Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

A Farm Is Compared To A Mistress

May 5, 2003

I recently received this letter from a farm woman in Nebraska. She shared with me a letter she gave her husband explaining her side of why their marriage fell apart. Though perhaps not as vividly, I’ve heard these thoughts expressed many times over the years by women married to farmers. They have felt short-changed in their marriages by the love, energy and time devoted to farming compared to the time and energy invested in marriage and family life.

A letter to my Husband and his "Mistress."

Here we are, one step away from ending our marriage.

I think back to the first conversation I had with my lawyer when this all began and I told him,"My husband wants a divorce."

One of the first things he asked me was, "Does he have someone else?" and without thinking, I blurted out, "Yes, the farm."

I guess that’s what it all boils down to for me. I’ve felt for years like I’m second (or even third or fourth) place in your life. I feel like the farm has become your "mistress," the one thing that gives you more joy in life than I ever can. Your life revolves around it and to be any part of your life, also, I must submerge myself in it and love it as you do.

But how can I when I feel such jealousy and resentment toward it for taking you away from me? How can I be encouraging and caring for something that I feel has ruined what I once thought of as a good relationship?

This mistress could be my best friend, someone I loved and enjoyed being with along with you. But then you began to show more interest in "her" and "her" wants and needs than mine. I became a third wheel in the relationship, but was still expected to stand by and support you and everything about this love of yours.

However, the one thing that this mistress didn’t give you was sexual satisfaction, so you still wanted to come to me for that. How could I possibly feel like responding to you when I felt like you were in love with and would rather spend your time with someone who mattered more to you than I ever could again?

Yes, you brought me flowers, gifts, cards, birthday cakes - but I did the same for you. How many times were you too busy to go out to celebrate our anniversary or my birthday, promising to do it when things slowed down and we never went.

Everything that matters mot to you involves this farm. You think my happiness and the kids’ happiness can only come from here. From what you hold dear and think is important. Well, I’m a human being with a past too. Even though it may have been different than yours doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good way to live or be brought up. People can be raised with good values and strong work ethics without living on a farm. I don’t consider myself to be lazy or to have bad values.You can work hard and still find time to enjoy life if you really want to.

I feel that never mattered to you or you would have tried harder to find out what you say you don’t know - what some of my dreams might be and how to make them come true. I tried for all these years to help you fulfill yours. But I guess you never noticed.

Believe it or not, I’m in love with you - the person. Not the farm and all you think it provides. I thought at one time you were in love with me too. Not in my willingness and/or ability to drive a tractor or work with livestock. I must have been mistaken.

I’m sorry that you feel I never showed you enough appreciation for, "all that we have." But I never pressured or begged you to work harder for more money so we could have more. I guess it’s all just water under the bridge and doesn’t really matter anymore anyway. You say that you don’t love me anymore and have nothing left in your heart for me.

I’m sure you probably disagree with a lot of this and are shaking your head at how stupid it all sounds, but I can’t help that. I’m not looking to say what you might want to hear, but what’s eating at me down deep inside. You’ve probably heard most of it before too, and it doesn’t mean anything, but I put it out there anyway.

Love, Your wife.

Love and time form a bond. Sharing time is another way of sharing self. "What we serve is what we learn to love and what we learn to love takes our time, and what takes our time is what we love." - Marvin J. Ashton

The gift of life is the gift of our attention. Nobody tells us what to pay attention to. It is something we choose to give. True farming, just like many other aspects of life, has it’s own unique obligations and demands on time and attention - but not all time and attention, not even close.

Farmers, don’t make the mistake of loving something inanimate that can’t love you back. Give a generous portion of your time and attention to loving your wife and children. Make them first - not second, third or fourth - in your life.