The cool morning air brushes my bare legs as I snap the last paddle together. The mist makes its final ascent as the sun warms the air. Other than a few shore birds and a lone fisherman, the waterfront is quiet. My husband, John makes his way down the rocky embankment and sets the tandem kayak into the still water. He settles into the rear seat while I take the front.

We heard about the difficulties of paddling a tandem kayak—also nicknamed a divorce boat. Despite the warnings and fear of clacking paddles, we decided to give it a try.

I grip the cool paddle, feeling the resistance as it cuts through the water’s surface. I set the pace; we are in sync, harmonizing our paddles, keeping perfect time. The azure sky is a beautiful contrast to the jade-green tree line. Clouds billow and tumble along as if to say, ‘follow me’. We paddle in anticipation.

Going tandem requires cooperation. Tom Holtey says in his article on tandem kayaking, “…being patient with your partner, and communicating are the keys to a successful and enjoyable paddling experience.”

When paddling tandem, the power of moving forward is multiplied, resulting in more speed, less effort, pure joy. Sounds simple, but it’s not. Like being married—it may look easy to an outsider, but those in the trenches can attest to the energy and hard work required. Marriage, like tandem kayaking, assumes that you are going in the same direction, working together and have the same goals. Trust is essential as you listen and yield to one another. In the front seat of the kayak, I can’t see behind me. And, while in the rear seat, John can’t see beyond me. So we need to communicate clearly as we paddle together.

“The water is rushing fast.” I say, turning my head so he can hear me. “There is a tree down on one side and rocks on the other.”

The rushing current demands careful maneuvering as I yield to John’s experience—“Stop paddling…paddle steady…hard on the right.” Working together we make it through the swirling current to the calm water on the other side.

Going tandem is a depiction of our relationship. We’ve been married for thirty-one years and have gone through many rough waters together. Similar to our kayaking, we have needed to learn to yield to one another—to match pace as we have dealt differently with life’s challenges.  

There was a time when we faced a churning current. John’s idea for a home business ramped up quicker than he anticipated and one day I uttered the fateful words, “Can I help you?” What followed was the toughest time in our married life because as I see it now, we were clacking paddles. Suddenly, we were toe to toe with battle lines drawn; our hardened hearts seeing no further than our own hurts and desires. John was working a full-time job in addition to the mounting work at home. I could only see myself—drowning in my to-do list. I was busy with three teenagers, transitioning them into school, taxiing them to and from activities, and running a household.  Stress mounted when I added the business demands; I couldn’t keep my head above water. I was physically and emotionally exhausted until one day I couldn’t do the next thing. When I told John I couldn’t continue the pace, his voice rose along with his frustration. He couldn’t do it without me. I tried to communicate where I was emotionally but in his panic he couldn’t empathize or communicate in return. We needed to see the other’s point of view but we just couldn’t get to a place of objectivity.

Through the help of our pastor we began to untangle the issues dividing us. He seemed to understand my need to care for my home and family first. As I followed his suggestion I began to take charge of my daily routine. I did what I could during the day and then John and I would work together in the evening to get packages ready to ship. It was hard on John after working all day. But, I felt I had the help I needed, not doing it all alone.