Marriage expectations on a cattle station

Host: Yougawalla Pastoral Co.
Written by Jane & Haydn Sale – Managers, Yougawalla Pastoral Company

How do your marriage expectations fair over the mustering season? How do you set your expectations when you live, love and work together?

A rare photo together.

The wife’s point of view…

It’s haaaaaaaaaaaard! Don’t get me wrong, one thing you learn in this industry is that hard can still mean worthwhile and does not mean you don’t love it. The same goes for your marriage. Because you are so much more than husband and wife, and mother and father. I think here that the pressures are much more volatile. We live in a raw environment, 24/7 we are responsible for so much more than each other and our family, even when you have knocked off for the day. We are directly responsible for the welfare of many staff, contractors, the logistics of mustering and development not to mention our land and around 50,000 head of cattle during the day and into the night. After hours ‘our Shire’, as my Dad likes to call it, needs power, water, feeding and supporting. Night time is when all managers and staff are near the phone and most of the planning takes place. Everything out here, day or night, the buck ultimately stops with us.

Where amongst all this going on do you find the time for a marriage? When the staff leave the house most nights after dinner and the kids are tucked up in bed, where do you find the time and most of all the energy to spend time together and not talk about work? How do you switch off for yourself let alone as a couple?

My answer to this is, you don’t. This has taken me many years to realise. You need to not expect this of each other. Ultimately while the season is on, my marriage is off, or I at least I need to expect that it will be. That way I avoid disappointment and every day or weekend away or night we get to sit have a sundowner together without being disturbed, every conversation that drifts away from cattle prices and logistics might be rare but it’s a bonus. Expect less and gain more.

A wife with no expectations! I sound perfect, don’t I? Obviously, this is all theory and I try to remind myself to put it into practice. I do have expectations of time out and a good holiday at the end of the year or to not have to cook when I go to town! This certainly does not change the many expectations I have of him as a father and a business partner. These roles can not be put on hold.

Station life is tiring.

It all sounds very unromantic but in fact it is not. I am excited to see him home at the end of the day. To go to bed and wake up with him on the nights that he is home. We have usually been up since 4.30 am running around in the yards, loading trucks, drafting or flying the helicopter all day to come home to phone calls, meals to prepare, staff and personal issues to solve, budgets to balance, bills to pay and then some evenings you have to head back out to pull a cow stuck in a dam, unload a truck, fix the power issue, or get the house tanks filled because in amongst everything else you have forgotten to check the water levels. These pressures fall on both of us and so we don’t need to add to this list by expecting even more of ourselves or each other.

I know he is exhausted, as I am also. I am not putting extra pressure on him at the end of the day, so the time we do get together is easier to enjoy. We move through the work issues and if all goes well, have some “us time”.

Sound like we have it all sorted? You can decide if you think it is actually the reality or not because when it comes to your marriage or relationship no one really knows if it meets expectations, as long as it works for the people that are in it. If you look at the bigger picture over a year or a decade rather than on a daily basis, Haydn well and truly exceeds all my expectations.

 Sundowner moment at Mandora Station.

The husband’s thoughts…

Expectations can be a very fluid thing. In fact, they need to be fluid, because if they are rigid they will more often than not disappoint you. They will change with age, maturity, experience, present situations, learning from past situations and hoping for future outcomes. Then there are marriage expectations, these are another beast altogether. I think around 50% of marriages end in divorce these days and unrealistic expectations play a large part in this. The perfect rosy picture painted of a life together and endless happiness that many people expect quite often doesn’t eventuate. Now all that is a bit depressing I know, but if you are lucky enough to meet someone who lives up to your expectations, try not to make yours too ridiculous, learn to adapt both your expectations on the run, and then you will have a great chance at a long and wonderful partnership and life together.

There does not seem to be any set formula for this, and the fact there isn’t is part of the great mystic of human relations. Some days are wonderful, some days are a grind, some days bland, some days are vibrant and thrilling. As long as the good ones are outnumbering the bad, you are doing pretty well I think.

Station life and marriage expectations add another level of difficulty to matrimonial happiness. Anyone who says different hasn’t spent long on a station. Working, living, eating, socialising together puts pressure on couples not seen in everyday life. It can be hugely rewarding and incredibly irritating all at the one time. Add to this the pressures of managing the business and raising a family and you have a pressure constantly at the dangerous explosion point. Prone to explode from what seemingly is a small thing but really is a long build-up of many small things multiplied. The only way we cope is to try and reduce the normal expectations of married life a notch or two for the mustering season, when things are hectic, and it is just “head down and work” for the middle part of the year. It’s” business first” and “lets just get on with it” to the best of our ability. The most important thing to counterbalance this is to make an effort outside these times this with family time away and if not away make an effort in the moments when you can.

I have put incredible pressures on Jane through our marriage so far and she had risen to these challenges and expectations with skill, courage and unrelenting (so far) patience and perseverance. I don’t know that lucky describes it well enough, but beating expectations certainly does.

Rarely with time to ourselves – A shared moment with Anzac and Rooney.