Can You Be Happy Dating Someone Who Isn’t Adventurous?

He’s everything she wants—except for being a partner in the great outdoors. Should that be a deal-breaker?

I’ve always pictured myself with a partner who wants to explore the world with me, that stereotypical romantic vision of a soulmate with whom to share all the epics: learning to surf in Hawaii, skiing in Argentina, backpacking across Nepal. Even just heading out for a last-minute backpacking trip together, or a post-work mountain bike ride.

I’ve had that here and there, with seasonal boyfriends and travel affairs. In between were stints of being single in which I traveled solo or with friends, and stop-and-start dating episodes not worth making long-term adventure plans for.

But I recently stumbled into a healthy relationship. He’s everything I’ve been looking for: intelligent, motivated, caring, hilarious. I’m so attracted to him I can barely stand it.

There’s just one problem. He won’t go on adventures with me.

I keep thinking that if I’m patient, the vestiges of the adventurer he apparently was before I met him will re-emerge and then he’ll actually be everything I’m looking for. But he’s too married to his work to make time for playing outside anymore.

I’ve started to wonder…is this a deal-breaker?

I live with the philosophy that there’s so much to see and learn and experience, and I’ve structured my life around exploring the world. I work for myself so I can operate remotely at trailheads or from the road. It’s one of the reasons I don’t want kids, so I can adventure all over the globe (and even out the back door) at a moment’s notice. I’ve always expected to fall in love with someone with a similar lifestyle.

In the mountain towns that so many of us live in, that expectation isn’t far-fetched. I’ve looked wistfully at those many relationships where each is the others’ built-in adventure buddy: my sister and her husband hitchhiking on sailboats together through the South Pacific or my two best friends planning an epic float down the full length of the Colorado River where they first fell in love. Those relationships are stronger for their shared experiences, built on the magic formula of wonder, adrenaline highs, connection to nature, and the inevitable troubleshooting and hardships (which, admittedly, can just as easily break a relationship) that defines adventure.

Beyond that, the rise of social media has offered up a whole new playing field for comparison with an unprecedented look into other people’s lives. Particularly in the outdoor sphere, it’s all too easy to watch couples having incredible adventures on blogs and Instagram (albeit on an often highly-curated level). It’s created a special brand of romantic FOMO that can often leave us feeling lonely in our own, perhaps less adventurous, relationships, or extra lonely in our singleness. I admit I often catch myself thinking: I wish I had a partner like that—my own built-in travel buddy to share the experience, help with planning, inspire further journeys—basically, meet the need for companionship in this huge priority of exploring.

But the fact that it’s a priority also means that I’ve surrounded myself with other people who love to explore, who can meet my need for companionship in adventures. I hiked the Na Pali Coast with my sister and snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef with my dad. I backpacked in Patagonia with my best friend. I’m heading to the Yukon to mountain bike with my regular riding crew of a dozen women, and joining my two best friends floating the Colorado on their leg through Desolation Canyon.

So at heart, the question is: Should my partner really need to be my adventure buddy, when he meets literally every one of my other needs? I’m actually shockingly content lounging on his couch at home and talking for hours, or in the most mundane tasks of making dinner and walking the dog—which meets my up-to-now unknown need to be still between gallivanting off to kayak and ski and generally exhaust myself in the mountains.

I’ve come to realize that real love, the lasting kind, isn’t the first day of your most exciting adventure. It’s not even the worst day, when you’re tired and lost and everything’s gone wrong. Love is a thousand ordinary weeknights, the sum of which make you happier that you ever thought possible.

We can’t control who we fall in love with. We can’t force it to conform to our preconceived notions, like my hypothetical vision of adventuring around the world with my imaginary soulmate. The real thing is right in front of me, and the deal-breaker would be my failure to see it—adventurer or not.

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash


Showing 20 comments
  • DanO

    My wife of 30 awesome years will not go on every gonzo adventure I go on. When making plans for her to come with for more than 2 nights, I have to supply a comfort factor that I normally would never consider. Some of my quests elicit nothing more than a sly smile and a “see you when you get back!”

    But… she has an adventurous spirit! Cynthia is interested in people, places and (almost) everything around her. She is always reading something new, learning something new. finding wonder in the smallest things. I have found I can have a partner who is not interested in going on every one of my adventures. But I could never be with someone who is not amazed by the world around them and adventurous in spirit.

  • Kim Grimm

    My husband & I have been married for 7 yrs now. I struggled for a long time with the fact that he does not have the same desire as I do to spend the weekend hiking or plotting a cross country trip to visit a natl park. Nonetheless he is a great partner and we still find plenty of adventures we do like to share together i.e. exploring a new city, trying new foods. And it’s compromise too…we recently bought a camper, he gets a comfy bed to sleep on and I get my time in the woods!

  • Lance

    I think it depends on how supportive you are of each other. A long time ago I was married for ten unhappy years to someone who suddenly lost any interest she had in skiing, hiking, or camping. There were the guilt trips when I left, There were the complaints when I had underestimated how long I would gone and when I would be home. I was eternally optimistic in how fast and far I could travel/ (this was before cell phones and coverage were as prevalent as they are now.) So I stayed home stir crazy, miserable, and probably not a very good partner. Hopefully your partner understands that leaving for adventure defines who you are and trying to constrain that impulse will make both of you miserable.

  • tom

    I’ve been married since 1974. same girl. I knew the union showed promise when she bought me the first gift from herself. no it wasn’t a necktie, a bottle of English leather or gentry golf clubs. she gifted me a buck knife!

  • Ben

    Relationships with people are about compromise.

    Being in the wilderness is all about you.

    You gotta compromise to be in a relationship or it’ll just be you. alone. in the wilderness.

    Just saying.

  • Den

    My partner and I have been together for more than 30 years.She is not into outdoors or long cycling ride like me. From time I have been a bit sad for her because she can not experience some great landscapes I can see. But I understand as well that somebody does not want to endure the stupidity of the pain in endurance sports.I think as well it is good to have things that each one can do on his side and leave the other some personal time.On the other hand I would not get on at all with somebody stopping me to do what I like and vice versa

  • JoAnne

    Harsh as this may sound, find someone else. In the long term you’ll be unhappy and resentful with a partner who won’t go on adventures with you.

  • Cassidy Randall

    So insightful. He’s encouraging, if anything–and one day when he has more time, maybe adventure will define him again, too.

  • Dan

    I’m sure everyone has their opinion but as I am a been there, done that, I have to agree with JoAnne. My starter wife of 30+ years found someone with her same priorities (work) while encouraging me to go outdoors. Now my outdoor wife of several years and I share a lot more of life, every day having the same priorities. If being outdoors is a priority in your life and working is a priority in his it will be a lonely life for both of you. Little differences work themselves out but life’s priorities don’t. It’s a lot more satisfying enjoying the outdoors with the one you love. Friends can’t fill that void.

  • Charlie-Ann

    I really like being alone in the wilderness – I also really love being single, so compromise isn’t something that is needed in my case. I’ve dated great men who would have made great life partners if settling is what I am looking to do, but for me personally, that isn’t an option. Outdoor adventure is so much a fundamental part of who I am and now I define myself and to some extent, my life, that it feels wrong to be with someone who do not want to share the thing that is fundamental to who I am. There’s not a single “right answer” for everyone. For me, someone who shares my adventure is critical to them being the right person for me.

  • gringo

    For me the answer lies behind the question of how much are you willing to compromise, and how is that compromise going to affect you long term.
    Cleaning the house in anticipation of guests, or going shopping on a sunny day, are not bad per se. But ask yourself how you will feel in 20 years when you realize that your youth is long gone and each day in the mountains is a gift….and every one missed will be something you can never get back.

    If thats OK for you then go with the boring partner.
    I want NO regrets on my death bed!

  • Kristine

    hey! I know what you mean! I am definitely more adventurous than my partner, but i feel I have passed the disease to her. After being so long time together i think some characteristics and habits are contagious – in this case the adventure spirit. I I think you shouldn´t pick a partner measuring him by his urge to explore, but yes as you said, its the 1000 simple nights that make it work!

  • Dan Murphy

    Great answers so far, all over the map as expected, and none of them wrong.

    Can it work? Absolutely.
    Will it work? Who knows.

    This is not a minor difference. This is a difference on how to live your life and is right up there with how to manage money and whether to have kids. You will still need to get out there and do your adventures. Hopefully, you will enjoy them without guilt.

  • Laura

    For me, I don’t choose to limit those I date in that way. Interests and abilities change over a lifetime. I look for core values: integrity, kindness, respect and generosity.

    I’m dating someone who hikes with me sometimes and I climb with friends. He is interested and encouraging, it’s just not his passion.

    I like that I have a piece of myself that is all mine. And I like the feeling of not taking his presence for granted from time to time.

  • Faith Young

    When you first fall in love and the love hormone oxytocin is running at high levels, you think you will be able to overlook a lot of things in a new partner. I think subconsciously, you hope to change your partner so that s/he will come to like the activities that you like. Sometimes that will happen, if you are lucky. I’ve always compared love to a charcoal BBQ – at first, it burns hot and fast because of the lighter fluid, once it burns off, it settles down into a nice warm bed of glowing coals, but, if you don’t throw some new charcoal on it every so often, the fire will die. This new charcoal is all the things you have in common, including recreational activities. Sometimes, if both of you start doing your own thing on your leisure time, you will start growing apart, and after a while, chances are that one or both of you will find someone else to do those activies, and, if that happens, that may be the beginning of the end, because people tend to bond when they are having fun together. So I would proceed with caution, keeping in mind that compromise may be possible, and that you both need to make a conscious effort to have “you & me” time so that you can come back together and stoke your relationship to keep it going on the long term.

    • Julia

      This was such a good way to describe a relationship & true. After more than seven years of marriage, we’re drifting apart because we have no shared interests/have different ideas of the best way to spend a weekend and our other off time. One of my friends, when I dismissed our incompatibility as just surface-level hobby differences (we both have strong senses of humor and similar values), she reminded me it’s different lifestyles we’re pursuing (outdoors and adventure vs indoors and routine) and that’ll impact more than you think.

  • a nony mous

    i’m seeing all these adventurous females posting. Is there any chance you can impart some of your outdoor adventure-ness onto my spouse?

    please? thanks

  • SLK

    I begin with this: free advice is worth what you pay for it. 😉

    In my nearly 10 years of moderately OK marriage, observation of my parents (failed) marriage and my mom’s much more successful second, friends married happily and unhappily alike, I have come to two conclusions: you and your partner don’t have to be adventure buddies or even have all of the same interests. But, it’s helpful if you two are 1) of the same mindset and 2) support each other’s pursuits.

    1) Same mindset: Are you the type of people that like to do everything together or do you each appreciate having lots of unique experiences alone, with friends, AND together?

    My husband often says to me, “Everything is better with you.” Some girls would find that romantic. Honestly, I have come to realize that I don’t. And I don’t agree. I think some experiences are more enjoyable alone, or with this or that girlfriend, or with my goofy uncles. Some things definitely are better with my husband, but not everything. That’s a significant difference in mindset because it leads into point #2…

    2) Supportiveness: If your interests don’t totally align, how do you handle it? Do you *both* compromise and share in each other’s interests? Are you both independent *and* supportive of that independence? That can start to look very different as a relationship gets more serious.

    Is he happy for you when you take off on adventures with friends? Does he help you pack and ask you questions when you get back, or is he mopey and incurious and passively makes you feel bad about leaving him? Does he have his own friends that he can explore his own interests with or is he totally relying on you for entertainment?

    Some compromise is, of course, key to successful relationships. But if it comes to pass that one person is giving up a lot for the other, or you both are compromising into a state of ennui where neither of you are really doing what you want and/or begrudging the other person, that isn’t healthy.

    I think people could write the same piece around anything. Do you have to have similar professions to make it work so that you understand each other’s worlds? Do you have to be the same age? Same philosophical leanings? “I go to protest marches and volunteer ever free second I get but my partner doesn’t. Will it work?”

    I look to my mom and her husband, who married in their 60s. They’re pretty different. But they *admire* each other and have similar outlooks/energy levels, and all that seems to lead to a really peaceful relationship. It’s amazing. In that admiration, they are totally supportive of each other’s independent pursuits. They explore each other’s worlds out of curiosity even though they don’t necessarily dive in. They share a lot of critical passions. They push each other to do what they want, better themselves, explore their interests. One isn’t laying around while the other bounds around doing stuff. It’s really cool.

    Like I said, free advice… 😉

  • mikepro

    There’s a big difference, in my mind, between “won’t go on adventures with me”, as you say, and “reluctantly goes on adventures with me” or “maxes out at an easy overnight backpack weekend”. Your article doesn’t even say whether or not your partner will go on a day hike, or float the nearest river, or go midnight snowshoeing, or early morning jogs, or waterfall skinny dipping, or even car glamping. I could be reading into it to much, but it sure reads to me that your current partner works and makes meals at home and walks the dog and that’s it; and that this article is a subversive way of asking for approval from general public; “it’s okay to date a homebody, right? right? isn’t it?”. If adventure and adventure travel is as big a defining aspect of who you are as you say it is, and is such a large portion of how you experience the world and life, then you are going to want to share it with your life partner, over and over again, and create a lifetime of adventure travel memories that include your partner’s involvement. That’s only natural and should not be subdued or compromised. It’s who you say you are. If your ultimate romantic fantasy is that your guy, instead of sitting on the couch talking for hours on a Friday night, jumps up at the spur of the moment and spins a bottle and says “whichever way it points is where we’re heading to the outdoors or travel for the weekend”, or takes out a map of the Carribbean and has you throw darts to pick an island to visit for your 6mos anniversary, then please be true to that fantasy/dream, do what it takes to make it reality, and don’t compromise. Yes, you can be happy dating a non-adventurous working man, but for how long?

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