Fantasy Island meets Why Did You Get Married. Fix My Life? Fix my dating life?
These were some of the thoughts I had on the plane on my way to a press trip to Barbados by IntimacyMoons Couples Retreats founder Marissa Nelson.
A licensed marriage and family therapist and AASECT-certified sex therapist, Nelson helps couples and singles win in relationships. As a now married woman, Nelson was instrumental in designing her own life. After a job offer, she and her husband moved to the Bahamas. To make that happen, she picked up her successful DC practice and started over again—creating a “love retreat” business to help people “figure out” their relationships, or lack thereof, away from home.
In partnership with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., IntimacyMoons delivered a sexy, meaningful experience. Nelson (pictured above) arranged for us to stay at the beautifully appointed The Crane Resort (pictured above), in an exquisite suite with a plunge pool and a private balcony—the perfect setting for getting deep, alone or with someone else.
Nelson took a small group through the process of diving into childhood experiences, history of partners, sex likes/dislikes, and how it all relates. Being in therapy for several years, I was comfortable talking about myself.
There was nothing that could surprise me or I was ashamed about because I’ve heard it all—good and bad. However, I was particularly moved when Nelson mentioned the word “sacrifice,” and how I “sacrificed” certain parts of myself. I became defensive, and I thought “aha”—trigger! I reflected on that and added it to a “letting go” ceremony the next day.
From there, I knew I’d have more to pack in my suitcase than rum to take back home. Here’s are a few takeaways that could help you take your love life to a new level:
Our Partners Are Our Teachers, Not Therapists
“We don’t know why we are attracted to the same people, and we don’t know why we’re triggered in certain ways,” said Nelson, as she explained how many of us look to our partners to fill unmet needs from childhood. The retreats, she explained, are “set up to identify some of our basic unmet needs and the way we use those needs to attract partners and get what we need in relationships. When we don’t get what we need, those are the things that really hurt and offend us.”
Self-awareness is another tool, Nelson used with the group, and one on one, with worksheet exercises, to open the door to vulnerability and sharing. Even when there is no partner, waiting on a partner to help express your needs may boomerang. It’s important to give yourself what you deserve to attract the same or better.
Cheating Is Not A Deal Breaker
“There are some cases where affairs can show the places in the relationship that needed work and show people how they needed to pay attention to their relationship, be more attentive, give each other what they needed a little bit more, and they’re able to stay together and have a successful relationship moving forward.”
Ask the Right Questions
Nelson urged couples, and singles, to stop spot-checking each other. “There are some bigger questions that are much more helpful to understanding what happened and where this came from than how many times did you go to the person’s house, what did you do exactly. I think a lot of times people get stuck on the details of the affair, which beckons even more hurt, and then start what I call checking behaviors. I want to check your cell phone….”
“Letting Go” is Continuous
One of the most memorable parts of the retreat was walking out into the wild waves of the Atlantic Ocean with a paper that lists all the things I want to let go, including the things I want to attract. “I think too often, we hold onto past relationships, past situations, past hurts, and it really keeps us from trusting others, it keeps us protecting ourselves….” This type of protection creates walls and stops us from being vulnerable. Said Nelson, “What’s really important in the exercise is that we let go of some of the messages we heard…and embrace the identity and the life we really want.”
Nelson also urged women to explore their sexuality, in or out of a relationship. “I think it’s important to understand how people use their sexuality when they date, and especially how women realize their sexuality when they date,” she said. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, sex is an excellent precursor to how we show up and live in a relationship.
The next time you need a relationship fix or a reason to clear the path to bring in a new love, do it in flip-flops. It may be letting go that let’s love in.