5 cottage activities that will put your relationship to the test

Couple in canoe

There’s no place like the cottage to spend some quality alone time with your beau. However, a first-time trip to the cottage can also put your relationship to the test. If you’re heading to the cabin with your sweetie for the first time, here are five relationship challenges that you’re bound to encounter.

1. Learning to paddle a kayak or canoe in tandem

There’s a good reason that tandem kayaks are referred to as “the divorce makers” in paddling circles. Heavier and longer than single kayaks, double kayaks require a high level of coordination and cooperation between couples to stay on course. Basically, steering a tandem kayak is the cottage equivalent of attempting to assemble Ikea furniture; even though you’ve both got the same goal, you may have differing opinions on how to achieve it.

It’s worth the struggle though—after all, couples that figure out how to paddle together stay together. Research demonstrates that couples who engage in physical activity together report higher levels of satisfaction with their relationships. It also doesn’t hurt that exercise results in shortness of breath and a racing heartbeat. Sure, it doesn’t sound particularly appealing on paper, but the brain can confuse these symptoms for those of arousal and romantic attraction.

Basically, sweating is sexy. So do as Pierre Berton suggests and prove that you’re Canadian by making love in a canoe. (And if that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to consider investing in two single kayaks?)

2. Pretending to be super interested in your partner’s favourite activity

When it’s just the two of you, you may find yourself compromising on cottage-time activities. Trying to demonstrate an active interest in your partner’s jarring obsession with puzzles is always a good thing, but there’s a point at which the colour-blind should just walk away.

Research has shown that activities liked by one person, but disliked by the other, can lead to relationship failure. So while it may be tempting to make your partner come out fishing with you for the fifth day in a row, remember that the happiest couples are those who maintain their own interests and hobbies. Quality time is important, but alone time is also what cottages are for.

3. Reducing your hygiene standards

If you’re relying on well or tank water, you may not have the chance to shower daily, which means facing your partner head-on with greasy hair and your natural eau de parfum.

For the high maintenance this may be a challenge, but getting a bit ripe isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, countless studies have demonstrated that attraction is linked to smell—and all those perfumes and scented products you use on a regular basis could actually be detracting from that. As Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist, explained to Psychology Today, “hunter-gatherers didn’t have to do a lot of kissing, because they could smell each other pretty clearly from a few feet away.”

Daily shaving may also be knocking you down on the hotness scale. In one study carried out in Great Britain of women age 18 to 44, women rated men with stubble as more masculine and mature—and more desirable for more flings and long-term relationships. (The word is still out on how men feel about women’s stubble, but we have reason to believe it probably makes them seem more feminine and alluring.)

4. Admitting your fears of the creepy-crawlies

When it comes to sharing your room with spiders or mice, you may have to put your bravado aside and admit your deepest darkest fears to your significant other. While it’s hard for anyone to admit to being afraid of something you can squish under your foot, owning up to fears is the sign of a healthy relationship. One experiment conducted in 2013 found that participants who told no lies had improved relationships and social interactions.

Bottom line? There’s no point in being tough. Get squeamish and cuddle up together instead. (That bat has to find its own way out the window eventually, right?)

5. Bunking down in a bunkie

While hanging out in a 250-square-foot cabin may have romantic appeal on day one (after all, doesn’t conventional wisdom dictate that people trapped in elevators always fall in love?), by day five close quarters are bound to feel uncomfortably cramped. According to research, over extended periods of time living in smaller space leads to higher levels of substance abuse and domestic violence.

Our suggestion? Bring a tent. Sure, moving into an even smaller space might be counterintuitive, but it may also spice things up. According to a study of 500 couples conducted by OLPRO (a British tent manufacturer), camping resulted in their sex life doubling. And if that doesn’t work, the tent might just serve as a valuable time-out space.