A while ago I wrote a “Guide to Outdoor Dating” for those of us romping around in the backcountry all free and unattached. In the article, I passed on my ideas for picking a good activity to kindle your casual romances with outdoors-types. Everything evolves, though, so recently I’ve been thinking of ways to keep that no-longer-casual romance going and make sure that it’s still all fun and sexy-like, while keeping your relationship with the outdoors as solid as ever. Oh, and while keeping the actual relationship solid as well.
We all know that it can be challenging to be romantically involved with a person who has interests that take him or her out into the backcountry for days or weeks at a time, not to mention ones that take up all the garage space so you have no room for your own outdoors toys. Not only that, but outdoor sports sometimes seem to go hand in hand with social ineptitude. Take heart, though; not all outdoorsy folks are hopeless in love. So if you’re dating an outdoorsperson, read on for my ideas about how to make sure everything stays harmonious and happy.
What to do:
1. Let each other be better at stuff. If your SO is tops at climbing, let him just go on with his bad self. It’s not his fault he’s one of only three people on the planet who can climb that route, so why resent him for his success? Just deal with the fact that you’ll be climbing at 1/118th his prowess, forever. And if you’re lucky enough to be dating the women’s mountain bike world champion of the world, just accept that she’s going to be faster, better, and stronger than you as long as you both shall live. You should not only go with this disparity, but embrace it. Love the fact that your partner kicks ass at something. Brag about him or her and show off your other half’s skills whenever you can. Male or female, they love that shit.
2. Learn to enjoy your other half’s sport, if you can. Whether you are better or worse at it than they are, you have to just accept that they spend a lot of time doing it and if you ever want to see them, you’d better get used to joining in. Sometimes this means that you’re clinging for your life to the side of an inflatable raft on some Class One Million rapids, other times this has you desperately hoping for a bike seat that comes infused with industrial-grade numbing gel if your SO likes to partake of century bike rides; other days you’re looking for the brain bleach as your beloved drones on for the 4th straight hour about what wax is most appropriate for the nuances of cross country skiing that day. You might want to douse this person with a different kind of wax and subject them to a full-body hair removal just for revenge, but don’t do that. This is the person you love and you’ll just have to learn to enjoy whatever it is that your dearest likes to do. That, or you’ll have to tolerate it. Or, let them do it without you. Your choice.
3. While you’re doing that sport, learn not to complain. No one likes a whiner. You won’t impress your beloved by bitching and complaining as you’re trying to spend time together. If your other half really enjoys the sport you’re verbally eviscerating, it’s bound to drive a wedge between you.
4. Try something new, together. If you both suck at something, how can you lose? As we discussed in Guide to Outdoor Dating, sometimes flailing at a new sport can be sexy and fun. This can be especially useful when you’re getting into that “know each other too well” stage, which I will NOT call the “boring” stage, no, not at all. But when you need to spice things up, hey, pick something you know nothing about, like big-wave kiting, glacier surfing, spelunking, or polar exploration, and learn it together.
5. Go easy on your newbie partner. So he’s never climbed above 5,000 feet before. Does this mean you should berate him, sigh heavily, act impatient, or mock him for having a bit of trouble on that final pitch on Denali? Hey, that is rhetorical. Of course not! You should worship your partner for being willing to hang it all out in the death zone just to spend time with you. So he or she has a tough time keeping up at first, so what? You can afford to take it easy for a bit, or, better yet, hone your own ability by teaching your beloved some new skills. Teaching can be a great way to learn something new about your own sport, and teaching well can be a fantastic way to catapult your relationship into the stratosphere of nuclear-level attraction. And believe me, EVERYONE benefits from that.
What NOT to do:
1. Compete. Oh for the sake of this person you allegedly love, don’t attempt to compete with them while partaking of the joys of outdoor sports. No relationship survives competition. There’s a reason that most animals don’t mate for life, and that’s competition – those giant bull moose are known to kill each other while battling for a mate, so don’t kill your relationship by battling for bragging rights. If you ate shit on that kicker while your dearest caught sixty feet of soaring air and then wrapped up the day by farming the very last untouched powder on the mountain, don’t pout because you got schooled. Cheer your partner on, because those victories are yours as well. Because you’re a partnership, right? And their victories are your victories? Right?
2. Pressure. If your beloved balks at a camp task, is gripped tight by a scary traverse, is sick of the bad weather and wants to go home, finally admits that s/he doesn’t actually enjoy white water kayaking, or thinks that being the first couple to ride recumbent bikes to the highest point of each of the fifty states is a totally stupid idea, you should probably just accept this and drop it instead of trying to win them over to your plan. No one loves the jackass that drags them deeper into an epic and absolutely never does consigning your unwilling partner to several months of hare-brained pursuit of an obscure outdoor record make for a forever after moment.
3. Misrepresent your skills. I covered this in Guide to Outdoor Dating, but it’s worth another mention. Sooner or later everyone’s lies are brought to light, and this includes everything we do to convince our mate that we are really the badass we want to be. When this person is someone you consider to be a soulmate, will it do any good to pretend you know how to fix that flat tire when you really don’t? Or that you know the route to the winter hut that promises shelter on this subzero night when really you’ve never laid eyes on the place? No. It doesn’t. Just be honest from the start and you’ll have a much better time.
It’s worth pointing out that this one sometimes goes along with Item #2, Pressure. Sometimes the Fake Skills are trotted out in an attempt to convince a balking partner that Everything Will Be Okay Because I Know What I’m Doing. This doesn’t work, because not only will you fail, but your beloved will witness every excruciating second of your fail. You don’t want that.
4. Obsess. Try not to be one of those people who lives for Sport A or who gets night sweats when they can’t spend time practicing Sport B every single day. Don’t drag your sport along on your romantic vacation and insist that your darling keep himself company while you scamper off your your 19 mile run, triathlon practice, or six hours of climbing drills. I mean it; I respect people who are good athletes but let’s be real here, if you truly spend the majority of your life working out; documenting your workouts; tracking your heart rate, diet, size and consistency of your bowel excretions; assessing your training plan; stressing over your next race (unless it’s the Olympics, just chill, people); examining every piece of equipment over and over again (and talking about it over and over again); or freaking out because you missed a ride, run, swim, climb, or ski; what are you left with at the end of the day (and by that I mean, at the end of your life)? If you are lucky enough to be in a good, solid, loving, rewarding relationship, treat it like you would the World Championships and pay attention to it. Give it as much attention as you give to your outdoors obsession. When you’re 80, which would you want by your side – this person, or your collection of training logs? Your choice.
5. Drag your partner everywhere, to every event, on every outing. OK, so this might seem contradictory, but there is a fine line between involving your dearest in all aspects of your life, and turning them into an accessory to your every adventure. Introduce your love to your passion, sure – “darling, this is skiing; skiing, this is the love of my life” – but if he or she is not eager to attend every single meeting of you and your favorite activity, then just go with it and let them have their space to do their own thing. Believe it or not, not every person wants to ski 210 days a year (and if YOU do, please see item number 4, above). Don’t force your partner to be your cheering section for every event. Incredibly enough, it’s not that exciting to attend races in which you only see your partner pass by every hour or so as she flies through through to start another lap. Spare your loved ones this torture and allow them to go do something else if they want. Don’t guilt them into spending their evenings patiently sitting in the parking lot, surrounded by strangers, only to see your grimacing, suffering face pass by every so often. It’s nice to be supported, but you can do it on your own, most times. Really. Try to ask for in-person race support only for those really important races (and not ALL of them are that important, believe me). And if the weekend comes along and your partner is not so big on your new adventure plan? If your other half doesn’t want to go along, be cool and either pass up the outing or go on your own without complaint.
So there you have it. My two guides to dating; one to attract new blood and another to keep it around Forever and Always. I hope one of these two articles works for you.