Your senses peak and the seconds begin to stretch beyond the normal constraints of reality. Sweat follows the heat that has been building in your palms. As your tunnel vision fine-tunes its focus, the thudding of your heart is reverberating through your body. You inch forward to close a little more of the distance before you’re fully committed. You hadn’t realized you were holding your breath until you finally exhale. Then sparks fly.
Was this what you were feeling before dropping into a steep chute at Snowbird or were these the sensations you were experiencing before a first kiss? With so many parallels between the two situations, maybe it’s not surprising that they complement each other. With the season of romance in bloom, let’s look at a few ways every relationship can benefit from adrenaline sports like snowboarding and skiing.
An experiment conducted in 1974 (when research ethics were a bit relaxed) sent subjects across two sets of bridges. The first bridge was dubbed to be a fear-inducing suspension bridge while the other offered a stable and safer commute. After crossing the bridge, subjects were met by “an attractive female interviewer” who, after asking a series of questions, passed along her contact information. The subjects that crossed the fear-inducing bridge were far more likely to not only follow up with the interviewer but did so in hopes of landing a date.
Based on the answers to the questions and the attempted pick-ups, the researchers concluded that the adrenaline led the subjects to find the interviewer to be more sexually attractive than those who used the safer bridge. How does this help your relationship? Maybe it’s not that you’ve lost your spark, rather you need a steeper slope.
Imagine taking your skis a bit faster than normal or hucking a cliff slightly higher than you’ve tried before. Then imagine, after sticking the landing (optional, though injuries really kill this visual), you ride up to the love of your life and see them one or two points more attractive. You arrived with a seven, but you can’t wait to get back to the lodge with your nine.
When I’d first heard about the previously mentioned study, I accepted the premise of its findings but refuted that possibly the difference between those who reached out and those who didn’t, was confidence. After surviving a perceived threat, it would be natural to assume there is a resulting confidence boost. The subjects had, in their minds, cheated death. How low of a risk does asking out the interviewer seem in comparison?
Undertaking the journey of mastering winter sports comes with its challenge that, after overcoming, will leave the learner more confident. I ask rhetorically; how sexy is confidence? Confidence is the all-gender lingerie of personality traits. It looks good on you, it looks great on your significant other. Watch your lover execute a solid method grab and cut you their cheeky, “you knew I had that” grin and allow yourself to melt into the snow.
The cornerstone to a healthy relationship is communication. Too often have couples allowed a few un-communicated subjects to take root like weeds and engulf the relationship’s foundation until things are, as my military friends say, FUBAR.
Spend a day on the mountain and attempt to navigate the terrain and itinerary with poor communication and you’ll have a bad time. Were you supposed to turn left or right at the trail fork? Should you have spoken up about the fact you’re growing hungry? Did you notice your partner underdressing for the low temperatures? Have you taken note of avalanche dangers? What are your expectations for the day; is this an objective hungry laps-only day or a casual après ski?
Adventure sports not only force you to communicate for the preservation of fun but to keep you or your partner alive. This valuable skill set can carry over into your relationship leading to its sustainability. One minute the hazard being addressed is a terrain trap below your skin track, the next it's how you’re feeling under-validated for your contributions to the relationship. A spoken problem can be addressed where silent suffering will only fester.
Psychologist Dr. John Gottman created a space he named the “love lab”; a single-bedroom apartment in downtown Seattle in which he would invite couples to spend a weekend with the understanding they would be observed through the entirety of their stay. After years of observing couples, Dr. Gottman can predict with a 90% accuracy rate if a couple will be divorced within five years. His studies birthed his novel, The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, in which he details seven things all healthy couples do to keep their marriage intact and healthy.
Leading the charge is the idea of love maps, which refers to the ability of the individuals in a couple to recall details from their past (ex. where they met) as well as the details that matter to their partner (ex. their favorite toppings or sister’s name).
As the two of you repeatedly make deep turns through dry powder, you’ll be given opportunity after opportunity to build memories. Recalling the deepest days of previous winters or remembering to bring a chairlift snack because your lover is a grown child that can’t be bothered to eat indoors when the snow is falling. In both examples, you’ll be contributing to building a stronger relationship.
Another bonus of a thrill-seeking sport is the ability to create flashbulb memories. In psychology, the term is used to describe moments that are so shocking our mind takes in and cements all the details. The dependability of these details has come into question, but this doesn’t necessarily take away from its functionality. Imagine your person bombing, absolutely bombing down a run, and a deer bolts across their path nearly colliding with your dear (pun intended) one. That moment will live with the two of you forever, solidifying a moment in your shared history and adding to the savings account of your relationship.
An object in motion stays in motion. You’ve found your special someone and the goal is to be there for them as long as you can. An active lifestyle has been proven time and again to not only add days to your lifespan but massive upgrades in your quality of life, as well. Strapping into your snowboard can be as strong a commitment to your relationship as sliding a ring onto your finger.
This article isn’t to say that you can replace couple’s therapy with season passes, but it is to say snow sports go a long way in helping a relationship go a long way.
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