How to Teach Your Lover (and have them not hate you)

See! He's even smiling a little... .... ...!
See! He’s even smiling a little… …. …!

It’s common wisdom that two people engaged in a romantic liaison should never under any circumstances teach one another to do anything. From running to poker, nothing good can come of this.

Or can it?

R and I have survived the winter of sharing our sports with one another. Here’s how we did it without one stabbing the other with a sharpened ski pole.

1. Have an actual interest in learning the sport.

I’m serious here. Reasons you should learn a sport from your lover: you want to play that sport and want to play it with them at some point in time. Reasons you should not learn a sport from your lover: you want to keep an eye on them, you don’t like them having their me-time, they’re forcing you. These are bad bad bad bad reasons and will only make the experience miserable.

I dated someone who forced me to run with him. It was the worst. I didn’t start running again until nearly 3 years after we broke up. Why? Because it was torture. Don’t torture; it’s mean.

2. Establish a teacher-student relationship that is different from your partner-partner relationship.

During teaching time, let the teacher teach and let the student be a student. Don’t just acknowledge that the teacher knows what they are doing, take it for granted. Believe it from your frostbitten nose to your tennis-shoed toes.

For us, this was pretty easy. We’re both athletes used to being coached, for one. But, perhaps more importantly, we do a pretty good job of communicating our lesson needs to one another. Teaching tennis is part of R’s job. It’s what he does, and he does it quite well. When it came time to teach him to ski, I took cues from our tennis lessons on how to talk, how to explain things, and how to listen.

This isn’t to say it’s always easy. R, for example, does this thing called “talking” which drives me nuts. I can’t listen, wind up, aim, and hit a ball of yellow fuzz all at the same time.

3. Know your limits as a teacher.

I can’t speak for R here, but I can speak for myself. I have never taught skiing to anyone. I am navigating this teaching thing by guesswork, relying on examples and tricks I either overheard or vaguely remember from the two winters I raced. I know I can’t be his only instructor, which leads me to —

4. Allow and encourage them to learn from someone else.

You’re not the only person in the universe, and you may not be the best teacher for your lover. I’m not the best person to teach a complete newbie how to ski, so I helped R get set with rental gear and gave him a good luck kiss before he went off to take lessons from a properly trained professional.

In tennis, a shoulder injury prevents me from doing a normal overhand serve. The person who taught me my serve wasn’t R, but one of our friends who happened to know enough about tennis to suggest it. R don’t take it personally that someone else’s boyfriend fixed my serve.

Coach on the court. Coach’s girlfriend, not paying attention. Per usual.

I use the word fixed very loosely here. My serve is terrible. But at least it doesn’t feel like my arm is tearing through the socket every time I try.

5. Kiss them when they’re happy, kiss them when they’re pissed.

Unless they don’t like kissing. In which case why are you dating this person?

Here, basically, no matter what, be positive. If they’re driving you nuts, be positive. If they’re getting ticked at you, be positive. Tell them that they’re doing great. If they really aren’t doing great, give them a kiss and say, “That’s enough for today.” Maybe they had a bad day. Don’t make it worse by forcing them freeze on the chairlift or hurt themselves by flailing frustratedly at a ball of fuzz.

That’s all the advice I have. Do you have experience teaching your loved one, or being taught by them? Funny stories, epic fails, or brilliant victories? Tell me about them. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “How to Teach Your Lover (and have them not hate you)”

  1. I read your headline and was ready to dismiss this as NOT POSSIBLE. But these are awesome tips. Of course, you just happen to be a boddhisattva, which I think probably helps.

    1. At the very least I am dedicated to the cause of spreading the gospel of skiing, bringing the blessing of the schuss to those who haven’t even dreamed of such joy. (Or something.)
      He’s too kind to say it, but I think I’m the more difficult student!
      Thank you for the kind words. Anything is possible, right?

  2. I taught my husband to ride two winters ago. I was super hesitant to try this, since I’d tried (and failed) this with my ex. Happily, hubby really wanted to get good. We weathered the experience pretty well, too. It helped I wasn’t attached to the outcome. If he figured it out, great. Otherwise, he could continue to ski. Either way, it motivated me to hit the hill more than normal the last two seasons. I get the feeling this could be a slippery slope for even the strongest couples. I don’t think our experience is typical. Phew.

    1. Phew! Glad you both made it through! Has he switched to skiing altogether?
      “Don’t be attached to the outcome” should be #1.5. I didn’t have high expectations going into teaching him, and I think that helped! At least it helped me to not put pressure on him. I feel a lot of pressure to not suck at tennis as the tennis pro’s girlfriend… Learning humility and how to be bad at something with grace.
      Really failing at the “with grace” part, though.

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