This article was initially published on April 26, 2016, and has been updated.
I want farm couples to be happier in their relationships; as love partners and as farm partners.
Sometimes I ask the hard questions that irk people. But they know they need to deal with making their marriage stronger. “Elaine is a marriage counselor, not a coach!” says the uncomfortable farmer after a coaching call.
But as I tell my clients: “Counseling is about recovery, but coaching is about discovery.”
I want you to discover that there are ways to love your farmer and be in a happy, mutually beneficial relationship.
With this in mind, here are 9 of my top tips for how to love a farmer.
Nine tips for loving a farmer:
1. RESPECT and LOVE THEM
Author Emerson Eggerichs (Love and Respect) suggests that in a relationship men are looking for respect while women need love.
I suspect that your man needs to hear words of affirmation from you, that you are proud of him and appreciate who he is.
If your wife is the farmer, find ways to show her you love her—start by learning what her love language is!
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 it, not just on special occasions.
How do you currently show respect and love to your farmer?
“A hot meal” is on the top of MY farmer’s “caring list”.
We took 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 percent 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 spouse’s favorite supper? They care!
You can also love your farmer by cooking healthy foods and not stuffing them full of sugary sweets.
Love your physical hearts with smart cooking.
3. SPEND TIME
In Gary Smalley and John Trent’s The Language of Love, they use the concept of “word pictures” to convey strong meaning in marriage.
When Wes reports that he feels he’s getting “leftovers”, he is telling me I am spending more energy on my clients, readers, and audience than on him.
I need to check in and ask how he is doing regarding the time we’re spending together, enjoying each other, and being connected.
Quality time is one of the five love languages that Gary Chapman writes about in his famous book.
Are you 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.
4. ACTS OF SERVICE
Someone once 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 ruined the view from her home.
When I mentioned that the patio furniture needed to be packed 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.
5. SWEET SURPRISES
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!)
Respark the relationship between you and your #farmer. 9 great ways to show them you still love them.
CLICK TO TWEET
6. DISCUSS DEBT TOGETHER
Talk about spending large sums of money, and what impact it will have on the family.
Spouses of farmers 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” factor.
A young hurting farmer confides that he was 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.
Perhaps you’re using “retail therapy” to compensate for marriage deficits—this needs to be addressed!
7. MAKE REPAIRS QUICKLY
Nip conflicts in the bud and do not let stress simmer.
Have a 10 o’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. In that case, you can agree to “park the issue” until the next business meeting or coffee time.
8. REDEMPTIVE SEPARATION
Dealing with addictions may require time apart for therapy and rehabilitation.
Drugs and alcohol are not good stress relievers. They cause more harm and hurt to farm families than many people know.
If your marriage is experiencing issues that need counseling therapy, a doctor’s diagnosis, or spiritual care, get help now.
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.
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?” I’ll ask. Or, “Do you even HAVE a doctor?”
9. KISS OFTEN
Need I say more?
Have fun loving your farmer and put the “zest” back into your marriage this year.
Resiliency for farming starts with a stable marriage foundation.
After all, we all want to love and be loved.
Want to do more reading on the topic? 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!
If you enjoyed this article and you’d like to dive deeper, don’t miss these posts:
How to Prevent Divorce on Farms
Managing Your Marriage in the Muck
How to Build a Strong Relationship with Marriage Fitness
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.
I was excited to read this list and VERY disappointed that the first thing I read was “Respect HIM”, I am a female farmer starting her own business and while my life partner is male he is NOT the farmer. Farmers come in all different shapes, sizes and genders!
HI Robin, I agree with you. This was written from my perspective. I have many clients who are farmers, female, and wanting love and respect. Thanks for connecting.
It’s disappointing that this article assumes the male of the couple is the farmer. I know lots of female farmers and one couple in particular that the wife alone does the farming while the husband has an outside job.
Hi Melissa, I understand that women are farmers, too. I coach female farmers and respect they have needs for love and respect, too. It works both ways.
This article also assumes that the wife does all the cooking. In our family my husband is the cook.
Thanks for connecting Melissa, I respect all members of the farm team who contribute to the farm’s success.
I just love your little points and they don’t only apply to farm couples. Keep encouraging us who have relationships to maintain!
I’m just reading this but our love story is my favorite!
We try(and sometimes fail) to do all of these things in our busy life. Being fortunate enough to have a partner who makes you feel loved and valued both at home and in the farm business is a rare find!
There is no one else I would rather work and play with than my husband!
Give it a break people!!! If you pay attention to what Ms. Froese forwords her message with you would understand her view. Just because I am a male citrus grower is not my reason for posting this, but agriculture takes the whole family to be successful.
Good job, Ms. Froese.
Old Florida Citrus
I was raised on a farm, married a farmer, raised 7 children on the farm, 3 of which want to raise their own families on the farm. But…their spouses are having a terrible struggle feeling like they come 2nd to the farm. They just dont get how much time it takes to be a successful farmer. How do I help them see that farming is a family effort.
I see a shift on the couple’s values with their approach to being a team farming. Some spouses choose not to get involved at all. Those spouses who feel that they come second to the farm are also frustrated because of the lack of marriage time. On our farm we don’t work on Sundays, which gives us and our employees 52 days a year to focus on family and rest. We are successful in working this way. Farming can or cannot be a family effort…that is the value clash that your family is trying to navigate. As with many issues, I would encourage you to talk openly and respectfully with your farm family team about your concerns, and work towards a solution together. Let me know how that goes, sincerely, Elaine
Very interesting topic and write-up too. I can connect my story with your article. It’s been 25 year i got married and have 4 children. My hubby was a farmer, but now he is doing service due to some family reasons. This article just reminded me our old days.
Hi April, For spouses who were not raised on a farm, it can be a real disappointment. I wasn’t and the loss of the attention and mutuality I was expecting wasn’t there. Most women have their husbands on weekends and their work is respected and supported. If I needed to speak with my husband, I had to go through my mother-in-law, who was in charge until the day she died at 94. I felt unwelcome on the farm. It was my mother-inlaw’s back yard. We built a house, but were forced to sign papers that my in-laws could buy it if we split up. Whenever my husband was away, even for a weekend, there was always some kind of emergency that required him to go straight to the farm without coming home first. We have one child and somehow that meant we weren’t a family. We never got a chance to have our own traditions because my in-laws would have a barbecue or hog the Christmas celebrations, or there was a seed buying meeting on Dec. 23, or the farm show was scheduled to end on Valentine’s Day, and all the farmers went to the nastiest strip clubs in Louisville. The farm community in general seems anti-wife. What gives?
Sounds like you could use a lot of support for a culture that was not healthy for you and your family.
Hope you are getting support now, and have new options for feeling heard and understood on your farm.
I invite you to seek out counselling, and ways you can navigate your response. Check out my resources on Farming’s In Law Factor.
All the best,