Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t love walking.
In fact, I’m not sure if I’d even say I liked it. It wasn’t something I did very often, and certainly not for fun.
Growing up, I played on all kinds of sports teams and was able to get my exercise that way. But since leaving university, my involvement with my favourite sports has dwindled down to nothing, and my health has paid the price.
It wasn’t until I met my partner a few years ago that I started going on more walks. At the beginning of our relationship, we were both temporarily living with our parents, so our walks were a way to get out of the house and have some alone time together. Whenever we visited each other, we’d go for a walk. It didn’t matter whether it was during the heat of summer or a winter wonderland outside! We would bundle up if necessary, and off we’d go.
Since first meeting him almost five years ago, walking has continued to be a part of our lives, and I think we’re better for it. Below are three ways walking together has benefitted our relationship (and continues to do so), and how it can also improve yours.
You Get To Know Each Other Better
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to talk to someone about, especially in a new relationship. As an introvert, this was even harder for me at the beginning. I’m an extremely private person, and I don’t love the idea of sharing a lot about myself (especially with someone I don’t know very well).
But somehow, walking together changed that for me. I felt more comfortable opening up and sharing more about myself when it was just the two of us, surrounded by nature.
He’d take me on some of the trails around the forest near his house, and I’d take him on walks around my parents’ farm. We’d trek the rural roads around their property as well, and I’d tell him stories about running to the bus in the mornings, or my dad having to chase it down the road in the car, me in the passenger seat, ready to jump out and run as soon as we skidded to a stop. (I was late a lot.)
These stories helped us build an understanding of one another, and ultimately brought us closer together. Walking became a special way for us to bond, and that bond has only grown over the years as we’ve continued this practice.
You Learn To Ask Better Questions
When you walk often enough, you run out of the ‘usual’ topics to talk about pretty quickly. You can only ask each other the same questions wrapped up in different packages so many times before the conversation becomes stagnant and you get bored.
For example, after asking it hundreds of times, I’ve finally realized that the unoriginal question of “How was your day?” tends to elicit the fairly standard, lazy response of, “Not bad.” Conversation over. Thrilling!
In her article, 36 Deep Questions to Ask Your Significant Other So You Can Truly Know Them, author Vanessa Van Edwards talks about something called the How Trap.
The How Trap is when you are stuck only asking ‘How are you?’ and nothing more. In the How Trap you get caught up in day-to-day logistics and check-ins,” she says. “Sometimes we feel like we really know someone, but on the surface we are only familiar with the day-to-day.
Realizing how often we were stuck in the ‘How Trap’ has led us to go deeper, and to ask more than the habitual, surface-level questions.
When “How was your day?” doesn’t get much out of my partner, I ask something more specific or open-ended instead. As an electrician, his days all look pretty much the same to a degree; he’s always doing the same kind of work. But what differs is the location, the environment, the design layout, the level of difficulty of the job, etc.
I’ll often ask him what the house he worked at that day was like, or what he liked/didn’t like about it. Was it a beautiful new-build cottage on the lake somewhere, or a stuffy “cat house” (as he calls it), with a different cat popping up everywhere he looked? Did he pick up any cool new design ideas that we could someday incorporate into our dream house? Did he learn anything from any of the other tradespeople on the job?
In return, he’ll ask me about what I learned that day, what I’m currently reading, or what I wrote about. These are the questions that get us talking, because they go beyond the surface.
You Become More Comfortable Being Vulnerable
While starting off a walk talking about your day or what you learned can be fun, you’ll likely still run out of conversation topics at some point along the way. When this happens, it’s time to dream.
And this is where the real fun begins!
My partner and I have made a habit of sharing our dreams with each other on our walks. No matter how crazy they are or how unlikely they seem from this moment in time, it doesn’t stop us from diving in and getting excited thinking about all the possibilities our future may hold.
We talk about our dream house, where we want to live, what our ideal careers might look like, how we ultimately want to be spending our time when we’re older, where we want to travel, and so much more.
But this wasn’t always easy, especially in the beginning. Being transparent about your innermost desires can be extremely hard.
An article in Psychology Today by clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone says:
While most of us think we want close connections, we resist vulnerability, the very trait that makes that connection possible. In a culture that often praises having thick skin and staying strong and self-contained, we mistakenly brush off being vulnerable as weak. We believe it will unnecessarily expose us to hurts and humiliations we could otherwise avoid. But what vulnerability is really about is the willingness to truly be ourselves — to expose a softer side not hidden behind our defenses.
It takes practice to be vulnerable and really open up to someone, and our walks together have been the perfect “training wheels.”
I’ve found that vulnerability is something you have to continually practice, but the more you do, the closer you’ll become to your partner — and going for walks together is a great way to start building this skill.
The many health benefits of walking are reason enough to begin this simple exercise, but over time, you may find that it can also improve your relationship!