Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Dr. Farmer Squirms, Explains, Apologizes

April 8, 2005

I stirred up a bit of tempest with my article on mistakes I’ve seen farm women make in their marriages.

I received responses from women who have felt victimized and hurt by self-centered, farm-centered husbands and the betrayal of the dream they had for their marriages. The article was too painful and added to their pain. It also had the potential to be used as ammunition in marital arguments.

Reply: I am sorry I added to your pain. I have taken pride in writing soft style advice that can be gently absorbed without feeling I am being judgmental. This article was an humorous attempt at using strong examples to highlight real problems and to validate farmers and farm families who struggle with women who are truly difficult. I took a risk with the humor and it was a bit too cutting.

I received a number of responses that emphasized the column wasn’t fair in representing the positive contributions of women in agriculture.

Reply: You’re right. It wasn’t a balanced article about women on agriculture. It was about a small minority of women in agriculture. I have consistently tried to emphasize male and female partnerships in marriage and in farming as a key to success and happiness. Please know that I believe this.

I received responses that implied that I was sexist, chauvinistic, arrogant and out of touch and that I was advocating a subservient and demeaning role for women.

Reply: I was pointing out behaviors that are wrong: willful and rigid, selfish, explosive, dishonest, greedy, lazy, irresponsible with money, disloyal, antagonistic and confrontational, detached and uncaring, intolerant and disrespectful. Women, in a position of power, can intimidate their husbands. They can bully and abuse power - just as men do.

I have written so much about male struggles in relationships that I have been accused of male bashing and farmer bashing. In fact, I believe my writing has been successful and appreciated because I have brought a feminist perspective to family farming. I get begrudging comments from farmers who wryly point out that my columns provide plenty of fuel for marital discussions and cause them more than a little discomfort to their lives.

Generally speaking, most women understand what it takes to have a good relationship. It is easy to focus on males behaving badly in relationships because most of the time, that is where the majority of fault lies.

The higher expectations women have for equality, partnership and emotional expressiveness in their relationships with men are the cause of much criticism for men who are stuck with older models of male/female roles. Drawing attention away from that issue seems like a disservice to most women who want more from their marriages.

I do advocate for traditional marriage and family life as the foundation of society and happiness. I see men and women playing supportive and complementary roles with raising children and cooperating with the work in the home. Of that I am guilty.

Not enough parents teach courtesy, respect and set limits. Couple that with indulging and catering to their children, they raise willful, narcissistic sons or daughters who fail to learn reciprocity in relationships.

When these children are in close relationships as adults, they continue to act like spoiled brats. Their sense of entitlement, lack of self-discipline and low frustration tolerance make it difficult to compromise or see another’s point of view or needs. This applies to Mamma’s Boys and Daddy’s Little Princesses alike.

I received a number of letters emphasizing the need for balanced and equal treatment of farm marriage problems. Where is the list of things that farmers do wrong?

Reply: I have at my website at www.valfarmer.com, archived columns on rural marriages. Most of them focus on what male farmers can do better to improve their marriages. There are three in particular I want to point out: "What I wish farmers knew about relationships," "Management principles in family farming," and "Seven reasons for rural divorce."

When you go to my website, click on Sample columns and scroll until you get to these titles. You can download them for free. The other columns I have mentioned, "Don’t marry a momma’s boy," and, "What farmers really want," are available using the same method.

Also the replies I have received to the, "Eight ways women can make a farmer miserable," column will be posted under sample columns by the title, "Farm marriages: the rest of the story."

If you want to send me comments, I will add them to this column.

I received some e-mails from men wanting ideas on what to do when dealing with a wife who exhibits some of the negative qualities mentioned.

Reply: I will address this issue on what constructive actions a husband can take to change the dynamics of a one-sided relationship.

I received positive feedback from readers who appreciated the validation of their experience that women have and can cause their share of hurt and pain in farm marriages and farming operations.

Thank you. I was beginning to squirm a little. I felt I had a truth to share. I am sorry if my manner was more offensive than it should have been.