A request has been made through the Facebook Community that we post a Q&A blog. Happy to do it! So, this is your chance. Are there questions burning inside you that you want answered RIGHT NOW? Send them over, and we will endeavor to answer them. You can post them in the comments below, or you can email us by clicking on the email envelope at the top left hand corner of the blog page. If you are on a cell phone, touch the little round dot on the left hand top corner and the email emblem will expand out.
Today’s post will head you off at the pass on what has been probably the two most frequently asked questions:
Q: Do you ever get into fights?
Q: How do you manage to spend that much time together and not throw each other off the boat?
Actually, this year has not been too bad in terms of marital spats. I might even venture to say that we fought less over the course of this year than we have in other years - believe it or not. But, first, let’s define some terms.
Marital Spat: A feud about core issues in a relationship resulting from unresolved conflicts between two humans trying to make a life together.
Marital Squabble: A “discussion” over something ridiculous like a caesar spinach wrap at the LA airport, generally concealing more serious area of concern brewing into something bigger. (See Marital Spat defined above.)
Snipping: An unattractive and irritating habit of speaking harshly or in a condescending manner to your partner, typically instigated by hunger, fatigue, illness, Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, money worries or a habitual rudeness that tends to be overlooked for long periods of time due to the seemingly meaningless basis of the snips and the long term investment placed into a marriage. Caution #1: snipping can form the basis of and/or be a symptom of a festering Marital Spat. Caution #2: snipping due to pre-menstural syndrome should not be written off as unimportant as it may just be the time of month in which a female companion is no longer willing to tolerate unreasonable shit.
Over the last year of sailing, I would say that we have had fewer Marital Spats and Marital Squabbles than we would have over a typical year. We have likely had an increase in Marital Snipping due to the increase in frequency of minor illnesses (sea sickness) and fatigue (night watches) added to our already cyclical level of Snipping due to Pre-Menstural Syndrome. While this is not a one way street - Andrew can snip especially when he is “hangry" - I admit that I am the typical culprit. Andrew is a very patient individual, and generally doesn't engage when I'm being a B!#^ch. This annoys me further, and if it is what I consider to be a “matter of importance,” ignoring me can increase the intensity of my b!#^ching. But, usually, it is the right strategic move. Andrew has been perfecting this tactic for almost 14 years, so now he is the Zen-Buddah of husbands.
We had three fights that started as a Marital Squabble and intensified into Marital Spats. The first was over the perceived acquisition of intestinal worms. The second commenced upon the receipt of an email from the FBI, a criminal who is either dead or on the lamb, the criminal’s next of kin, or our former crew members messing with us. It is impossible to know which, but it really doesn’t matter. This email triggered buried irritation over the fact that one marriage partner failed to report key information in his possession relating to the heist of $150 Million Dollars while the other partner partner blathered on in a blog post about said criminal. The third, started over a Spinach Caesar Wrap in LAX Airport.
You know, just typical stuff. But don’t be fooled! These are the issues of which serious marital discord is made. When a seed of consternation gets planted, it flourishes until it is weeded out. And by “weeding it out,” I mean hashed, rehashed and lit on fire during a full blown Marital Spat.
We were interviewed on just this topic while visiting the states. You might find this portion of the interview somewhat amusing and/or filled with more information than you ever needed to know.
Blah blah blah...fatty liver....blah blah. Ok, Godfrey. You have won this battle, but I am still not a hypochondriac.
On to the second question: how do we avoid throwing anyone overboard? Here are the top then things to which we attribute our sustained residency on the sailboat:
#1: Andrew married a lawyer and lawyers are awesome. From the beginning, we itemized and wrote down the key resolutions necessary to keep our marriage functioning in a contract typically known as wedding vows. You know, the part where you say: “I promise this, and I need you to promise that.” It’s a contract, people, and clarity of obligations is key.
#2: We committed 100%. From the beginning, we approached everything we did with the idea that we are going to make this relationship last. All of our money, time and energy resources are directed toward the partnership. We have shared bank accounts, all investments are shared as one, we paid off student debts with no quibbling over who had what amounts.
#3: We enjoy each other’s company. We have a lot of similar hobbies and interests, so we can do them together. We can spend hours together talking, listening to music, reading next to each other, driving a car or sailing. We have a pleasant, peaceful and symbiotic interaction most of the time. I think we both feel like the other’s heart is filled with warmth and goodness, and we enjoy just being around that energy.
#4: We respect each other a lot. Both of us consider the other person to be intelligent and interesting. We enjoy experimenting, exploring, thinking and trying things with each other. For those interests that are not similar, we enjoy talking and thinking about those interests together - especially because of the differences. We learn from each other. We believe the other can do pretty much anything he or she puts his or her mind to, and we are usually ready to help in whatever way we can.
#5: We trust each other to work hard for our best mutual interest. We know that each person in this relationship prioritizes the achievement of our mutual best life. We know our counterpart will invest all of his or her energy in maximizing the couple’s safety, enjoyable experience and marital stability. Neither of us have ever given the other any reason to doubt the motivations of the other. We both are willing to cook, clean, work hard at our jobs, take night watches, sacrifice our lesser wants to fulfill the bigger ones.
#6: We practiced. We have been married for 10 years, dating for three before that. We had plenty of Marital Spats and Marital Squabbles under our belts before we tried to cast off into the middle of the ocean. We already know the issue(s) we fight most commonly about: i.e. anchoring and balancing the use of resources between the two individuals. We are familiar with the most common triggers for our common fights, we have techniques we use to head a fight off at the pass, and if the problem escalates anyway, we have experience clawing our way through the Spat. All our fights take the same course: Angry rage, sad confusion, a hunt to understand the other person’s hurt and frustration better, a specific request and measurable for alternative future action, a negotiation regarding the shape the future action agreement will take, and an apology by both sides for any hurt caused.
#7: We Know Some Fights Don't Have to Be Fought. Sometimes a fight is necessary for the survival of the relationship. Real grievances need to be aired and sometimes we need to change our day to day habits to accommodate each other. But sometimes, the complaint to be raised is not a deal breaker. In those circumstances, we often choose not to fight the fight. Why disturb a peaceful existence for something that is not a huge concern?
#8: Harnesses, Jacklines, and Lifelines. We wear life jackets and tethers that keep us secured to the boat.
Fights at sea are a lot like boat maintenance at sea. A little bit of planning, pre-departure repair, and maintenance work goes a long way. We spent weeks, months, years preparing Sonrisa to go to sea. We removed all of the weak and corroded stainless steel parts and made sure everything was as strong and operable as possible before we set off. We did a few shakedown runs to test her condition and see if it was up to snuff. When we broke parts on the shakedown runs, we learned, replaced, repaired and knew her better. As a result, this first year has gone fairly smoothly with regard to Sonrisa’s condition. We have a maintenance schedule, we know her areas of weakness that need frequent checks, and we attend to little problems immediately to ensure they don’t fester into bigger problems.
Our marriage is the same. Years together, intense jobs, and high expectations stress tested this relationship. Parts broke, we got into full blown Marital Spats, and our choice was the same as in any other marriage; pay attention and fix the weak spots or let it corrode and fall apart. We know our areas of weakness. We are familiar with the normal “creaking” sounds in our marriage, and when that sound changes we know something is rubbing someone the wrong way.
In addition, sailing builds a different type of camaraderie than land life. When we are out sailing, we are relying on each other for survival in the most literal sense. We both have to muster a deeper trust and more considerate responses than we do on land. Why? Because on land, we can walk out our front door and seek companionship, assistance, or emergency services from someone else. When we are at sea, he’s all I have and I am all he has. You don’t want to bite the hand that administers first aid.
P.S. Don't forget to send your questions!