The Spouse and the Outdoors- What's Your Protocol?

3:19 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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The topic of significant others and the outdoors came up in another thread. Particularly concerning their understanding, or lack there of, for our desire and need to get outdoors, perhaps without them, for a while.

How do each of your handle that particular relationship topic?

I will put it in a little more context-

When several friends and I recently went backpacking for the weekend, my wife spent those three days hanging out with one of the other guys' wife. I found out when we got back that the other wife had been an emotional wreck the whole time from dramatic premonitions of horrid disasters. He, meanwhile, was calling her via cell every time we got to a high peak. This got to be more than a little annoying. Apparently, that was the first time in their two years of marriage that she had let him be away from her for more than a day. Yikes.

I am not sure what catastrophe she thought would befall him with four other extremely capable and experienced outdoorsmen in the group. If I need to get away for a while, I just let my wife know I need to get out in nature for a couple, and she is happy to let me. I don't know what I would do if she took an obstructionist attitude, but fortunately I don't have that issue.

So, how does your significant other respond to your desire/need to get away for a while? How do you work it out?

5:31 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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I have never hiked with anyone except Gretchin, so for me I would say it is a win-win situation, since I get to be outdoors doing what I enjoy AND the same for her. At times I think she likes being out there more than I do! We have talked about me going on some hikes with guys at work and she didn't have a problem, just a little left out since she would not have been going. However my work schedule prevented said hikes. I guess we both just really enjoy getting out there and spending time together without all of the other distractions in the world......Will keep posted if I get the chance to go without her sometime though!!

8:44 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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My wife also backpacks with me. She really enjoys it as well.

9:24 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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My wife began by reluctantly allowing me to leave for a few. This weekend will be her first overnighter. Hopefully all goes well and she loves it.

10:21 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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IMO, a good relationship is one in which each partner recognizes that the other is an individual, and will want to do things (like camping or backpacking) that may or may not include them.

12:24 a.m. on August 25, 2010 (EDT)
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My wife sends me out the door with a "Have fun and come back in one piece." When I went on a weeklong trip in Kings Canyon last week, she flew to Michigan to hang out with some of her old high school pals. She doesn't complain about my weeklong trips, and I don't complain about hers.

2:41 a.m. on August 25, 2010 (EDT)
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I did not marry until my late thirties, but had been in enough long term relationships to realize the dispute over disappearing into the woods is more about the relationship and individuals, than valid safety concerns. My friends had a similar lifestyle too, and their experiences substantiate this observation.

Some people just are compelled to control their mate. They view relationships as a form of property ownership. Letting honey have a weekend off runs counter to their self justified prerogatives. No amount of back bending acquiesces this type; you simply must stand your ground, knowing your request is not unreasonable. It may seem like you are putting your relationship at jeopardy, but that is your mate’s call and burden, if they insist on playing such brinksmanship for such a frivolous issue. Besides, what value is such a one sided relationship, anyway? I suggest severing all communication to your master when out on a trip. Their needs in this regard are not rational or sincere. They will only intrude on your outing and possibly use each call home as an opportunity to sabotage any fun you are having. IMHO the newly wed wife falls into this category, insisted he carry a phone then used hysteria and guilt to cajole her mate, thereby establishing who wears the pants. There is no other rational explanation for this behavior coming from an adult.

Some people are so domesticated they fear all is evil beyond the threshold of the front door. They imagine all woodland is dark, evil, and dangerous, with the combined threats of a rapist infested urban park and the Wizard of Oz forest. They do fear for your safety, but it is a profound and unreasonable fear. They need therapy, and unless you deal with this issue now, your children will suffer later in life, when the worrywart imposes a 9 pm dating curfew on the daughter, and requires college bound children to select a campus within commuting range of home, so their whereabouts can be managed. The therapy here is same as how you teach a child to not be afraid of the dark. You gradually desensitize your fear monger. Go on day hikes with no means provided for contact, then extend it to weekend trips, and eventually the longer journeys will be accepted. Again, the partner’s need in this regard is not particularly rational. Tens of thousands camp out each weekend, yet how many actually die or suffer great harm? Don’t let the insane run the asylum, and require you remain tethered.

And then there are the compulsively suspicious mates, who question your whereabouts and motives every time you step out the front door. It isn’t enough they surveil your email and phone bill for strange contacts, rifle your pockets for phone numbers, and peruse your credit card statement for questionable purchases. Nothing is enough. There is no pill to cure jealousy. Get out doors, preferably often and far away. Your relationship is crippled by neurotic companion, and you need a break to keep your own sanity intact. Leave the phone at home. Take my word; things will be just as you left them when you get back. (My sympathy goes out to you!)

Lastly some (probably more than some) get in trouble attempting to go on trips without their mate, because they either neglect them, or worse, did something to warrant their mistrust. If you think you fall into this category, repair the damage and pay the price. Damaged trust is harder to piece back together than Humpty Dumpy. It takes a long time, and sometimes trust is permanently fractured. Likewise it will take more than a dozen roses and a night out to satisfy a mate, who chronically comes in second to poker night, and other too frequent occasions out with the gang. But at least you can mend the hurt of neglect. You simply need to put off your own needs for a(long) while, lest you find an empty house to greet you upon your next return.

As for me, my wife was a mild combination of the worrywart and control freak. I dealt with the control freak unyieldingly. Eventually she learned all her bitching had only the effect of making us both angry with each departure, and she didn’t like that sour taste lingering until I returned. Simply, I will not be reduced to being mere property of my mate. I compromised with the worrywart, calling her (on long drives) when I arrive safe at the trail head before I start the hike, and again at the end of the trip, before driving home. It works well, and requires no cellular.
Ed

2:43 p.m. on August 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Ed,

I think you are close to the problem. I suspect that many if not all of the worrywarts and control freaks are pretty insecure. Jealousy plays a role, both in the aspect of insecurity (what are you doing out there? Are you going to abandon me? Why are your buddies so much more attractive to you than me? Why don't you love/like me? Why do you make me take care of the kids/laundry/grocery shopping/clean your house - am I just a housekeeper?) and the aspect of "Why do you get to have all the fun and I can't get out and have fun with my friends?" or "Why do you get to go on those expensive trips to climb the 7 Summits, and you won't even take me on a cruise/Hawaiian vacation/spa" (I met a guy like this on Denali). Maybe part, too, is that "you get to spend money on that expensive gear for camping/climbing/backcountry skiing/hunting gear, and you won't even get me a new dishwasher or buy me new clothes" (in one case I know, the wife had lots of the latest fashions and a myriad of shoes, but still objected to the husbands ever-expanding quiver of tele and AT skis and snow camping tents and sleeping bags).

Barb and I deal with that by going together to Tanzania, Easter Island, Alaska, backcountry ski tours, etc. When I went to Antarctica, Barb and Young Son went to New Zealand (now I have to go to NZ!).

It has to be a compromise on both sides. And there has to be a lot of open and honest communication and understanding. I made a comment over in the other thread about checking the right boxes on the eHarmony "dimensions of compatability" application - facetious, yes, but the idea is you really should make sure you and your future "constant companion" do know and understand each other, and that you both know the difference between working together and being chained together. You are two individuals, with your individual personalities/likes/dislikes, and you can not remake the other one to your idealized mold. Go into the relationship with eyes and ears wide open, and be completely honest with yourself and each other. Tolerance of the other's idiosyncracies is a fundamental requirement, too (ok, it is true, you can never know another person completely. Plus that would be boring. And you can never really know yourself, either. Barb and I have been together for 45 years, and we still surprise each other - usually pleasantly).

9:00 p.m. on August 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Have the perfect scenario here,

my wife is career minded and very ambitious,travels a lot and works long hours.

I happen to be the opposite...work only part time and spend countless hours backpacking solo.

We can go weeks without seeing each other but are at perfect harmony in our relationship,no maintenance,lots of respect.

25 yrs of marriage.......she makes it too easy for an avid outdoorsman like myself.

2:25 a.m. on August 26, 2010 (EDT)
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My spouse and I flip flop in that I take at least a one week adventure with my best friend. I have time in the summers that he does not; she and I have done 9 days on the Wonderland Trail, as a sample. This year, we did a 9 day, 50 mile canoe trip.

He has things he does from time to time...but the gig is that we also will do outdoor things together as well.

Trust, time, personality and so forth all affect how our spouses treat us. He knows my abilities, and my friend's abilities, and he knows we are smart enough to avoid most pitfalls that the outdoors can offer (ie, we won't DO anything stupid. That doesn't preclude the odd thing happening that is out of our control).

So, communication, lifestyles, etc. can all grease the wheels of relationships. BTW, the lady needs to breathe. She has some serious trust issues. Freaking solves nothing ...

3:28 a.m. on August 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Generally speaking, people tend to fear what they don't understand. If your SO has never experienced the backcountry or wilderness and only hears news stories of harrowing rescues or grizzly bears dragging people out of their tents in the middle of the night to eat them, they have a distorted reference point for understanding your desire to enter such "dangerous" places and consider it a fun endeavor to be repeated at every opportunity. The "worry warts/nervous wrecks" need to learn how to see the world through the other's eyes to gain a better understanding of the motivation for such "silly" pursuits. In most cases that is easier said than done.

My wife comes along on most adventures but she understands that sometimes I need to have solo trips for sanity and peace of mind. We have never begrudged each others desire to pursue interests that didn't involve the other.

12:59 a.m. on September 16, 2010 (EDT)
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I think it is hard to generalize in this situation. This was a regular subject the first few years of dating my girlfriend. Every time I had to drive home late, travel, go out for a few, or anything, she wanted me to call her when I arrive home so she could sleep at night. If a day ever went by that we didnt talk she would freak out. Sometimes she would call me as many as 50 times in 1 day because my cell was dead, or I was so exhausted I didnt hear it. When this started happening I had a very clear, kind, but stern talk about how that made me feel and it even scared me to the point. I had a very jealous ex who exhibited similar behavior but it was because insecurities about herself, and the fact when she disappeared she was doing bad stuff and assumed I would do the same.

My current girlfriend is a wonderful person, and after years of getting to know her better I learned this was regular behavior for her with all her relationships: father, mother, sister, friends, etc. Whenever they parted ways at some event, she would wait for their call until 3am or later or call them to make sure they were OK, or she would stay up and freak out all night long. Turns out she also had lost some friends to traffic accidents or other strange things, so she always wants to make sure those close to her are alright. After our talk together she has calmed down a lot and has become more comfortable with my lifestyle, we set limits to 2 calls when worried as my phone shows missed calls and messages so 50 calls wont make me answer any faster, but I had to meet her half way and make an effort to call her regularly when practical, and hey, I love her so it's never a chore.

Lesson to be learned; not everyone exhibiting similar behavior does it for the same reason. If you have a significant other that acts this way to any degree, see if you can get to the root of the problem, understand their history and reasons for the behavior. Talk frankly, calmly, kindly. If it is of true concern and love, then consider yourself lucky, if it is jealousy or some other weird thing then consider yourself luck you have a big enough red flag to know what to do next.

1:50 p.m. on September 16, 2010 (EDT)
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I have been able to work out an algorithm for fishing, I assume it would apply to hiking as well.

see http://www.overmywaders.com/cblog/index.php?/archives/59-Managing-the-angling-indices-for-fun-and-profit.html

4:21 p.m. on September 16, 2010 (EDT)
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Haha...very nice article overmywaders!

....and quite accurate.

4:08 p.m. on September 18, 2010 (EDT)
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That was a pretty funny article....I do however think it applies to more than just fishing!!

10:46 p.m. on September 25, 2010 (EDT)
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I agree that is a great article. I however, successfully have used the tactic (prior to the neptules but before the reality of actually living with me) of disclosing every negative aspect of my person that had ever been reveled by; ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, ex-etc, etc. Then by further stating that this is the way I am and if that is not acceptable then there is the door, don't let it hit you in the ass on the way out.

At that point of the relationship she will overlook the door/ass part and express that surely those other misguided women were wrong about you and that all you need is her understanding and love. You then hang your head and sadly say well that just what you have been told.

Then down the road when there is something I am planning or wanting to do that is outside of the scope of my lovely wife's intensions for my time and she gets angry I simply point at the door. Then I remind her that this is the way I am and she had full disclosure before she decided to marry me. If she continues to object I then remind her not to let that door hit her ass on the way out.

Of course one must avoid this tactic:... if what you are proposing is beyond your previous disclosure of past sins;...or you are so, head over heals in love or "vaginally beaten", that you couldn't think of life without her; or she is pregnant; or she is a homicidal manic just waiting for a good excuse to drop the hammer-so to speak.

A word to wise, this tactic only works when you are alone with her, other wise she has to retaliate just to show the witness that she is the one who is really in control.

A final disclaimer, this method does not work for 1) frequent drinking to excess. 2) late night parting with the "guys" and 3) is never useful for explaining extra relationship adventures. In addition, all free advise is worth exactly what you paid for it, and frequently the advise you pay for is not worth the price.

In closing, this method has work very well for me over the last 25 years. I am still alive and biking, hiking and skiing at will.

In all things Good luck! And remember - Don't let the door hit you in the ass...

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