To be perfectly honest, I asked this question because I was (am) struggling so much in my own marriage and I don’t see this being addressed much in other cruising blogs. I realize that being public with your relationship issues is a scary thing (I’m about the most open book I know and its even scary for me!) so I wanted to give women a chance to put their thoughts out there in an anonymous forum. If you have thoughts you’d like to add anonymously, you can email me at email@example.com and when I get time, I’ll add to this post to help other people who might be struggling or who just want to know what its “really” like for other women.
How has the cruising life affected your relationships?
**Due to the sensitive nature of these answers, some people have requested to stay anonymous. To be clear, answers on the anonymous posts are in no particular order
Tammy @ThingsWeDidToday Before we left for cruising Bruce and I really never fought. No really. We had never had an argument. Bruce came from a home in which his parents did not fight in front of the children and he thought that if two people were going to have arguments it meant that they should just not be together. For me… arguments are almost fun. They are a way to communicate. They are necessary so that each can understand the other’s perspective… and sometimes our individual perspectives are SO far apart it’s amazing that we ever get along. During the time since we left Texas, we have slowly evolved in our ability to express disagreement. Once Bruce realized that it really wasn’t the end of the world to disagree… things began to change and we have actually now had a couple of arguments…. Although they have been nothing like the ones I used to have with my Ex in which objects always flew! Mostly Bruce and I kind of get wound up and it’s usually the fact that the same word(s) can have vastly different meanings for each of us. But more often than not, our little tiffs end with both of us laughing at how absurd we’re being, following up later with a debriefing in which we each explain our perspective sprinkled with an apology if appropriate. As for being together 24/7? We are really best when we’re together so it suits us just fine.
Lea Pennicott @Tientos Hubby and I each had our own boats before…and were on the committee of our local yacht club before getting together. There was initial friction on who was right, but we have fallen into roles we are comfortable with..he is by far the better sailor and mechanic; I am the better navigator. In our later age, he also takes on night passages as I can no longer see at night. Advice…play to each other’s strengths
Crystal @LetitBreeze We get aggravated with each other, we fight, we say things we don’t mean. We are human. Before cruising it was easier to point a finger and blame the other person than to reflect and admit our own fault in the situation. But that doesn’t work well when living in a tiny floating house. We can’t hold grudges. Almost always, we both have fault in an argument. Being able to recognize it and apologize is the first step. Being able to forgive is the second. Living on board hasn’t taught us how to avoid fighting, it has taught us how to apologize and forgive Our first day on the boat as liveaboards–so green, so excited.
Anonymous: Be prepared to really understand your spouse and their ways while cruising! If you haven’t read the five love languages by GaryChapman, I highly recommend it! Knowing what your spouses love language is as well as your own will save more wasted time on arguments than ever expected! Be sure they know yours as well, it truly is crucial to know what each other needs and wants before heading out to open seas.
For the females, have some kind of communication device! It is so true that women speak 13,000 more words than men. With our needed 20,000 words a day it will take other females to ensure we are satisfied daily when it comes to communication. Don’t expect or rely on you spouse to fill in to only be disappointed or feeling neglected. Men just can’t help it so don’t push them.
Melinda @BurnettsAhoy We respect each other more now, as cruising has made us both develop new skills and become emotionally stronger. Most men are usually thrilled their wives want to do this (the fact is, women are still a minority in the sailing world), and if my husband starts taking me for granted, we just hang out with some lonely old salts – works every time! I would say this – if you were a bit slack on manners (silly things, like saying “excuse me” or “please”) before, bringing them back now that you live in a small space goes a long way…
Jenny @SVRocketScience Your partner is usually not a good person to learn from. Even though my DH is amazing and rarely got impatient with me (since I knew NOTHING and learned how to sail on a big heavy 43′ steel boat) I wish I would have gone and taken sailing lessons somewhere. It’s just a weird dynamic. At least when it comes to sailing. Mechanical etc stuff he can talk me through on the phone when he’s gone, and that works fantastic! However, the more comfortable I became with sailing, and also with understanding and fixing thing on the boat the better I felt our relationship was, too. Because I had more confidence and he loves that. My advice for you ladies is: learn about your boat, not just the sailing part, learn about the systems etc, too. Be an equal partner, not just a passenger.
Barb @HartsatSea Our marriage is a good marriage, but it is better when we are cruising. Still, we are the same people we were back home and there is no escaping whatever issues you have as a person or as a couple. There have been a two or three stressful times that brought our issues up from the bilges, so to speak. We agreed a long time ago that the only permanent thing was our marriage, so we operate from there and try to find our shared sense of humor as soon as possible. Still, we failed at that a few times in five years. I do think our marriage is better for being on the boat, and sharing all the joys and challenges together. I wouldn’t trade this for any other lifestyle.
Anonymous: There has been some rough days! Days where I’m a hot mess because of anxiety, days where he is stubborn, but for the most part both he and i are pretty non-confrontational. When I am bitchy for no reason I’m quick to apologize (I used to be slow bc of my pride) and if there was an issue we need to discuss we rehash it later with less emotions and more logic. But we work well as a team, I try to keep him well fed and his back scratched and he does everything else. I try to be in control sometimes, but have found it’s easier to blame stuff on him when things go wrong my advice is just to have a good feel for the person you’re with. I’m not married and we have only been dating for 3 and a half ish years. But instead of buying me an engagement ring and a wedding he bought me a boat and is taking me around the world. I’m lucky to have him and even though he does the majority of the work he’s lucky to have a girl who doesn’t need showers, dishwashers, ac, etc. I lived in a tent for two summers while I was a raft guide so I’ve always been pretty low maintenance and high adventure.
Liza @SVInspiration Since we met nine years ago, my husband and I have been very close. From the start, I worked where he lived (Literally – I was our yacht club manager and he was a live aboard at the club), then he moved into my small apartment, and then we moved onto the boat…so we have always spent most of our time together and in close quarters.
We went through a rough patch in the second year of cruising, where we snapped at each other a lot, but after a big enough ‘blow up’ we both came to our senses, realizing that our love for each other hadn’t changed and went back to acting accordingly: as a loving couple. It’s been smooth sailing ever since. We kinda bump around the boat like two peas in a pod. We know each other so well that we can predict each other’s moves. It’s like a coordinated dance around the boat – never stepping on each other’s toes.
Advice: Respecting each other’s space. For example, if one is working on the computer, you don’t look over their shoulder at the screen. Just give the other person their privacy even when it’s four feet away from you.
When we go ashore, we’ll be in a bar/restaurant that has wifi and will sit apart from each other. He will sit at the bar talking to people, and I sit at a table with my computer. Strangers have often remarked, “All is not well in Paradise?”, but things are indeed perfect in paradise. Just because you go ashore together, you don’t have to spend every moment together. I’m doing what makes me happy – connecting with friends and family at home, while he’s having a beer – chatting with the locals and making friends. We’re good!
Tara: In the world My DH and I live in as cruisers can have amazing highs and equally terrible lows. I wouldn’t be truthful if every time we venture on the water there is a small amount of fear involved. My DH tells me frequently that the thing that goes wrong are the most unexpected and are not planned for. The best we can do is try to learn from our experiences and use that knowledge for the future obstacles we may face.
We have had an amazing two years and I will never lay on my death bed wishing we lived our dreams. The memories are so numerous I can’t keep them all straight, I guess our boats log book will be our truth!
This past week has been a roller coaster of emotions, will we have to become landlubbers again, will we be lucky and the engine will turnover or do we need to update our resumes and find jobs and stop living our dreams?
Through it all, I was stressed and my DH showed how truly amazing he is. He kept me sane and laughing while he figured out if he could fix the engine, and he did this all with a gout flare up which put his pain level past the 10 scale.
Will the engine get us south to warmer climates when we drop our dock lines on Sunday? Who knows but we will hope for the best! What is known is that we make an amazing team, we love, laugh, and deal with our adversities together. I can get very maudlin because of the possible missed adventures over the next year but if that becomes our reality, I know I am partnered with a brilliant and very humble mind. My hope and wish for others to have a person like Brian Flanagan have your back. I wish all who come in contact with him know how multi talented he is and how very much he is loved by his crew!
I am so blessed to know I can call him mine everyday! Love him so very much.
Anonymous: Our relationship has grown stronger because most of the times we have arguments are when we are in an isolated place and the only place to escape is to go snorkeling! As we value our relationship, it’s forced us to quickly try and understand the other person as well as make an effort to talk things through. We both love the sea and know there aren’t many people out there who love it in exactly the same way we do. Therefore we appreciate the other person much more. My advice is to make an agreement on how you can each have your space on those days when the only space is the boat. If there is an argument, respect the space and then try to talk through the matter sooner rather than later.
Katy @SVKlickitatII We weren’t sure going in to our first season if we’d survive a winter on the boat together (despite having been married at that time for 30 years) as it’s a tiny space with frequently 24/7 togetherness and we both like our solitude and independence. It turned out that it brought us closer together, thank goodness – both the shared adventures and the intimate nature of the shared space. Advice for others would be to be to communicate clearly.
Anonymous: Sadly our relationship fell apart when trying to live in his house in Australia, funny how a partnership can be formed when a male has a specific purpose in mind but once you come back to their home turf, all the reasons they chose you to go sailing with are no longer required. You may be perfect for scrubbing decks, cooking, keeping watch, adventure and paying half the bills and buying half the boat but once on land you need to become someone else. Advise – be careful if a sailor courts you, he may not be looking for a life partner but rather the perfect first mate, that changes when he returns home. (We lived happily in an apartment in South Africa and Turkey, my home in Australia and on a 48 ft boat for five years)
Anonymous: Being so close together all the time is tough. Habits, smells, flaws, all seem magnified in a small space. I am learning to take some space when I need it. On the other hand, I have realized all over again what an awesome team we are; together, there is nothing we can’t solve!
Byn @OhSailYes I was going to just write an answer on here, but even though I tried to condense it and stick with one topic within our relationship… it became a blog post of its own. I’m not going to lie, things are pretty bad right now. Suffice it to say, this isn’t what I expected.
“Living the ‘Dream’ Nearly Destroyed my Marriage.” I know that title sounds dramatic as hell, but honestly, it feels dramatic as hell. Now before someone gets upset and thinks that this is a post warning people not to move onto a boat, just take a step back and breathe. That’s not what this is about.
This is not a “Boat Life Sucks” post. Not even close. This is a “Wow, this aspect of the liveaboard/traveling life caught me off guard and I wish I’d have been better prepared to deal with it” and even more… its just me, relating my own story, ONE SMALL PART of our story, just to share. For those who might be struggling with the same thing. Because I started this blog with a desire to be ‘real’ about the good the bad and the ugly… and this has been part of our experience. That’s all there is to it… [Read More]”
Jaye: Hope I’m not the only one who says that cruising and living in a tiny space 24/7 made our marriage BETTER. We’re both happy and fulfilled and doing things that are interesting and different every day. Being so close has helped us get in sync with each other’s priorities and moods. We both learned sailing the same way from the same teachers, so there’s no fighting about whose way is better. And in the absence of actual privacy, we both give each other “virtual privacy.” No shoulder surfing, no reading each other’s drafts without permission, if you overhear a phone conversation pretend you didn’t, and each of us has a locker we call “don’t ask, don’t tell” where we can put frivolous things without the other commenting about the waste of space in our limited storage.
Another couple of thoughts on making our cruising marriage work: we have a rule called “most conservative wins.” It means that ANY time we disagree on an approach, the safer alternative is what we do, no further discussion required. One is NEVER pushing the other to do something they are uncomfortable with or feel unsafe with, because the more timid gets veto power. By agreeing in advance to this we have eliminated many potential arguments. If I think we can outrun a coming storm, but he wants to stop at the anchorage at hand…we stop. If he wants full sail, but I want to reef…we reef. Etc. Every time. This policy has been an absolute game changer for us.
A lot of cruising women were awesome enough to contribute to this blog series about women who are living/lived the cruising life. Whether they’ve been cruising for 6 months or 30 years, these are the perspectives of various women from different parts of the world. I know I’m already learning from their stories, I hope you can learn something new as well! I’ll be posting a question from this series every Wednesday and Friday for the 10 week series, so keep an eye out for our posts! The topics range in topic from typical cruising questions, to more personal anonymous stories that might make you feel like you’ve met a kindred spirit.
If you are a current or former cruising woman and would like to contribute to future posts and series, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Cruising Questions from Byn” and I’ll send you the list of questions. Answer as many as you like and return with a few photos and I’ll add your contribution as we go!
See the other posts in this series:
Part 1: What Makes it Worth it?
Part 2: What Would You do Differently?
Part 4: Where Would You Revisit?
Part 10: Budget Friendly Tips?
Part 11: Best Social Media Tips?
Part 12: Your Best Life Hacks for the Boat
Part 13: Your Favorite Photo
Part 15: Let’s Talk About Sex