A new year of possibilities. My parents married December 27, 1955. My brothers each chose to marry that same week in 1984, and 1990. I, being the rebel got married on Independence Day, July 4, 1981. Wes and I have outlasted Chuck and Di who married the same year, same month.
Divorce is one of the biggest threats to farm family legacy. We need to start talking more about how to prevent the breakups and create more makeups.
So, as I write this I am thinking of neighbours, friends, clients of all ages and stages who have struggled to stay married in 2015. My prevention list:
- Ask for what you need. Love does not read minds. When I want a hug I ask. When I need quiet time alone I negotiate the volume of the TV. My coaching career demands travel and time away, that is OK.
- Listen to the needs of the other and act. Marriage is not 50/50, it is 100/100. You are committed to serving your mate with a servant attitude, and they serve you. How can you act on what is requested for change? When I talk too much Wes will squeeze my knee under the table as a loving signal to give others air time.
- Be kind and respectful. Every morning we get to choose if we are kind or nasty in our approach. Grouches need to get checked out by doctors for depression. Most in-laws would never even think of leaving the farm family IF they felt they were respected. Look each other in the eye and ask, “How can I show you more respect? What would you like me to do differently?”
- Walk in their boots, take another person’s perspective. Young farmers are craving work/life balance, a chance to read bedtime stories. Do you remember what it was like to be 35 with young kids? Young moms who work off farm are exhausted. How can you share the load?
- Adapt and yield with, “Yes, dear.” Wes hates putting up Christmas lights, but he still helps me do it. I know he appreciates hot home-cooked meals, so I am happy to vary the menu. Check in with your mate to see if there are other ways to adapt to what they desire.
- Be physically strong and connected. Yes, we are talking about sex here, and being in shape physically to enjoy the age stage you are at. Many folks are open with me about their sexual frustration, guess it comes with being a good listener. We all need to love and be loved. Meaningful touch with hugs, kisses, shoulder squeezes is also part of the mix. Don’t talk about farming in the bedroom after dark. Play with each other instead.
- Make quick repair. Conflict is normal. Abrasive fighting is bad. John Gottman’s book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is a great read. He emphasizes the need to keep conflicts short and small, fix them quickly. If you need more tools for this, go to elainefroese.com and watch the webinar on how to have better family fights.
- Be thankful and count your blessings. Our farming friend has a disabled wife in a wheelchair. They are amazing how they show love to each other. They also remind us that we need to stay committed to each other in sickness and in health. Wes has already proven this to me when I spent most of 1984 in a psych ward with a severe postpartum depression. Work on your mental health, and choose a good attitude every day.
- Reach out to quit your addictions. We all need support to quit the bad stuff whether it is workaholism, alcoholism, street drugs, or shopping too much. Find counselling, rehab, or a support group to get you to a better place. Anger that is not managed will destroy you and your marriage.
- Finish well together. Have a lifestyle plan that goes beyond the farm as you age together. Play together. Enjoy grandchildren: please do not ignore these precious little ones. When you die don’t you want to be rich in relationship? You cannot take your farm shares with you to the grave!
- Stop texting, start talking face to face. Social media is fuelling unfaithfulness in marriage. No secret emotional affairs for you.
- Celebrate the milestones. Give a special card, have supper or night out. Bake a cake or pie to share with friends. Strong families celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, and engagements.
- Save sex for marriage. Don’t live together or “shack up” before you have signed your marriage covenant, i.e. wed each other. The stats for the “almost married” common-law unions are pretty sobering. Those folks who live together before marrying are more likely to split. Understand the crudeness of the saying, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” Your partner may also be happy to look outside your bed for new partners if they did that so easily with you.
- Fill each other’s emotional bank account or “love tank.” Make deposits every day into the well-being of your spouse. Find out if they like to be loved with words, meaningful touch, gifts, quality time together or acts of service.
I have to stop, but I hope you get the picture. Divorce wreaks havoc in all of our agricultural families. I hurt when I see marriages fail. Let’s all work towards encouraging strong unions, so that divorce is not a threat to our farm’s legacy.