x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pack up your troubles in your old kitbag

Breaking up is hard to do so you might as well give a relationship-healing trip to Hainan Island a try.

Maybe the answer to trouble at home is an all-inclusive saving-your-relationship holiday.
Maybe the answer to trouble at home is an all-inclusive saving-your-relationship holiday.

He's left the milk out overnight one too many times and frankly, you're at the end of your tether. If you are like the thousands of couples who find the seams of their relationships rapidly unravelling, help is at hand: a Chinese travel agency is offering tours specifically designed for couples who are on the verge of splitting up. The agency in Harbin, Heilongjiang province is charging divorcing couples around Dh8,200 for a five-day tour of Hainan Island, according to the Heilongjang Morning Post. It has, apparently, received bookings from many desperate quarrelling couples.

For those who have found themselves in that rocky old boat, it may not be a week with only each other for company that leaps to mind as the solution. As everyone knows, even good relationships can take a nasty turn if the holiday fates decide not to align. Five straight days of rain and a few too many games of intensely competitive Scrabble can bring out the child in someone; as can a bout of food poisoning; or having your passport stolen; or losing your luggage - the list is endless. And yet here's this marvellously sunny idea that time together can actually heal the rift between you.

In fact, the agency has covered its back rather well. "If it's destiny for us to break up," reads one advertisement, "then let's have more romantic memories than painful ones." So basically, if you end up throwing the Scrabble board at each other on day two and calling the whole thing off, at least your parting snapshot of the relationship will be a sunny beach location rather than your gloomy, cramped apartment.

Let's imagine, for a moment, that one was desperate enough to go down this road. What could you expect on such a holiday? An itinerary addressing the classic relationship woes would be the obvious answer. And plenty of activity - some sun cream and a stack of Dan Brown novels will only end in disaster. "Why are you so distant?" A day's canoeing down the Nandu River on your first day would be just the ticket to solve this grievance. Confined space? Tick. Opportunity for team work? Tick. Potential for hilarity? Oh, yes. And by the end, you'll be so exhausted that neither of you will have the energy to argue.

Day two calls for a visit to a nearby activity centre (they are two-a-penny in China, apparently) where you can address the eternal "you never listen" argument. A laser game of the kind Catherine Zeta Jones so deftly negotiated in Entrapment with the help of Sean Connery will work wonders. And with the added frisson of an actual burning laser, he would be forced to listen to your shouts of "left a bit, right a bit". It's got teamwork, communication - and if you're lucky, a great outfit thrown in.

On day three you can try to remedy that thorny "you don't take my career seriously" issue. Yes, he spends most of his time tinkering about on his Mac "making music", but that big break is just round the corner - he can feel it. Well, why not make him put his money where his mouth is and enter a talent show. You know the ones - all big hotels have them. If he wins, there'll be some self-esteem in it; if he doesn't, then it's time for a new career.

Day four - by now, you're getting on famously, but the "you never lift a finger in the house" issue is still niggling. Pack yourselves off for a day's fishing, and the old male hunter-gatherer instinct will kick in instantaneously. He'll catch the fish, gut it and cook it, while you take in a few rays - everyone's a winner. It's almost time to go home, and you haven't argued once (except for the time you kerbed the golf buggy). Things appear to be back on track: he's rediscovered his passion for arts and crafts, thanks to the papier mâché session that came free with the "bad mood tour" (the agency also offers these). And you've seen a whole new side to him since his talent-show-winning rendition of The Carpenters' Close to You. Home and a new start are beckoning. So just keep smiling sweetly at each other. And don't, whatever you do, attempt a game of Scrabble.