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Can their problem be solved?

Agriculture.com Staff 12/02/2006 @ 12:46pm

Does anyone else get so far behind in reading farm magazines?

Those two letters from farmwives in the March 2005 issue of Successful Farming magazine were about the saddest things I've ever read -- sad, but not hard to imagine.

I married into a farm family and eventually left my husband and moved to town after 12 years of marriage. It was the hardest decision I ever made. I knew for several years I had to go, but I couldn't bear to leave my son. Finally, I realized I couldn't continue this way. My son loved the farm, so I left him there.

I still loved my husband, and I knew he loved me. But I could not live a life where I wasn't my husband's top priority. I knew that, given the choice, my husband would choose the farm and his family.

Two rounds of marital counseling produced only short-term results. So I rented an apartment and arranged my finances and belongings in order to survive the messy divorce to come.

Imagine my surprise when, presented with a real choice, my husband was ready to begin a new career, as long as we'd have a future together. We moved to town; it was a new, wonderful beginning.

I think it's unfair to decide what another person would do. It was the hardest decision I ever made, but the best one. We have a real relationship now; we make decisions about our life together. The farm and family business are important, but they're not our only focus.

Ironically, we returned to the farm several years later to start a brand- new enterprise. We now farm with our son and his new bride. I work hard to keep business and family separate since I know how havoc can ensue when things get too entwined.

Every situation is different, but shouldn't all farm women take responsibility for their own happiness? If they did, they might find their husbands aren't far behind.

Despite taking actions based on faulty assumptions, W.E.'s was a happy ending.

That's seldom the case. Spouses make assumptions about important issues like mutual responsibility, commitment to the farm, income expectations, risk tolerance, and retirement all the time -- often without a single in-depth discussion. Consequences range from disappointing to devastating.

On a family farm, this dangerous fog of assumption envelops children, in-laws, siblings, partners, and employees.

For instance, a child assumes: "Dad's heart would break if I left to be a vet, so I have to stay."

A daughter-in-law assumes: "Jim's dad will give us the farm because we stayed."

A brother assumes: "My sister has no interest in the farm; she's a lawyer."

A partner assumes: "Charlie has no problem with us being paid equally, even though he works harder."

An employee assumes: "He'll make me farm manager even though his son has come back."

All reasonable assumptions. But if important life decisions are based on them and they're later discovered to be wrong, terrible results are likely.

What are your critical assumptions? When was the last time -- if ever -- you discussed them with their owner? Should you let that silence continue?

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Farm Science Review, Day Two