Living Closely Together – Harder Than You Think

The remoteness of your retreat and the adverse nature of your situation can create massive mental stress.
The remoteness of your retreat and the adverse nature of your situation can create massive mental stress.

Did you know the biggest problem that happily married people have?  It is not being forced to spend time apart.  Quite the opposite.  The biggest problem is spending ‘too much’ time together!

This sure sounds counter-intuitive, and maybe it depends on how you define ‘happily married’ and ‘too much time together’.  But consistently, surveys suggest that problems arise in many marriages when the couple spends an unusually greater amount of time together than normal.  This might be in the form of one partner retiring, or being out of work, and we can understand the stress associated with such events, and how the stress could flow through to the relationship in general.

But it can also apply to spending too much ‘happy making’ time together, too.  One of the more dangerous activities for a couple to share is going on vacation.  That’s definitely counter-intuitive, but whether counter-intuitive or not, it is also definitely real (and something that travel agents don’t tell you when encouraging you to go on romantic vacations together!).

So – think about this.  If a two-week dream vacation can cause a couple to almost come to physical blows, and if the unplanned extra time together when one person is out of work is also problematic, what do you think would happen after TSHTF and you suddenly find yourself living extremely closely together, for all of every day?

Plus, if you have no other social distractions such as the internet, television, or even the telephone, you’ll truly be tripping over each other.

Not Just Your Spouse

Now let’s make it even worse.  All of a sudden, you’ve had to rush to your retreat, where you’re joined by – oh no.  Your draconian mother in law has turned up, and your opinionated brother-in-law is there too – actually, you have nothing wrong with opinions, it is just that your brother-in-law always has opposite ones to your own.  And your daughter-in-law with her screaming baby.

You dread holiday events such as Thanksgiving and Christmas and being under the same roof as some of your extended family even for a day or two, and now you’re suddenly finding yourselves thrown together for who knows – months?  Maybe even years, if someone doesn’t kill someone else first!

Rather than being a festive cheerful event that you can all go through the comfortable established ritual motions more or less in unison, and with the aid of lashings of alcohol; instead it is an unexpected unhappy event, and you’ve run out of drink.  Oh – and you all have to share the one overworked smelly toilet together, too.  🙂

This reality is more likely to be the one you end up confronting, than an idealized ‘we’ll all be happy and united in the harmony of all working together to survive’ concept that some people half-visualize without thinking things through.

You’re going to need to set up some ground-rules for how to ‘keep the peace’ in your retreat.  The most important of these ground-rules and arrangements will be giving everyone some personal space – both literally, in terms of setting up private personal areas for each person as much as is possible; a place where they can be quiet and undisturbed and retreat to; and also figuratively, in terms of code of conduct and behavior; not rudely interfering (perhaps not even politely interfering) with people as they do their own personal activities.

A Related Problem – Cabin Fever

A related challenge will be what is often termed ‘cabin fever’ – an emotional disturbance that can affect people living closely together in a small and isolated space.  If a group of you are in a remote retreat, you’re half-way to cabin fever already; now toss in a couple of decent snowfalls so that you can’t really go outside much, and you’re definitely in cabin fever territory.

Here’s an interesting article from a couple who spent nine months together in the Antarctic.  The article points out that cabin fever is prone to develop and can lead to lethal outcomes.

The couple’s observation that external stresses flow through to international and relationship stresses is self-evidently true, and would be a huge factor in a post-TEOTWAWKI lifestyle.

We don’t have sure-fire solutions.  But here’s an interesting article that has ten suggestions to avoid/overcome cabin fever, and while it wasn’t written for preppers, much of its suggestions flow through to us, too.

One scenario which also has similarities is prison and we should endeavor to learn from that (but hopefully not at first hand!).  Considering lessons from prison life, there would be several things to take on board, in particular the concept of exercising and of educating yourself.

Assuming you are not busy all day working in the fields (which would be a massive help in minimizing cabin fever issues anyway), take time to learn a new skill and/or practice/enjoy a skill you already possess (preferably a quiet activity – learning to play the drums or trumpet might help you feel better but would almost certainly impact on other people in your retreat!).

Boredom Can Be Deadly Too

It isn’t just cabin fever which can lead to problems (and potentially lethal fights between your retreat members).  People can literally die of boredom.

The flip-side of this coin is equally relevant and important – ‘losing the will to survive’.  You’ll be in a high stress environment, and you need all your community members to stay as positive as possible and to continue fighting against the challenges and adversity you find yourself now confronting.  People who become passive and cease to pull their weight will create a nasty self-fulfilling cycle of failure that will not only drag them down but impact negatively on everyone around them too.

You may have already seen these types of behaviors in people, yourself.  You know – the person who lived for their job, and when they retire, suddenly find they have nothing at all to do.  Within a year or two, they’re dead; not due to any chronic ill-health that had plagued them for years, but perhaps because they just lost the will to live.

Many of the same strategies for fighting cabin fever apply to boredom too.  Here is an article that offers up six solutions to boredom, and this article has ten different approaches – admittedly not all of which would apply to a retreat situation, but with some imagination, they could be adapted.  For example, instead of going to a sporting event, arrange a sporting event between the people in your group.


Most people focus on the physical aspects of surviving in adverse circumstances – ensuring they have shelter, water, food, and energy.  Those are all essential things, but managing the mental and emotional situation you will find yourself in is every bit as important as the physical/tangible parts of your prepping.

Consider the deadly trio of mental woes – cabin fever, boredom, and stressed relationships, and manage your emotional environment as carefully as you do your physical environment, manage your emotional health as well as you do your physical health.

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