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Couples Therapy

If you’re looking for a good couple’s therapist, or you’re wondering if you and your Tinder date are a good match, you might want to take up R-2ing. Whitewater rafting with two people in a boat can really expose the frailties and strengths of a relationship - existing or potential. 


There’s a reason a double-kayak is dubbed a divorce-maker - just like a tandem bike is referred to as a “divorcycle.”


The main issue in these circumstances is that ONE person must be in charge, which leads us to a psychological issue called: F.U.C.K “False Understanding of Created Knowledge.” Some professionals also refer to this as, “Don’t Tell Me What To Do!”


Now, this False Understanding of Created Knowledge is never based on what the person actually knows, but more what the person would like others to perceive they know. This is very useful when determining who should be guiding the boat, because only one person can be the guide, unless both parties agree that the role has switched. The one with this syndrome should never be in charge on rivers bigger than a Class III. However, it is extremely important to put that person in charge occasionally so that they can get a better understanding of their actual abilities. They may be tempted to blame shift when things go terribly wrong, which is why it is important to establish rules before even getting into the boat, and most definitely before entering the next rapid. 


Once you have determined who will be the guide, there are a few recommendations to practice while still standing safely on dry ground. Begin with the commands that you will be giving, and sometimes shouting in excitement. The person receiving these commands needs to be told that when the guide is excited, and the roaring water is deafening, that “shouting” is not to be taken personally. 


For example, “OMFG!” while dropping into a hole should never be interpreted by the paddler as, “You are an idiot!” The fragile-minded ego will most definitely go to that place, resulting in stony silence and disfigured facial expressions once safely back in the boat downriver. 


Rogue Paddling is a phenomenon that causes many guides to accidentally whack the offensive paddler with the paddle. While hitting is never ok, we are all wearing helmets and padded with Personal Flotation Devices. It definitely allows the guide to momentarily regain control of the craft. Rogue Paddling occurs when a paddler wants to prove that they really do understand how to read water and after the rapid can say, “Yeah, good thing I dug in when we were approaching that rock on the right.” 


Once the guide has established a route through the rapid, they need to tell their R-2 partner exactly when to paddle, how hard, how many times, and whether it is backward or forwards. This can change. For example: “Oh shit! BACK PADDLE!!!”


If the R-2 partner listens, rather than takes a moment to agree/disagree, they have a better chance of making it through the rapid safely. If the boat is now stuck on a rock, the guide must take full responsibility for this outcome, at which time the R-2 partner may begin feeling self-righteous. Oftentimes, the guide will then respond by allowing the partner to be in charge entering the next rapid. All smart ass remarks should be kept silent, so as to avoid a shouting match on the river or an embarrassing night of arguing while camping with other boaters. 


A great place to practice these skills might be in the safety of the home doing a small project. Rather than diving into the project and arguing throughout the process about who’s idea was the dumbest, and why one of us is bleeding, and whose fault it is that the door is now hanging too crooked to close, establish roles. One person is the “doer”, and the other person is the “fetcher.” The roles do not change throughout the project. There is no arguing or sharing of ideas unless the doer asks for an opinion. The phrase, “Can I just say something real quick…” should be avoided. Even after asking an opinion, the doer is still in charge of the actual act. The fetcher runs to the garage, to Lowe’s, to the medicine cabinet, holds things in place and hands over the requested tools. When a surgeon is working, the tech hands the tools. The tech never ever argues with the surgeon over how the kidney should be held and certainly never ever takes the tools out of the surgeon’s hands because they think they can do it better. Even if they can. That discussion occurs afterward when the couple stands together gazing at the mess. This is when the fetcher can safely point out disparities, which the doer must quietly receive. 


On the river the consequences are much bigger. If ego is involved, somebody is ending up in the drink, and depending on the danger levels of the river, that could also include a bad swim in a recirculating hole that ends in drowning. This will also challenge the person remaining in the boat to determine whether it is worth it to get their partner back in the boat for an argument or leave them to the Samaritan in the next raft (see previous note on arguing in camp).




Good luck on the river, and remember, you need a life partner with whom you can go to war. Giving birth, managing children, building, fixing, creating, and dealing with family, requires a team with great communication where vulnerability replaces ego. 

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