What You Learn Climbing with Your Romantic Partner

©istockphoto/AlexBrylov

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.

Trust
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.

Dynam­ics
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.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion

“Climb­ing!”

“Climb on!”

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.

Cou­ple Strengths
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.