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How do romantic relationships fair in long-distance cruising?

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What is the issue?
Couples are uncertain that their relationships will withstand a 24 x 7 x 365 x X year (s) environment.

Why address this?
Finding and maintaining your life partner, and consequential family, is to most people the single most important pursuit for their lives and happiness.

How to address this?
Cruising will either make it or break it, but you will know sooner rather than later. Apart from doing one’s utmost to be thoughtful and considerate this all seems to distil down to something that is largely preordained in our human nature. This point may take some explanation.

When departing on my circumnavigation I was nervous of taking my fledgling romance of the time into the intense environment. I had lost a close college friend under the pressure of a prior attempted trip and this had put me on guard. I broached the subject with the first long distance solo sailor I came by after departing solo. Although I cannot recall his name I never forgot the words he said and the perspective he offered when I asked him ‘how do romantic relationships fair in long-distance cruising?’.

'Well.... my wife and I actually broke up, about a year after we set off together…. we just couldn't take being together all the time'' was his exact response.

This, at the time feeling the pangs of my separation, was not what I hoped to hear. Embarrassed for enquiring I apologised and set to change the subject. ''Oh no.... don't be sorry... not at all'' he interjected quickly, ''this is not a bad thing, and my case is not at all typical. In fact very far from it'' he continued.

''You see setting off as a couple on a yacht will do one of two things. It will either make it, or break it. That's it. It’s one or the other. There are no in-betweens …..and that is not at all bad.

‘Make it’ is an obvious win, but equally, if it ‘breaks it’, the both of you are still far better off. For in that case both of you will know sooner rather than later that the person you are sharing your life with is the wrong person for you. I mean people can go for five, ten, even twenty, thirty years in normal life and not really know, deep down, the person they are living with is not for them. One day they wake up to discover they are living, in effect, alone. People only realise this too late or when it is just too painful to do anything about it.

But on the yacht you will know in a matter of weeks, if not even months, both of you, consensually. Consequently if it is wrong it is easy to bring it to an end amicably, and sooner rather than later.

But if it is right, my God how it makes it! Believe me, nothing can make a relationship more than being together cruising when it is right; nothing in the world.''

These were the very words of advice I received departing on my circumnavigation with my then fiancé and now wife. I believe that this is the soundest advice I have found on romantic relationships whilst long term cruising. As between the two of us we have experienced both sides of that equation.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

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Lee Gunter wrote this review on Dec 13th 2006:
mike, www.chron.com/sail has an article under the left menu called "relationships at sea" which I wrote and provides 10 ways to make it work. Lee

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