Renewed marriage vows and listening to the message

Sometimes the content of a message is more important than the way it's delivered.

Farming is often a team event, and it's important for the team members to learn to communicate. (Erin Ehnle Brown / Grand Vale Creative LLC)

My wife and I recently renewed our marriage vows. After 31 years, it was a very romantic event. I will set the stage. We have a number of hog barns, and due to all the turmoil in the country, selling pigs from our barns got backed up. We had many semi loads going out weekly and everyone was tired, so I said I would do four of the loads between midnight and 4 a.m. I asked my wife if she wanted to go on a late-night date with me. She agreed and even one of our daughters volunteered to come along for the “fun fest.”

Shortly after getting started, I clearly communicated how something was to be done differently. I thought nothing of it. When we were driving back to the house, my daughter thought that my communication was too direct. My wife kind of looked at her and said she was not offended at all. We then laughed at everyone’s different perception of the event.

My mind flashed back to my days as an ag teacher. I would always be able to look down the hallway and see boyfriends and girlfriends laughing, holding hands and talking about going to the movies, going out to eat and doing fun things. Then the first time the tiniest little thing would occur in their relationship, they would not be talking to each other, no hand holding, and the whole school seemed to know. Childish high school drama at its best.

I always told my students that if I was a marriage counselor, I would make a new young dating couple sort a semi load of pigs together before dating anymore. If you can sort pigs together, you should be able to survive most things in a marriage.

Life and farming are not stress free. In many cases, farming seems to be a team event. Sometimes the team is a husband and wife, or brothers or fathers and sons. Then usually the team extends beyond them to other people such as hired help, seed and chemical dealers, agronomists or lenders. Conversations of all types can take place. The question is, when someone says something to you, do you hear the content of the message? Or do you react to the delivery of the messenger? Is the purpose of the message to make something better? Or to start a fight? Are you the one easily offended? Do you take “too much” from other people? Or do you deliver the sharp barbs directed at other people?


On a daily basis, I get to hear husbands and wives communicate during appointments. Some are amazingly always on the same page complimenting each other. Others banter back and forth with humor that is very entertaining for me to observe. Some go back and forth with very pointed barbs that seem painful to me, but neither seems to be offended. The point is not that we should see how offensive we can be and get away with it. The point is that maybe we can get better at listening to the message rather than responding back in the heat of the moment with something even more offensive.

Taking the high road and choosing to absorb the content of the message can sometimes prevent something simple from escalating like high school relationship drama. Maybe someday you too can renew your marriage vows like my wife and I did in the barn. Just make sure one side doesn’t always get the “for better” and the other side “for worse”!

Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or

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