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I was originally going to call this blog post the pros and cons of your significant other being your paddling partner. Then I built out my pros/cons list and had:

PRO: they are always there to provide feedback
CON: they are always there to provide feedback

And realized that everything beyond that was about context, so I thought I would focus on how to be successful in this environment.

How to survive and thrive with your significant other as your paddling partner

Ecuador- Photo Credit Seth Ashworth

My primary paddling partner is my husband, who is a better paddler than me. He always has been and will be. He is a physically literate person that can see someone do something and then just goes out and does it. While I am athletic, I spend my day focusing on strategy and human behaviour and my brain functions very differently.

How to survive and thrive with your significant other as your paddling partner

We have been primary paddling partners for over ten years and I know that he always has my best interests at heart. He wants me to continue to grow and improve so that I get better and feel more confident. It also happens to mean that he gets a built in partner to paddle harder rivers, and it isless stressful for him to worry about me on the harder rivers. Win/Win.

We were out paddling the other day and I was struggling with an attainment at the end of a paddle. I was tired and frustrated. He paddled down to me and explained that I had my boat up on edge, rather than flat, and this was causing me to get pushed towards the bank. That I’d been doing it all day….

He shares that because he cares and he wants to help me get better. I burst into tears (and I am not a crier normally), and this caused the conversation to go in a different direction. It also enabled me to reflect on how much we have learned and improved in this area from when we started.

Historically, depending on the day, my response to this type of feedback can range from:
• Can you explain more or show me to help me understand?
• Thanks for sharing – that helps
• Whatever
• F*ck off and leave me alone

Paddling together on the water

On this day, I was able to say to him –intellectually I understand what you are saying and I appreciate the feedback. Emotionally I am just so frustrated that I seem to have taken 5 steps backwards from where I hoped to be this summer (all for valid reasons, I’m just not being kind to myself).

Over the years, I have learned the following:
• He has my best interest at heart and wants to help me improve, rather than me feeling like all he is doing is telling me what I am bad at
• It’s ok (and safe) to let go of my ego and just listen to the feedback
• If I actually listen to the feedback, I will get better (which is what I want)
• He is my biggest cheerleader and is always there to celebrate an awesome surf, a great move and a good day on the river.

posing on the snow

Over the years, my lovely husband has learned the following:
• Read the room – know when to provide feedback and when to see that I am overwhelmed and it’s not actually helpful
• When to ask “what did you see” or “what were you thinking” verses continually telling me what I did wrong, so I don’t get defensive about it
• The importance of telling me when things are going well verses just expecting me to see and understand things from his perspective

We’ve spent a lot of time travelling and paddling and I wouldn’t trade this scenario for the world. I really feel lucky that I have a built-in paddling partner that is keen to paddle no matter where we are.

tandem seal launch

Most days we can now laugh about the good moments and the less than ideal communication moments. Hopefully this is helpful to those that are also blessed and challenged with their significant other being their primary paddling partner.

The Vincents