Certain life events reveal a lot about relationships. Things like moving in together, getting a dog, or merging family holidays tend to top most people’s list. But few things are more telling about your relationship than spending time together in the mountains or on a rock wall. When a romantic partner turns climbing partner, take a moment to consider how your climbing interactions reflect the bigger picture of your relationship. Here are a few things you might learn while climbing with your partner.
The initial butterflies in your stomach when being belayed back down a rock wall are hard to overcome when there is a lack of trust between climbers. If you and your partner are opting to climb together, hopefully, you’ve established a baseline of trust. But, in case you haven’t, you’ll soon find yourself with no choice on the downclimb; after a few sessions together, that trust will become second nature.
Along with having trust in your other half, you now have the duty to be a trustworthy partner. That means you won’t text and belay, you’ll be where you say you’ll be, and you’ll fulfill your end of trip planning and climbing contributions. Trust-building is a two-way street in relationships and in climbing.
Ever wonder which of you tends toward nurturing and which toward tough love? Placing yourselves in a challenging situation together is often revealing of such dynamics. In longer alpine-style expeditions especially, there’s an understanding that things will be fairly uncomfortable at times. Use those times to take a look at how you interact. Maybe one of you responds to climbing stressors by taking time to break from the group and be solo, maybe the other is soothed by interaction and contact. These are valuable tidbits of information that ultimately create a repository of relationship knowledge to tap into for later use.
When it comes to dynamics, there are always present. Climbing together, however, pulls out pieces of your interactions for closer observation. Put yourselves under a microscope, figure out which parts of your dynamic push you forward as a couple and which could be improved upon. Taking a good look at what you learn is hard and uncomfortable but so is climbing and ultimately, both are worth it in the end.
A classic refrain used in climbing to communicate your intentions, and the key to keeping each other on the same page and maintaining safety. Regardless of the exact words you use, climbing together reveals how you communicate. Indeed, it forces communication, and while you may find you have a rocky start, eventually you’ll work out the kinks—you’ll have to in order to effectively problem solve together. Ultimately you’ll learn what’s most effective in communicating with your partner in other settings.
While climbing can reveal some areas for growth, the most rewarding part is finding where you excel as a couple—a mutual love of climbing is a great place to start, but there are likely many other strengths you’ll find when you take a moment to look. Working together as a team, excitement for each other’s success, being responsive to each other’s needs, and willingness to step up in challenges are just a few identifiable strengths in a relationship. In day-to-day routine, it’s easy to gloss over or forget what brought you together and most importantly what keeps you together. Pay attention to what you learn climbing. It’s a great reminder of what makes you a strong couple.