Turning Your Spouse into a Buddy

By Carolyn Pascal-Guarino

Love, passion and commitment are pretty strong sentiments, usually reserved for that special person in your life. I say “usually” because I hear those emotions expressed just as often (if not more) when divers talk about their sport!

Now it’s pretty silly to be jealous of a sport…or is it? Time, money and lots of enthusiasm are focused in one direction or another. Then add daydreaming, planning and actually getting up and going (sometimes to the other side of the globe) to pursue the ultimate adventure. Suddenly, you begin to see where conflicts of interest may arise.

After years of encountering this conflict among couples at dive resorts, not to mention my own dinner table, I have assembled a list of DOs and DON’Ts for divers who wish to turn their significant others into dive buddies.

DON’T be a self-appointed dive instructor to your loved one.

Not only is it unsafe, but it puts additional pressure on everyone involved. Did you ever try to teach a family member how to drive? Then you know what I mean. That’s why there are professionals, to do what they do best.

DO discuss the options. A vacation resort course is a great way for beginners to get their feet wet. It is the most basic type of instruction, and it is a safe, introductory way to get you hooked. A key element at this point is confidence in the dive center and instructor. Beneath all the anxious anticipation should be a feeling of trust and good communication.

Some dive centers are beginning to offer a Passport Diver Program, where every resort dive is logged and recognized at other dive resorts. These dives also count toward an open water certification. This is a wonderful interim step between a traditional resort course and an open water certification.

When your buddy is ready for full certification, he can enroll in a class offered through a local dive store, on vacation or both. Ask your local dive store about a referral to complete the open water check-out dives on vacation.

DO stress the fun! Work is supposed to feel like work. Play is not. If the morning instruction in the pool was enough for one day, don’t force the afternoon dives. This might be the perfect time to grab your mask, fins and snorkel and poke around offshore. Getting comfortable with looking underwater, kicking effortlessly and communing with the fish can be quite an accomplishment in itself (surely you divers can remember those feelings).

DON’T push your luck. OK, so far so good. Your new buddy is cautiously optimistic, and you are thrilled. Refrain from your usual repertoire of “sharks won’t bother you, but…” stories. Seeing the wall at 130 feet is not necessary today—clear ears, neutral buoyancy and learning to communicate underwater are.

Many people I speak to will never dive because their first experience was so uncomfortable. What’s so disturbing is that nine times out of 10 they had a problem clearing their ears or felt claustrophobic because of a poorly fitting mask. The fact that these relatively minor problems are quite common and usually easy to correct is often not addressed. The potential dive enthusiast goes away shaking his head and thinking he has failed. If your prospective buddy turns against the sport, make sure it’s for a good reason, such as they hate water, sun or fun. Don’t turn them off to diving because they ran out of air trying to keep up.

DO bridge the gap. So we’ve been diving forever and can look cool under any circumstance. Can you remember when you didn’t? There are lots of people (and videos) out there to remind you—bicycle kicks to keep you buoyant, dragging gauges—about bad technique. Well, hopefully your buddy is a few steps ahead of that, but can they catch up to you? One way to help is for you to take a few steps back. Take up a diving activity where you once again have that “beginner” feeling. Dive with a still or video camera to document your buddy’s adventures. It might take a year or two, but you’re now engaged in a real team effort and will have exciting images to share with your friends.

DON’T take it personally. It’s hurricane season, and the sun is not out. Visibility is two feet instead of the promised 200. There are no schooling Hammerheads, whale sightings or even Manta Rays today. I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s not your fault. You planned everything you could. They know that. Hopefully you chose a destination and resort that indulges your buddy’s other interests. If you want to get out in six-foot seas and freeze, go for it. Buddies need to know when to disconnect, so that their evening re-union will be a happy one. There is life after diving.

DO remember the golden rule. It’s easy to forget when you’re in a position of strength. Be the buddy you wish your spouse to be,
and here’s to diving happily
ever after.