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Learning to wrestle pigs

Farmers Dennis and Margaret Guth fought often—until they learned to understand and appreciate their differences

Dennis and Margaret Guth Handout

Learning to wrestle pigs
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(Eighth in a series on long marriages.)

Margaret Guth grew up as a missionary kid in Puerto Rico. Her husband, Dennis Guth, grew up on a farm in Klemme, Iowa. They met in high school and married in 1978, a year after Dennis graduated from college. Dennis was quiet and hardworking. Margaret was very relational.

But a few months into their marriage, Margaret remembers crying frequently: “We weren’t connecting emotionally.” She felt increasingly distant from her husband.

Dennis, though, thought things were fine. “I didn’t realize there was a big hole in Margaret’s life,” he says, “and she was looking for a friend. And I wasn’t being that friend.”

Meanwhile, Margaret had failed to anticipate the realities of farm life. Dennis sometimes became frustrated with her mistakes. She failed to stop the tractor when oil leaked into the cabin, and she did not realize she had to look at a pig’s eyes while chasing it. She wasn’t aware of how physically taxing farm work was and thus underestimated how much food Dennis needed. Plus, in Puerto Rico, her mother employed a maid, and Margaret hadn’t learned to cook.

The small differences led to big disagreements. Eventually, Dennis says, “most of our conversations ended up pretty heated and in an argument.” Eleven years into their marriage, the two were sleeping in different rooms of the house, Dennis downstairs and Margaret upstairs. At that point, Margaret despaired, thinking things would not improve, despite their attempts at counseling.

But in August 1989, the couple attended a friend’s wedding, and Margaret found the beginnings of a solution: “I felt God telling me, ‘It’s going to be OK. I’m going to work a work. Stay with him.’” Without a plan but with new hope, she reconciled with Dennis and moved back downstairs.

After that, the Guths’ relationship gradually improved: Margaret stopped mentioning her need for emotional connection and expecting Dennis to meet it. Instead of getting upset by Dennis’ logical personality and comments, she turned to God in prayer—and saw Him provide opportunities for her and her husband to grow closer.

One such opportunity came in their difficult adoption experience: After having four biological children, the Guths adopted a girl from Brazil. During the seven-year process, Margaret and Dennis realized they could not nurture little Anna until they first learned to support each other.

When Anna and her siblings grew up, their parents experienced another time of growth. Now an empty nester, Dennis decided to run for the Iowa Senate. He did, and won. Margaret acted as his clerk. Seeing him in a different environment showed her his giftings in a new light, she says: His logical mind and problem-solving abilities enabled him to lead confrontational meetings without getting upset when people were critical. As Margaret’s perspective changed, Dennis was also learning to understand his wife: He began giving Margaret hugs when he came in the house and building bonfires for them to make s’mores and relax together in the evening.

After 41 years of marriage, Dennis, 64, and Margaret, 62, say they are still learning to understand and appreciate each other in their differences. But through patience and perseverance, they have seen God work.

Charissa Koh

Charissa is a WORLD reporter who often writes about poverty-fighting and criminal justice. She resides with her family in Atlanta.



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