“Elaine is a marriage counselor, even though she says she is a coach!” says the uncomfortable farmer after a coaching call. I tell my clients that “counseling is about recovery, but coaching is about discovery.” I want farm couples to discover what will work for them to be happier in their relationship as a couple, and as farm partners. Sometimes I ask hard questions that irk people, but they know they need to deal with making their marriage foundation stronger.
I love books. My current recommendation is John Gottman’s book, The 7 Principles For Making a Marriage Work. In the book, Gottman talks about developing a friendship in your marriage and learning to make repairs. Buy a copy for wedding gifts, anniversaries, and one for yourself.
With this in mind, here are some of my top of head tips on how to love a farmer.
9 Tips on How To Love A Farmer
1. Respect Him
Author Emmerson Eggerichs (Love and Respect ) has suggested that in a relationship men are looking for respect and women need love. I suspect that your man needs to hear words of affirmation from you that you are “proud of him and appreciate his character and decision-making ability.” Filling up the emotional bank account for each person in your family just takes courage to speak truth and love into the other person’s life. Be intentional about doing it, not just on special occasions. Do you currently show respect to your farmer?
“A Hot Meal” is on the top of my farmer’s caring list. We took the time to explore the 12 ways we each like to be cared for, wrote it down, and laughed. Wes feels deeply loved when he walks into the house and can smell something good stewing. Only 21% of Canadians still cook from scratch, so affirm your cooking skills and show them off to your family. When was the last time you cooked your hubby’s favorite supper? He cares. You can also love your farmer by cooking healthy foods and not stuffing him full of sugary sweets. Love your physical hearts with smart cooking.
Smalley and Trent use the concept of “word pictures” to convey strong meaning in marriage. When Wes reports that he feels he is getting “leftovers” he is telling me I am spending more energy on my clients, readers, and audience than on him. I do not like to hear about this kind of leftovers, so I need to check in and ask how he is doing regarding the time we are spending together, enjoying each other and being connected. Quality time is one of the five love languages that Gary Chapman writes about. Are your spending more time with grandchildren and neglecting the time needs of your spouse? Could you block off, at least, one hour a week as “marriage time” to work on the state of your union? Walk. Date. Talk.
Someone suggested that “clutter is energy constipation.” Our lives can be cluttered with busy activities and taking care of too much stuff. If you are ready to simplify things, how about attacking a project together as a couple. I know a wife who was thrilled to see the ugly old barn burn down (on purpose) as it was part of the view from her home she hated. When I mentioned that the patio furniture needed to be parked away for the winter, I felt deeply loved when that same day the guys hauled it away to the shed on the flatbed. Small acts of kindness really mean a lot to a weary heart. How tidy and clean is your home sanctuary? Clean up together.
Mending is also a sign of love. Patches anyone?
5. Candy Under the Pillow
Do you still know your farmer’s favorite treat? Is it licorice, almonds, or chocolate? Keep some on hand to pop into the lunch kits to the field. A small treat communicates “I am thinking of you, and I care about you.” (nuts do not have sugar, just fat, oh well!).
6. Discuss Debt Together
Please talk about spending large sums of money and what impact that will have on the family. Women are tired of off-farm jobs subsidizing the farm cash flow only to discover that their opinion was not brought to the loan negotiating table. Disaster looms when debt is hidden and not openly discussed to explain the “why we are doing this” factors. A young hurting farmer confides that he separated due to a large dairy debt that was not ratified by his wife. She was deeply hurt that she had been kept in the dark. Women, are you using too much “retail therapy” to compensate for marriage deficits?
7. Make Repairs Quickly
Nip conflicts in the bud and do not let stress simmer. Have a 10’clock rule that you will commit to resolving disputes before bedtime so that you can enjoy intimacy and not let the sun set on your anger. Some days you may not be able to fix things in a day, and may then work to agree to “park the issue” until the next business meeting or coffee time.
8. Redemptive Separation
Addictions like alcohol may require time apart for therapy and rehabilitation. The intent of redemptive separation is to practice tough love to get the person you love to change behavior and come back to the marriage in a healthy way. If your marriage is carrying issues that need counseling therapy, a doctor’s diagnosis or spiritual care, get help now. I love my farmer so much I check to see if he is keeping up with his medical care. When is the last time you saw your doctor? Do you even have a doctor? Drugs and alcohol are not good stress relievers, they cause more harm and hurt to farm families than many people know.
9. Kiss Often
I do not need to say more.
Have fun loving your farmer and put the “zest” back into your marriage this year. Resiliency for farming starts with a strong marriage foundation. After all, we all want to love and be loved.
P.S. Elaine and her readers appreciate hearing your happy love stories. Make a difference as a reader by sharing your successes in the comments below.
Need more advice? Buy “Do the Tough Things Right…how to prevent communication disasters in family business” from Elaine’s bookstore.