The "Grand Experiment" post published, with its last sentence being “And this sparked the biggest fight Andrew and I have ever had.” A bit later, I receive an email from a great friend.
*Applause!* I get all warm and tingly because I received applause, but then I start to fret. Uh-Oh. Wednesday's post about our Facebook Fight doesn’t really tell anyone how we handle conflict on a little boat. It’s pretty matter of fact: “We had a conflict. We weaseled our way out of it, eventually, again.” My friend is going to be disappointed. And, this friend is not the only one. This is the most commonly asked question we get.
I tried to answer the “how” question previously in a post last year. www.oddgodfrey.com/squabbles. But, we keep getting the question anyway. I get the sense that people are a bit unsatisfied with my answers in Squabbles I. Why? Squabbles contains the over arching answer to this question, but I admit Squabbles leaves out the nitty-gritty. It left out the nitty-gritty for a few reasons: I doubt the nitty-gritty is helpful to anyone, Andrew says its boring, and it feels icky. It feels like oversharing.
But the question continues to arrive, and I have promised to be honest about our experiences out at sea. Maybe our answer will help someone? Maybe answering this question will help us as much as it intrigues you? Okay, then.
Q: How do we fight on the boat?
A: The same way we fight anywhere else, including the LA Airport over an offense sparked by the process utilized to acquire a Caesar Chicken Wrap for dinner.
*Imagine the sound of symbols and drums crashing with that sound of complete disappointment.*
I don't know! What can I say? What are you imagining: me chasing Andrew around threatening his life with a boat hook; Andrew throwing inflatable bumpers at me to trip up my violent boat-hook wielding approach; Andrew scaling the mast to escape the jangle of my ever present nagging? Nah, that isn't what is happening. (Though, now that I think about it, maybe we could fund an entire season of sailing with a Jerry Springer Episode. "Marital Squabbles at Sea.")
There really is only one thing that is different. We do not fight while we are on passage. We are not a married couple on a passage; we are Captain and Crew. I have an excellent Captain who takes my comfort, safety, sailing skill/knowledge into account while we are at sea. We make a good team. Literally nothing needs to be solved at sea other than the safe transit of Sonrisa and her crew. So, all marital issues wait until we are anchored.
Are you still interested in how we fight on the boat? If so, here it is. This is the process that takes us from the commencement of a Marital Spat through a full blown Marital Squabble.
First, a seemingly irrelevant event occurs and pushes me over the edge to either (a) become angry or (b) panic ("Marital Spat"). This time, the Marital Spat was triggered when I attempted to hold a respectful conversation about politics on my own Facebook page and Andrew calmly informed me of his opinion that I lack judgment. I panicked. In the LA Airport Incident, Andrew silently abandoned me during my three-lap circle of indecision to go buy a Chicken Caesar Wrap, leaving me to decide my dinner choice for myself. I became angry.
I make an opening statement about the basis of the perceived offense at normal speaking volume if we are in the privacy of our own home or in a whisper-hiss if we are in transit in the LA Airport.
Andrew blinks at me and pastes a thin lipped, closed, half-smile on his face.
I become extremely agitated; I feel like he is smirking at me.
We engage in a back and forth process filled with inconsiderate words (both of us), tears (me), some yelling or “impassioned speeches” (only me), some condescension (both of us), a lot of hand waving (me), silent blinking and smirking (Andrew), and mutual confusion.
This back and forth process can last anywhere from an hour to days and days. If the back and forth process confirms the irrelevant/inflaming incident is the whole of the matter, we can solve it pretty easily with apologies and a little good humor. We all go about our business. If the back and forth drags on, it's likely because the real issue is borne of a deeper problem and the "Martial Spat" escalate in category to the more serious form of disagreement, the "Marital Squabble."
The back and forth process can be temporarily interrupted when I say, “Fine, forget it. You’re right. Whatever. I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” And, I seek refuge in another part of the house/boat. When we lived in a house, my preferred refuge was the bathtub. On Sonrisa, you might find me in the footwell of the cockpit or holed up in the stern bunk. Apparently small, square, fiberglass spaces soothe me. This interruption lasts approximately five minutes, whereupon I storm back into the common space.
During this five minute interruption, Andrew remains in place blinking and smirking or he starts doing the dishes. Upon my return, he blinks and smirks until I re-engage the conversation with more hand waving and more impassioned speeches.
Sometimes, the back and forth is interrupted out of necessity (the need to remove a fishing hut from too-close proximity to Sonrisa) or to fulfill obligations accepted prior to the commencement of the spat (i.e. our flight from L.A. to New Zealand). The back and forth process can be delayed for many hours depending on the nature of the necessity.
During these longer delays, I engage in sullen silence, responding to unrelated inquiries with the response minimally required. Andrew carries on with life as though nothing is wrong. Andrew would move on and ignore whatever just happened if he could. I get frustrated that Andrew is not more concerned.
Also during longer delays, we mentally muck around in the issue, trying to understand what the root cause really is. It can’t possibly be only the use of Facebook or the decision to buy a Chicken Caesar Wrap. We peruse our feelings around our set of historical inflammatory issues in our marriage: (1) the expenditure of money; (2) the balance of time; (3) perceived or real disregard of Leslie’s input/opinion. I reviews our wedding vows to get a sense of what promises/habits I think are not being properly employed.
I implement Amendment #1 to the Vows “Written Notice and Opportunity to Cure” stating that the offense is a serious enough problem that if left unattended it could potentially impact the warmth and success of the marriage. I cite to the key vow amiss. Andrew reviews the vows to see if he agrees or disagrees.
Andrew gets flustered and frustrated at me for making this fight about “more than it is”. Isn't this about a Caesar Chicken Wrap?
I get flustered and frustrated that Andrew doesn’t see how it could potentially get worse if we don’t make it better. No, it isn’t really about a Caesar Chicken Wrap.
Andrew reasserts that the marriage is more important than anything else. I reassert that a warm and successful marriage is more important than anything else.
We try to open our minds and hearts to figuring out where the other person is coming from.
We edge our way closer to understanding the real issue.
We reach an understanding of an approximation of the real issue.
We create a solution to try to address the approximation of the real issue. We apologize for mistakes within the fight and those mistakes that caused the fight. We reassert we love each other.
We wait until another seemingly irrelevant event sparks the issue again. The process is repeated and we develop a slightly more accurate approximation of the real issue.
I have confidence we will understand our "real issues" just prior to our respective demises, presuming we can live through our golden anniversary.
Is this different from anyone else? We’re just doing the best we can in a tough situation out here. I’m pretty sure everyone I know is just doing the best they can in their own tough situations.
Does this post satisfy your curiosity? Does it answer the question you are asking? Or is there a deeper question embedding in your curiosity? I wonder if your real question is one you are afraid to voice; one I have asked myself a time or two.
Q: Do you think your marriage can survive the process of handling conflict on the boat?
Q: If yes, what makes you think so?
Are these your real questions?