November 4, 2015

Complicated Simple Living

What if you want a simple life and your partner doesn't?

You want to live simply. Your partner does not. What do you do when your simple living plan gets complicated by relationship stressors?

It almost seems a likely showdown since up to 80% of relationship splits occur primarily due to expectations surrounding money and how it should be spent.

Developing a frugal lifestyle was straightforward for Linda and I as we were more or less on the same page from the beginning of our relationship. But what if it wasn't that easy?

A comment was left on NBA recently that highlighted a reader's personal struggle with relationship complications surrounding simple living. They wrote:

"I am really struggling with my partners 'stuff' habit. I have personally been simplifying my life for a number of years now and all my possessions fit inside my small car. I realise that simplifying is a long process but the fact my partner doesn't even have the inclination to do so is somewhat frustrating. 
I find it very hard to spend a lot of time at her house as the clutter mentally drains me. 
We have been together 3 years and I have managed to put up with it for this long, but it is becoming to much. Any advise would be appreciated."

Communication is the key to any relationship, and talking about money is something that should happen early on to avoid complications further down the road. If we are gentle with each other, forgiving and loving, we can often work such things out. But not all the time.

Is it possible to convert someone to the simple life? How do we include a recalcitrant loved one in our dream of a simpler lifestyle, and convince them that "life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing", as Oscar Wilde said?

Is this a irreconcilable difference? At what point does one decide to cut one's losses and move on? I am afraid I don't have many answers.

What would you advise? How is our simple living lover to proceed with his more prodigious partner?


  1. Anonymous11/05/2015

    Me and my wife are on the same page when it comes to consumption, but here are a few things that I have found to be useful in starting and maintaining a simple lifestyle:
    1) Spending time in nature, being stuck in the house can become boring and people may go out to shop due to boredom. Instead try walking in the park or local woods, getting some fresh air and time away can lift peoples spirits and you start to see the beauty in the natural world which makes consumption look like the fake reality that it is.
    2) Cook as much as possible at home, you start to wake up to the rubbish in food and how it makes people sick. When partners cook together it improves the relationship.
    3) Meditation can help and people can reflect on habits like TV watching and start to appreciate how it negatively effects them.
    4) Use free cycle, charity shops and take useful wanted items from friends, learn to fix items and reuse. Be careful not to accumulate rubbish and stick to what is useful only and involve partners in this.
    The best of luck as the simple path is the best and ultimately the best way to live for the planet and each other.

    1. Alex,

      1) Oh yes.
      2) It is true. Cooking is so important that it deserves the attention of two. Plus it is fun to create yummy, healthy food together.
      3) The answer to so many problems. I think people are afraid that enlightenment might be "boring".
      4) All efficient answers to save money and stress on the planet.

      Cheers. Good stuff.

  2. How do other people fit into your idea of a simple life? Even babies have their own personality. Each person comes with some stuff. It is lonely without other people, but they add complications. Does this person add joy to your life? You can't count on changing someone. Some people see your empty space as something to fill up. I like to leave space between me and the car ahead of me. Often another driver sees that as an opportunity to crowd in.

    1. It is so important to get along with others, regardless of whether they agree with us or not. It can be hard to decide if one should be more tolerant, or cut the ties and be better off alone or with someone more compatible. Only the individuals involved can make that decision. It is so important to be gentle with each other.

      "If we knew everything, we could forgive anything." Can't remember where I read this, but it has made me more accepting of people with views differing from my own.

  3. Anonymous11/06/2015

    When I met my future husband about 45 years ago my father passed on some wisdom to me. He said if you make a list of the good things and another list of the not so good things about a person and the good far outweigh the bad then learn to deal with the not so good. I'm still married to that wonderful guy and although he's not willing to simplify as much as I am (I'd love to sell the big house we raised our children in, but he's not willing to do that. I'd also like to move our office closer to home so our commute is negligible, but he wants to stay where he's been for decades) my daughter once told me that I shouldn't complain about his aversion to change because, looking at the number of people we know who are divorced at least once or twice, he's still married to me after all these years so maybe it's a good thing he doesn't like change too much. D

    1. 45 years of being together is an awesome achievement. Being loving and patient go a long way, and it sounds like you are both.

  4. I don't believe in trying to force someone to change. Presenting new ideas takes love and time. Sometimes a partner won't change regardless, sometimes, in time, he or she will come to understand what you are getting at and start thinking. We can't always have it our own way in everything, but we can make our own path simpler in the best possible way. Pam

    1. Yup. The only thing we can truly change is ourselves. Sometimes when we don't worry about changing others, they become more likely to change - no one likes to feel forced. Observational learning is powerful - what we do is more important than what we say.

  5. If I had to pick the one thing I love most about this blog, it would be the sincere compassion that's routinely expressed here from you Gregg and Linda and the people who comment here. A very close second most loved is the unrelenting support that is freely given to all of us no matter where we are on this path to living simply. It's a very wise, warm and open-minded community. I feel privileged to have found NBA. This is a great post.

    To me, there are no easy answers to being in a relationship with someone/caring for someone that has a different value about something that's important to the other person. For me, when something someone else is doing is mentally draining me, and we've talked and it's clear they do not wish to change, I have ask if I'm willing to change myself so that the other person or their habits no longer drain me or if I'm willing to move on. I can get feedback and take some time to consider it, but ultimately it has to be my decision and mine alone on how I want to proceed.

    I've found there are people that bring out the best in me, those who bring out the worst in me, and some in the midlle gray area. As I've simplified and de-cluttered my life, I've found some people I had to let go.

    Praise to this commenter for reaching out for suggestions. I sense this is truly a difficult situation you are in. I hope for a peaceful resolution.


Comments will be printed after moderation to eliminate spam. We are proudly a no buying, no selling website.

We enjoy reading all comments, and respond when time permits.

If you put a name to your comment we can all recognize you for your contribution.

Thank you for visiting and commenting.