This past August as I was celebrating my sister s milestone birthday in New York City I came across the parking sign which read, Don t even THINK of parking here!
That pretty much sums up the attitude of folks in the Big Apple. In the past year I ve met with some disappointed men and women who are committed to their marriages, but can t think of ways to get their relationships humming along again.
Marriage stress that pervades farm stress is not fun.
Harvest stress is hopefully winding down on your farm as you approach the plans for family gatherings at Thanksgiving. I m a big fan of celebrating Thanksgiving every day all year round, and don t pile up a lot of expectation for gratefulness on the second Monday of October. I am thankful for many blessings every day.
While it is true that strong families celebrate, I d like to say that strong marriage partners date. This may be a sore point in your couple care assessment, since it is something that I see as a trend with the families I am coaching. Many farm folks spend more time checking the crops or cattle than they spend checking the state of their union.
I query the founders about the amount of time that the younger generation spends on relationship building as a couple with marriage time or date night only to discover that it hasn t happened in years!
We pay attention to the things that demand our attention. I think some women have gone into coast mode or just decided to pour their energy into the busy lives of their children, to the neglect of their mate. Some guys may be spending more time with their cows than their kids. If you have lost the courage to ask your mate for what you need, and then wait for them to respond positively to your request, I encourage you to keep asking for what you need.
We are different. I get energy from other people engaging in conversation with me, but my introverted spouse gets energy from being on his own to reflect and process what is happening in his life. Can you respect that not everyone in your family is like you? Can you accept that you may have to be patient until your mate is ready to talk things through?
We think we have lots of time to get this marriage thing right. When you said I do to sickness and health, whether rich or poor, you had no idea what an adventure life on the farm could be. Some of you did not marry a farmer, but are now facing the reality of farm life as a farm partner. Time goes by, and one morning you wake up wondering, Am I ever going to get to do what I really wanted to do? Some of you have woken up this year as young farm widows, wishing that things would have been different while you still had time together.
Romance that stirred you into a commitment of marriage has died like the last campfire of summer. When you were dating, you
both likely focused on pleasing the other person, and made things fun. Now that the routine and ruts of farm life are in your scope, you need to remember how to have fun together as a couple, and leave your parenting role at home for a while. The grandparents or close friends would gladly give you a second honeymoon.
I don t know what your definition of a date is. Mine would be an activity that is mutually agreed upon for fun, and time to talk, and build up the cords that bind the relationship with love and respect. I would hope that both you and your spouse would take turns initiating the social calendar, and delight in coming up with ideas that are inexpensive and intentional. We ve taken sailing lessons, gone skating and explored back roads.
Dinner (actually supper) and a movie are old hat. But some women I have met would be thrilled to be asked out for a meal they don t have to plan and cook. Dates for us have been hikes in the provincial park followed by a campfire and treats while watching sunsets over the lake. Bike rides to explore local towns, or moonlit walks in the dead of winter have been fun, too. Camping for us is an extended date in the summer, which converts to bed and breakfast time in the winter season. Even if you live off the beaten path in Saskatchewan you can find some fun places to stay.
I don t know your definition of the golden years, but each year of richness in relationship is golden to me. Many farmers are proud to disclose their net worth to me as a farm coach, yet my evaluation of true wealth is the health of the marriage bond, and the relationships shared in the family unit. I have seen too many 60-and 70-year-old women complain that they are not being heard, they are ready to focus more on the marriage, and their mates are still focused on the iron, farm iron and machinery.
When is it your wife s turn to get what she wants?
Well, that s the question that gets me fired in the head of the farm man. Women love that question. But it could be reversed. There are women who focus on the children so much that their husbands feel like they never count, so they just keep working and ignoring what is really going on.
Don t even think of not dating your mate. Regardless how long or short your marriage days have been, the time is now to appreciate one another and be grateful for the synergy and energy of your partnership. As I see my last lone parent failing in health, and see peers coping with widowhood, I have a fresh appreciation for a loving, attentive spouse.
It s time for you to focus on your marriage. It s more important than your net worth statement.
This Thanksgiving make a caring list of 12 points. List 12 ways that you like to be cared for by your spouse, and then share the list on your date. Have fun!
ElaineFroesefarmsnearBoissevain,Manitoba withherhusbandWesandson.Asacertified coachsheistravellingacrossthePrairiesand B.C.tofacilitatecourageousconversationsto helpfamiliesplanforchangeonthefarm.Visit www.elainefroese.com or www.smartfarmbc.ca/succession-planning. Orderherbooksfor Christmasorcall1-866-848-3111tohaveElaine speakin2012atyourevent.Elaineisamember oftheCanadianAssociationofFarmAdvisors ( www.cafanet.com)
When you were dating, you both likely focused on pleasing the other person, and made things fun.