Men are from mars… communication on a sailboat

“Do you guys fight sometimes?”

“Yes.”

“How do you manage to spend that much time together without throwing one another over board?”

“Rum.”

As a big feminist, I found out during this journey that I really enjoy cooking and baking, that I sometimes get a little obsessed with cleaning and that I have a monopoly on doing the laundry. Doing the dishes has never been my favorite thing and it probably will never be. Alex takes care of the engine, electrics, repairs and maintains what is necessary. I never imagined that this role type thing would be fun, but it is for me at the moment, except for doing the dishes of course. It’s not as if Alex would only do the manly things and me the female stuff. I try as much as possible to help and I really admire his work. He helps drying the dishes and cleaning up. This is what happens to most of the couples living on board. I can do an oil change on the engine, check if a fuse is broken and try to give input as a problem occurs. When it comes to electrics I’m out. I can find then plus and minus on battery, but for everything above that I need Youtube videos for dummies. But I can catch and gut fish and cook them quite nicely. Alex’s talent for fixing things and outboards in particular got both of us an invitation for dinner and beer. After us finding some people sitting in the dinghy sadly while trying to convince the little outboard machine to run while it stoically stuttered or ignored their efforts at all.

Usually, you can find these very typical type of gender roles with most couples on sea. It seems to evolve naturally. I am not unwilling to get dirty hands, clean the carburetor or repair the engine. I just have no clue about it. Alex is already beginning to work on the solution while I am still trying to understand the problem. So it is just easier and faster when he does it. When I occasionally announce that I would like to clean the carburetor by myself when he tells me how to do it, I can see in his face that he doesn’t like the idea. When I try to offer a solution for a problem, I usually get the answer: “I’m already three steps ahead of you”. Well, thanks. Not helpful for me, to be honest. After hearing this the third time I thought to myself: “Okay, then you can do your crap alone”. Not helpful either, I have to admit. Particularly, when he then starts to complain that I don’t help him enough with finding a solution. Well, how can this dilemma be solved?

Just keep smiling
Just keep smiling

Most women that I talked to are fairly interested in the topics of manhood. So should there be someone out there who is a pro in this topic, please get some courses started for women like me, where we can ask all the stupid questions that our husband start rolling eyes over. Believe me, a niche market! I would pay money when I find someone and a place where I could try out everything and just do it myself with someone explaining. Something like: boat service for dummies. Not being able to repair your own boat means a lot of costs and I bet some more women would buy their own boat if they just be more confident to be able to repair it properly.

Want an example?

I sometimes panic at the high waves and the fear of losing the boat or worse, my life. Also, I panic when Alex and I have an argument. My first reaction is always denial or to justify.

All the men that I met so far usually listen to what I say when they want to, but they sometimes only hear the words that I say, not the meaning behind my words. Sometimes it seems impossible for them to listen to the feelings or ideas behind the words that I use to describe what I mean. Need an example?

Alex and I decided to paint the cockpit. We go for a bright grey instead of the former green. He has the roller, I have a brush. I shall paint the corners where it is complicated with the roller. We start. Alex states that the colour doesn’t cover very well. I have a lot of paint in my pot anyway, so I decide to paint some bigger areas of the part of the cockpit where I am at the moment as well. So I do, but soon I recognise that I don’t have as much paint as I thought. So I paint here and there some parts of the wood and move further. When Alex comes and looks at what I’ve done, he stops, looks at me bewildered and asks me what the heck I was doing there. My honest answer: “I wanted to pre-paint the bigger areas, as you mentioned the cover of the grey isn’t very good”. He looks at my patchwork painting and asks himself if I’ve turned mad. I didn’t tell him that I started in one corner and while doing what I thought to be a brilliant idea recognised that it wasn’t, so I stopped. Honestly, I thought this was obvious. As Alex only sees the patchwork and that is not a pre-painting at all, he thinks I want to make fun of him. To his disbelief and aggression I react angrily and here we go. We have a proper argument for which we could have sold tickets.

Well, maybe not a super example, but communication problems are highly rated in our relationship. That’s where I panic. Not only whether the boat might sink or not, also when there are problems in the relationship. Maybe someone recognises himself or herself? When we fight, Alex retreats from me and that can last for days. In the meantime, my brain goes crazy. Does he still love me? Why doesn’t he say anything? Are we broken up now? Where shall I go then? Oh, what shall I tell my parents? And so on.

Just keep going

His silence soon gets out of control in my head to getting divorced. If I want to talk and ask what the matter is, I usually don’t get any answer or just grumbling noises. If I keep asking he’s complaining that I pressurise him too much. Then he turns around and remains silent for at least another day. Well, I know that I got quite an extreme example of a man. Other men behave differently, but the way of retreating and disappearing on the next mental tree a lot of men seem to have in common. Here I have to fight the voices in my head and after a talk to Alex we cleared a lot. This is not always easy for me as I am an “avoider”. I try to avoid uncomfortable conversations, don’t want to ask questions that I might not want to hear the answer to and the voice in my head keeps babbling. It took me 3 years and Alex loads of his nerves to be able to talk about these uncomfortable topics. Sure, for other women it may be easier, but I did flee from these situations before. For all of you who may are like me:

Have courage! Be there and say what you feel, ask whatever questions keep crawling in your head. It takes a lot of courage the first time, but let me tell you this: it will get better with every word. You will feel better. Promise! This babbling voices in your head will stop imagining the worst situations and you can deal with the real situation. In this way I learn every day to grow a little.

just keep going
Just keep going. If the little plant can grow through a stone, you can do anything

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