For many couples that’ve been going steady for a while, the first big relationship hurdle occurs when they go on vacation together. Chuck Thompson, author of the fantastically hilarious book Smile When You’re Lying, says that there are five very important breakthroughs that occur when taking a vacay together. “Traveling together is really practice for living together or even being married,” he says. “It’s the first time you’re going to be in each others constant company for, let’s say, a week straight. That is much different than seeing someone three times a week or even seeing them everyday for a few hours. It’s a real test of compatibility.” The five travel-induced hurdles that will make or break your relationship, after the jump.
EXPOSURE TO INTIMATE PERSONAL HABITS
“Nothing takes the bloom off the rose of romance like not-so-mysterious noises and odors coming from the bathroom in a tiny little cabin on a cruise ship. A lot of people are just used to privacy and there is something to said for keeping some of our personal functions away from a loved one for as long as possible. My friend Gary, after being serious with a woman for a year, decided they should take this cruise to the Caribbean. He was mortified to discover that the tiny cabin that they would be staying in also had a tiny bathroom which put the toilet about two feet away from the bed. And he spent the whole trip holding in his urge to go the restroom, trying to invent excuses for getting her out of the room or for him to leave the room. That really ruined his trip. That said, I do think that it does take your relationship to the next level and gets you beyond the dew on a lily romance stage and into the more realistic part of the relationship.”
GRACE UNDER PRESSURE
“There’s the saying that how we deal with stress says a great deal more about our character than how we deal when things are going well. Traveling throws more unexpected stress on you than anything else — everything from getting lost in a big city, to missing a connecting flight, to your baggage getting lost, to having your money stolen…or even getting yourself into a dangerous or somewhat sketchy situation. This is where people react to stress very differently. Does he freak out? Does he take his stress or his anger out on you in some unfair way? When I worked at Travelocity Magazine we asked readers to submit their travel and romance horror stories. One that I remember very well was a woman who had gone with her boyfriend to Morocco. This boyfriend ended up buying some hash off of a guy in some back alley and got stoned with some random guy as a way of dealing with all the stress of their trip. She thought that it was really weird of him to start doing drug deals, when she never suspected that was his thing. Plus, she also thought that he really put her in a dangerous situation. Their relationship basically ended once they got back home. ”
MEETING THEIR INNER-UGLY AMERICAN
“Particularly if you travel overseas, it’s a real interesting window into seeing how somebody treats foreigners or people of other cultures, especially if it’s important to you that somebody be culturally sensitive or empathetic to, say, impoverished people in third world countries. I have a story in my book – I took a trip to down to Tijuana, Mexico with two good guy friends of mine when I was in college. One of my friends was holding a handful of coins, which were literally worth less than a penny, and scattered them on the sidewalk so that he could watch these homeless street urchins, these little kids, go scrambling for the money. My friend was laughing and poking us in the ribs, like, “Isn’t that hilarious I just about dropped my jaw onto the pavement, I just couldn’t believe that this guy was such an effing jerk. And he was just my friend! Can you imagine if someone you thought you loved did that?”
THRILL SEEKER OR DEBBIE DOWNER?
“You find out pretty quickly how adventurous someone is. It’s not even that you find out if someone is a terrible person, but you do see whether you’re compatible. Let’s say, you’re the real adventurous type and you want to do stuff and get out and check out new neighborhoods or climb a mountain, and the guy is being a completely wimp and won’t do anything but sit in the hotel or go out and drink. The person who seems like a lot of fun back home, may be a total Debbie Downer when you travel together. Wuh-wuh-wuhhhh!”
SAY HELLO TO MR. HYDE
“Seeing someone out of his or her normal context is very illuminating. An old coworker of mine who lives in Georgia had been flirting like crazy with this guy in her office for six months. He had a bit of a bad boy image around the office – he was the guy who might make a sarcastic comment here and there, or tell a rude joke every once and while. One day he just invites my friend to go to Las Vegas with him. She couldn’t say yes fast enough, because she was totally into him. But the minute that they got on the plane, she knew she made a big mistake. What was a minor proclivity for this guy to tell a raunchy joke here and there, outside of the office he turned into a full-blown frat boy a-hole. He was flirting with the flight attendants, making crude jokes within the earshot of children. Once they were in Vegas, he would fluxuate between ignoring her completely and being really handsy in really inappropriate ways. It was as though he assumed it was going to be a big sex weekend. And it probably would have been but he acted like such a complete creep! The point is, people truly show all their colors, especially when it comes to the opposite sex, when they hop on a plane and leave their normal routine.”
Chuck Thompson is a former Editor at Maxim and freelance writer. He is currently touring in support of his fantastic book, Smile When You’re Lying.