Love in the Mountains: Preseason conditioning for mountain couples
November 6, 2017
Editor's note: Love in the Mountains is a new relationships column written by Jessica Heaney, a licensed clinical social worker in the valley.
As we hang up the mountain bikes and begin to dig out the ski gear, the anticipation for winter begins to build. These next six months of snow-filled adventures is a large part of why we choose to live in these incredible mountains. But along with the excitement also comes the stress.
It's stressful because this is when the valley works its hardest. With locals averaging two to three jobs, relationships tend to suffer. Preseason is the time of year when couples begin to prepare for the onslaught of long hours, intense demands, exhaustion and personal conflict.
Often, I hear a theme of hopelessness. "It's Groundhog Day. Same issues, different year," one client shares. "What can change? We have to survive and this is the season where we make money." With the greatest of intentions, some couples manage to hold onto hope. "Maybe this year won't be as bad. Maybe we can make more time for us."
What they're all really saying is: "I want it to be different. I wish it weren't this hard. I hate knowing our relationship takes the brunt of the stress. But I'm not sure what to do."
'Tis The Season
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It's a terrible fate of despair mixed with helplessness. It can seem like all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. But sitting back in complacency with our fingers crossed won't change a thing. What mountain couples need to understand is how to blend being realistic without being negligent or powerless.
The reality is that the season brings wear and tear. And this wear and tear impacts you, your partner and your family. Ignoring, avoiding or minimizing this truth only adds to the wreckage. Acknowledging the stress of the season can go a long way in helping your relationship. It keeps the conversation open, instead of shutting it down.
The helpless tendency is to say, "It is what it is." And leave it at that. Yet, your relationship and marriage needs reassurance that despite the stress of the season, it still matters most. Otherwise, you risk getting caught in a disconnected pattern where you and your partner begin to feel neglected.
And feeling neglected in relationships is a common symptom in our valley. We all have different strategies to manage this sense of disconnection. Some avoid it. They escape deeper into work or into their solo backcountry adventures. Others get swept away by the perpetuating desire to be closer. They just can't ignore it. This is when I usually see protests through criticism, anger or what their partner describes as nagging.
Planning For The Season
To prevent feeling neglected, alone and disconnected from the person you love most, I've created a preseason conditioning plan for couples. Follow this plan to strengthen your relationship and to stay connected throughout this winter season.
Acknowledge the stress: Explore how stress has impacted you both in prior seasons.
Seek understanding: Resist getting critical by being curious.
Protect time together: Carve out time to connect before the season kicks into gear.
Plan and commit: Continue to protect time to connect throughout the season. Get it scheduled on the calendar and keep it on the calendar. No excuses.
Use your benefits: If you're employed with Vail Resorts, then you have EAP benefits which gives you and your partner six sessions with me, your local relationship expert. Let's tune up your relationship and get you conditioned for the season ahead.
Jessica Heaney is a licensed clinical social worker who knows the relationship struggles of living in the Vail Valley. If you're a Vail Resorts employee, then your EAP benefits give you and your partner six sessions with Heaney. For more information, visit http://www.jessicaheaney.com.
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