Please learn from my misfortune. The following bits of advice come from the ordeal I've gone through in my personal life over the last six months. Yes, this article is about goat keeping, but it's more about a goatkeeper's marriage. You may not agree with all of my perspectives or suggestions, but they're born out of a tragedy call divorce.
1. To those who are married, never presume that everything is just fine in your marriage. If your marriage is more like being roommates in college -- something is wrong and sooner or later it's going to jump up and bite you.
2. Never assume that your spouse is as enthusiastic about your goats as you are. If you're kissing your goats more than your spouse there's a reason -- a bad reason.
3. Try to include your spouse in as much of your goat hobby or business as you can -- especially the decisions that involve expenditures from the household budget.
4. Wash your hands after handling your buck -- change your clothes before sitting on the furniture.
5. Remove your boots before entering the house.
6. Never assume that you don't smell like a goat -- ask your spouse.
7. Quit spending so much time online -- if you're on more than three or four goat discussion groups and getting over 100 goat-related emails per day, somewhere you're robbing your family from quality time.
8. Never assume that your spouse is happy . . . or, that they enjoy farming or ranching like you do.
9. Read a good book that addresses the major transitions of life -- empty nest syndrome, menopause, manopause, and the diseases of aging. Diabetes, hormonal problems, arthritis, depression, and sleeping disorders -- problems like these greatly affect mood, stamina, and one's general outlook on life and can hurt your relationship unless you understand them as a couple.
10. If you don't enjoy spending time with your spouse after 5 or 10 years of marriage, you'd better find out why and fix the problem because you sure won't enjoy life with them if it continues to 15 to 20 years. And, sending flowers just once a year (on an anniversary or holiday) doesn't make you a thoughtful husband. However, sending flowers on a Tuesday for no reason at all -- does.
11. Don't presume your spouse knows that you love them. When you tell him/her that you love them, look them in the eyes and say it with heart.
12. Dating doesn't end after marriage. Think back to how you prepared yourself for a date before marriage -- hair, makeup, clothes, perfume/cologne, breath, and so forth. Now, get ready for a date with your spouse every day.
13. Marriage works better when mixed with faith. God didn't create us to live alone.
14. Husbands, if you want to be treated like a king, get off your Lazy-Boy throne and start doing special things for your wife. Ask her for that list of things that she really wants done around the place and start knocking them out one-by-one.
15. Wives, if you want to be treated like a queen, don't act like a dictator. Ask him for that list of things he really wants done around the place that you can do and do them.
16. Write your spouse a letter . . . not a card, not an email. In that letter, remind yourself and them of the many reasons you love them and look forward to a lifetime with them. If you can't write such a letter, it's time to seek marriage counseling -- you're already in trouble.
17. If your goats come first in your life, your spouse comes second or third or fourth. Your marriage is in trouble.
18. Look up the words "compromise, compassion, concession, and contrition" in the dictionary and make them part of your daily married life -- not in speaking, but in action. According to the Bible, a "kind word turns away wrath." Take the harshness out of your voice.
Despite sixteen seemingly happy years of marriage, my marriage has ended in a rather sudden divorce. Nobody cheated. Nobody bankrupted us. No in-laws interfered. The darn thing just tumbled and disintegrated and it happened so fast my head is still spinning. I thought everything was going pretty good. I was wrong. The goats weren't the problem, but my presumptions and assumptions were.
Learn from the eighteen things I wrote above -- there's great wisdom in my words.
Dr. Virgil Fleming (D.Min.)
-- a minister who practiced family and marriage counseling for five years, but couldn't save his own --