We’ve all seen that couple on the ski slope or mountain bike trail.
You know, the two people screaming at each other? One person is scared to death, the partner is frustrated, and once they make it down to the bottom, several hours later, they probably won’t speak to each other for the rest of the day.
Hey! You’re doing it wrong.
Being outdoors together should strengthen your relationship, not derail it. Here are a few tips to make the process of introducing a reluctant partner to a new outdoor activity as fun and painless as possible. When done right, you’ll find that exploring the outdoors together can actually improve your communication skills, create romantic spark, and build a stronger relationship indoors and out.
Convince Your Partner to Take the Plunge
You love camping. Your partner prefers the Hyatt. How do you convince him to break out of his comfort zone and take a chance on something new?
This may seem obvious, but your partner will respond positively when you communicate a sincere desire to do an activity with him/ as opposed to doing it on your own or with friends. Express to your partner that although you could go hiking/climbing/biking on your own, it’s just more fun to do it with him. Sincerity is the name of the game. This is not about having your partner around to help haul gear or be a warm body to snuggle next to in a sleeping bag. This is about genuinely sharing an experience while taking care of your partner, who may be worried, anxious, and inexperienced.
Have a Game Plan
The better you are at something, the farther you are from being a beginner and remembering what it feels like to be scared and unsure. Don’t place the burden of being an instructor on your relationship, especially if you have zero experience teaching.
For example, if you were a college ski racer and your partner’s never been on the bunny hill, it might be a good idea to sign him/her up for a lesson first.
Niki Koubourlis, CEO of Bold Betties Outfitters and organizer of a Denver-based, 600-member Meetup group for women who want to get outdoors, has advice for people who’d like to introduce their female partner to a new sport: provide an opportunity for her get exposure first before going out together. “Buy her a lesson, find her a Meetup group to join or a class. How many times have you seen couples arguing on the slopes? I see it practically every time I go skiing! And that is completely unnecessary.” Sometimes it’s more fun to spend part of the day where you can separately go at your own pace without the anxiety of holding somebody up or pushing them along. You can join each other for the afternoon and can ski the greens together after you’ve warmed your day up.
Find an Alternate Path
If you want to introduce your partner to an activity that builds on their current physical regime like rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, etc. you might encourage them to not only to take a class without you, but join a same-sex group or trip. At first blush, this may seem like a surprising idea in 2014 but Koubourlis has worked with multitudes of women breaking into the outdoors as newbies. “If you are trying something new with a group of like-minded women, you will likely feel less judged by the male bravado that often occupies the outdoor space. You can free up that headspace and focus on enjoying the experience.”
Newsflash! Men and women do have philological differences that impact their outdoor game; men tend to have stronger upper body strength, whereas women often carry their strength in their legs. Men and women also have different centers of gravity and a different sense of balance. This all has material impact for learning activities and teaching others along the way. We all know people that defy these norms, but recognizing where they do exist helps create empathy when you’re introducing your partner to a new activity.
Finally, whether you’re a man or a woman, don’t ignore differences in physical fitness between you and your partner. You might be uber fit, but your significant other may be recovering from an injury or simply out of shape. Take it easy and don’t push like a drill sergeant, unless you want to ensure that he/she never joins you again.
Make a Spark!
Trying new things or embarking on challenges together is a surefire way to boost romance. Grab your significant other, head outdoors, and improve your relationship inside and out.