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One Love, Two Sports: Finding Middle Ground With Your Partner

Above Photo: Backcountry Employees Kipp Schorr and Ashley Tucker
Photo By: Re Wikstrom

In relationships, it’s often our differences that make us appreciate each other. He may appreciate your gregarious personality while you appreciate his cool, calm collectedness. When it comes to serious recreating and outdoor passions, however, sometimes those differences can cause tension or resentment.

You may both love to ski, but while you want to hike up, he’d rather ride a lift. You may both rock climb, but he may be climbing 5.13 and you’d be stoked to conquer 5.9. The gap can present itself in a hundred different ways, often ending in someone feeling inadequate or less important than the other person’s chosen sport.

But if we’ve learned one thing from extreme sports, it’s that no gap is too wide to do a front-flip edge grab over—so here are some tips:

  1. Encourage, don’t pressure! This is a two-way street. Pressuring your partner to recreate harder or more often in your favorite sport can create distance and cause hurt or possibly guilty feelings. Nagging and whining to NOT do said sport is the other side of the coin. Use gentle, positive language and prepare yourself to be OK with the response. “Sweetie, because I want to spend time with you, I’d love to climb some more mellow stuff if you’d like to come climb with me this weekend” feels a lot different than, “You’re never going to improve just climbing easy routes in the gym. Let’s do El Cap this weekend! No? Then I’ll be back on Sunday at midnight. Bye!” Just like, “Sugarlips, I would love to spend some time with you this weekend. Can we have a date night on Saturday?” sounds different than, “GAWD, you’re going climbing AGAIN?! When are you ever going to spend time with ME!?”
  2. Stop resenting an activity that brings joy to your partner’s life. You’re with your partner for a reason, which I hope includes being happy together and feeling good about each other. Support each other because you want your partner to be happy. A happy partner will bring positive vibes and good energy to a relationship.
  3. It’s good to have time apart, it’s good to have different interests, and it’s good to be different people. Celebrate your differences! People (myself included) can easily fall into routines where they spend all their free time with their partners, excluding other people. If this situation occurs—maybe your partner goes off to climb Kilimanjaro or ski the Grand—you might feel left behind with nothing to do. Foster your own interests; create your own joy. Be open to new experiences. You’ll bring this to your relationship and make it stronger.
  4. Put “together” time on the calendar and cultivate interests you do have in common. Call special attention to your commonalities and celebrate them as much as the differences.
  5. Talk about it. Tell each other how you feel. Without open communication… well… you have bigger problems. Talk to your active friends about it. How do they bridge the gap? Put what you and your partner are trying to do out there. You’ll be surprised what comes back.
  6. Use resources available to you. In this age of technology, there’s a wonderful resource for finding people that want to do what you want to do. Meetup.com has many different interest groups at all levels of skill. It takes a little courage to go to that first meet-up, but trust me, it’s well worth the butterflies.
  7. Think BIG PICTURE and be supportive. Again, you want your partner to be happy, and you want to be happy. It may be uncomfortable to watch that big-mountain ski comp from a snow drift, but she’ll love you for it, just like you’ll love her for finding you that Star Trek The Next Generation bike jersey.

Yin and Yang, sun and moon, peanut butter and jelly—it’s the contrasts in life that make it interesting. Be together, be happy, be supportive, and *Picard voice* ENGAGE!

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