Going on an outdoor adventure with your SO is very special! But maybe your partner doesn’t like the great outdoors as much as you do. You may need some tips on how to get your SO to experience the outdoors and grow to love it. You’re in luck; I had to go through the same thing with my SO, so I’m sharing my best advice for you to get your SO outdoors with you.
Did I use bribery? Yes. Did I beg? You betcha. But it was effective, and I’m ready to let you in on my best strategies. After all, sharing experiences together is an important part of a healthy relationship.
A study by the Association for Psychological Science shows that sharing a good experience with someone else makes it more intense. So, in the end, your partner will thank you for their new found love of the outdoors.
1- Don't ask!
I repeat - DO NOT ASK!
My SO hates hiking and isn’t afraid to tell me. I believe the phrase, “over my dead body,” was used a few times early on. Needless to say, I got the hint. I’m a good listener like that!
But this didn’t stop me from pushing for an outdoor adventure together, no way. I felt like we both needed to get out of our comfort zones. Plus hiking is my happy place, and I feel like we’re missing out on valuable time together when I go as a solo hiker. I love my SO and it’s fun to do things together. In fact, I hope our entire family will all enjoy the outdoors together. It'll be a good example if both parents are outdoor enthusiasts.
So, instead of asking, I just signed us up on a group hike. Then, and this was key, I acted like it was my SO’s idea in the first place. I know, just a tiny white lie, but before you know it, you and your SO will be enjoying a nice hike together.
I kept the hike a manageable length and terrain, which also helped. “Oh, it’s just a short one! You’ll be back in front of the fire with your book in no time!” I explained, and it was mostly true. I also bought this cool backpack in my SO’s favorite color. After all was said and done, my SO ended up having a good time on the hike after all.
I knew I wasn’t going to get away with another ambush hike, so I had to try a different approach: bribery was the obvious choice. My SO happens to love Denver, Colorado and is fascinated by Pike’s Peak and the other mountain ranges that make up the Rockies. While I would rather visit the East Coast or possibly Europe for a change, I’m okay with Colorado and all it has to offer an outdoor enthusiast such as myself.
My SO, as it happens, loves Colorado for the food, beer and history more than the outdoors. So to sweeten the pot, aka form a great bribe, I combined our hiking trip with a beer and food tour of LoDo, which is the Lower Downtown district of Denver, Colorado. A milestone anniversary was coming up, so it seemed like the perfect occasion to plan a splashy trip.
I had the whole thing planned out including a great hotel, a meal at a famous chef’s Denver location and a beer and food pairing on another evening. Oh, plus a group hike up Pike’s Peak, taking the cog train back down to civilization. With the promise of being pampered and spoiled before and after, it was no problem to sign up for the hike. The trip was a huge success! We both got what we wanted, especially plenty of time outdoors for yours truly.
3- Let Them Choose
I have to fess up; my SO didn’t particularly enjoy the hikes I bribed and surprised my way into. Instead of continuing down this path, I decided to ask my SO what outdoor activity actually appealed to them. After all, I’m the flexible one in the relationship, I’ll be the bigger person (as always!) and do an outdoor activity my SO likes.
One day, while walking our dogs, I asked, “Are there any outdoor activities you’d like more than hiking?” Surprisingly, the answer was camping! Duh, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. Instead of tromping in a circle or doubling-back, my SO wanted to spend more time in nature and enjoy the peace and quiet! “Camping! Let’s go,” I answered.
4- Gear matters
Making sure your SO doesn't have a +%^%ty gear for their (first) outdoor activity you're dragging them along on is a huge key in getting them to warm up to it. Not only that, but having time to try out said gear is just as important.
Make sure checking out our gear category if you're looking for some. If you have quality gear though, you're completely fine even if they're old. Don't believe anyone trying to sell you stuff.
Sure you don't need to buy anything meant for "pros", but do make sure they're not going to curse the day they said "yes" to you. And I don't even mean your outdoors adventure offer, I mean your proposal. That's right, terrible gear sucks that much in multi-day trips.
The time I talked my SO into a 100-mile bike ride comes to mind when I think of having the proper gear and knowing how to use it. We were planning our first ride together near Palm Springs, California to enjoy the desert landscapes as part of an organized group ride. My SO didn’t have a bike, and I’m afraid we addressed that particular challenge a bit late.
By the time we got my SO a bike, there was only room for one training session before we left for our 100-mile ride. Can you see where this is going? We were winging it with a new bike and took it slow and steady, but it was not meant to be; my SO was very sore in a very private place and decided that bike riding was not a good thing.
5- Find Some Training
You’ve seen that couple, or maybe you’ve been part of that couple. The couple on the lakeshore or hiking trail screaming in frustration at each other. One person is terrified and the other is frustrated, and you known when they make it back to their car, campsite or hotel they won’t speak to each other the rest of the night.
The point is, the more your SO is exposed to the activity, the more comfortable they will be when they try it with you. Not only will this cut down on the arguments, as you have both had the same training, you can each go at your own pace with confidence.
6- Get them out on their own
This one may blow your mind, but it actually worked for us. Instead of going hiking together, I encouraged my SO to sign up for a hiking group with peers and friends first instead of going with me. This helped my partner feel less judged on the first time they ventured out for a hike.
Not only that, my SO found that they were able to focus more on the hiking experience rather than worrying about my opinion or direction. When we finally did go hiking together, I had a confident partner with ideas of their own on finding water, foraging for food, getting our bearings and a whole load of skills.
As a bonus, my SO made new friends and goes hiking with a group they have joined as well as joining me on hikes too. While we appreciate the time together, we also recognize that it is healthy for us to have our own pursuits and groups of friends.
7- Know Their Level
This isn’t news to anyone, but men and women are different! I know, but hear me out; this has an impact on how your SO physically deals with the challenges of being outdoors on a hike, camping trip, snowboarding adventure, etc. Men have more upper body strength, while women are stronger in their legs and lower body. Each has a different sense of balance and center of gravity, and this all impacts how activities are learned and mastered.
The point of telling you this is that your SO, if not the same sex as you are, is going to have different challenges learning outdoor skills than you. Additionally, people have different fitness levels, so be aware of your partner’s needs. Take things easy at first and don’t push or you will risk alienating them from you and from the activity.
8- Join a Club
There are clubs out there for just about anything, including hiking, climbing, skiing, fishing, etc. Join a club together as a couple and volunteer for fundraising duties and event planning. By being social with other people and other couples focused on your favorite outdoor activity, this interaction will encourage your SO to become more involved and open.
Joining a group or club is also great for the off-season, and every outdoor activity has one. If your activity is ice fishing, for example, during hot weather you are pretty much out of luck! But not if you join a group, who will be discussing the upcoming season and planning new, exciting adventures for when the water freezes again.
Being part of a group that is passionate about your shared outdoor activity will be very encouraging for your SO. Plus, you can get great tips on equipment, events and activities that relate to your sport or activity.
9- Combine Activities
My SO is an avid photographer, and therefore loves being outdoors looking for that next perfect shot. By volunteering to carry part of the photography gear, I was able to talk my SO into more and more hikes as time went on. Plus, we have some beautiful photos in our living space as keepsakes from our hikes together.
My love for cooking was a natural fit for my partner’s desire to start camping. We were fortunate that way, but be prepared if your passions don’t exactly mesh with each other. Just be creative and you will find a way.
10- Separate but Together
When we finally settled the hiking/camping debate, it was easy to combine the activities and do them together. But we knew to quit while we were ahead and embrace each other’s differences. We have times that we do separate activities, and then share them with each other afterward.
This enables us to experience different things and enjoy them, but still share the fun afterwards in talking about them. Neither of us really wants to accompany the other to their event nor do we want to ask them to give it up to be with us. So we compromise and go our separate ways occasionally.
11- Relationship First
It’s great to have a passion, and especially great if you can share it, but don’t let it overtake your relationship. The last thing you want to do is live separate lives, with separate hobbies and no connection between you.
I think that was why I really wanted my SO to love hiking, so we could have that connection. While it wasn’t meant to be immediately, my SO has compromised and so have I. Most importantly, I didn’t let my passion for hiking take over my passion for my partner and our relationship.
Your partner loves you and will be patient with your passion for outdoor activities, there’s no doubt about that. Just don’t abuse their patience by demanding that they take up your hobby as well.
When my outdoor activities start encroaching on our time together, my partner reminds me that we haven’t connected in a while. That’s my cue to listen, plan an activity together or show my partner in some way that I care about the relationship more than my outdoor plans.
12- Know When to Say When
You’ve tried bribery, bought the best gear and found an outdoor group to join but your SO still doesn’t share your enthusiasm for outdoor adventures. Some people just don’t warm up to outdoor activities, let’s face it. Know when to back off and let them off the hook, they tried and it just didn’t work for them. As hard as it was for me to realize that my SO didn’t love riding a bike as much as I do, I knew when to back off.
My SO never did warm to bike riding, so we sold the bike and I go with a cycling group on my own. No harm, no foul. My partner is happy I don’t beg for bike rides together and I’m happy that I still have the opportunity to cycle when I have time. We still enjoy other activities together and didn’t let the lack of mutual bike time come between us.
I’m a really happy person these days, with a partner I love and who loves the outdoors like I do, just in different ways. We have a great time together, sharing our outdoor experiences but, shhh; it was all my partner’s idea!