The New Wifestyle Profile | Cari

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hi friends! it’s been a minute since featuring some awesome women sharing insight into their marriage and how they are living the new wifestyle! i have cari sharing with us today and she has been married for more than 30 years! she shares how initially she had to be pretty assertive to gain that equal partnership but it was well worth it and their marriage is stronger because of it. they have had quite the adventures together, navigating the highs and lows. thank you for sharing with us today cari and glad you have both figured out how to paddle that canoe of life and marriage together!

cari corbet-owen is a clinical psychologist and health coach.  her special interests are weight, body and helping people live longer and stronger lives.

“Paddling My Wifestyle Canoe”

I had a pretty serious 4 year relationship, but was coerced into meeting “this pharmacist friend of mine that is made for you” by a pesky friend.  I didn’t like him initially but I hadn’t bargained on his persistence.  We landed up marrying before the year was out and 30 years later I know I could never have found someone I’d rather negotiate life with.

I grew up knowing that marriage was something you didn’t just toss to one side when the going got rough.  I also knew that my father’s needs took precedence. I wanted a lot of what my parents had but a more equal partnership.  In the early years I often had to be really assertive about fore fronting my needs.

the new wifestyle profile cari

My wifestyle includes loads of mindfulness around the small and the ordinary, honoring my strengths and my independence.  We do a lot together, but we do just as much apart. He runs daily, sometimes I go with on my bicycle.  I build quirky places out of mud, he helps me with the roofs.  We ski together for a few runs and then go off and do our own thing before meeting up again.  We take turns choosing what to do for our joint vacations.

Our rule:  if I do the choosing he has to do it willingly and with joy, and vice versa. I often vacation without him, and he without me – like the time I went to a natural building course in Hawaii or the time he travelled to Spain without me because I didn’t want to leave my fledgling business. We’ve both run our own businesses, made our own decisions, but jumped in to help the other when we needed to.

Our, do-it-together, do-it-apart style, has worked for us through crisis too. It’s been about allowing the canoe we’re negotiating the rapids in, to bump from one bank to the other without getting stuck on any one bank, taking turns to steer and paddle and sometimes both putting our oars into the water during very turbulent times.

Like the time we travelled around the world and had our ‘everything’ – and I do mean everything stolen.  Initially it was my turn to paddle the raft and keep us on a sensible path, then it was his.  Using our combined paddling skills, and working with the police, we retrieved everything (!) except for $50 and my running shoes.

Or the period we had multiple miscarriages and lost 5 children. It took daily paddling, bank bumping and turns at paddling and steering, for our raft to stay afloat, and emerge steadier and sturdier.  When it came to picking up the puzzle pieces of my life and finding a new me, he stood by as I paddled my own canoe. I know that had my mother decided to cut off all hair, change her signature, throw out her business suits (not that she ever had any), high heels and makeup, my father would have had a fit.  I forged a new identity that no longer included ‘mother,’ and he stood by without dipping his oars into my waters and supported me as I chose to go back to school to study.

cari the new wifestyle profile

Or the time we packed up our life on one continent (Africa), sold everything and left for another (America) with just bicycles, a computer and bag of clothes. We found an apartment together, then he stayed while I went backwards and forwards for months at a time to run my business over three years before fully moving myself.

We’ve flowed and paddled jointly and separately through the rapids whether it was when he had a brain hemorrhage,  or was diagnosed with prostate cancer; or when I had a work crisis and near nervous breakdown. It’s been about keeping our canoe upright, sometimes getting out to portage around obstacles and mostly knowing when to dip our oars into each other’s waters.

Humor has often been our paddling tool, as has appreciation for small things.  My wifestyle is one of actively noticing and appreciating the multiple small things he does that I hate to do.  Things like filling up my car with gas, or fetching the mail, cleaning the grill or doing the housework (things neither his or my father never did).  It’s like he’s paddled his canoe into waters he knows I don’t like and delivered me a personal love note.

He never tries to paddle my canoe and I don’t try to paddle his.  But if I told him I wanted to take my canoe to the moon, he’d be there cheering me on.


What are the tactics you use that allow you to negotiate a relationship of mutual respect and allowing each other space and time?

What are the small tactics that keep your canoe afloat?

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  1. Audrey

    April 27, 2016 at 6:37 am

    WOW! What a strong woman and what a strong marriage- they’ve both been through so much! I love her message about separate canoes. Same stream, different boats, different paces, but always supporting one another! What an adventure! I’m so glad she shared with you & us!
    Audrey recently posted…Our Life in Numbers

    • Cari

      April 27, 2016 at 8:09 am

      Hi Audrey – thank you. Same stream, own canoes at times and a double canoe at others has certainly worked in our favor. But it’s quite interesting because when I ‘left’ him in America and returned to my business in South Africa for months at a time, I had a number of people who thought it was a very unwise move. But some marriages do well with space and ours happens to be one of them.

  2. Nina @ Hugs and Lattes

    April 27, 2016 at 6:37 am

    I love this analogy of paddling a canoe, and how you both have supported each other throughout life’s ups and downs!
    Nina @ Hugs and Lattes recently posted…10 Signs It’s Finally Spring

    • Cari

      April 27, 2016 at 8:19 am

      Thanks Nina – we’ve been so fortunate to discover a style of tackling life’s challenges in a way that strengthens our togetherness. Because challenges there will be and it’s often at these points when marriages start to crumble. When we had our multiple losses a magazine printed a small article, and as a result, I landed up corresponding with over 400 women and men around the world. It was tragic enough that they had endured an often heart-breaking loss (or multiple), but it was even more tragic how many of them landed up divorcing because of the stresses and strains. So learning how to handle the ups and downs in whatever style works for your particular marriage is such a valuable wifestyle skill.

  3. Jennifer Haston

    April 27, 2016 at 6:45 am

    What an inspiring story! Thank you for this advice.
    We have been married for almost 5 years and I feel that our marriage grows stronger through the years, and I feel it is only now that I am starting to really know my husband and what we can to to have a better marriage.
    What are the tactics you use that allow you to negotiate a relationship of mutual respect and allowing each other space and time? Good question. I used to get really hung up on us doing ALL things together but now I enjoy the things we do together and the things we do apart. It doesn’t threaten our relationship, it strengthens it.

    What are the small tactics that keep your canoe afloat? Things I have learned to do are working the aspects of his love language and not always looking for credit. It took me almost 5 years to get that one down.

    • Cari

      April 27, 2016 at 8:25 am

      Jennifer, I love how you recognize that it’s only now that you’re starting to really know your husband. I remember that around the 7-year mark, I felt as if I’d fallen out of love with my husband. But when I really teased it apart and examined it, what I discovered was that I was buying into cultural hoo-hah about ‘forever feeling that dizzy being in love’ feeling and instead our marriage had moved to a new and deeper place of comfort and ease. Having said that I do still wake up and look across at his sleeping face and think how deeply I love this man. And I love how you’re speaking his love language – he does that for me by doing the things I hate, I try to do the same for him. But I really love that reminder. Thanks for that.

  4. Elyse

    April 27, 2016 at 7:09 am

    What an awesome lady and incredible story! So much good advice here but I especially love, “actively noticing and appreciating the multiple small things he does that I hate to do.” I think that’s the key to the success in my marriage as well.

  5. Cari

    April 27, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Thanks Elyse…we ALL have so much awesomeness and I love that you also find the small act of noticing and appreciating so powerful. It’s so easy for a relationship to head off the rails when we focus on all the things that the other isn’t doing but I’ve found over the years that the power of many small appreciations is like super-glue and the very best way to be appreciated in return!

  6. Paula Howley

    April 27, 2016 at 11:11 am

    I loved your story Cari. Sounds like you are a determined woman who knows what she wants and then goes after it! I love how you observed what your mom had and decided right off the bat you wanted more. I felt the same way growing up but wasn’t able to articulate it for a long time.

    What are the tactics you use that allow you to negotiate a relationship of mutual respect and allowing each other space and time?

    I use a lot of passive aggressive whining and crying. lol jk Actually, I haven’t thought about it in those terms before. My husband and I are experiencing the most turbulent time in our relationship right now and I find writing to him is helpful to me. It helps me say what I want to say without losing my cool and losing it emotionally. I am also getting better at saying what I need. I still think our relationship is skewed towards his needs and I don’t like that but we are taking steps to change it. It’s hard.

    What are the small tactics that keep your canoe afloat?
    Well, he just went out to get cream for my coffee. Stuff like that helps a lot. Small things for each other- noticing the efforts. KIssing deeply. That helps a lot too. lol
    Thanks for your share Cari. I love your courage and conviction.
    Paula Howley recently posted…Coming out of the Stripper Closet

    • Cari

      April 27, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      HI Paula – yeah, sometimes those waves sure can get rocky and a bit tricky and turbulent to negotiate. And I want to set the record straight – I am pretty determined, but I also married possibly one of the nicest, most solid and decent men around. He is really awesome. Not quite sure how I managed to pull that off as I sure brought home some ‘interesting’ choices before him:) And it wasn’t his fault either that in his world husbands needs came before wife – that was the culture we both grew up in. Like you I often found writing helps – I particularly LOVE the love letter template from John Gray (author or Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus). As a psychologist I can’t tell you how many clients I suggested try it. I also found that writing playful stories about tough topics was also really helpful. And remembering those small ‘coffee cream getting moments’ when things are really tough is so helpful. Good luck keeping that canoe upright through these turbulent waters. The possible upside is coming out on the other side stronger.