I have an addiction that runs deep. It has taken over other parts of my life and made relationships virtually impossible. It’s not gambling or drinking or drugs. It’s the outdoors. Specifically, it’s hiking, backpacking, bicycling, bicycle camping, canoeing, canoe camping, sea kayaking, sea kayak camping, fishing, and rafting. You can see I have a problem. Even worse, my particular outdoor passions often require me to be gone for days, as opposed to, say, a tennis passion, where one leaves home, hits a little yellow ball around, and returns home later the same day. These outdoor obsessions can get in the way of a love story. I should know, being a man who has camped out over 3,000 nights since the mid-1980s. Guess what: I’m still not married. I graduated from college and became a backpacking bum, camping during the week and bartending on the weekends. It was great for maximizing my number of nights beneath the stars but terrible for my love life. Then there were the big trips. Yep, heading out for three weeks to Yellowstone is adventurous, but there’s a price to be paid. A buddy of mine’s wife, upon hearing he was taking off for Canada’s North woods, replied, “Well, I’m going shopping in Atlanta for a week,” depleting both my friend’s bank account and goodwill stockpile. Being gone during important events has other costs, too. Missing your girlfriend’s best friend’s wedding in order to catch the northern lights may seem logical to you and your outdoor buddies. But you weren’t there when it mattered. And being in absentia during untimely deaths and subsequent funerals leaves you simply a cad. It’s often my girlfriend’s friends that plant the first seeds of doubt. “Oh, is Johnny gone again? Johnny isn’t here for Valentine’s Day? Wasn’t he also gone during your parent’s anniversary party?” Soon, she stops defending my outdoor lifestyle and starts asking the tough questions. “Why aren’t you here when I need you most?” That’s a complicated question, especially when my response is, “The water on the Watauga was just right.” Then she’ll ask me to prove my love by curtailing or discontinuing my outdoor adventures. This setup is intended to make me choose between what I love and who I love. My response: ”Instead of stopping me from pursuing my passion, why don’t you come along?” My girlfriend Pam has opened my eyes to this possibility. When we share outdoor activities together, we create our own exclusive memories, which strengthen the bonds in our relationship. Think of the time we bicycle-camped the Greenbrier River Trail and saw the bear. Or when we got caught in a thunderstorm backpacking on Harper Creek, then warmed by a roaring campfire. How about marveling at the Twin Arches framed in spring greens? Or the 17-mile day over the balds of Roan Mountain? Or seeing the mountain laurel bloom near Sherando Lake? And those trying times – the punishing hills, the frigid mornings, the rainy afternoons, the tangles, the briers and blowdowns on the trail – overcoming those challenges together are metaphoric examples upon which we can draw when non-outdoor challenges arise in our relationship. “If we successfully paddled through 25-knot winds in the Everglades, we can fight through this.” This is what I’ve learned: You can either turn your outdoor passions into a relationship-building asset or a relationship-destroying liability. In the end, though, it’s all about relationships. As Pam puts it, “It’s who you are with, not where you are at.” So these days, I willingly temper my outdoor passions with my love for her. After all, adventures aren’t as memorable when there’s no one there to share them with.