My husband of 36 years just dropped me off at the Minot airport in his pickup. We enjoyed the two-hour ride together listening to inspirational tunes, and laughing when we had to stop to help herd stray Angus back to their farm. As farm kids we both chased lots of cows, and it reminded us that some skills never die.
At the November 2017 Connect Ag conference some farm women shared with me their fears that their farm marriages were dying. During “heart” month I cannot stop wanting everyone’s love relationships to be stronger and healthier in 2018, including mine.
What would it look like to be intentional about increasing the way you cherish your mate?
- Agree to doing the caring list. Take a blank page and write numbers 1 to 12 down the left side. Brainstorm your 12 most favourite ways of being cared for by your lover. WHOA… strong language there, hope you are still at least getting kisses! My hubby’s first point was “hot meals.” He misses me when I travel and we negotiate what is in the meal lineup when I am gone. You might be surprised that your wife says, “kisses on the back of the neck when I am doing dishes,” or, “taking out the compost without nagging,” “treating me as an equal partner,” etc.
- Protect each other from verbal harm. Words matter. There is great power in the tongue to cause harm, so think before you speak, engage the brain before talking. Words of affirmation is one of my love languages, so when my hubby says,“You have an amazing brain,” I feel deeply affirmed and validated. When slip-ups happen, be quick to make repair and get the good vibes back on track.
- Provide certainty for your future together. The “almost-married” couples usually move to marriage when the kids are heading to school or sooner. No judgment here. Just an observation that the wedding ring is a symbol of commitment to being there for each other in good times and in bad. Yes 50 per cent of marriages go to rack and ruin, but that doesn’t mean you don’t start out with a firm plan to achieve goals together, and pull each other up. Two cords bound together are not easily broken. What are you doing in your communication and agreements to build up certainty and trust with each other?
- Be present with your time — face-to-face conversations or shoulder to shoulder in the pickup truck. An hour of honest conversation per week is called “marriage time,” to address the current state of your union. The Alpha Marriage Course prescribes this as non-negotiable. If you are running kids to hockey, feeding cows, planning crops, and hauling grain… when are you scheduling to unplug your smartphone and be a smart confidant to your spouse?
- Shared household management. The book Drop the Ball, addresses the stress women feel when they don’t feel supported on the home front. This is 2018. Many farm women are farm operators, managers, and administrators of the farm business. They practise addition of more roles, but would really like to subtract some as well. My husband’s answer to this dilemma was to buy me a robotic vacuum which we have fondly named “Woodman,” after the guy who pretends to be our butler at parties. The robot helps save time, but the consideration behind the gift was appreciated most. Now I would like to find one for the seed warehouse!
- Find romance bonds. Coach Dietrich Demarais, a John Maxwell coach (Emotional Wealth Mgt.) talks about finding joy bonds in your day, things that you observe that make you feel good or joyful. Spectacular sunrises, birds in flight, and phone calls from friends would be joy bonds for me. What joy bonds or romantic things that you used to do as a young couple would rekindle the marriage spark now? Watching a great movie, snuggling together? Hot tub? Walking down the lane in the dark with a flashlight? Candlelight supper? This is where the caring list could give you some ideas.
- Listen more with your eyes locked on each other. Communication or the lack thereof is likely the biggest complaint I hear from farm families. Give your partner the huge gift of listening to them tell their story, without interruption. Paraphrase what you hear. Use word pictures (see the work of Smalley and Trent) to describe what you are feeling. My hubby is clear that he doesn’t want the “restaurant’s brown paper bag of leftovers” when I get home from a road trip. He wants me to be more excited about seeing him and not totally depleted when I get home. “What is it you really need right now?” is a helpful question. Sometimes introverts want quiet, and don’t want to listen or talk. This is when extroverts need to adapt and wait for a better time for conversation.
- Dream together. I renovated a bedroom and found a hidden vision board of clipped magazine images which was a cool surprise. The photos showed a boat dock with the words “a boat of my own,” and a woman in a hammock. This board was created in 2006, and the dreams came true in 2017 with our lake house. Vision boards for your family give your subconscious a strong message of what you really want in your life. Gather up the glossy magazines, find some scissors and glue and have some fun creating a dream board for your marriage. This is especially helpful to aging farmers who don’t relish the thought of leaving the farm roles behind. You may not have to move off the farm, but what would fun look like to you when you are no longer the main manager?
- Physical play… love in action, not only sex. Intimate relationships are important and have different seasons. What sports do you enjoy together? Hunting? Flying? Fishing? Golf? Curling? Dancing? Board games? I feel cherished when my hubby plays Scrabble, and I usually lose, but it is the fun of being together that counts.
- Cook together. Chef Michael Smith reminded us about the joy of sharing the preparation of a meal together. For us this means grilling, inviting guests, and helping children enjoy S’mores around a campfire.
Share your stories with me, as to what you do to cherish your spouse at [email protected].
Happy Valentine’s Day! Build a strong marriage.