Relationship Education Available for Farm Couples

ISU Extension and Outreach offers relationship education opportunities

January 14, 2019, 9:36 am | David Brown, Laura Sternweis

couple holding hands by Mykyta/, Iowa – The stress of farming can strain a couple’s relationship, but the relationship doesn’t have to break, says David Brown, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Farmers often are dealing with stressful work environments and job-related isolation, as well as multiple conditions and situations beyond their control, ranging from the weather to tariffs and trade disputes. Work-home challenges often occur because the farming profession is so closely tied to the lives of all family members involved. Husbands and wives often work closely together and farm decisions are likely to impact the entire family, said Brown, who specializes in family life issues.

The increasing financial cost of farming adds to the tension. More and more farm spouses hold two or more jobs. Some spouses work off the farm, some do the farm bookkeeping, all while maintaining the roles of primary caregiver and home manager. Because of this, there could be additional tension, as spouses are more involved in the farm business and farm decision making, Brown said.

Strain within a farm couple’s relationship is not unusual, considering how closely connected the farm family is to the farm business. However, Brown said there are steps couples can take to relieve the tension.  

“The most important step is to communicate. That could mean talking about or negotiating schedules, plans and goals, or simply checking in on your spouse to see how they are feeling,” Brown said.

“Another important step is to show appreciation for each other. Saying thank you or telling your spouse how much you appreciate them helps to promote connection and supports the relationship bond. Also, scheduling a date night at least once a month helps to strengthen this most important relationship,” Brown added.

But maintaining a stable couple relationship takes a lot of effort. Sometimes people can benefit from additional support.

ISU Extension and Outreach offers a variety of relationship education opportunities, Brown said.

“ELEVATE: Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level” is a series of workshops for couples in many different stages of a relationship, such as preparing for marriage, in a long-term relationship, joining a blended family or expecting a child in the near future. Couples learn and practice seven core skills essential to maintaining a healthy and stable relationship.

“Together We Can: Creating a Healthy Future for Our Family” is a series of workshops to help parents gain knowledge and skills for creating healthy family and co-parenting relationships.

ISU Extension and Outreach also offers educational programs for professionals who work with couples and families. In “Healthy Relationship Education Training,” professionals learn the skills and principles that research indicates can build and sustain healthy relationships. The program follows the National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Model.

For more information on relationship education offered by ISU Extension and Outreach in your county, contact your county extension office. Information on these relationship education programs also can be found at


Photo credit: Mykyta/

About the Authors: