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Tough Love

My Partner Is Looking for Bigger Adventures, but I’m Ready to Slow Down 

We first connected over a love of riding bikes—is it possible for us to find a compromise here?

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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 of three years is never satisfied: no adventure is long enough, technical enough, challenging enough, etc. It exhausts me. 

He and I bonded over our love for bikes. I raced on the road, and he did ultra endurance bikepacking and mountain biking. We both mountain bike together often, but it’s not enough. Recently he’s been asking me to support him with longer adventures, and I’ll do it because I love him, but I have no interest. For example, who wants to drive five hours to drop someone off, then drive five hours back home alone to get back to all the other responsibilities we have? 

He said we have nothing in common, which is untrue (see above), but for whatever reason, he can’t seem to respect my wishes when it comes to doing these major adventures. Either I’m being selfish by not supporting him, or he’s upset because I don’t want to do the same thing as him, even if I try my best to compromise. 

When we first got together, I was clear about how I like to enjoy my hobbies, and after spending my twenties pushing myself, I’m ready for a slower pace. I have always openly expressed that I have no desire to dig deep again. Honestly, even doing an overnight bikepacking adventure seems exhausting and expensive, and with quarterly and HOA fees, pets, career commitments, and all the other adult things, I just can’t (and won’t) do it. I love him, but he acts like a petulant child; he’ll get upset, declare that I don’t love him or support him, and threaten to leave. I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry, because either way we both lose and it’s just ridiculous. These hobbies are meant to be fun, right? 

All of this is compounded by the fact that he feels stuck and bored and exhausted by the simple and slower aspects of life. So I’m left here, scratching my head… when is it ever enough? Am I being a buzzkill? Have I lost my sense of adventure? Or am I not being supported by my partner? Am I being selfish, or is he?

I really don’t like that he accused you of not loving him, and said you have nothing in common; that seems extreme, untrue, and designed to hurt. At the same time, I can understand how, if you bonded over bikes, it might feel jarring to him if you suddenly don’t seem into them anymore. I have to wonder: have you lost interest in biking, or have you lost interest in biking with him? It’s easy to see how an activity that you once loved could become stressful and annoying if you’re constantly being pressured to go harder than you want to go, rather than enjoying things at your own pace.

Your situation reminds me a lot of the dogsledding world, which is the sport I know best, because it’s very common for one partner to want to mush, and the other not to—but mushing is such an all-consuming lifestyle that it ends up dictating a lot of the couples’ choices, including where they live and if they, say, have indoor plumbing. I know a number of mushing spouses who have strong boundaries when it comes to what they are and aren’t willing to get involved with: they might put a firm no on helping with dog chores or having more than a few dogs in the house, but be happy to cheer at races and cuddle with puppies and retirees. Still, their lives (and finances) are shaped by their partners’ passion. Mushing is all-encompassing in a way that few other lifestyles are (perhaps living at sea would be comparable?), but it might be a useful parallel to consider. If you know you’re unhappy being the partner of an adventurer, or the partner of this adventurer, then it’s better to face that fact sooner rather than later. But if you’d be happy to enjoy your quiet life at home and cheer him on from afar—as long as the dynamic feels loving and mutually supportive—then that’s something you can work toward if you’re both willing to try.

There are plenty of loving, long-term couples with separate interests, and there’s absolutely no reason that you have to do everything together in order to be happy. You can find creative ways to support each other’s hobbies without actually participating in them: in your case, you might ask him for stories when he gets back, send him articles he might like, go out and take pictures if he’s biking near your home, or pack some special foods for his adventures. Similarly, if you have an interest that he doesn’t share—let’s say gardening, for example—he doesn’t need to garden with you in order to be supportive. But it would be lovely if he’d notice and comment on how the garden is growing, show extra excitement and pride when it comes to eating things you’ve grown, and offer to water the plants when you’re away.

For this reason, it seems like your conflicts are more about expectations and communication than about your respective pastime preferences. You’d be well-served by seeing a couples’ therapist, if you haven’t already. I’m sure things are more complicated than what you’ve described in your letter, and an expert could help you get to the bottom of the conflict. It might take a while, and effort on both your parts, for a new balance to shake out, and you both have to decide if you want it—but if you both choose to commit, then I think you’ll be able to work this out.

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