It might be true that opposites attract. But that doesn’t last very long. Ask a couple what keeps them together past that first blush of fascination and it’s usually that they have a lot in common. A thing for Civil War reenactments. A passion for wonky federal policy banter.
Whatever. It works.
What’s harder is when two people have a lot in common, but it’s not what they like to do together in their free time. He loves to hunt. She volunteers for PETA. The bonds of love are strong. Then come the weekends.
For some couples, like Adam and Rachel Putnam of Santa Fe, that’s not an issue. They met through an activity that they already both spent a good amount of time doing—rock climbing. From there, they found similar activities they both liked to do, like kayaking and snowboarding. Picking a weekend activity was never a sacrifice for either.
“We spend a lot of time either snowboarding, kayaking or mountain biking. Occasionally just camping,” Adam says. “We would both be doing those things separately.”
If some couples like the Putnams are lucky to have everything in common, most simply have enough in common. Take Amy Bauer and Scott Hsu. When they met, in 2004, they were both scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory. They shared some interests—live music, good restaurants and, most importantly for both, a love of getting outside.
“I think the first thing we did together was hike up to Wheeler Peak,” Scott says. “It was a good foreshadow of our life to come.”
They started learning how to rock climb together. But with winter came a divergence. Scott was a hardcore ski mountaineer. His passion was to hike or climb up steep peaks in winter and ski down them, and he was on snow pretty much every weekend all winter. And Amy?
“I hated being cold. So I had never had a good experience on skis before. I’d skied maybe five times in my life,” she says.
Usually, this is where the friction starts. Either one partner curtails his or her passion, the other learns to adopt it or they spend a good part of their free time balancing delicately in the middle. Or, they simply learn to spend a lot of time apart.
I have one friend who used to joke that she’d become “a fitness widow” because her husband liked to ride his bike so much. (They got through it.)
Scott knew that the main thing that kept Amy from the slopes was the cold. So he took a gamble and went shopping—buying her a nice new set of skis and bindings (“I had big hopes,” he says) and showing her tricks to beating the chill on the slopes, like feet warmers in her boots and the right clothes for the conditions.
“Scott made the upfront investment in getting me good gear, handling the fact I was cold all the time,” Amy says. There was never any pressure, overt or suggested.
“I just tried to present the fun aspect of it,” Scott says. “I took a long view of it, not pressuring her before she was ready.”
Scott found a ski-instructor friend to teach Amy the basics, and soon the couple was logging time together on easy runs at local resorts. “Through his patience and seeing the great world of skiing, I fell in love with it. It probably wouldn’t have been a big part of my life, except for him,” Amy says.
After a year, the two began exploring the backcountry together, then skiing steeper terrain, and eventually climbing and skiing big mountains. They were married last year. By the time their first child arrived this December, they were skiing together every weekend.
Of course, it’s not always so easy. Some couples have interests that are mutually exclusive—she gets up early to train for triathlons; he likes hitting the bars until last call. He lives to hike to backcountry lakes and cast for mountain trout. She hates to be dirty.
“I’ve seen couples work where they do have activities that are mutually exclusive and they don’t share time together. But my advice would be, in general, cut ’em loose. Find someone who shares your same passions,” Amy says. “I hate seeing couples struggle with issues where they are not compatible. It doesn’t look fun at all.”
More often couples have similar affinities but express them differently—he likes mountain biking, she’s a runner. That’s easier. You can’t do them together, but they aren’t that far apart. “As long as you are fundamentally compatible, all the other things fall into place,” Amy says.
The best way to avoid spending the whole weekend at the negotiating table is to find some new common ground for both of you. Go camping. Start with the national monuments scattered around northern New Mexico—in winter, you’ll have them all to yourselves. Rent bikes from Mellow Velo and get to know the back roads of town. Tandem if you feel you must. Pick something where success is guaranteed. Tennis? Terrible idea. You’ll spend all afternoon feeling clumsy together and swearing at little fuzzy balls. Golf? Worse. Better yet, pick up a copy of the Sierra Club’s guide, Day Hikes in the Santa Fe Area, and set a goal to hike each one, in order, starting with the first: an easy lap on the scenic Dale Ball Trails. You’ll soon be exploring the most beautiful spots in the area together.
Or pick an activity that you can both learn together, like climbing. It’s fun, easy to learn and you always need a good partner. It worked for Scott and Amy—climbing was the first sport they learned together.
“The rope is just a lifeline between the two of you—you really have to trust the other person is going to hold up their end of the deal,” Scott says. “It was great spending all that time together; but it was much more than that. I think it helped to establish a foundation for the relationship.” First step? Take an easy intro course at the Santa Fe Climbing Center.
Spend enough time together, and you’ll soon have a new problem on your hands: How to make room for a third. The Hsus now have to split their weekend adventures with a new partner, Esme Olivia, age 2 months, and both are excited to share their mutual passion with her. They even have a Onesie that says, ‘NO FRIENDS ON A POWDER DAY.’
Ten hours before Esme was born, Amy and Scott were making telemark turns at Pajarito Mountain. Fifteen days after, mom and dad were back on the slopes.