As the co-author of Farming’s In-Law Factor I spent a year of Tuesdays researching, interviewing and asking tough questions about marriage on the farm. There is precious little research on how to keep farm marriages strong. Young farmers tell me they don’t have time to read books. Spouses tell me they are longing for some marriage time blocked out from the whirlwind of raising a young family on the farm.
Divorce is not the option anyone marrying envisions for their future. The threat of divorce stealing assets from a farm business causes premature greying or baldness in founders. (I just made that up!) But you know that anxiety over the uncertainty of your future is not a happy place to be.
In the old days, when a couple reached 25 years of wedded bliss there would be a large community celebration in the church or hall with dancing, feasting, corsages and speeches. A corsage is a small clutch of flowers pinned to the bride’s dress. (I love to make them, but there is not a great demand for them these days.)
Today, if a young farm couple is “almost married” (the Australian term for common-law partners) they measure the anniversary date in terms of how long they’ve been together. Our neighbourhood has had four divorces on farms in the last seven years. We don’t go to many anniversary celebrations, which is sad.
Regardless of your marital status it is time to pay attention to cherishing your relationship not just lip service. Actions speak louder than words. Here’s my favourite books to encourage stronger love bonds on the farm. And if you don’t read, find the audio version!
Love and Respect, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, The Love Dare, The 5 Love Languages, Marriage Fitness, The Marriage Carol, The Mystery of Marriage, Farming’s In-Law Factor.
I used to be envious of an urban friend’s weekly date night stories and adventures, but that marriage has dissolved, so date night is not a guarantee of success. Regardless, what are some practical ways to stay connected in the weekly grind of life on the farm?
- Decide your relationship is a top priority. Your mindset and attitude will influence all of your behaviour towards your spouse.
- Ask your mate how they like to be cared for by you. This is a two-way street. I am a big fan of loving physical touch and words of affirmation. My spouse likes it when I do things for him that are unexpected.
- Pay attention to the waves of energy. Our Alpha marriage course encouraged couples to sit down with coffee, put on favourite tunes, and just be together to talk about the state of the union. Do this one hour a week and see what happens. When we were dating we had lots of dates on farm equipment and would snatch whatever together time was available. You might have to get creative with this time blocking.
- Lead with love. I was deeply touched when I heard Lesley Rae Kelly of High Heels and Fields fame suggest this as her strategy on her farm. When she hits the door archway, her hands grab the door frame, she takes a deep breath and tells herself: “Lead with love.” She was the MC of Connect Ag Women in Agriculture in Saskatoon. She also has a huge social media following with an encouraging tone.
- Take a social media break. Don’t let Instagram or Facebook suck you into the comparison game of life. Comparing your love life, farm situation or kitchen to others is going to rob you of joy. I know I am a boomer, but pick up the phone. Phone your spouse and say, “I just called to say I love you.” Singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder can help you out with the right words to say!
- Monitor your physical and mental health. It’s sad that anxiety and depression are increasing in women, and younger people. As a depression survivor of a serious postpartum event, I want you to pay attention to how your body integrates with your mental health. Hormones rage as we age, and specialists can help you get back on track. We committed to marriage until death do us part, and sometimes that death thing has come close with accidents, and tough health issues. Ruth Bell Graham was asked once if she had ever considered divorcing her famous husband Billy. Her response was, “Divorce never. Murder, yes!”
- Learn some new conflict skills. My conflict training with Mediation Services in Winnipeg and Craig Runde’s Conflict Dynamic Profile have made my life a lot better. Once you understand that you always get to choose your response to anger, hurt, fear, or frustration, you can up your emotional intelligence game. If you want to spend $55 to figure out what your positive conflict behaviours are, and your hot buttons, email me [email protected] with CDP in the subject line. Fighting in marriage is not bad. It gives clarity and helps make great decisions when there is resolution and a deep desire to attack the challenges, not the person.
- Share ideas for fun on the farm, or off the farm. I’m writing this while listening to hubby’s playlist and enjoying a great wood fire he built. He just scratched my back. We have created a space to get away from our farm that is only 16 minutes away. Some folks have done this with a small cabin in the woods on the same home quarter, or just over the hill. (Airbnb?) Carve out some time to unplug from your devices, and just be together. You don’t need an agenda!
- Walk down the road together. Ride together. Enjoy silence together. Look up! Take a flashlight if it is really dark, you might scare a skunk or porcupine along the way (I speak from experience).
- Celebrate the good. Strong families get this. Write love notes or text happy thoughts. Valentine’s Day 2020 can be what you create it to be. Keep it going all year long. Share your #healingstories4ag with me. Lead with love.