Joe has spent his whole life on the land where he lives with his wife, Jessica. They’ve been married for 20 years and have two children – Pete, who is in his first year of university studying agriculture, and Sarah, who attends the local high school. Joe talks about the importance of making time for family, especially when the farm demands so much of his time. He feels that it is very hard ‘to balance work and time with family especially with his wife, Jess.’
Joe and Jess experience ups and downs in their relationship. Joe knows that as their children start to grow up, he and Jess will have to work on getting to know each other. ‘At the end of the day, the kids go away to school or leave school and all of a sudden the stress between us is terrible.’ Joe talks about how he and Jess just can’t seem to get on and how hard it has become living together.
Joe says, ‘I don’t know who to talk to’ because ‘other people either think you’re a whinger or they don’t understand the depth of emotion’ when relationships break down. Men on the farm, especially, feel like they need to solve all their problems on their own or they have to hide how they feel about separating from their wives. There are some emotions it is okay to talk about. For example, as a farmer ‘I can talk about the impact of drought and the stress that it causes but I can’t talk about the stress and anxiety I feel about our marriage not working.’ The reason it is hard to talk to people in the community is because Jess and Joe share friends, but even more so because ‘as a man it is hard to talk about my feelings to others.’ The relationship breakdown has led to distress and depression for Joe. Joe’s experiences make it clear that it is important to be able to talk to someone about distress and marital breakdown.
SOS Yorkes and the National Enterprise for Rural Community Wellbeing have been working together to help local farmers. The organisations have co-designed a series of stories addressing some of the issues, taken from over 50 interviews with farmers from across South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.
Recurring themes include recognising distress and anxiety; economic, weather and other downturns and distress; marital stress and needing to talk to someone; help seeking and the road to recovery.
This is the third article in the five-month long project.