Thursday, February 14, 2013


In the ocean, nobody can hear you scream.

At least we hope not. That would be embarrassing.

I marvel at couples who say they never fight. They're either remarkably compatible or practicing effective public image maintenance. Or are they just amazing suppressionists? (Spell-check, you've clearly never been married if you think 'suppressionist' is not a word. Just so you know: it is, and it doesn't work. )

A year ago today, I wrote about the importance of being honest about our relationships and the consequences of not doing so. Here's another dose of honesty.

Chip and I have fertile ground for conflict. I come from New Mexico and a quiet, subdued family of British and Scottish descent. Chip comes from New Jersey and a raucous, emotive family of Italian and Armenian descent. We're oil and water. Sometimes we make dressing. Sometimes one of us lights on fire and consumes the other.

When we lived on land, it was possible to tiptoe around the issues in our relationship, suppress them or patch them over with a busy schedule or a new couch. But on a 38-foot boat, it's not possible to tiptoe around. It's just not.

Onboard, we fight about ridiculous things, like unwashed dishes or the finer points of where they were left and who left them there -- or who has washed whose dishes the most. I've been known to explode about minuscule things like whiskers left in the sink.

But it's not really about the whiskers, is it? If I make the effort to self-reflect and then to be honest about it, it's about the way I felt ignored and brushed aside at dinner last night with friends, and that's because as the third of four children I often felt invisible and marginalized as a child, and, just like that, the whiskers in the sink are forgotten. Instead of kvetching about unimportant things, I've switched from cleaning the sink to cleaning out the bilge -- mine, not his.

A year ago I wrote about a book called Getting The Love You Want, a book that's taught us how to talk to each other about the real issues, how to help each other clean out our own bilge, to scrub and polish and sand off some ugly, sharp edges. It's something we didn't take the time to do until everything else was stripped away.

Out here living on a boat, our relationship is all we have.

A year later, there are still dirty dishes and whiskers in the sink, but most days I don't care as much. I don't care, because I know Chip cares enough to help me clean out my bilge, works on his own, and has deep, deep patience when I struggle with my half of the job.

And often he cleans the whiskers out of the sink.

And so far, we haven't sunk to the bottom.

Like I said a year ago, our relationship is the richest, most rewarding and valuable thing we have. It is like a big chunk of marble that left unattended might drag us under. But with a grand vision, heavy labor and hours of polishing, it can be transformed into a beautiful masterpiece for the ages. Yours can too.

Happy Valentine's Day.

This post is part of Raft-Up, sailing bloggers discussing the same topic. This month: Relationships Onboard.

1 comment:

  1. Thoughtful and Real. Thanks.

    Happy Valentines to both of you!