The Cornered Cat

Some questions just seem to get asked over and over again. I presume these questions show up so often in my email box because it is gut-wrenching to feel that someone you live with and love deeply has made herself vulnerable to a criminal attack. So what’s a guy to do? Here’s my take on it.

“My wife doesn’t like guns. How do I change her mind?”

I have no idea.

I do have a few ideas how you might get her to hate them, however. If you avoid doing those things, and if you are patient, chances are that your wife will eventually learn to tolerate your firearms collection. She may even surprise you and take up shooting on her own. But the harder you push her, the less likely that is to happen.

Some tips:

“My wife is totally clueless about self-defense. How do I get her to care about this stuff?”

If I had the answer to that one, I could make a fortune selling it!  As far as I know, there’s no way to make an adult human being do anything at all that they don’t want to do.

As an adult, your wife has made her own choices about her state of alertness and what she is willing to do in her own defense. We all do. Whether those choices are good ones or not, they’re her choices. Just as you wouldn’t much like it if she constantly lobbied for you to ______ (eat better, drink less, see less of a friend she doesn’t like, spend more time at home and less at work, etc etc etc), she probably wouldn’t appreciate any hardcore lobbying on your part.

Let me put that a little more bluntly: if you would like her to respect your choices about self-defense and firearms, you owe it to her to respect her choices in the same area. Anything less is just not fair.

That said, you can help her make sure that she has made a thoughtful choice, and not just drifted to where she is. You do this not by lecturing, but simply by asking questions when the opportunity comes up.

If you watch the news together, or read the paper, and there’s a “someone was attacked” story, try asking her what she thinks the person in the news should have done. Do not answer for her. Refuse to fill in the blanks. Just ask, listen to her answer, and then let the conversation go elsewhere. Even if her answers are not realistic, resist the urge to set her straight. Never lecture. Bite your tongue before you say anything even remotely like “She should have …” , or worse, “You should…”

Why not lecture? It’s simple: Your goal is not to provide the answers. If you provide answers, she will very likely begin struggling against the answer you provide (either in her mind, or out loud). But you don’t want her arguing against your answer — you want her to look for an answer of her own. You want her to struggle with the question itself. You want her to think about that question and then eventually begin to ask such questions herself. So avoid the temptation to spoon-feed her the answers.

This is about getting the questions into her head, not about what answers come out. It’s all about your wife’s reasoning, not about yours. Your basic goal is to get her to ask such questions for herself.

Once she starts asking the questions, she’ll find the answers on her own. She’s a smart person (she married you after all!), so you can trust that once the questions are there, the answers will eventually follow.

The questions have to come before the answers do. Until the questions are asked, the answers will remain unwanted.

“Should I sneak new firearms into the safe when my wife isn’t looking?”

Not if you want an honest relationship. 1

Try this instead:  save up twice as much as you will need for any gun purchase. If the gun you want costs $500, save $1000. The day you purchase the gun, hand your wife $500 in cash, and tell her that since you just spent $500 on your hobby, it’s only fair that she should have $500 to spend on her hobbies. She’ll never gripe about a new gun again.

If the household budget won’t allow her to spend as much on her hobbies as you spend on yours, she might have a point when she says you can’t afford another gun.


  1. Yes, I’m aware that lots of people do this, and it usually doesn’t mean anything much. Some couples even agree to play a playful game, under a sort of de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (which can be considered honest, as long as both parties have agreed to the charade). But true, she-really-doesn’t- know type sneaking is a different matter. Most marriage and family counselors agree that lack of trust is generally a bad sign for a relationship.