The ultimate partner
How to do adventures outside with your SO; a subject I’ve thought of writing about for years, and under implicit prompting from Geargal Jill I’m taking a crack at it today. It’s a desire many have, for good reason. Building a lifetime partnership and outdoor adventures both rank high on the life list of anyone reading this, so why not combine them? Rarely does it seem to be so simple.
That most of us take both things so seriously is the obviously hidden reason their combination often goes awry. As valued as my more platonic outdoor partnerships are, adventuring with M is much more high-stakes precisely because I so dearly want it to work well. Naturally this often leads things astray, and having it not do so is for me still very much a work in progress.
Secondly, most romantic outdoor partnerships start from a position of inequality. Our marriage is I presume rather typical, in that M had never slept in a tent before she started hanging around with me, and for better and worse I’ve been the primary instructor in climbing, hiking, backpacking, camping, canyoneering, mountain biking, boating, and so forth. There are obvious cultural factors which make this patriarchal state of affairs more likely than not, and which adds a potentially complicating overtone to the whole process. I want to be a good teacher, and I want to eventually have an equal partner, but the heightened stakes of both failure and success and the inscrutable dynamic of marriage often has me generally short of patience and not teaching especially well. The mishaps here are as innumerable as they are embarrassing.
I do think that achieving some kind of parity in our interests in the outdoors will be essential for long-term happiness and equanimity. That I have a two decade head-start makes this a bit complicated. Like most of us M isn’t very fond of being “that guy,” a task which I don’t make especially easy, and her doing outdoor stuff almost exclusively in my company has given her a distorted sense of normal. It’s important to like each other, and like the outdoors. Independently, and together. Otherwise adventures become, emotionally, too big to fail. Which means they probably will.
At this point my hope is that this evolving process will continue to make things easier. In our case it’s made a lot more complicated by M’s extensive bearanoia; I’m quite comfortable going solo but she has a limited desire to go hiking by herself on days I have to work. We’ve cut backpacking trips short on a few occasions because she just wasn’t sleeping much. Compromise goes both ways, and the burden falls on me to take us on our trips, not my trips. Doing this well centers on recognizing how different someone else experiences the world. Understanding bearanoia is one thing I’ve learned among many. Trying to understand just how much colder M can get is another, along with the seemingly categorically different rules by which her body produces heat. It’s both a work in progress and an increasingly necessary part of my finding outdoor adventures fulfilling.
I’d value your experiences here immensely.