Over the years my boyfriend and I have been climbing partners and not climbing partners. We spent most of this last year chasing each other around the west, enjoying independent adventures and returning home to high-five and reenact every move we did while climbing on our trips. Many of my friends have remarked on how we can spend so much time away, occasionally going three weeks without seeing each other, or even 20 days with only 24 hours in the middle to say hi. I’ve also spoken to other friends regarding their desire to not date climbers at all, while I commented on my joy over sharing a hobby with someone I love. Every relationship is unique and challenging, completely different from anyone else’s and also exactly the same. I’m not going to pretend like I have all the answers; my boyfriend recently pointed out that I have a tendency to jump into arguments instead of calmly communicating my problem. My coworker and I lamented our irritation over our significant others not expressing their full plans to us. These flaws being said, I wouldn’t change anything.
I’ve written before about my appreciation for traveling without my SO. There’s a freedom to it; I tend to cry less, develop friendships with other people, and remind myself of the immense appreciation I have for my own independence– I am an individual person, not half of a whole. When we first started dating, I spent every trip I could with my boyfriend. I’d follow him up anything I thought I could actually get to the top of. At first, it was wonderful. I loved sharing his sends, either belaying him on them or photographing them. I was more than happy to spend a whole day catching him on his project in exchange for happy hour cocktails. I keep hearing about the lack of butterflies that come with relationships growing and lasting longer, I think this was my version of the butterflies leaving. Everything started to feel like it was about him, and it wasn’t because of anything he was doing.
I am a giver. Not to everyone, I don’t like strangers, and generally speaking, socializing is exhausting for me. When it comes to my close friends, family, and boyfriend, I’m essentially willing to do anything to keep them happy, at the risk of being miserable myself. While I refuse to stop this, realizing that I was giving my boyfriend more than I was giving myself was unhealthy. I was unwilling to push myself alongside my boyfriend (he is much stronger than I am, and less scared). In order to not hate our relationship, I had to step away from part of what had brought me so much happiness in it. Queue some of the best ladies in the southeast and bouldering reminding me that just because my boyfriend climbs, didn’t mean I had to climb with him.
Spending time doing what we love, away from each other, allows both of us to enjoy rock climbing, without worrying if the other person is having fun. Our last climbing trip together was spent mostly with me crying, either from an unrecognized fear of heights, dislike of heat, or negative self talk because I was worried that I was ruining the trip (this helps NOTHING). For my birthday, after going on multiple climbing trips without each other, I asked my boyfriend to spend a weekend in New Orleans with me. It was sticky and hot. I could only handle one bag of beignets and three hurricanes. We walked around listening to live music and ghost stories. It was by far one of the best trips I’ve gone on with him. We reconnected after two semesters of missing each other on big trips, and it didn’t feel like there was a single objective (well maybe the Museum of Death).
So here’s my advice for couples whose passions align too much: take plenty of time for yourself, but when you come together, make sure you’re there for each other, not just to belay your boyfriend/girlfriend on their next dope send- no matter how good their butt looks.