Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Thinking Of Marrying A Farmer?

March 1, 2004

Married life with a farmer is different. No doubt about it. Even the term "farm wife" suggests that a woman married a farm instead of a man.

And, unbeknownst to the bride, the farmer has a demanding mistress with whom he has been consorting for years - and she has an unnatural hold on his heart. And woe be unto any foolish woman who tries to come between a farmer and his farm.

It is in that spirit that I have developed the first ever "Premarital Farm Marriage Inventory." Read it and weep, all you women who blindly felt you married a man and not a farm. For you it is too late. File it away in case your daughters ever feel tempted to date a farmer.

Check out the father.

1. What is your boyfriend's father like? Is he a workaholic? Is he a perfectionist? Does he have a life outside of the farm? Does everything have to be done his way?

2. Does his father have a temper? Is he bullheaded and close-minded to others? Can he tolerate mistakes? How hard is it for your boyfriend to please him? How well do they work together? Is your boyfriend listened to?

3. Is his father trying to prove his worth by showing how good a farmer he really is? How competitive is he with his neighbors?

4. Does his father have plans to retire someday? Is the succession plan for management and ownership openly discussed?

Check out the mother.

5. Is your boyfriend a "mama's boy?" Has his mother been too quick to cater to him? Does he expect to be mothered in your relationship? What kind of power does his mother have over him? Can she really let go? Will she accept you, respect your marriage and your influence over her son?

6. Does your boyfriend's mother have a life of her own? Is she able to set her own agenda and have it respected? Has her life on the farm been rewarding, or a burden she has endured?

Check out his parents’ marriage and childhood memories.

7. How is your boyfriend's parents' marriage? Is there a true partnership? Do they have other priorities and activities besides the farm? Do they have fun together? Do they show affection? Is his mother happy and getting her needs met in the relationship? How do they resolve conflict?

8. Were there any issues regarding addictions, abuse, neglect or other painful childhood memories from his past? Does he still struggle with his relationships with either of his parents?

Check out the siblings and relatives connected with the farm.

9. Does your boyfriend have older brothers or uncles who are in charge and exert a controlling influence over him? Does he already feel trapped or limited by his age and position in the family pecking order? Are there sisters-in-law in the picture who are unhappy or who exert a negative influence on their husbands?

10. Does your boyfriend have younger brothers with whom he is competitive? Are they self-starters? Do the brothers work together well?

11. Are any siblings a hindrance to the farm? Will your boyfriend be burdened someday with partners who don't carry their weight?

Check out the boyfriend.

12. Is your boyfriend's identity with the farm so strong that he will consistently put his needs ahead of yours? What are your boyfriend's dreams? Do his dreams depend on an understanding with his parents regarding the farm? Can he trust them?

13. Has your boyfriend had successful experiences away from the farm? Has he developed his own personality enough to assert himself effectively with powerful priorities in his family and community? Can he say "no" to farming if it becomes unprofitable? Or if family farm relationships become destructive to himself or the family?

14. Is your farmer boyfriend a workaholic? Can he say "no" to the work around him when he has to? Does he have balanced interests and goals? How patient is he? Does he have a temper? Does he keep his cool around animals and equipment? How well does he handle stress?

Check out yourself.

15. Are you prepared for a husband who has to work longer than eight hours a day? Are you prepared to be tied down by the farm? Can you understand and accommodate the stressful times of planting, harvesting, and other farm cycles of all-out effort? Are you willing to have your life interrupted by your husband's farm priorities? How flexible are you?

16. Can you fit into a family culture and understand that you have to give and negotiate? Can you share your husband’s dream and appreciate his needs for understanding and support?

17. Can you manage money and respect the family living budget? Are you prepared for the sacrifices, vagaries, and stress regarding farm income? Are you willing to assume the risks of a shrinking and highly competitive profession?

18. Do you love the lifestyle and quality of life enough to live with sacrifices, delayed rewards, and demanding work?