How to look like things are great


Look at this picture. I love this picture. I am carefree, pulled together, and a little bit like a farmer but not too much.

I keep thinking I want to put this picture online. And then I think, I can't. I'm too sad. I need a picture of me moping.

This feeling reminds me of when I was younger, it was very hard for me to get a job, and also hard for me to keep one. I was job hunting all the time.

Job hunting is an insane way to live. You are a depressed, scared, unemployed person and the key to getting out of it is to make yourself into a happy, confident, go-getter.

When I was job hunting, I had tricks for giving myself confidence. I'd try to schedule interviews in the late morning. This would give me time to get my spririts up, but it would not require me holding them up for too long — for say, an end-of-the-day interview.

Other stuff I would do that works:

Go to the gym. The emotional boost you get from the gym can last a few hours if you work out hard enough. When I'm at the gym to change my mood, I do intervals.

Shower and put on makeup right away so that I know the day is serious and there's no crying.

Don't eat. If you don't eat, you are happier. This is not true for people who are starving and dragging themselves across the desert in search of a refugee camp. You know that. But you might not have known that being hungry helps you focus and connect with other people. It's probably a survival instinct. If you don't have berries you have to get someone in the group to give you berries. (Which, come to think of it, is not far from the workplace interview situation.)

I am trying to remind myself that I am great at turning things around. Every time I thought my life was hopeless and I'd never get a job and I'd never be happy again, I’d always get a job. Eventually. And things would turn around. At least for a little.

Today, when work isn't going well, I have this magic place I can go in my head where I just trust that things will work out. I will figure out a better way to make money, I will find someone I want as a business partner. People will forget that I did something stupid. These are things I tell myself.

The most powerful career tool I have is faith in myself. It allows me to move through ups and downs with the grace I did not have when I was younger.

But I don't have that with my personal life. You know that feeling you have that you are going to die if you don't get a job? That's what I have almost every day living with the Farmer.

Some days are good. And I try to write about those days. I want to show you the same optimism with my personal life that I have with my career.

But I actually feel hopeless. I have that feeling I used to have when I was unemployed. Like I wished the world would end. I think I am not alone — other people have this feeling when they are unemployed. But people do not talk like this when they are unemployed because they'll never get hired.

I know that if I don’t do anything to make a change, then nothing will change. So today I decide that we should talk. He is in the field. Baling hay.

So I walk out there, a few feet onto the field, which is the universal signal on a farm for “I want to talk to you when you come around to this side of the field.”

The Farmer gets out of the tractor to talk with me. But after a couple of minutes he realizes he doesn't want to talk with me. (We have this problem a lot.) So he walks away, gets back on the tractor and starts to drive off.

I walk in front of the tractor so he will stop and talk to me. He drives it into me, so I jump on top of the front. He keeps driving. It is very hard for me to keep from falling off.

I am screaming, “Stop driving!” and he is ignoring me.

I think that's the picture of our relationship, right there. I want to talk, he doesn't, so we do terrible stuff together. I put myself in danger, and he goes along with it by saying that I'm crazy.

We repeat this cycle over and over again. (Here’s another example.) And the people who are suffering the most are the kids. They did not see the field today. But I’m not kidding myself: There is no way we are hiding the larger problem from them.

It's insane that I just opened up a huge discussion about homeschooling when I don't feel like this is the right home for the kids. It's insane that I'm starting a company when I know the company will take time away from my marriage when marriage is already sucking.

I feel insane right now. The only thing that grounds me is my ability to earn money. I know I can do fun, meaningful things in my career, and even though I’m not great at money management, I can support my kids.

The person I want to be is the person who believes in the strength of my family no matter what confronts us. I want to feel, in my heart, that things will be fine, and then it’ll show in my face all the time. But I am only that way about my career. I wish the skills were transferable, but I don't think they are.


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  1. Jennifer B
    Jennifer B says:

    You need to find a new way to talk to the Farmer, because what you are doing now isn’t working. He’s not just gonna magically feel like listening one day if everything is always approached the same way, so don’t wait for that day.

    Email him, write him a note, I don’t know just approach this a whole new way if you want to try to make it work.

    • karelys davis
      karelys davis says:

      I was just thinking of the same thing. Sort of.

      The comment below you says Pen is with the wrong person. It startles me that most people think like that and then marriages end.

      We become different people and sometimes changing is like pulling teeth. We change to become the person that our spouses, employers, friends and other people need because we appreciate the relationship enough to morph into what is needed. It’s the same as honning skills to get a job.

      Maybe what Pen needs more is to figure out ways that work in talking with the Farmer.

      I like the note/email idea. It gives people time to think.

      And showing them that you got the right intentions to not bring them down or use them as an emotional punching bag.

      It took a while for my husband to trust me when I said I needed to talk but didn’t want to tear him down. But finally he began giving me little chances and he saw I changed. So now we talk even when the topic at hand makes my intestines churn.

      • Jani
        Jani says:

        Take it to the swamp, sista. Dig down in the mud of your unhappiness, and frustration, and the whole suckiness of not getting the space you need to connect, to be reassured, to vent, to build another bridge to a happier, more functional relationship. Hide away somewhere private, or with a trusted friend, and rage, and feel down, and feel like shit for as long as you need to. Over-exaggerate your misery. Wear a trash bag. Find the music that unlocks the tears and let your unhappiness dance in its most mournful way. Get on your hands and knees and crawl desperately across the floor.

        Then, emerge once again to the rest of the world. Celebrate the things that are so completely brilliant, and perfect, and right about you and your life. Shower your love and optimism across the ground and trust time to bring up those little seedlings of the future and relationship you want. Throw yourself a family picnic, buy a piece of your favorite chocolate, or pastry, take a bubble bath, indulge in a fabulous new book, or hit an art museum and absorb something new – do something that enlivens your soul and carries you through until the next time you need to hit the swamp.

        Above all, know that you’ll make it through.

    • Kate Nonymous
      Kate Nonymous says:

      I agree, Jennifer B. Penelope, what are other ways to communicate? Other times? Why are you choosing to do this while he’s in the middle of a major task?

      If you were in a phone call or video conference with an angel investor, would that be a good time for the Farmer to insist on talking to you about something that wasn’t an emergency?

      You’ve posted a lot about why you communicate the way you do. But other people do things differently, and they have reasons for that, too. So the key to good communication–and this is true for all of us–is to figure out how to communicate with that specific person. When are they most likely to be receptive? What phrases make them want to listen, and what phrases make them want to leave the room?

      I have no way of knowing that doing this will make everything wonderful between the two of you. But would it hurt to try? Probably not.

      • avant garde designer
        avant garde designer says:

        I agree with your points. Here in Wisconsin, we’re finally getting rain and it’s coming in bursts. For farmers, it’s a time crunch to get the hay in before it rains. That means cutting it, raking it, and letting it completely dry before baling (usually 1-2 day’s time). If it gets rained on, it looses nutritional value. If it’s not completely dry when it’s baled, there’s a risk of spontaneous combustion and barn fires. The Farmer’s work that day is as equally important as Penelope’s meeting with an investor. Penelope, do you consider these things and respect what’s important to the Farmer?

  2. Courtney
    Courtney says:

    I don’t think you’re crazy, at all. You are self-aware and suffering. There is a difference.

    No, I think you are with the wrong person, and I think *you* know that you are with the wrong person. Bridging the gap between knowing something and doing something (productive) about it is the hardest thing us first-world, modern people face.

    Take care of yourself.

    • Virginia
      Virginia says:

      Is self aware something like self centered? Here’s a guy who has taken you and your kids into his life and opens up to an emotional attachment with all of you. I wonder if you know how it feels to hear the offhand remarks you make about him and your relationship. Did it ever occur to you that your kids are in a stable environment which you are not able to provide? You are hot and cold, up and down, in and out no matter where you are or who you are with. Rather than continually destablising the people in your life due to your fluctuating emotional state, have a little empathy for those around you, let them try to get through life without all the unnecessary drama and keep your feelings between you and your counsler/assistant/lame girlfriend/etc. You aren’t happy unless you are upsetting your family and that only gives you a moments relief while it gives them a lifetime of neurosis and pain. Think about others, it will give you much more peace than to always focus on yourself.

  3. Esther
    Esther says:

    I’m always so relieved when you write about how crazy you are. I’m not alone!

    With your honesty, you’re probably saner than you look. I look crazy because my emotions run hot, but my honesty saves me, venting me off and putting me more in touch with myself than I would be otherwise.

    You’ve written about this yourself. The saving grace in your personal life could be your honesty. It’s probably worth more than your career resourcefulness — or maybe it’s the root of it.

  4. Morgan
    Morgan says:

    Penelope, I know how you feel. I can’t allow that trust I have in myself to extend to my relationship. Communication is key, but if the farmer refuses to talk, can you communicate in some other way? Emailing, smoke signals, short notes? And maybe incorporate some positive communication in there as well – reminding yourself and him of why you got married. It doesn’t all have to be why things aren’t working. Anyway, that is a great picture.

  5. Christa
    Christa says:

    The farmer is farming. Your timing is off. When is he at his best, most available self? After a big dinner? After coming in from the field and napping? Pick one of those moments and then have a discussion. With the children out of the house. Write down your points. Walk away. Let him give you his points. Compromise. Marriage isn’t easy. You both have strong personalities. You both need to give alittle. Trying to have a life defining conversation while your husband is working, is not the best timing.

    • Earth Girl
      Earth Girl says:

      As a farmer’s wife, I agree about the timing. Making hay is hot and dirty work. It is not the time to stop him to talk, but the time to stop him with a cold glass of lemonade and a smile. Then he can ponder that act of caring while working. My husband and I have our best talks when we are working together, getting into a rhythm, and there is no need for eye contact if it is uncomfortable because you are focused on the task.

      • Kristi
        Kristi says:

        I like this comment the best. Timing is everything on a farm and it’s true about the communication. You need a new approach and that's hard when all you want to do is SCREAM and throw things. I think the whole jumping into danger is very revealing. It shows me how much you want this to work and how up against a wall you are. I watched a movie thanks to a friend called Fireproof. My friend is very religious I am not, I’m not anti-anything either. Regardless of that component I thought it was a great movie for couples trying to find their footing. My husband watched it with me and got a lot out of it. There is a book as well and it’s also good, follows the concept of doing nice things even when you don’t want to and why that actual helps to heal the divide.

        I think the Farmer drives you crazy because he’s your match and doesn’t back down. That can be a hard adjustment for a cooperate CEO type but my guess is it’s the only type of relationship you’d waste your time on.

  6. David
    David says:

    I think you are maybe manic-depressive and need new / better medication(s)?

    Keep writing about it. You are obviously very good at that, and I’ll bet that mastery / control of your situation on paper helps, at least a little bit..?

    Keep trying.

    And please stop doing dangerous stuff like stepping in front of tractors.

    If not for you, or for your relationship, then please do that for your kids. They can get by without the farm if need be) but not without you.

    And get help.

    Everything is harder when you are (or feel) alone.


    Or whatzername, the “non-nammy”? Where are they both?

    Or better still, someone in Madison who can evaluate your situation without judgement and if necessary, get you the correct prescription.

  7. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    It’s been a very long time since I have commented or contacted you. But I felt compelled to do it today. My heart hurts for you because I am going through the same thing. I am now separated and all these self help/marriage salvation books say (and so does my husband) that neglecting your husband is the quickest way to divorce. I am now separated. I had no idea he was feeling neglected. Why? Because I was busy concentrating on the other love of my life – my future business and career. I also have a husband who does not talk and I am also doing, saying, feeling crazy things that are driving him further away. So now I live in my childhood bedroom in my parents house and I feel like shit but have to force myself to look like your picture to pull out of this misery. Or start taking pills. Which I am not against.

    I agree, you have to change. Or we could just be married to the wrong people. Didn’t feel that way when we got married did it?

  8. Paul
    Paul says:

    Have you ever done the Daily Practice (or How to be the Luckiest Person Alive in 4 Easy Steps) that Altucher talks about? Although my sample size is 1, my personal study has shown that it works. I really think it changed my life. For the better, I mean.

  9. Woody
    Woody says:

    You are just one emotion away from changing your life. Sort out the emotion you want to have that is most productive and allow your self to have it. Do just one thing different.

  10. Ciara
    Ciara says:

    Really sorry to hear that you are feeling so low. This looks like the classic pattern: the more you try to get his attention (and the crazier the stunts you pull to do that) the more he withdraws. He is obviously not someone who likes to talk for the sake of talking or enjoys dramas created for, as he probably sees it, no good reason.

    You need to change the pattern. Look at things from his point of view and how he likes to communicate. As one of the comments said above figure out when he is more open and give him time to think about what you have said rather than going on full attack.

  11. Steve C
    Steve C says:

    Sorry to hear you are feeling so conflicted. It sounds like you are bumming that your pal Melissa is gone. It always sucks when someone you are close to moves on, and you have to stay behind and carry on. Maybe you need to take a break, get away or something. I’m guessing that being on a farm makes that a little harder to do, but you sound to me like you need a re-charge break.

  12. Eirini H
    Eirini H says:

    This is a crazy world in a very crazy era and that affects us all in a strange way.The only way through hell is to keep walking until you get out of it.No matter what or how you define hell,personal,marital or whatever.You are stronger than you give yourself credit for,you’ve proven it many times to many people including yourself.Just take it a day at a time.And trust your gut.

    Many virtual hugs and love

  13. Courtney
    Courtney says:

    See, here’s the thing, though: Maybe it’s because Penelope feels she can’t (or shouldn’t) write about the farmer extensively … I don’t know. But we never really hear about how the farmer communicates with her, how he makes the effort with her, how he’s meeting HER needs.

    The advice of “figure out ways to do _____ differently, in a way that he’ll notive/respect/respond to” is all well-intentioned, and heck – maybe I’m the crazy one, but at some point I’d be asking myself if I want to spend my life figuring out ways to accomodate the needs of someone who doesn’t seem at all interested in accomodating mine.

    She went to the field. She waited for him to have a moment to talk. He doesn’t want to talk. So, game over? Nothing would drive me to do insane things faster than someone shutting me out.

    The farmer doesn’t sound like a bad guy; he’s just set in his ways. And his ways don’t seem to be compatible with Penelope’s ways. At least not when it comes to communication and meeting each other’s emotional needs – two things at the “core” of most long-term relationships, right?

    Like I said, Penelope… take care of yourself.

    • Valerie
      Valerie says:

      I grew up on a farm. To get along with a farmer, you need to understand that sometimes his time is worth not as much, sometimes it’s worth hundreds of dollars an hour. As a previous poster mentioned, farming is about timing. If the baler breaks, for example, when rain is coming, no one is responsible for saving the hay but the farmer. That responsibility–and the danger–of farming can weigh a person down. Penelope, what is weighing the farmer down? Could he tell a third-party, such as a counselor, then talk with you and the counselor? Farmers tend to be very concerned with safety practices, to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, in an environment with many hungry teeth. If you throw yourself on a tractor, and he keeps driving, you are both in very dark places that probably took a while to slip down into, and someone could get badly hurt. It may seem impossible to temporarily leave, financially or otherwise, but I have faith in your intelligence and creativity. If you eventually decide that you cannot be satisfied with your farmer–if you, for example, need someone more verbal–then set him free.

  14. zan
    zan says:

    i have a fantasy that, if everyone were this authentic and accountable in a public forum, the world would heal and happiness would prevail.

    • Paul
      Paul says:

      I have a mental picture of Penelope and the Farmer sitting at the kitchen table reading all of this and laughing at all of us, at all of this unsolicited advice, and at the amazing human ability to know how to fix everyone else’s problems.

      • Tony
        Tony says:

        some of us have been through struggles and have found out what works – the hard way, and want to share it

        anyway even if the advice isn’t helpful it at least shows we care

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        We actually talk about the comments all the time… Well, when we are talking to each other. Which is not now. But soon. I’m sure.

        Anyway, we love the comments. It’s a reality check. Things are very scary in a marriage when it’s all a secret and there is no outside perspective. We have the opposite — people know everything so I feel this sense of safety that if anything is really really terrible, someone will say it in the comments.

        The comments have helped me through so many tough spots in my own life. If you give people enough information about yourself, you can trust that they’ll give you good feedback in return.


  15. Eirini H
    Eirini H says:

    Also,If you want to feel better,go against your western beliefs and try eating instead of starving for a change.Food satisfies our deepest survival instincts.Contrary to what you’ve been led to believe,nobody can feel content or happy on an empty stomach.Have some spaghetti:carbohydrates make you feel full and trigger feelings of euphoria.Chocolate has the same effect.

  16. Pat Sharp
    Pat Sharp says:

    Penelope, you have a good man. You are a good person. Invest in marriage counseling. You both have a lot going on and, as another poster commented, you both have strong personalities. The kids love the Farmer and he loves them and you. Get some help–from a professional, not Melissa.

  17. walt
    walt says:

    I think, dear Lady, that in order for you to be able to (realistically) believe in the strength of your family no matter what confronts you, everyone has to be “pulling together,” and it sounds to me, based on what I’ve read – which we must acknowledge is only half of the you-and-the-farmer story – like the farmer is not as invested in all this as you are. I’m wondering if he’s not a farmer because he wants a simple life…and you’re not a simple woman. you might be more than he can/wants to handle. i think there must be (or should be) a kind of man who doesn’t have to use up his energy working hard all day, so he can make his partner, or partners, his main focus. I think there should be a way for men to work at their relationships for a living – without it always being work, of course. that might allow us to devote half the energy to our relationships that so many women do regardless of their their careers.

    I don’t know…this is just kind of stream-of-consciousness meandering. take it for what it’s worth.

    love, walt

    • Valerie
      Valerie says:

      Farming is not necessarily a simple life. Ingenuity, financial acumen, discipline–it can be extremely demanding in a variety of ways. It can present an interesting contrast to some office jobs that are conducted in air-conditioned and heated environments, perhaps with coworkers and bosses to talk and consult with, with IT gurus to call for technical support.

  18. Limane
    Limane says:

    I love this. It is beautiful, and really wrenches my heart. You set an example by being successful in your career yet showing us just how vulnerable and human you are. It's not easy.

  19. Katy
    Katy says:

    This just reinforces that life is never balanced. I’ve always had either love, career or health. But never all three at once. When I was making a ton of money I was overweight, in chronic pain and single. When I was thin I was broke and my relationship was on the rocks. When I was in love I had huge debt, no career prospects and 30 extra pounds.
    If I could get even two out of three at once I would be happy. Right now I’ve got my health so I keep reminding myself that without my health I didn’t really enjoy the money or the men.

  20. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    “The most powerful career tool I have is faith in myself. It allows me to move through ups and downs with the grace I did not have when I was younger.”

    The most powerful emotional tool you have is also faith in yourself.

    You deserve to be loved. Fully. Wildly. Without reservations or conditions. Warts and all. Until you love yourself that way you won’t be open to receiving real love from anyone else.

    Maybe The Farmer does truly love you, but doesn’t know how to show it? Maybe he’s frustrated because he doesn’t understand your expectations. What do you need him to say or do to make you feel safe?

  21. Shandra
    Shandra says:

    Hey…I’m a talker that way too. But look: When you get that feeling you just HAVE to talk to the farmer RIGHT NOW? That’s not a relationship feeling.

    It’s anxiety. Whatever demons are driving you, that’s them driving.

    Next time you HAVE to talk to the farmer try something else. Try sitting on the ground and breathing. Try taking some pictures or restacking some books or hitting the gym. Tell yourself “I think I need to talk to the farmer, but this is my anxiety, not reality.”

    Also you could try Harrier Lerner’s books, starting with the dance of Intimacy.

    But seriously hon: Try thinking of this as “I am anxious” not “we have to have this talk.” For like, a month. Come write here instead. I don’t promise this will improve your relationship or give you inner peace, but I promise it will lower the bullshit factor. Right now you are giving into the bullshit each time. There is no issue you have that cannot wait, I promise. If there is one, he’ll bring it up first.

  22. Cassie Boorn
    Cassie Boorn says:

    I have a child with a farmer and I have to say that communicating with him goes about the same way.

    Maybe there is something inherent with farmers and not wanting to talk?

  23. Ruthie
    Ruthie says:

    Oh, Penelope dear, that’s where you’re wrong, those skills ARE transferable. No woman wants to admit it, but being married IS a career. No matter how wonderful the man that we marry may be, it is still a full time job to be married to him. The question you have to ask yourself is whether you love him enough to deal with the sometimes s*$#tty job or not. Bad communication patterns can be fixed. Seasons of not communicating well and not feeling loved are just that, seasons. Do you want to teach your boys that it’s okay to run every time a relationship gets hard? You have so much tenacity, so much spirit, so many good and new and brilliant ideas, yet it sounds in this post like you’ve given up, like you’re ready to sell this company that is your marriage. I hope that you and your farmer can make some of those ideas work for the two of you together.

  24. me
    me says:

    Awww. First a hug as you go through this difficult time. I don’t know what your communication style is with the farmer but it sounds like it might feel threatening and confrontational to him because he looks like he is shutting down. There is no wrong or right, it’s how you both feel and maybe you feel like you need to talk but he is uncomfortable with the setting or style.

    To really reach someone, it’s important to honor the communication style that feels most comfortable for them.

    With my last boyfriend, I pressed on him when I was feeling lonely and unloved and that would frustrate him, but in some unconscious way, testing him made me realize he wanted to fight for us. But it was unhealthy and ultimately drove us apart.

    After that relationship ended, I spent a lot of time on this website (not affiliated) learning about better communication skills. Something has to change, and we can’t change our partners but we can learn how to approach them better in ways that make them feel more safe communicating with us:

    Spend some time reading there. He also offers counseling via phone. The guy is good, a friend of mine used him. I couldn’t, because my own relationship had ended. Email me if you want to talk more, but I wanted to offer you support for both of you. I know you love eachother and it’s not too late to turn this around.

    Some of the other things I learned from my own failures is that it’s important to spend time together enjoying eachother’s company.

    (I think someone did a math problem with love and they found that for every 1 bad thing that exists or happens, 5 or 6 good things have to exist to balance it out. For every 1 unsuccessful talk, there needs to be like 5 or 6 conversations that go well maybe. So everytime you’re talking doesn’t sound like it will turn into the same broken record.)

    Another thing I learned is that it is important to honor the person. Treat them with the courtesy and professionalism of a coworker because it’s good to hold in hotheadedness and have a dialogue that can deal with diversity without turning into a threat or challenge match. How do you handle conflict in the workplace? That would be a good blog post. Then apply those skills at home. Love your posts and wishing you good thoughts, you rock and we love you lots.

  25. vicky
    vicky says:

    Do you think maybe you were originally attracted to the farmer because talking was not important to him? I also have AS, and I live alone, and will always live alone, because living in the same building/room as another person would kill my energy, and prevent me from creating.

  26. Susan
    Susan says:

    The only way I learned to live with my seemingly crazy complex self was through astrology. Weird but true. The only way I learned to live with my spouse was through this bit of wisdom (repeated as needed): “I am living my perfect life” (because indeed it is my life to inhabit without damaging others in the process). Compassion for self and others is the heart of it all. Learning where and how to find calm in the heart of chaos makes a difference. None of this is easy but it’s far less exhausting than chasing solutions from others.

  27. Joe
    Joe says:

    Back when the wife and I were first married, we fought all the time. This one time we got into a fight about French Fries. We screamed at each other. She left the house crying. I punched a hole in the wall.

    Because of French Fries.

    I know that hopeless feeling you're talking about; that belief (no matter how much you don't want to believe it) that everything is going south in a hurry, that maybe you made a mistake, that this isn't the person for you, that nobody else suffers like this. I know that feeling very well. I'm sorry that's where you are right now.

    The more I talk to people, though, the more I think this kind of thing is relatively normal for people who have largely different personalities. My wife is a fairly strong introvert whereas I'm a fairly strong extrovert. She's a planner and I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person. There is no right or wrong in any of that. It’s just how we are. It takes some doing for us to figure each other out. I know me saying this won't help much, but you'll get through. You'll get to the point where fights like that don't stress you out as much, where you know when to push buttons and when to sit back and wait, where no matter how bad things seem in the moment you know things will get better because he comes around eventually. He always does.

    One suggestion (if you don't mind): Don't interrupt him when he's at work. If you were in an important business meeting, or deep into writing your next blog post, or buried in financial paperwork, and he interrupted you, threw all your papers on the floor and said "WE HAVE TO TALK RIGHT NOW!" chances are you'd be mad and wouldn't want to talk, either. Just because he's right there doesn't mean he's available at that moment (and neither should he be. He’s at work). Wait till he IS available, tell him you have something serious to discuss and you'd like to schedule a time – €“ now, if it works for him, later if it doesn't (get a specific time, though) – and then wait. The waiting will drive you nuts. It drives me nuts, but sometimes you have to wait. That’s just how it is. It might not be perfect, but it'll probably net a better r.o.i. than jumping on a tractor and almost killing yourself.

      • Helen
        Helen says:

        Ditto – truer words were never spoken, particularly with regard to the nature of marriage/long term relationships. Don’t throw in the towel, as you know Pen, downs are always followed by ups. It is the nature of human relationships. I hate my husband of almost 22 years just as much as I love him! You just have to make peace with it – I also believe it is normal.

  28. Peter
    Peter says:

    I’m conflicted about this situation. One the one hand it’s clear you need to have more, and more fruitful, communication with your husband. But your approach seems to guarantee that you’ll antagonize him before that communication can occur. Surely you two can devise an adults-only protocol for regular eye-to-eye conversation with sensible rules (like no tractor-jumping). Try it, get comfortable with it (the protocol, not the topics necessarily), let it stretch you both into more security of affection. In your “off hours,” while your husband is “farming,” you can be your other self.

  29. ginny
    ginny says:

    I was married to a farmer and as another commenter said, I think they are possibly even less inclined to talk than normal men (ha!) – and men in general aren’t up for talking, again as another commenter said, when they’re working.

    I highly recommend alison armstrong – she changed my life in understanding that most of what we take to be problems with men are just that they are men – it sounds other than your feeling of panic about the relationship (I used to have that too), life there is good and you love him – read her stuff, please.

    You have no shortage of courage, perserverance or integrity, and it sounds like neither does he. Just please checkk out Alsions stuff. If nothing else it’ll be blog content, since in our careers we are usually faced with communicating and dealing with men.

    You’re amazing, btw.

  30. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Penelope, Those skills are transferable. Trust me. I have been through a lot both in my career and in my personal life. I won’t go through a lot of detail here, but some career lows include having my entire department outsourced (and laid off) when I was 9-months pregnant with my 2nd child (my first was not even 2 years old), having my enployer indicted and put out of business by the Justice Dept (see US vs Arthur Andersen) and then having to keep changing roles continuously in my current job for various reasons (so not getting ahead). On the personal side, I have endured losing everything several times in my life due to divorce, hurricane, flood, theft, being separated from my children for 9 months when I didn’t have a home, and more.

    In my current situation, I am married to an absolutely wonderful man who is good to me and my children. He has children of his own and they are wonderful kids too. I really love my husband and he is my best friend. But I would be lying if I said it was easy. We seem to get along best when it is just the two of us and our kids are with their other parent. There are a lot of issues I will not get into, but here is where I tell you how your skills are transferable.

    When you seem to be stuck in your career or tumbling down, you have a way of looking at things and asking yourself questions like: What is the worse that could happen? How would I deal with that? What are the pros and cons of staying versus going? How do I pull myself out of this rut? What are the positive things I learned from this experience? Would could be the next move for me if I do not stay here? (There are more, but you get the picture.)

    Well those questions absolutely apply to your personal life as well! Life, as in work, often has factors that are out of our control. But we can control how we react to them. When I start worrying about how I will survive if my marriage doesn’t, I make a plan in my head of what I would do and where I would go. It calms me and I then am able to look at my current situation more rationally and often realize the grass is NOT greener elsewhere. I can then live in the moment and enjoy what I have and where I am now.

    And if things would not end up working out, I have at least thought of some options. And even with no options, I realize that I have lost so much in the past and have overcome it every time. I am not afraid. I will be fine and so will my kids. Because I am a “pull myself up by my bootstraps” kind of girl. And so are YOU!

  31. Tony
    Tony says:

    Falling back on personal experience, I’d suggest if he makes it clear he doesn’t want to talk then don’t push it, it’s necessary to respect that wish and in so doing you show that you respect him. Don’t leave before agreeing a time to have the talk, when you can both give the subject the time and attention it deserves.

    I know I’m not alone rooting for you both. Love can get you through anything. Re-read your post ‘Turning Point’, and dwell on the family photo – and the happiness in your face.

  32. Gail
    Gail says:

    Wow. This is how many of my past relationships (and one marriage) went all the time, until one of us pulled the trigger and jumped ship. But my marriage now is not like that. I’m going to share some of my experience, which may not apply, but I hope it may help.

    I think the difference is that I now know that my husband is not responsible for how I feel. That’s my job. and when I feel anxious and crazy and sad? I can tell him (at an appropriate time, but not say, when he is in the middle of something he needs to get done), but he can’t do anything to change how I feel. The other thing I eventually learned is that how I feel is a fluid thing. It will change. When I feel bad? I won’t feel that way forever. I always thought how i felt RIGHT NOW was going to stay. Now I know different, and my experience has borne that out. Not that it isn’t hard to go through. And it takes practice.

    You need to talk to someone about how you feel and what you think the farmer should do or be. I have found the WORST person in the world to talk to about what I think is wrong with my husband is… You guessed it, my husband. I can talk to anyone else about whatever it is, and in no time? I am realizing that the problem is my fear about something.

    Penelope, you are not alone. Life is great, you are amazing, your boys are great, and the farmer is just some fucking guy. Don’t let him and this marriage become the linchpin of your existence. It’s a thing that adds to your life, not your whole life. I wish I could be there at the farm and have talked you off the hood of the tractor. You mean so much to so many people, including me. Good luck!

  33. trish
    trish says:

    i like the farmer – he’s been good for you – but you’ll never get a different brain to behave like your brain does. Unless you plan on hooking up with a twin – and even then you’d probably hate it because you’re very fussy – focus on what does work and find some middle ground on the parts that don’t and embrace the differences. P.S. your writing has gotten better since the move to the farm – don’t take us back to a soulless, corporate, city view of things – selfish, I know.

  34. Anna
    Anna says:

    Two words: marital counseling. I am only engaged, but we did some pre-marital counseling sessions and they have changed my life and my relationship completely, and given me powerful tools for communicating more effectively. Outside perspectives are so critical, and make you realize 1. you’re not alone, 2. the challenges are not as insurmountable as you think, 3. the issues you’re having are shared by LOTS of other couples.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks, Anna. I think one of the reasons I love writing the blog so much is that every time I feel crazy or alone or in a muddle that no one has ever seen, every time I think I’m there, someone tells me that other people have been where I’ve been and other people have gotten out. It’s nice to hear. If you want to do nothing, it’s nice to think you’re alone. But if you want to fix things, it’s nice to hear they’ve been fixed before, by someone else.


      • Irving Podolsky
        Irving Podolsky says:

        No Penelope, you are certainly NOT alone, as you and I can see from these heart warming comments.

        I, like you, emotionally ride up and down, in my career, in my marriage, in many of the same ways you describe. Over the years I have learned to deal with these challenges and today,thankfully, the hills and valleys are gentle slopes. I don’t wake up in a state of panic anymore. I got past that. But while I was enduring the ride, I started thinking about WHY I was panicking, when others might have handled the hurdles with less drama.

        I had to ask myself, how much of my anxiety was REAL and justified. Situations come and go, but how I REACTED TO THEM determined how much they influenced me. And boy, did they influence me! My state of mind was exaggerating my emotional responses. My FEELINGS made events and issues seem more threatening than they really were. And I figured this out, by realizing that when I felt GOOD and more CONFIDENT, life seemed more manageable. It WAS more manageable, even though the situations had not changed.

        So I had to face the question, was I living in an emotional illusion? YES, was the answer. I was then able to correct the real problem. Everyone has their own way of doing that. My correction didn’t need medication.

        Regarding the communications issues between you and the Farmer: I believe I once read that he met you through your blog. If that’s the case, he responds to your written words. And even if you met in another way, my suggestion will be the same: write him a love letter.

        You’ve received a lot of sound advice on this post, about timing, men who don’t like to talk, a farmer’s mentality, threatening men with confrontations can be tricky, etc. Try a love letter, written by hand, from a quiet place in your heart. Think about all the reasons why you share your life with him, and your children, and your bed and body. Tell him why, with all the life choices you could have made, you chose HIM, and his farm, and the fatherhood he bestows on your children. Tell him how you much you appreciate and love him for the sacrifices he made for you, when he took you into his life, leaving mush of his family behind. Write these thoughts by hand, slowly and sincerely. Then seal them in an envelope and leave it on his pillow with a white rose. And then wait.

        Love him, Penelope. Love him because your soul loves him. Because he deserves to be loved. Because he wants to be loved. Because he needs to be loved. As you do. Hold it together, Penelope. Try one more time.


      • GG
        GG says:

        There is comfort in knowing…you/we/I/the neighbor…is not alone.

        ;-) Hope today is better. And if not….hope tmw is better!

        B is very excited to see your kiddo tmw.

  35. Kate
    Kate says:

    Oh, Penelope. Your honesty about how your life feels so hard to handle makes me feel like I’m not alone. You’re not alone either. Take care of yourself.

  36. diane tchakirides
    diane tchakirides says:

    Your post makes me sad. I loved how the farmer is teaching the kids about raising hogs etc and I wish you two could work things out. I don’t have any answers for you. Listen to Gillian Welch’s new song “Tennessee”. Excerpts: “It’s only what I want that makes me weak” and “But of all the little ways I find to hurt myself, you might be my favorite one of all”.

  37. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    Penelope I think the Farmer loves you & your boys but he shows it in ways other than saying I love you or giving you a hug when you need one. Remember how many hours he put into helping your son get ready for the fair? That is love. Take him for what he is(which is what you fell in love with in the first place)and try not to expect more than he is capable of giving. I know that’s not easy….

  38. Claire
    Claire says:

    Love to you. So much love and understanding I am sending to you.
    Marriage (of any kind, legal or otherwise) IS a career. It’s not a start up career though, where you try and turn it around fast and move on to something else, it’s the kind that works when you work it. There seems to be so much good there, I’d hate for you to make your children miserable by not committing yourself to try DIFFERENTLY. There are so many other things to do than what you know and what you are doing. (Although OH, how I get what you are doing!) Also, there is so much in our world that keeps us moving away from each other. Don’t buy it.

  39. Sean
    Sean says:

    Hells teeth! I’m a farmer and married and no it aint easy. I also have a full time job as does the wife raising the kids. She sees it as a business, as a job. We run Family Inc. together.

    Maybe it helps to put your family and relationship in terms you understand. So treat it like a business. Invest in your infrastructure, schedule your meetings. Find the areas in your family and life that return a profit beit emotional or otherwise.

    Dont interrupt your business partner when he is working. Expect feedback on new projects. Set clear deadlines. STICK to budgets. Mentor your children to get the best of all worlds.

    Life is trial by fire and there is no repeat season. Suck it up and give some back.

    Be cool. Take care

    • chris Keller
      chris Keller says:

      @ Sean:
      Your “Hell’s teeth!” intro reminds me that Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame, has an ongoing “Norwegian bachelor farmer” characterization in his stories. This is, of course, the silent and inscrutable character with high color in his high cheekbones. This character leaves you guessing. He also has the self-interested characteristics of being ill-groomed and uber-frugal. He may be averse to change. Keeps to himself, etc.

      I bring up this composite character because, if you are not enmeshed, it is humorous. You gotta love ’em, in the same way that when we had really unattractive or cranky babies in the nursery, we (nurses) used to say, “He is so ugly, he is cute”.

      Likewise, if you ARE enmeshed (read “married”) to a character like the Norwegian bachelor farmer, it is like a really tough workout at the gym or the training schedule you have for an athletic event. You come away from your encounter sore and abraded, perhaps with bruises. You are exhausted and dehydrated. And you say “It hurts so good”. Those crazy athletes, they may also say “No pain, no gain”.

  40. Joanne Yinger
    Joanne Yinger says:

    How (why) did Twitter bring me to this article today? Powerful stuff… and then all these thoughtful, caring comments and responses. Penelope, you sure seemed to be loved! Breathe in, breathe out.

  41. Kiki
    Kiki says:

    Penelope, I have a son with Asperger’s. I’ve been reading you for about a month now. I agree with an earlier poster that I think you might have some bipolar tendencies coupled with depression. Are you on medication?

    What you’re saying about not eating is really, really messed up. Yes, I went and read that article you cited, about how hungry people are more sociable, etc., but this is the eating disordered person in you talking. It’s a very bad idea to starve yourself, to make a relationship with food so freakingly out of proportion to what it should be, which is to sustain your physical body and nourish your soul in a humble, community-centric way.

    I wish you all the best, and for your children’s sake, please go talk to a doctor about mood stabilizers. It’s not your fault, none of this. Please stop analyzing so much and get some help just being…the prescribed meds will lay a proper foundation for that. XOXO

  42. Alisa
    Alisa says:

    Just sending you love and good vibes from Chicago because I believe in you and your ability to keep yourself and your boys safe.

  43. Sue
    Sue says:

    It’s funny no matter how many replies you get here… you get so many conflicting responses…do you ever tally them to count the pros and cons? Keeping in mind of course that you really don’t know the credibility of these sources of advice.

    I’m sure you are both good people. Doesn’t mean it’s a good match for marriage. If you truly feel this way EVERY SINGLE DAY. Stop. It’s madness.

    You are a creator. Create something different with all that faith in yourself. And share it with us! Create a marriage counseling site with user generated content. Similar to BC… call it Brazen Counseling. Get your Ex to participate. The fact that you two communicate better than others shows substantial credibility for this type of site. Run it together?

    Get back to the city and create a bigger network of friends and/or support and go back to the gym.

  44. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Beautiful post. You have so much reason to not have faith that the marriage will work out and are only just now starting to accumulate reasons that it will. You advise people who get fired to tell themselves a new story of why they left their jobs. It’s such great advice. On this blog you tell yourself the story of why the marriage will work. Keep telling that story. It’s the right one.

    He is right for you, and you are right for him. Keep at it.

  45. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    I think you’re still job hunting. And I think you’re still relationship hunting. I think you believe the next great career is just around the corner, right by the next great relationship. I think satisfaction and contentment are abhorrent to you, and you do everything in your power (not necessarily consciously) to keep yourself dissatisfied and discontent. I think you cloak this behavior in the pursuit of “honesty” and “authenticity” but you’re just kidding yourself. I think you enjoy stirring the shit in your own life.

    You wrote this today, “Job hunting is an insane way to live. You are a depressed, scared, unemployed person and the key to getting out of it is to make yourself into a happy, confident, go-getter.” Now change the words “job” and “unemployed” to “relationship” and “unloved” and take your own advice.

  46. Su T Fitterman
    Su T Fitterman says:

    1. Most men hate talking about feelings. It is what it is.
    2. If you can go to that magic place in your head with your marriage, you’re way ahead of the game.
    3. Please remember that everything goes better with bacon.

    You are a survivor. You’ll get through this. xs

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