Outdoor Diary: Dating In Nature and Why It Can Be Great but Also Terrible

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What happens when you take your date day outside? As Amy knows all too well, it can go horribly wrong or be really great. The difference? Communication. In this Outdoor Diary episode Amy talks about two very different ski dates, and why one worked but the other failed spectacularly.

Some of the good stuff:

[:26]: Keeping busy

[1:00]: Who is Amy dating?! (spoiler alert: her husband!)

[2:00]: Dating challenges (like, the outdoor kind)

[4:45]: Sacred spaces

[6:09]: Where to find Humans Outside

Connect with this episode:

Here’s an edited transcript of this installment of Amy’s Outdoor Diary. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

You might have noticed that I have trouble sitting still. It’s just who I am as a person. I feel a drive to be occupied at all times. Heck, I don’t even just sit and watch TV unless I am so wiped out that I have no energy left to be occupied at all…. OK or if that new HBO show Gilded Age has released a new episode. I am LOVING that.

Not wanting to sit still is probably why I pile so many things on my poor little life plate, but this isn’t a therapy session for me, and it’s not the point — so we don’t need to talk about that. What this is about is dating.

Yes, dating. Specifically, spending time with and dating my husband, Luke. As all the old married folks will warn you who are not married, you cannot simply meet someone, tie the knot and call it good. You have to keep building your relationship with them FOREVER. You have to keep that part of the dating mindset going or things are going to be really hard. That’s because what you are doing during dating is getting to know someone and communicating — and since people don’t just freeze who they are and their experiences when you sign the marriage certificate, getting to know the person you’re in a long term relationship with is a continuous task.

I do NOT like dating. Hate it. Hate going to dinner and making small talk. Hate all the things you might think of as date activities. I want to be DOING something. Also, please don’t make me go to one of those art studios and do a paint night. I do not want to paint anything.

The good news for my relationship is that heading outside isn’t just full of endless things to do, it contains all the opportunities for one more step that relationship experts tell me is a key to developing communication and growing a relationship around shared experience: tackling challenges together.

Now, if you’ve ever tackled a big challenge outside on a date or with someone you love you can see how this also has the potential to go horribly, possibly hilariously wrong. Let’s scene set. You head out to an activity. Your partner is determined to show off their skill set. You are nervous but don’t want to say anything because you want to seem strong. Neither of you are listening to each other. You head up a ski lift — your first time ever on a lift or even seeing skis in person — and your partner announces they will show you how to stop on the way down the hill. Sounds good!

You try to get off the lift but spectacularly fall and almost get nailed in the head by the lift. Now you are embarrassed and nervous. Now your defenses are up because this seems dangerous and also that hurt. Your partner shrugs it off and encourages you that you are going to be fine! You don’t not feel fine. You proceed to wipe out approximately 7,000 times on a short hill, fearing that you will go sailing over a cliff the whole time. You get to the bottom and you are determined to never ski again. Also killing your partner sounds good. They, on the other hand, can see they just messed up but don’t really know what to do about it, so they install you in the lodge with hot chocolate and, to protect their safety, go and ski alone.

What a fabulous date day. Also, that’s a true story from the first time Luke took me skiing during a pit stop at Bogus Basin in Idaho during our move to Washington. It is the reason I previously said I would never, ever go skiing again thank you very much.

So that’s how it can go off the rails.

Or, if everyone comes into a challenge with the right mindset — of communicating and having fun instead of showing off — it can be a really wonderful date day like one we had this past week.

With the kids in school and free lift tickets available for military members and their families like us at our state’s largest ski resort, Alyeksa, we took part of the day off, jumped in the car for 90 minutes, and headed down to spend the day skiing before we had to get home for the kids. At this point Luke knows that downhill skiing makes me very, very nervous and so we talked about that and about how he was going to let me go at my own pace, even if that meant I was going to go down the baby hill all day, which is something I’ve definitely done before.

Once there he spent the day with me, going down the easy slopes first, and then, when I was feeling more confident, we went up to some of the bigger ones. And in there was a moment where I tackled a slope I had a really hard time on in the past. As I got to the bottom all I could do was chant “I did it, I did it, I did it, I did it” — and he was there cheering me on.

So why does that matter? Because those are the moments that nature is perfect for building relationships.

Corie Weathers, a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in supporting military and first-responder marriages — in short, relationships under a lot of stress where each partner has uniquely high pressure experiences apart from the other — says heading outside to together to tackle challenges helps make relationships closer because it helps created shared unique experiences in a neutral environment. Now, when I think about the day I conquered that hill, I remember that Luke was there. It doesn’t replace the memory of him sending me down Bogus Basin to my death, but it does add a better memory on top of it.

And you don’t have to tackle a ski hill to build these kinds of memories — nor do you even need to face a challenge. What if you built connection around seeing the same remarkable butterfly? Or walking the same trail? What if you found a spot you loved and kept going back there, and now it’s a spot where you can have conversations that help you. I, personally, prefer that over going to dinner and making small talk about the kids because I don’t know what else we should be talking about, and I don’t want to have a tough conversation in public.

Corie calls these formative experiences “sacred spaces” — the things that help you become who you are. The more you can create those sacred spaces in a shared way, the better your relationship and communication. You can hear more about that in episode 18 or season 1, episode 18. I’ve also linked it in the show notes.

We were having such a good time skiing that we didnt take a single photo together on the ski hill, just before we jumped in the car to go. But you can see a photo of me at the top of my big scary hill on Facebook and Instagram, as well as a photo a day from my outside time. I also want to see photos of your daily time. Share those with #humansoutside365. Until next time we’ll see you out there.

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