You’ll Never Guess How Marriage Is Like a Canoe Trip

Surprisingly, marriage is a lot like a canoe trip. Here are 10 ways the analogy can help you and your spouse! 

Earlier this week, I surprised my husband Aaron with an overnight getaway to Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania. The trip was intended to strengthen our marriage (this alone is a different post for a different day), but our two days away centered around all sorts of outdoorsy activities.

To clarify, Aaron loves outdoor activities … and I love indoor activities. But I wanted to treat him to two days of hiking and a long canoe trip.

To further clarify, we’ve known each other for 15 years and have never canoed together; in fact, I haven’t been in a canoe for about 25 years. I thought it would be a fun surprise, though.

My husband was surprised by our trip, and he loved it – and appreciated my thoughtful planning.

Surprisingly, marriage is a lot like a canoe trip. Here are 10 ways the analogy can help you and your spouse!  

The reality of our canoe trip

When it came time for our canoe ride, I was excited, thinking it would be a fun paddle down the Clarion River.

Oh, there was so much I had forgotten about canoeing.

For starters, because of a lack of rain, the river was incredibly shallow. That meant we had to navigate around rocks – both sticking out of the water and right underneath the surface. We also had to dodge tourists lounging in inner tubes that dotted the river.

As I sat in the front of the canoe and paddled, I realized fairly quickly that I didn’t love canoeing. (This was not so shocking to me.)

  • My arms began to hurt.
  • I needed to look out for rocks that we needed to steer around, but it was hard to spy them.
  • When we got in dicey spots, I didn’t like my husband telling me where to paddle – even though I had no clue what to do. (Funny how stubborn selfishness is so obvious at times.)
  • My back got sore.
  • I was feeling a little tired of stressing out about avoiding the rocks and inner tubers. (As a side note, if you’re ever floating on an inner tube in the middle of a river, watch out for canoes. Non-canoers like me may be inside, and it can be challenging to accurately steer.)

But as I sat there in our four-mile trip, I began noticing a lot of similarities to marriage. I’m not typically one to wax poetic, but my observations helped remind me of truths about marriage. I thought my analogies might be helpful to you, too.

Surprisingly, marriage is a lot like a canoe trip. Here are 10 ways the analogy can help you and your spouse!

10 ways marriage is like a canoe trip

1. For starters, you’re both in the same canoe together.

You’ve signed on to take a trip through life – for the rest of your lives – together. Don’t think about jumping out of the canoe mid-stream, because your partner is counting on you.

As you’re in your marriage canoe, remember that both people are needed for the trip.

One person may do a lot of the work at points, and the other person may need to do a lot of the work at other points, but you both need each other to get through your trip.

You’re not journeying solo in a kayak. The trip is made a lot harder if only one person is doing all of the work.

2. Similarly, a canoe trip is made a lot harder if each person is doing their own thing and not paying attention to what the other rower is doing.

On our trip, there were times when I wanted to paddle on a certain side of the canoe, but it was taking us in a different direction than my husband was paddling. Instead of getting somewhere, we were stuck in one spot, not making much progress. It wasn’t until we worked together that we actually made our way down the river.
Surprisingly, marriage is a lot like a canoe trip. Here are 10 ways the analogy can help you and your spouse!

3. Somebody has to lead.

During our trip, I didn’t have the slightest idea how to canoe effectively. Naively I thought we’d just have to paddle, but as rocks and rapids came into view, I didn’t know how to navigate through them. So I listened to my husband’s guidance. Sometimes it got on my nerves – but I did it anyway, without complaining.

I realized that in submitting to his leading, our trip went much smoother and quicker than it could have. (Oh wives, please encourage your husband to lead! And not with words, but with your attitude and actions.)

We did get stuck a couple times. But when we did, he was quick to jump out of the canoe and push us out. He may have been willing to do that no matter what, but I think that he was more encouraged to do that because I treated him like the leader of our canoe.

If I had fought and resisted his judgment, we both would have been upset, and our canoe trip wouldn’t have been so smooth.

4. Communication is essential.

I’m not a mind reader. And neither is my husband. So when we were paddling down the river and I felt pretty clueless, he needed to tell me what to do. In rough waters, I heard a lot of “Paddle to your left! Your left! … Paddle to your right! Paddle to your left again!” Without him communicating his strategy, I wouldn’t have known what his intentions were.

Similarly, when I spied obstacles up ahead, I yelled back to him so he could make a good decision to guide us out of harm’s way. We might not have completely understood what the other one noticed, so we both needed each other’s communication.

5. Canoeing is hard work. (So is marriage.)

There’s no just floating around like you’re in an inner tube. You’re both paddling, as a team. There are times when the ride is easier than others, but overall it takes effort from both people.
Surprisingly, marriage is a lot like a canoe trip. Here are 10 ways the analogy can help you and your spouse!

6. Sometimes, the trip is easy.

In life, like in a canoe, the water may be calm and you simply float along together and enjoy the scenery. The water may steadily move you along and you can feel you’re moving faster – but everything’s still problem-free. Take a deep breath, hold on to your paddle, thank the Lord, and enjoy the moment.

7. During other times, you notice potentially huge problems right below the surface.

As we were canoeing and I needed to look out for rocks, the water was clear and shallow enough to notice the bottom of the riverbed. Huge rocks were everywhere. Some were enormous and flat. Others almost seemed like they would definitely create a problem, but our canoe floated by, unscathed.

In those moments, we knew what could trip us up. So we tried to avoid obstacles, pray that we’d make in through, and were very grateful for the problem-free canoeing.

8. At other times, little issues may make bigger problems than you expect.

What seemed to be small, passable rocks ended up stalling our canoe trip. When the small rocks created a problem, we tried to quickly steer around them. But when we got stuck, it took both of us – and all of our energy – to struggle to break free. We used our paddles to unwedge our canoe and get back to our trip. And in just a couple cases, my husband got out and pushed us back on course.
Surprisingly, marriage is a lot like a canoe trip. Here are 10 ways the analogy can help you and your spouse!

9. During your trip together, you’ll see some huge rocks threaten your peace.

You may only see the boulders from a distance and know they’re there. You may have close calls where they end up scratching your canoe badly enough to leave marks. And sometimes, the boulders – major life crises – end up damaging your canoe. You never know when tragedies will strike, but sometimes you see them coming – and they’re unavoidable.

Remember that you’re facing them together.

10. Finishing the canoe trip is an accomplishment.

Throughout good times and bad – in rough waters and in smooth sailing – if you faithfully keep working together, you’ll reach your destination. Once you’re there, celebrate! You’ll know that you did it together – and that you needed each other to finish the trip.

If you’ve been blessed with marriage, how have you noticed it’s a lot like a canoe trip?

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All images courtesy of Unsplash.

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this insightful article, it is so evident that God has called you to minister in such a special way. My oldest son is soon to be married to lovely young woman, and I have so many things on my heart I want to share with them both but when I read your article it just summed it all up! My husband and I will celebrate our 37th anniversary a week after their marriage, and yes marriage takes work and constant tending to, but to see it all through and get to your sunset years with the one you have spent your life with ,made your family, created so many wonderful memories with and hopefully you’ll have the honor and privilege to care for one another to God calls you home, there could be no greater reward on earth!

  2. This metaphorical article is awesome!! I intend to use its points with a couple i am about to conduct a ceremony for in June. Thank you for the timely inspiration…it will be quite appropriate for them. God bless your work. GD

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