|Susan and Eric Hiscock|
Partners under sail
“....though modern Marriage is a tremendous laboratory, its members are often utterly without preparation for the partnership function. How much agony and remorse and failure could have been avoided if there had been at least some rudimentary learning before they entered the partnership....And that statement is equally valid for all relationships.”
― Leo Buscaglia from Loving Each Other
For those of us who sail with a partner, partnership is serious business.
We who live aboard together must get along in a tiny space with few alternatives to one another's company.
We who face the sea together must trust our partner. Trust the skill of their hands. The courage of their heart.
We who set our course together must come to agreement, whatever the 'chain of command'. Find our common dream and set it in motion. Tend its unfolding.
Sometimes all this is easy. Sometimes not.
Often, the partnership founders. Usually gone awry between two, wonderful people (they were so perfect together!). Their shared dreams and adventures lost in their wake.
A few partnerships thrive. Long-term partners asked their 'secret' seem at a loss, often repeating some ossified sentiment that side-steps the mechanics (e.g., Never go to bed angry is good advice, but doesn't give a clue as to how to navigate that anger).
Virtually all couples come together in mutual attraction and love. For a while, at least, the bloom is on the rose. For some it lingers; for others not.
So why, then?
I recently read an article on some of the science behind the make or break of partnerships. Though many details arouse a number of quibbles, much of it rang true to me, and got me thinking about how it might help inform us as sailing partners.
The theory/findings that rang my bell are a theory of the Gottmans (researchers specializing in relationship dynamics).
They found that a partner makes a number of bids for the other's attention / participation. Invitations to look at something noteworthy. The sharing of thoughts or news. A question. A joke or tease.
The other can respond by turning toward (an I-hear-and-engage response that is interested and supportive, even when not in agreement), or turning away (an I'm-ignoring-you or contemptuous response).
As turns of bid and response cycle over time, those who habitually turn toward one another spiral together. Stars are born! Those who habitually turn away spiral apart... darkness ensues.
It's as simple as that!
Partnerships are formed under a honey moon. We are drawn to one another for reasons.
Let us seek to be mindful of our partner in our moments of distraction. Re-mindful of what brought us together. Seek out their beauty and skill and wit and courage, to admire and bask in their company. Seek to be generous with praise and appreciation. Seek to be gentle and patient with their struggles; grateful for theirs with ours.
Cultivate the habit of turning toward one another, rather than away...
PS. Happy Valentine's Day!