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How to Adventure with your Significant Other (And Still Like Each Other Afterward)

August 28, 2015

[First let me say that I am overwhelmed by the response to my post about how trails have changed my life. Thanks to all of you that shared your stories. Knowing that I’m among kindred spirits feels pretty darn good! XO, Jen]

A video came across my Facebook feed this morning from the folks at Dakine that had me crying tears of laughter right into my coffee. The video follows the exploits of a young couple, stereotypical gender roles reversed, out “enjoying” a day on mountain bikes. If you haven’t seen the video, you can watch it here:

If you have spent any amount of time in the outdoors with a significant other, a lot of this probably looks pretty familiar.

The meltdown this guy has at 1:20 looks a whole lot like when I threw down my camera gear and cried at Kalalau and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “your hands wouldn’t hurt if you didn’t brake so much!” while out on the bike. I don’t think I’m nearly as whiney as this guy (dear god, I hope I’m not!) but there is a whole lot of truth in this video.

At first I thought it was just us. I thought that every other couple was surely out having blissful adventures together and then recounting the day’s shenanigans over beers, just like in those Mich Ultra commercials that they show during the Tour de France. You know what I’m talking about, right? The commercials that show smiling, fit-looking people out recreating with members of the opposite sex who are presumably their significant others and then happily celebrating with a cold Mich Ultra afterwards? I can tell you from experience that those are not an accurate depiction of reality (and we know this is true because no one looks that happy while drinking Mich Ultra).

Anyway, the point that I’m trying to make is that adventuring with your significant other is hard. And while I know many couples that seem to have it figured out, I know just as many that say yeah, not us. And that’s ok. What matters isn’t that you’re out riding or hiking or skiing with your partner. What matters is that you’re out riding or hiking or skiing at all. And that what you’re doing is working for everyone. And that everyone is happy.

But just because I think it’s totally ok to do your own thing doesn’t mean that I don’t have some advice for those of you who are hellbent on hitting the trail with your significant other. Want some unsolicited advice on how to keep everyone happy? Read on!

Be honest about what you’re getting them into. This is a big one. Don’t try to trick your spouse/domestic partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/friend-with-benefits into thinking that your adventure is going to be something that it isn’t. Don’t tell them that the ride will be easy if you know it is going to be hard and don’t, for the love of god, tell them that something won’t be technical if it will. A little bit of warning goes a long way. And keep in mind that what is easy for you might not be easy for them. And vice versa.

Set all expectations early. Are you going to wait for them? Do they want you to wait for them? How far apart is too far apart? Talk about all this stuff before you go. Some people desperately want their riding partners to wait for them at regular intervals. For me, it’s demoralizing and makes me feel bad. I’d rather you go ahead and do your own thing so I can focus on doing mine. Figure out what your partner wants and then do that.

Don’t do the “bitch stop”. You know when you’re riding with someone and they stop and wait as you huff and puff your way up the hill only to take off down the trail the very second you roll up? My husband and I call this the “bitch stop”. Don’t do it! Just because you are fully recovered does not mean that the person behind you is ready to roll. Give them a second to catch their breath.

Stop doubting yourself. Stop apologizing. If someone is riding (or hiking or climbing or whatever) with you, especially if they are doing it for a second (or third or fourth or hundredth) time, it’s because they want to be out there with you. Stop doubting that you are good enough. And stop apologizing. Stop apologizing for being too slow or too fast (unless you broke the aforementioned agreed upon expectations) or for riding too well or too poorly. Just stop! And yes, this is something that I have to remind myself of all the time.

Go it alone. It may seem strange to see “don’t ride/hike/run/ski together” on a list of suggestions for how TO do all those things but, let’s be honest, it’s a pretty good piece of advice. Just because you and your significant other enjoy the same hobbies doesn’t mean that you have to do those same hobbies together all the time. Set off on your own or grab a friend and hit the trail. Doing things at your own pace and in your own way doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with your relationship. It means that you’re healthy, happy, and independent. And you’ll have more to talk about when you meet up over drinks later!

I will be honest and tell you that we don’t adventure together much these days. Throwing a kid into the mix made getting out at the same time infinitely harder. But someday, I hope, we can hit the trail together again. And when we do, I hope we can be an actual old married couple … not just people who bicker like one!

Happy trails, y’all!

Got any advice for those brave enough to hit the trail with their significant other? Any funny war stories to share? Drop me a line in the comments!



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  • Reply Erin Wagner August 28, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Love this. Bryan and I rarely bike together for many of these reasons. I have gotten so much better at the bitch stop though with hiking. I’ve come to the realization that I’ll only go half as many miles with him but we’ll come out with some amazing photos as a result of stopping more often. And, just as payback, my kid pulled a bitch stop on me last week in Glacier.

    • Reply jendz August 28, 2015 at 10:04 pm

      Yeah … the bitch stop is, well, a bitch! We hike at a similar enough pace that we don’t have too much trouble but the bike is a whole other story. We get along a lot better when we don’t ride together. 😉

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