Husband-wife communication, in and out of the pasture

Amanda Radke
Courtesy photo"When working as a couple, our roles overlap - romance, business, partner, ranchers, parents," said Amy Kirk, columnist and ranchwife from Pringle, SD.

With 17 years of marriage behind her belt, ranchwife and columnist Amy Kirk knows a thing or two about relationships. Kirk ranches with her husband, Art, near Pringle, SD, and writes a humorous agriculture column appropriately titled, “A Ranchwife’s Slant.”

Kirk spoke at the South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation’s (SDFBF) Young Farmer and Rancher Conference in Spearfish, SD, on Jan. 14, and offered advice to young couples in attendance.

“Communication is so important on the ranch,” she said. “When working as a couple, our roles overlap – romance, business, partner, ranchers, parents. ‘Spouses in translation’ would be an appropriate title for today’s presentation, and although I don’t always understand the hand signals my husband gives me when moving cows, I have learned to better understand him and the cues he is trying to give me in our marriage.”

Kirk referenced several books in her presentation including: For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men and For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women, both by Shaunti Feldhahn, as well as The Five Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman and To Have And To Hold: Thoughts On Successful Marriage by Val Farmer. She summarized these books to support her points that ranching couples can be business partners while maintaining a healthy, happy marriage.

“I think these books should be required by law for couples to read before they get married,” Kirk said. “I learned that men have a strong need to provide; there is a constant pressure, and a woman’s respect for how their husband can provide and earn money is huge. I always try to acknowledge my husband’s hard work, and I often ask for him opinions and advice on decisions I need to make.”

Kirk explained that when it comes to money and work, men are emotional, while women are utilitarian. On the flip side, when it comes to romance, men are utilitarian, and women are emotional.

“Men need time to think things through, while women need to talk things through,” she added. “As ranchers, there’s so much we can’t control; the weather and the markets are so unpredictable. That’s why many ranchers like to have firm control on certain things such as how the records are kept or the way chores are done. The many pressures to provide and control can be draining on a man, so make home a safe haven for him to unwind and relax after a long day at work.”

Women are entirely different, and Kirk explained how emotions play a big role in the decisions of a ranchwife.

“While men concern themselves about money, women worry about relationships,” she said. “‘Is my marriage okay? Do we need counseling? Does he still love me?’ Women want to be pursued, even after the wedding. They want to feel special and loved. A man shows this by providing, where a woman would prefer a date night or a romantic gesture.”

While men need time to unwind at the end of the day, a woman is always thinking and has a hard time shutting down, according to books on the subject.

“A woman’s thoughts are like a computer program with multiple windows open at the same time, and the windows stay open until the task is completed or the problem is resolved,” she explained. “The best advice I can give a man is listen, reassure, pursue and repeat. That’s the secret to a happy wife.”

As Kirk shared personal anecdotes about working alongside her husband on the ranch, she received many chuckles from young farm and ranch couples in the audience.

“Although hand signals when chasing cows can be misinterpreted, if we can try to think as our spouses do, we can bridge the gaps, make connections and have a long, happy marriage while raising kids, cattle and crops,” she closed.