Carolyn Hax: He wants to be a farmer, as long as she does the work

12/11/2012 12:00 AM

12/10/2012 8:51 PM

DEAR CAROLYN: My husband and I are looking to move out to the country and grow our food, and have chickens, goats and ducks once we learn what we're doing. He's incredibly excited and has started planning things like how he'll raise crickets to feed to the fish and then the fish will fertilize the garden and we can feed garden scraps to the crickets (and worms, which we already raise) – and while I don't begrudge him his planning and excitement, he also has a job where he is away for three months at a time.

I don't want to have crickets as pets while he's away and have to take care of everything myself. He got upset and said I can't tell him what he can and can't do.

I agree with that to a point, but at the same time I feel like marriage is a compromise. I'm already willing to take care of goats and maybe fish – and that's pushing it for me, since I'm not exactly a farm girl. At what point do I have to back off because it's his homestead, too? (I swear this is a serious question!)

– Feeling A Little Chicken

DEAR CHICKEN: At what point does he have to back off because it's your homestead, too?

He can't tell you what you can and can't do – including weed the crickets or fish for goats (third-generation suburban homesteader here) while he spends three months on the road.

Both of you know this, which is one of two red flags unfurling in your letter: When he pulled his petulant you-can't-make-me!!! stuff, why didn't you call him, in the warmest of ways, on the fertilizer in his logic? Why did you instead wonder whether you're wrong and he's right?

Pardon the phrasing, but you sound cowed by him. Red Flag No. 1.

The second one is that your marriage has left the "ours" phase and entered "mine" vs. "yours." That means a true resolution to the animal-care matter will require attention to the give-and-take balance within your marriage. Yes, a strong marriage must be flexible enough to accommodate the evolving interests of its members – but that's not the same as saying the marriage needs to provide compulsory farm labor to the member who decides to become a farmer.

If you and he can talk about it calmly, then please discuss this crucial distinction; if not, then suggest taking it to marriage counseling. Use your veto power here.

In the meantime, I hope you and he both are spending a great deal of time talking to people who have experience wrangling more than worms. You will have lives in your hands, and you have a moral obligation to take responsibility for no more lives than you're capable of sustaining.

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