(Photo: Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy)
Tough Love

My Boyfriend Is a Chatty Hiker. Am I a Jerk for Wanting Him to Quiet Down?  

Plus, what to do if your off-leash dog is making someone anxious

Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy

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Welcome to Tough Love. We’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Small Game and Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at

My boyfriend is a very outgoing and friendly person and I love that about him, but when we go hiking, his social commentary is starting to drive me nuts. 

I’m all about observing the cordial trail etiquette of acknowledgement, but I am very much a silent, smile-and-wave type, whereas my boyfriend always has something to say—from the benign “Hey there, how are you?” to the more egregious “How much longer to the top?” I mean, what are the oncoming hikers supposed to do? Stop and actually tell us how much longer to the top?? We have a map; we don’t need their input.

I don’t think my boyfriend is actually trying to start a conversation mid-hike, and I’m sure it just comes from a place of wanting to connect. Which, again, I really like about him in other contexts. But when I go into the wilderness, I want to be away from people and away from having to socialize, whereas he seems to be always eager for the next interaction.

I don’t know how to bring this up with him without sounding like an antisocial asshole, because I know he has good intentions. And who am I to judge how the recipients of his friendliness feel?

But it’s now getting to the point where I don’t even want to go hiking in busy places anymore, because every time we pass someone I’m just bracing for the conversation. I really wish we could just enjoy the quiet and solitude of hiking together. Should I go alone if I want to hike in peace? What advice do you have for the quiet partner of a chatty hiker?

I’m glad you wrote to me, because I’m happy to tell you that, from an outside perspective, you do seem kinda antisocial. But that doesn’t mean you’re an asshole! It just sounds like you prefer to have a quiet, private hiking experience, and that’s a good thing for you (and your boyfriend) to know.

Based on how you describe it, your boyfriend isn’t actually doing anything weird. “Hey there, how are you?” and “How much farther to the top?” are completely normal things to say to fellow hikers. They can answer in one word, without even slowing down, if they don’t feel like stopping to chat. In fact, on a less-than-crowded trail, it’s somewhat unusual to not acknowledge the people you pass, either with a smile, a nod, or a quick greeting, just like the ones your boyfriend’s been offering. It’s likely that the only person bothered by these interactions is you.

So if you want to bring this up to your boyfriend—and I’d recommend it, because it’s good for our partners to be aware of our quirks, and it’s likely that he’s sensed your annoyance and isn’t sure what it’s about—you should make clear, in the framing, that the issue lies with you, not him. “I know this makes me sound like a jerk, and you haven’t done anything wrong, but I just can’t stand talking to people while hiking.” If you can figure out why it bothers you so much—maybe it slows you down, or makes you self-conscious, or you’re worried about imposing on other peoples’ days—then it would be helpful to mention that, too.

Hopefully you can both be understanding of each other, and he can keep your preferences in mind by, say, sticking to brief greetings but steering clear of extended on-trail conversations. But I also think it’s a good idea, as you mentioned, to start seeking out more remote trails. You’ll have a lot more solitude and quiet time with your boyfriend. And he can still be polite, and greet the people you pass—but on the bright side, you’ll be encountering them way less often.

My friend and I go walking together and I usually have my dog off-leash, but this has started to be a problem between us. My dog is large, so people sometimes think he’s scary, but he’s actually incredibly gentle. However, my friend gets anxious whenever we pass people, and says I’m a jerk for having him loose. How do I get her to understand that she’s projecting?

I love having my dogs loose as much as anyone, but if someone around you is uncomfortable, the responsible thing is to leash your dog. It doesn’t actually matter how gentle your dog is, or how much you think he’s not scary! In this case, your friend is uncomfortable, so you should keep your dog on a leash when you’re with her. If that’s too annoying, you can spend your time together doing other, non-dog-related activities instead.

Lead Photo: Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy

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