrations, my change of attitude and outlook made all of the difference.  It's too easy to blame the one closest to you for failures in lifestyle challenges....relax and give them room to breath and try to help them find out what they truly want in life.   A parent child relationship just won't work in a marriage.....

This new adventure should be fun, hard work maybe, but fun for both of you, exciting...if it's not I would question every part of it and maybe throw the whole idea up in the air and rearrange to suit you both. 


Congrats on marriage longevity.

I've given him room to breathe for 24 years and he hasn't figured it out yet. Why would he now? And I"ve thrown the option of not doing anything up in the air to him, selling the land, doing something else, doing anything at all ... thus the topic of this thread to begin with "The UNMOTIVATED spouse" ...
 
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