Goals and Relationships

Hi Steph, I have a question. There seems to be a common mindset of the climber/athletes out there: focused determination. I am dating a climber whose goals seem to be super-human. I love to be a part of this life, and I support the drive. It can be hard, at times, when those goals are so big, they seem to overshadow the “us” part of life.
Do you have any advice for the “other side” of the relationship? How do we achieve our personal goals and still support one another?

Hi Elle,
I don’t know if you ask this question because you excel at self inquiry and you address problems before they get big, or if you ask it because you’re already in a problem–and those are two very different scenarios. So I apologize if my response isn’t relevant for you, but maybe it will be the right thing for someone else out there.

I think it’s very normal for women to want to give as much as we can to those we love, selflessly and often without expectation of receiving it in return. I was in a longterm relationship when I was younger where everything revolved around my partner’s goals. I had big goals too, and I was just as focused and determined. But without ever wanting it to be that way, I found myself juggling to give 100% to support my partner’s goals and then, in my spare time, trying to give 100% to my goals. It’s pretty hard to give 200% all the time, no matter how superhuman you are–especially when you’re not getting that kind of support in return. In a situation like this, which I see a lot of women falling into, after a while you get pretty tired. You also get sad, and eventually angry. And it’s very difficult to repair that.

After a lot of years of being part of a community filled with people who are highly excited about their goals and their climbing and their etc., I’ve had many female friends who’ve been through this experience. These are always women who are incredibly strong and perfectly capable of taking care of everything, and so they do. The more things they take care of, the more their partner is free to pursue all those amazing goals, and who wouldn’t want that? But after a while they start to wonder why no one’s taking care of them, why they’re not worth being taken care of…and this is so destructive. One thing I’ve learned about people, and about life, is the only person you can change is yourself. For myself, I have had the good fortune to be totally supported and fulfilled since that time in my history. We learn from every difficult experience.

It’s exciting and inspiring to be with someone who’s driven, and it’s really exciting to BE someone who’s driven–sometimes so exciting that a person can lose sight of the fact that there’s a lot more going on in the world than one’s own personal goals, no matter how radical they may be. At the end of the day, personal goals are just that, and they need to be treated with an appropriate level of perspective. There are infinite things in this world that are more important than a person’s personal goals–a healthy, balanced relationship is just one of them.

It is completely possible to be highly driven while simultaneously being loving and generous. Find a partner who has big goals and cares about them, but who cares about yours just as much, if not more. Find a partner who gets the very greatest happiness in life from seeing you happy. And yes, that person is out there. There are 7.5 billion people on earth.

A friend of mine who’s been married to an amazing woman for decades now once told me, “when you find the right person, 1 + 1 equals 5.” As it turns out, the math works 🙂

  • Molly Haight

    I love everything about this especially because it relates to relationships for all people, not just climbers. Thank you for being a wise woman leading the way!

  • Justyna Jaworska

    So true and beautiful!

  • Thanks Elle for asking and you for answering! My boyfriend is a climber (I am not) and while I’m supportive and certainly don’t want him to *not* do something he can be super-excited about. This is definitely an ongoing conversation and I struggle (constantly as a human) to express how I feel, but we’re trying to find a balance that actually works for us!


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