Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I need advice on how to motivate my boyfriend. In the summer, he’s great! He’s all about fishing and hiking and camping and we have a blast. We’ll even go on hikes after work, when the weather is nice. We take lots of walks around Anchorage parks. We bike ride! Then winter comes and he’s like an entirely different person.
First, his whole attitude changes. Everything sucks, if you ask him. He goes on and on about how much he hates being in Alaska — and as a lifetime resident, I struggle to not be offended by this. He barely leaves the house, except to work or watch a game if we don’t have the right cable channel for it. In my opinion, he eats too much — I think because he’s bored. He sleeps a lot. He complains he’s getting out of shape and feels gross but rejects any advice on how to fix that. He just isn’t any fun! Lately he’s talked about moving out of state and has even been looking at jobs online in California, Texas and Arizona.
I understand winter is hard for some people. For me, it never has been. Maybe because I grew up here? Anyway, I love my boyfriend, but this is our third year of this cycle and it’s bothering me more every time. How can I convince him Alaska winters rock and get him to stop threatening to take off?
Alaska’s not for everyone, and depression and anxiety wrought by our frigid and inhospitable winters is a very real thing. Seasonal Affective Disorder — or SAD — may impact up to 10% of the population here in the 49th state, according to an ADN article from December. Is your guy SAD? Maybe. It’s worth discussing, and if relevant, looking into the range of therapies available — they can be as simple as buying and spending time with a bright happy light! Other treatment may include therapy or medication.
It’s also possible your guy is just going through a milder stint of blues and blahs brought on by the sub-zero temps and icy roads. Even the most devout Alaska lovers have those moments when we are just so over pushing Costco carts across snowy and ice-bumpy parking lots, or feel like we’d do anything to just not have to brush snow off the car, again. Sometimes burrowing in on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and a Netflix marathon just sounds easier than layering up for a hardy snowshoe outing, you know?
Maybe there’s a compromise. You want him to leave the house, he’s feeling lazy: seek out and sign up for some low-key indoor activities that will get him upright. Some ideas: one of those group painting classes — they really are fun — or a visit to the museum, or a round at one of those new ax-throwing places. All involve activity and movement without breaking a sweat or having to layer on the Carhartts and Patagonia. Or, pro tip: bring him a bit of summer, with a visit to the lovely Mann Leiser Memorial Greenhouses, where it’s always florid and warm; or try a yummy islander lunch at the Hawaiian restaurant Hula Hands!
Your man sounds like a big old bear … and what do bears do in the winter? Hibernate. And what do hibernating bears do when giddy people come skipping into their dens, poking at them and telling them to get up and play in the snow? They wake up grumpy and then bite. So don’t go poking the sleeping bear! This bear does not want to ski, snowshoe or skijor. He does not want to watch northern lights or take moon-lit hikes.
You know him best: are his growlings about the cold, dark winters and his grumblings about packing it all up and moving to warmer climates just him being an irritable bear or is there something real here? If he’s just complaining to complain, hey — even the hardiest of us sourdoughs can get extra-sour about our Alaska winters, especially when we have to deal with brutal multi-week, sub-zero stretches or mid-winter rainstorms. But if he is legit losing it and needs some changes in latitude to improve his attitude, you have a choice as a partner: let him sink further into his funk until he leaves you and Alaska or stop trying to force him to enjoy winter and start booking a few tropical vacations every winter.
Pushing him to get out isn’t helping and won’t help at this point. But the promise of warm sun, hot sand and happy hour at the pool will give him something to look forward to all winter. These trips will improve his well-being and hopefully bring him home filled up with enough magical Vitamin C that the old bear might just bundle up and try spending some time outside with you. Because he knows there’s another hot and steamy respite just a month or so away …