Some folks are thankful for a phenomenal crop this season, thanks to heaps of snow last winter giving residual moisture during our hot, dry summer. Unfortunately it seems that spouses may spend more attention on crop production than they do to their marriage partnerships, and the cracks are really showing up.
I challenge you to spend time this fall and winter intentionally getting your marriage/partnership into better shape.
Mort Fertel authored Marriage Fitness: 4 steps to building and maintaining phenomenal love. I know farmers love checklists, so you will really like Fertel’s approach. I’ll share some of his key questions. (Buy his book!)
1. Put love first. What importance do you give to your marriage? Counsellor Marsha Harris’s question to couples is: “Are you really there for me?” If you have a strong YES, then your marriage is likely a priority. I understand that crops, cattle, hockey, off-farm jobs, and fixing flat tires are part of the stresses you manage daily. How would you answer these questions: true or false?
a. I speak to my spouse about non-logistical matters at least twice per day.
b. I initiate positive loving contact with my spouse at least twice per day (touch charge).
c. I usually spend more time interacting with my spouse than I do watching TV.
d. I have at least one personal and meaningful discussion with my spouse each week for a minimum of 25 minutes (called a SUPER talk).
e. I usually interrupt whatever I am doing if my spouse wants my attention.
Lots of loaded questions, and Fertel has 13 more to determine if your marriage is out of shape, average, or you are a marriage fitness champion.
I am curious, what would it look like to put love first in your marriage? My city friends practise “date night,” going out as a couple alone together once a week.
HA! Your date nights have been taking fuel to the field, meals, or driving the combine while the other trucks or loads grain carts. This is exactly the issue. Making time for your growth as a couple usually gets put on the back burner until after seeding, after haying, after harvest, after calving, etc. Many folks don’t even take a holiday off the farm together, and seem to wear that as a badge of honour. You might not feel comfortable reading these words, but Fertel states, “The soul can only have one mate.” Do you love your cows more than your spouse?
What would it look like to curtail your TV time, and spend more time face to face in deep conversation? If you are spending 10 to 20 per cent of your time in front of Netflix or TSN, who is suffering?
Farm family business meetings held on a regular basis make farm families 21 per cent more profitable, according to Dr. David Kohl. When was the last time you spent 45 minutes to plan how to have more fun and better communication in your marriage? Fertel thinks you can do this weekly, and find ways to have a least one romantic retreat a year!
2. Give presence. Show up for your mate. How well do you know your spouse to give them what they want? You may have already found clues from Gary Chapman’s 5 love languages: acts of service, quality time, meaningful touch, gifts, and verbal affirmation. When I do things for my hubby, he is most grateful. When he hugs me in the morning before heading outside, I feel the gift of presence. So here’s a quiz:
a. What’s most stressful for your spouse?
b. What’s the one thing your spouse has always wanted?
c. What’s the most relaxing thing for your spouse?
d. What’s your spouse’s favourite way of making love?
e. What type of vacation is preferred: beach, touring, or outdoor adventure?
Knowing what your spouse needs to feel cherished takes time and lots of good questions. Gifts may not be that special, but your interest in intimate conversation will build up the emotional bank account of your marriage. Decide to not talk about the farm after 10 p.m. Use bedroom time for intimacy, and park conflicts away until morning if you can. Ideally, don’t let the sun go down on your anger, make quick repair in your relationship before supper ends.
Last year for my milestone birthday, the best gift was folks choosing to visit me at our farm, and make the long trek across Canada to show up. Showing up in your marriage is a daily event, not something that can be continually put off. What new things can you learn about your spouse this week that will help make giving them what they need easier?
Fertel feels that “giving creates love.”
In a marriage relationship there are many times you can bless your spouse with time and attention in talking, parenting, farming, managing the household, special occasions. One woman created an Excel spreadsheet for all the activities the family engaged in for household management; she assigned her name and her hubby wrote his name to the tasks, to get clear on how each spouse was contributing to the family’s management. You can change what you can measure.
I think love is a choice, and when we truly love our mate we want to give to them. I would also use the word “serve” them in a spirit of servant leadership. This language irks readers, because the idea of serving one another is considered to be “servitude” which is not the same thing, in my mind. How are we serving each other in our farm marriages to create a deep sense of, “I’ve got your back, I am here for you”?
When you speak about your marriage relationship do you use “me” or “we” language? This requires getting involved with what is truly important to your mate, and navigating a way to help each other feel deeply loved and appreciated. What interests and activities in your home are drawing you together, and what is distracting from making you a stronger team?
If I created a marriage retreat for farm couples, would you come?