Welcome to Tough Love. Every other week, we’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s the best way to maintain the “mood” when codependent pups are always in your bed?
You’ve gotta get those pups out of your bedroom. Get them a kennel in the living room, and bribe them with soup bones or a new toy—or, heck, hire a dog walker if you need to. Dogs in bed are great, but so is sex in bed, and sometimes your human needs have to come first.
How do I show my partner that I appreciate and want to participate in (to the extent that I can) his passions when I’m not as outdoorsy as he is?
Put down your phone when he walks in from a hike. Ask questions. Listen to his stories—and since he’s probably sore, give him a back rub while he tells them. Learn about his goals, and take the time celebrate his achievements. Read a book about his hero, or choose an outdoorsy movie for your next date night. Even if you don’t join his outdoor adventures, you can both appreciate the joy and excitement he brings home.
My wife loves to dirtbag it when we travel/hike, but I can tell she secretly loves when we indulge in a hotel room now and again. Why not admit it?
Dirtbagging is fun and comfort is wonderful; there’s no reason a person can’t appreciate both. But loving someone can occasionally mean knowing the things they can’t bring themselves to admit and giving them what they’re afraid to ask for. Take the lead on getting a hotel room the next few times you’re traveling, but don’t make a big deal out of it. Maybe, with time, your wife will admit that she sometimes likes a soft bed. But even if she never says it, she’ll be glad when you suggest the indulgence, and you can enjoy having a secret way to make her day.
I convinced a friend to join a walk/run-to-5K training program, and while we were at the same place at first, she gained more speed over the year and eventually ditched me as a training partner for newer/faster friends. Is it ever OK to ditch a training partner because they can’t keep up?
Sure. Inasmuch as she’s looking for someone, in this case, to push her athletically, it’s fine for her to find a workout group that’s a better fit for her—but that’s no excuse to be a jerk. She should still jog with you sometimes, or meet you on adjacent treadmills at the gym, or even help you find a partner who’s more your speed. These aren’t the duties of a training buddy; they’re the duties of a friend. And if she doesn’t have the etiquette to be a good friend, then she’s not the training buddy you want anyway.
When singles go camping with couples, why is it OK for half of a couple (that half is always the man, in my experience) to sit around while the other half cooks and cleans up? The women-half tell me it’s “just easier that way.” As the single, I find it unfair. Everyone needs to pitch in.
The women-half are right: It is easier that way. It’s far simpler to wash a few dishes in a river than it is to teach a loved one to confront his outdated sense of gendered entitlement. Depending on the personalities involved, you could try acknowledging the dynamic with some gentle teasing—“So you’re just gonna sit there and let the women clean, huh?”—but your best bet is probably to ask directly: “Hey, Hank, if we cook tonight, are you up for washing the dishes?”
That is, if you decide it’s worth it to raise a stink—and honestly, it might not be. Part of being a couple is dividing up chores; it’s possible that, at home, the women in these particular couples always cook, so that’s what feels most natural to them. And part of camping is dividing up chores—regardless of everyone’s romantic status. I bet there are moments when other people have built a fire that you’ve enjoyed, or made enough coffee for the group, or even scouted out a day hike in advance. Try to appreciate those moments and let go of your need to keep score. If the division of chores bothers you so much that you can’t enjoy the trip, then maybe you should find other camping companions (or try camping alone). But if you love these people, put your annoyance in perspective: You’re taking the time to explore together, and you’ll all be home with your own dishes soon enough.