What to do when you start dating someone who isn't ready to join you on dawn patrol?
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.
So I’m an outdoorsy lady. I ski tour, climb, mountain bike, backpack. Being out in the mountains is the one thing that helps me stay grounded and sane. In my last relationship, we shared all these interests. My ex was the one who helped me build the skills I needed for the outdoors.
I recently started seeing someone new. We get along great and have lots of other interests in common other than being outside, but he doesn’t have that same need to be out in the mountains as I do. I’d love to share it with him and get him started in the things I love, but I’m just not sure he’s all that into it.
I wasn’t able to go ski touring most of the season because of an injury, so when I was finally allowed to go, of course I grabbed my nearest partner and we made plans. However, my current beau was a little put off that I wanted to be out skiing with my other friend instead of with him. I tried to explain why this was so important to me, and he got worried that he wouldn’t be able to meet some sort of criteria for being in my life. It never concerned me before, but now, of course, it has me second-guessing. Because at this point I would take a weekend out with an acquaintance, cold and suffering, over being warm and watching Netflix with him, every time.
I can tell this is something that will cause friction later on in the relationship, and I don’t know if I should accept it or leave before I get too emotionally invested.
This isn’t a problem that’s going to cause friction later on; it’s a problem that’s causing friction now. If you’d rather “grab your nearest partner” or suffer with an acquaintance than invite your current beau to participate in your favorite activities with you, then you’re not exactly giving loving signals. Yeah, yeah, he’s not outdoorsy. But guess what? Neither were you, particularly, before your last relationship. And it sounds to me like your new boyfriend may have been hoping you’d invite him to go skiing and felt hurt (understandably) when you picked someone else instead. Here’s the big question you need to ask yourself: Is your beau staying home because he doesn’t like being outdoors—or because you don’t want him there?
My hunch is that you broke your ankle, felt bored and discouraged, and bonded with someone who seemed chill and could keep you company while you recovered. If you’ve been injured for a long time, then you’re totally over hanging out on the couch. And maybe, to a certain degree, your beau has come to represent convalescence to you. After all, he’s the guy who sat beside you every weekend, watching Mad Men reruns and making popcorn on the stove. The guy who played Scrabble—again—instead of hiking that 14er you’ve had your eye on. The guy who brings you breakfast in bed on stormy Sundays instead of pulling on his Gore-Tex and heading into the rain. You’re not sick of him; you’re sick of what he represents. You’re sick of being sick.
At this point, your boyfriend is probably terrified that your affection for him was circumstantial. Maybe it was—or maybe your fledgling relationship is the best thing to come out of this injury. If you really like this guy—if he makes you laugh, and makes you think, and you still get butterflies when you kiss him—then you should give him some credit here. It’s possible that he doesn’t love watching Netflix every weekend, either. It’s possible that what he loves is you. And that when you were hurt and needed rest and comfort, he did what he could to provide that. Even if it meant sitting inside instead of exploring art museums, or checking out comedy shows, or playing pickup basketball, or wherever it is that his recreational interests lie.
He may not need the mountains in the same way you do. He may not have the skills to jump right into a multiday backcountry trip. But most people, when given the right introduction, can come to appreciate time outdoors—and most people want to like the things that their beloved likes. Now that you’re back on your feet, why don’t you invite him to come skiing for an afternoon? Make sure his boots fit correctly, that he’s wearing the right clothing, and that he has plenty of snacks. Take it easy and head back home early before he gets overtired. Remember that this date is about making him comfortable, not fulfilling your need for adventure. It’s a chance for him to see you in your element, so that the next time you go skiing, even with someone else, it can be something that brings you closer together, not farther apart.
You’re always going to have mismatched interests in a relationship, whether that’s regarding your social life, the outdoors, sex, whatever. That discrepancy is only a problem if one partner is either unwilling to participate in their beloved’s passions or doesn’t want them to do it with other people. But so far, that doesn’t sound like the case here. Your beau supported you when you were injured. Give him a chance to support you when you’re healthy.