What should you do if your partner is too afraid to go on a trip with you? In this case, a scuba trip, of which OP's partner is terrifed.
slowbeach asked Reddit: I [27m] surprised my partner [23f] with a cool scuba diving experience for her birthday. She ended up being too anxious to do it, so she had to watch me enjoy her birthday present without her. Now I feel like crap, how can I fix this?
Advice from Redditors helped fix the situation; maybe it can help you if this ever happens.
Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.
My partner birthday was a fortnight ago. She's brought up several times how cool it would be to dive with sharks, so this year for her birthday I stretched financially surprised her with two tickets to do a scuba dive at an aquarium where you can experience swimming with sharks and stingrays. She was pumped!
The deal is you arrive on the day, and they teach you everything you need to know to scuba dive. After a 45 minute safety presentation, we put on the gear and got into the main aquarium tank on a metal ledge to practice our scuba diving skills (clearing regulator, clearing mask) before diving down to the bottom of the main aquarium tank.
After putting on the gear, I noticed my partner was anxious so I tried to comfort her by holding her hand and being close to her. When we get into the water, the instructors started letting us go underwater to learn how it feels to use the regulator to breathe and learn the basic skills.
At this point I noticed my partner had been taken to the side by one of the other instructors, who looked like they were trying to calm her down. I kept looking over to try and see what was happening, but my instructor told me I needed to pay attention to what I was learning or I wouldn't be able to dive, so I did.
5 minutes later, I then noticed my partner and the other instructor were swimming around by themselves and my heart sank. I knew at this point my partner had decided the experience was too uncomfortable for her and she was panicky and she did not want to proceed. The other instructor was trying to let my partner see some of the wildlife anyway before she got out of the tank.
At this point I had to decide whether to proceed without my partner or not. I felt terrible proceeding without her (because this was supposed to be for _her_ birthday!), but knew that it would make my partner feel even worse if I didn't do the experience because she would have felt like she 'fucked it up for the both of us'.
I ended up doing the dive, and it was a sad experience without my partner. The whole time I could only really think about how this was wrong, and I couldn't fully enjoy the experience. The worst part was that by this time my partner had changed back into her clothes and was on the other side of the aquarium wall, and we were waving to each other and she was taking photos of me etc. I just felt pity for her :(
After the experience I met up with her, she asked me to tell her all about it and how it was, I just said it was good then I tried to change the subject because I didn't want her to focus on what she missed out on. I told her let's go get some food and do whatever you want for the rest of the day.
She kept apologizing for how she was 'too chicken' and how she ruined everything and wasted my money, and that once she felt panicked she didn't feel comfortable being underwater. I told her that everything was okay, I just felt terrible because I got to do this experience and she didn't and that I was sorry and that I completely understood and there was no way to know how you will feel about things before you're actually doing them.
Reddit I feel terrible about this. I love her so much and was trying to give her a once in a lifetime experience that would be magical for her and she could look back on fondly, but it just ended up with both of us feeling like crap apologising to one another. I don't even feel like looking at the pictures she took of me. How can I make this better?
tl;dr Suprised girlfriend with scuba diving experience for her birthday, she was too anxious to do it and ended up wistfully watching me do it and now I feel terrible. How can I make it better?
Her fears are not his fault.
You've gotta let it go. I've been your girlfriend, except with a caving/spelunking tour and it was our honeymoon not my birthday. I was totally not upset at all when I bailed, I was relieved I wouldn't have to go further. I was psyched he got to do it and really wanted to hear all about it. I took pictures while I could still see them and totally would have waved.
It seems like your girlfriend is chill and the last thing she might want is you making a big deal over her not going. There doesn't seem to be anything to make better.
It really is the thought that counts.
This is sweet. Try not to feel bad. You both sound like really kind thoughtful people.
I second this. OP, you and your SO shouldn't be beating yourself up over this because, in the end, you guys did all the best you could: for her, she tried out a new thing that she has never done before, and for you, you articulated a really special birthday present and executed it out yourself, something tbh many of us have only dreamed of doing.
With you being a new diver too, there isn't much you could do differently: 1) if you stop the dive for her, as you stated, she would definitely feel worse for "ruining it for both"; 2) you could not have been there with her because being a new diver yourself, you would need to be with your instructor for safety, and she should too. So by choosing to keep going like you did, you did the experience for her too and you could tell her about it, it isn't like you're bragging at all.
Tbh, if it is me in your position I would feel terrible too, but since I am an outsider I tell you this: feeling worse is not for the better of things. It is better to let this slide because, sometimes mishaps happen and it is not worth to keep going back to them.
I don't know about your SO, but may I bet that she is really eager to show you the pictures she took, of her BF who is able to scuba and get to see all the cool things underwater, and it is something not many people could perform but her BF can!
Edit: sorry I hijacked your top comment, OP of top comment! If you want, I'd move my text wall to a separate place.
Don't make her feel badly about her anxiety.
I am a scuba instructor. Her instructor handled it properly by still swimming with her so she could look around. I bet this helped calm her down a lot so she may not be totally against trying again one day.
It sounds like it was just a lot for her to take in, and it can be for some people if they have never dove before (this is why they have those introductory experiences!). Sometimes people need a few tries at it :) (and just as a quick PSA: you definitely don't learn everything you need to know to scuba dive or be a scuba diver in a one-hourish class - you just learn the basics of what you need to know to do a scuba experience dive, under direct supervision).
There is nothing for either of you to feel bad about it here. You gave a thoughtful gift. Neither of you had any way of knowing she would react as she did. Her instructor took time with her. She seemed to be happy you were still getting to have a good time. And I don't think just ignoring it is the answer either.
She asked you how it was, I think just avoiding talking about it - thinking you are protecting her - is the wrong answer. If you thought it was cool, tell her, and heck maybe she will want to try again one day. Maybe you will want to take your training further. But just changing the subject and pitying your girlfriend is not the answer here either. Its a bit infantilizing to be honest. It's okay to enjoy things even if your partner did not (or could not) participate in them.
It's only one thing. Move on.
There really isn't anything to make better? There is no need to apologize to each other. Hopefully you still can celebrate some other small way.
Address it and come up with a replacement plan.
I feel like you need to talk to her and stop shutting it down.
If I panicked like she did I would at the very least want to know what it was like and hope my boyfriend enjoyed it as much as possible. It would make me feel bad if you didn't.
So, talk to her and stop avoiding it, then ask her if she'd like to try something else, smaller, together. Take the pressure off and do something to start learning diving (or something else) together.
It's sweet that you're concerned and upset but talk to her about it, you can figure out a "do over" plan together
First time jitters are common.
Had she ever been scuba diving before? Because her reaction could be totally normal for someone who's never done it before and now there's all this pressure to have this magnificent experience.
Not your fault; your heart was in the right place but lesson learned. Some ideas are better than others. Better to "work up" to an experience like this next time.
All that was really lost was some money. You will make more.
Sometimes things dont work out.
A similar thing happened to me but with snorkeling. I felt bad because this was something that I really wanted to do. I couldn't enjoy the experience for more than 20mins because I got incredibly motion sick.
My fiance was hesitant about the experience but once he tried it he loved it. I felt bad not being able to do it with him and he didnt want to do it without me.
There wasn't a resolution because there wasnt anything we could do about it. I just felt bad that he couldn't explore it more because I felt really sick. I was disappointed in myself because I really wanted to do it and circumstances didnt allow me.
There was money wasted but the thought really counts. I just wouldn't bring it up again.
Since she didn't make it a big deal, you shouldn't either.
You sound incredibly kind and considerate to your partner. If she didn't express any negative feeling towards you about diving without her then just let it go. You did your best to make it a great day for her and it didn't work out unfortunately but you did nothing wrong. Hope you both feel better about the situation soon :)
Respect her willingness to say no, and let it go.
Why feel pity for her? She didn't want to do it and she didn't force herself to do it nor did she have a massive freakout. She knew it wasn't for her and pulled out. I'm proud of people who are brave enough to say no.
As for the present side of things, you did absolutely the best that you could with the information that you had. You gave her the perfect gift, something she had explicitly mentioned she wanted to do but unfortunately she just couldn't go through with it. You could get a small present to make up for it if you wanted but otherwise, just let it go. I bet she has.
Overall, it was a nice gesture. More opportunties will arise in the future.
What you did was sweet and she knows it, so no need to feel guilty. On the other hand, you could make things even better by making her another birthday present in the form of a magical day, something you are more sure she will love. It could be something romantic or something fun, you know better what she likes.
Try a dive without the sharks?
Maybe consider doing a regular dive with her another time? No sharks etc around. That might have freaked her out and she might be comfortable doing it without the deadly creatures. Lol. Then if she handles that well, see if she's interested in trying again.
Or maybe a training class?
I'd say spring for a certification course instead of another "we'll teach you just enough" day trip.
Or even just a Scuba Experience day in the pool. The shop I got my OW cert through let you pay by the class. The first class was super cheap, like under $25 per person including gear rental. If you liked it, you could take the rest of the classes to get certified. There was one guy that brought two or three different girls on dates to the first class (he was already AOW or higher). At least one went on to get her c-card.
This! I'm a Diver and it's an awful lot to get your head around. From breathing through a regulator, wearing heavy gear and then being in deep water too it's a lot to deal with. You can do discover scuba diving, which is the first PADI course, like an intro to diving. I completed mine in a swimming pool (no wildlife to panic about and a set shallow depth) and to be honest it took me a little while to get my head around it all. I'm advanced open water now and love it, it's just an expensive hobby!
Keep having fun and move on.
Okay, I'm gonna respond as a person who has done very similar things your girlfriend has done:
don't get her another gift to make up for it, she will feel worse because you had to spend more money on her. Instead, why not just make her a nice dinner or spend a very awesome day with her doing things she wants to do? That could definitely be an amazing way to make it up to her.
In my opinion, I think the best think you can do is to just be there for her and have fun every day you're with her. If she's upset about it, comfort her and explain how you feel openly, that it's not her fault at all and you don't feel mad or anything. It sucks she couldn't experience the present you got her, but just the fact you did that for her is enough.
I hope I'm making sense on this, if not then sorry! I have a hard time conveying shit through text.
Next time, ask.
This sucks all around, but there's really nothing you can do now. I've been in your girlfriend's situation (I have an anxiety condition that is generally well-managed but sometimes gets the best of me) and the worst part is that I tend to beat myself up about of after. I need a day or so to myself to really feel like shit and be angry at myself before I can get on with things. It's like it need to get it out of my system. If she's embarassed about it, it's probably best to not bring it up . Going forward, I wouldn't plan anything anxiety-proviking without having a conversation about it first though.
Listen, the fact that she has such a nice person as a partner is already really f*cking cool. You actually care about her feelings, and you're not shaming or blaming her for opting out of scuba. Neither of you have done anything wrong.
Good for her for having the smarts and self-esteem to opt out of something she wasn't ready for. And good for you for wanting her to be happy.