BEEF Daily

Marriage Advice From One Rancher’s Wife To Another


Marriage, like life, is all about the give and take and going with the flow.

Over the Easter weekend, my middle sister, Courtney, became engaged to her boyfriend, Riley. They are planning a May 2014 wedding. Already, us girls are engulfed in all of the fun details -- dresses, flowers, reception hall, etc. I’m excited to finally get a brother, and I know my husband, Tyler, and my dad are eager to have another guy to help even out the numbers on the family operation.

Seeing my baby sister find happiness reminds me that only a few years ago, I was in her shoes. And, while she is currently in that newly engaged bliss, I’m all too happy to fill her in on all the little things that come with gaining a husband.

From careful observation of my own husband, my father and my grandpas, as well as my friends’ husbands, I can tell Courtney that she can plan on getting coveralls and boots for at least one holiday or birthday during her marriage. Chances are that her husband-to-be, like so many others I know, will be able to recite the lineage of any cow in his pasture, but he may forget important dates like anniversaries or birthdays. And, while every night of the week won’t be like a romance novel, I bet they find ways to enjoy each other’s company. Whether it's checking cows or fixing fence, a couple that works and plays together, stays together.


A Closer Look: You Call Checking Cows A Date Night?


I was reminded of some of these little things recently when my husband asked me to go for a ride in the pickup. It had been a long day of writing and blogging, and I was ready to do something fun outside with my husband. I quickly threw on my work clothes and boots, and we headed outside and hopped in the truck. I took the passenger seat and let Tyler do the driving.

I was chattering away and not paying too much attention to what we were doing and where we were going, until Tyler slowed to a stop in front of a gate. He sat waiting patiently while I finished my story. There was a pause, and I wondered what Tyler was waiting for.

“Umm, aren’t you going to get that gate?” he asked.

Shotgun duty – of course. I don’t know if your family works like mine, but whoever sits shotgun is in charge of opening and closing gates. How could I forget? Chivalry isn’t dead in my marriage, but those are the rules!

“Is this why you brought me along?” I asked him.

With a chuckle, he reassured me that, no, of course he loves my company, but would I please get the gate?

If I could give advice to Courtney and Riley on their upcoming marriage, it would be this -- whether it’s work or play, always enjoy each others’ company. It’s the give and take while working together that makes a ranch marriage successful. Even if he forgets an anniversary or she burns supper, just laugh and enjoy the ride. Oh, and take turns opening the gate once in awhile.

What’s your best advice for working alongside your partner on the farm or ranch? What makes a happy marriage? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 34

on Apr 9, 2013

You hit the nail on the head. It's staying together and sharing that precious asset called a farm. I'm especially interested in farm workshop projects, and when I hear a farmer's wife say with pride "My Bobby's done that, thought it up himself and fixed it in the workshop" I know there's a bond which will never get broken. She admires his ingenuity and skill in the same way that he can't get enough of her apple pie!

Dakota ranch wife (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

My best advice is to remember at this time of the year that mothers day is usually the day the cows go out to pasture! Don't expect any more or less than to be working the chute, getting crapped on by cows and yelled at by your living husband.. " unfortunately get used to that whatever goes wrong it will be always your fault!" Don't get me wrong we love the cattle and many evenings are enjoyed out checking for calving cow.... this is what drawn us together and keeps our marriage go. We have the same desire and goals- which is our cattle operation. It won't work any other way because of all the time, commitment, and moneto be successfl.

NE TX Rancher's wife (not verified)
on Aug 2, 2013

Advise well taken. My husband and I have been together 6 yrs. and married 1yr. and 3mo. and in all that time, I have been helping with what I can with the cattle like working the gates, working the chute, going out and checking for stray calves or calving cows, driving the trucks, raking and hauling hay. He grew up doing this and I'm a city girl (Houston) and never realized all of the hard work, long hours, freezing winters, scorching summers it took to keep this operation going. I ask sometimes why but then t seeing those babies born and the momma's fat and proud of their offsprings. I wouldn't trade this for any city life ever again. You are right when its "always your fault" I get that alot. And the yelling...he's lucky I said "I do" to be honest. It takes a certain kind of woman to want to be a Rancher's wife. At the end of the day, he always admits that I did a fine job. We too have the same goals and desires and we talk it out. We are committed to God and to each other.

Nick HalmesAnonymous (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

This is great stuff! A lot of the world wouldn't understand this great lifestyle.

Margaret from Iowa (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

After 46 plus years as a cattleman's partner, I can say you are exactlly correct. Nothing can get a guy going faster than the words - "cows out". But for all the long hours, market ups and down, cold weather and calving, fences to continually check and fix - I can honestly say we did it together. We are well past traditional retirement age and haave no intention of quitting. Where else can you be with the love of your life and share your day 4/7? It's a "wonderful life"!!

And the good news is daughter number three and her new husband are joining the operation as soon as classes at ISU are done. It doesn't get much better than that.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

A little saying i read before marrying some 32 years ago goes like this. "It's not the way you look at each other, but the way you look together in the same direction." Don't get bent out of shape with little things, but be solid as a rock about the big stuff(God, family, and community).

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

I like this :)

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

I would suggest adding PRAYER along with work and play

JMJLaurent (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

You'll find too that as you work together on the ranch who is better at what chore and how you compliment each other. I am the master at backing the trailer and gentling calves and my husband is better at lifting and toting! LOL! He always jumps in to ride shotgun when we are going to have to back the trailer even if he has to get the gates!-that's a firm rule here in TX too.

John R. Dykers, Jr. (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

Driver drives, shotgun gets gate, saves two trips in and out of truck! Enjoy either, both!

Elizabeth (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

I earned my coveralls for Christmas this year. Hahah!
My husband and I have been married a year and 1/2! We work on a cow/calf operation and this is what I have to offer for advice. When talking about having children or the prospect of children do not be offended if they relate everything back to cattle and/or crack jokes about first time heifers and mothering up.

It’s ok to want some alone time. We have been calving heifers since Feb. and we are on schedule to be done by the end of April. There has been a lot of running around and lack of sleep. We are both cranky. He goes off to ride and I go for a walk. Don’t feel bad or guilty that you find yourself needing time alone. It gives you time to calm down and prevent a fight.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

I think you hit the nail on the head! Calving has been extra stressful for us this year too. Just like you, we have been married almost 2 years. I find it much more beneficial to just go my separate way for a while and unwind to avoid arguments caused by lack of sleep...can't wait till these heifers are done calving!

on Apr 9, 2013

I can't thank you all enough for adding your advice and personal stories to this blog post. From the newly weds to those who have been married 30+ years, you have all added some great tidbits for all of us to keep in mind. Thank you again! And, congratulations to all of you on your happy marriages!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

Recognize that time will never be divided equitably between work and spouse. Don't get caught up competing for attention against the farm. Farmers and ranchers are people with drive and passion. If you can't live with that, don't shop in that aisle!

Shannon (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

All these comments are wonderful. They so encourage me. Working with a husband when it's cow workin time is always touch n go! I used to get mad and sometimes even go to the house if he was really being a jerk....hehe. But through these last 7 years he's learned that having the work done his way and his way only is not a priority, that sometimes I DO know what I'm talking about and he's even leaned more towards my ideas a few times. I've learned that it's just the way things go, to expect him to be work focused and to do my best to be in the right spot at the right time and be the best helper I can be. We laugh more and let things roll off our back, I know that when we go in the house when it's all over that we'll be the same 2 people we were when we woke up that morning, and that's good.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

My grandmother's advice Don't let him see you do any work around the ranch you do not want to continue "having" to do for the next 40. 50, 60 years.

Karina (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

I love this topic! My husband & I have been together for over 12 years. We both come from a long line of ranchers and couldn't imagine doing anything else. Communications is so key (I know it sounds cliche!)! In our marriage goal setting is also imperative. We have ranch goals, as well as personal, financial, and spiritual goals! If you don't know where you are going, how are you gonna get there?! When we have well defined goals, it gives perspective to all those sacrifices that we have had so make and suddenly it makes it worth it! We also believe that in order to make tomorrow better, we have to give it all we got today. As some of the more seasoned marriage partners have stated above, "Don't sweat the small stuff!" Pick your battles wisely. So what if he didn't make it into town to get me a birthday present, when my family is all sitting around the supper table safe, warm, and healthy, what more could you really be blessed with?

Laurie Johnson (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

I love this post! There is a lot of truth in working together, especially when its just the two of you! I think the old saying of "Two heads are better than one" is very true when it comes to ranching couples. Working together and having the same vision will allow you to do anything you want!

Nebrasia farm/ranch wife (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

The single most priceless bit of advice that I could offer is that people are not mind readers. So if you don't talk to each other and communicate there isn't much to build on. If your husband has done something to piss you off, don't try to drop hints as to why you are mad or do the silent treatment. If you are mad simply state in a non attacking way why you are mad in as few of words as possible. I say few of words as possible not because I think men are stupid, but most generally if you bog the explanation down with extra useless words you muddy the water of why you are mad. But expect them to do the same when you piss them off and don't take offence. Really listen to them and then work it out from there. Communication is vital to a healthy marriage. Also God needs to be the center because with him the years ahead will be much more fulfilling. Also one last thought. Emmerson Eggrich (sp) Love and Respect is a series that I believe every couple should go through, and it doesn't matter if you a fixing to be married or have been married for 50 years. This guy has it down as to what is typically the breakdown in communication in a relationship and how to talk to each other and work through difficulties while being loving and respectful. Plus there are so many insightful things about how a woman and a man will react to things differently. Highly recommend this.

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

I remember what a clergyman once told me: 20% of those thinking of marriage should wait five years and 80% of those who ponder matrimony should forget it entirely. Marriage is a tough gig. That plus working together puts tremendous pressure on what's most important--marriage. We work together and have battles royale.

Neal (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

My wife and I of almost 55 yrs. started below the water line. Prayer is necessary but prayer is more important for the prayor rather than the prayee. You can't beat ranch life and you will not be excempt from trials. Marriage is the same. Try to swollow your pride and move on. Every dark night has a sunrise.

been there done that (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

One doesn't know how important having a helpmate along is until she can't be there with you just for company and inspiration.

Val (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

This makes me think of a blog entry I wrote last year ( and that my husband responded with also last spring (

In the end, the most important thing is to keep God as the third member of your marriage. With just two, you can become unraveled and fall apart, but add God as the third member of your marriage and you become a strong cord that can withstand all things.

Jeana (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

My husband and I will be married in May for 22 years. There were a few years in there we almost didn't make it, but we were committed to each other and didn't give up. We still have our bad days but there are so many more great ones. I read the other blogs and it's true in Oregon also that whomever is riding shotgun opens and shuts the gate. Marriage is a partnership and you have to figure out what each others strong points are and capitalize on them. I can also back up the trailer better then my husband but I get more practice, he on the other hand is always thinking and planning ahead which is good because I am kind of fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. He can fix just about anything and can swath hay. Me I can't swath hay to save myself but I can put it in a bale. God is a must in marriage cause after a long day working cattle or working out in the hot sun when things aren't going right if He wasn't with me it wouldn't be pretty. Also one last piece of advice "What is said or yelled down at the cattle pens stays at the cattle pens" Don't take it with you to the house, they most likely didn't mean it anyway.

Joan (not verified)
on Apr 9, 2013

We have been married 56 years and just remember to always resapect each other. I still can't wait for Martin to come home every night and tell me what he has done all day. At 78 he is still going strong on the ranch and farm. He will never retire!!!

John (not verified)
on Apr 10, 2013

"Never go to bed MAD", the making up is the best part. Tomorrow will be better. My wife died a year ago Sunday after nearly 44 years of marriage. She spent 27 years in a wheelchair suffering from MS. She was still at the corrals, when came time to work the animals.
I wish you all the best in your marriages.

on Apr 14, 2014

I know exactly what you mean. A key to a happy, long marriage is never going to bed mad, trying to see things through the eyes of your spouse, and learning to compromise or select the battles that really important to you. My husband and I were married for almost 40 years when he died. He was quite ill the last 3 1/2 years, but he always tried to do his share of the work. Although he has been gone for over 5 years, I still miss him as it was yesterday. Everyone keeps telling me it will get better, but it hasn't yet. I was married my entire adult life. It is hard looking at myself as single. I get out to do things like rowing and square dancing, but it still has not fill the void.

Kenny (not verified)
on Apr 10, 2013

NEVER forget your business may be your living but NOT your life, 31 years and counting and we take a break every January come hell or high water. Your life is what you are making a living for don't forget to enjoy it...................

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 11, 2013

I grew up helping my Dad with the cows and farming so I knew I would marry a farmer. I did not chose wisely the first time around though as my in-laws did not see any place for a female on the farm.....the wives worked in town and not on the farm which led to many disagreements and finally a parting of the ways (of course other issues too). Was a 'single' mom of 3 for 12 years until they were grown. Met a wonderful farmer whom I grew to respect a long time before we ever even went out together. Now 10 years later we work side by side every day on the farm and we have a rock solid marriage. I don't get upset when I don't get gifts for birthdays or anniversaries because being able to be a "stay at home" farming partner is more than enough and I get that gift everyday! Do we get upset with each other? Of course but my motto is "If it isn't life-altering or life-threatening" just let it go!! Respect each other's talents and accept each others flaws.

JEANIE BRAUN (not verified)
on Apr 11, 2013

,Jeanie,Iworked side by side with my Rancher Husband we ran 500 cows,had thirty-seven horses, I ran barrels for twenty-eight yrs.I opened at least 1,000 gates while my husband drove, I cut hay, raked and square baled, my husband did the round baling. I learned how to doctor sick cows,deliver calves, and I wish I had it all to do over again. I am sixty-five yrs. old, 5 ft, 6, and I weigh 115 lbs. After spending three months in hospital rooms while my Husband was fighting cancer. I might add that cancer runs in families, he never smoked, or drank. We lost the battle, and today I have my memories. Due to the severe drought, and running cattle on leases, the cows and horses are a memory. Well, I do have two horses. I have taken to buying lottery tickets, as I believe I will be back in the cattle business. Now mind you I am sixty-five yrs. old, I feel like I am in my thirties,Ranching gets into your blood.It has been elevan yrs. since I lost my partner, and five yrs. since I sold the cows. We built that herd by saving heifers.Opening gates for your husband is a blessing, Never take anything for granted. I wish I was still opening gates.I still pine for the past.

Katlyn Rumbold (not verified)
on Apr 12, 2013

Great article! Even though I'm not married to a farmer yet, (I grew up under a farmers roof and am dating a farmer) I can relate. There are many times where our date night changes at the last minute and instead of going out we end up in the shop fixing the chisel plow, cleaning the tractor, etc. but hey a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do right? I wouldn't have it any other way! Congrats to your sis btw :)

Anonymous (not verified)
on Oct 7, 2013

How would one live if both spouses had regular day jobs ( wife being a nurse 5 days a week) and a ranch to tend to? Who makes sure all the laundry is done and food is on the table every night? Who does all the cleaning? How do you keep a marriage strong when the husband doesn't want to do any household jobs and the wife doesn't always have the time?

TraceyRN (not verified)
on Jun 29, 2014

I am a nurse 5 days a week, my husband works 5 days a week. We run a ranch, ride horses and raise our kids...ranching is a way of life, it's in our blood and became our hobby even though it's a bigger job than the two of ours together. I cook and clean with help from kids, we all work the cows, we all haul the hay and it just works. My husband does not have time to help with housework and I'm ok with that because he works with training the colts while we clean. It's a partnership and a way of life that is not for everyone. It's a lot of work but it's what we love. Sure my house gets dusty, and laundry piles up from time to time, especially May-August but we do everything as a family. We take time for us in between busy times. We try to eat together as a family every night and sometimes that means sandwiches in the truck on the way to a pasture, but it's together.

on Apr 16, 2015

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Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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