Couples Retreats Can Be A Game Changer

Women's Dating

Struggling in Your Relationship? Couples Retreats can be a Game-Changer … and a Vacation

Chloë Hylkema

Written by: Chloë Hylkema

Chloë Hylkema

Chloë Hylkema loves using her writing skills to tell stories that matter. Her time as an English student at Emory University molded her into a detailed writer with a knack for the relatable. Chloë is familiar with what it means to date in the modern age, and she endeavors to write material that is both truthful and helpful. She has previously worked as lead campaign writer for an animal advocacy group and now brings her passion for engaging and actionable content to DatingAdvice.com.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

Discuss This! Discuss This!

The Short Version: Not everyone is ready for couples therapy, but everyone could use a vacation. This realization led couples therapist Marissa Nelson to begin her work on IntimacyMoons, her transformative couples retreat program. Marissa helps couples improve their sex lives, communication skills, and emotional intimacy, all while having a wonderful time away from home.

“We had the best sex of our life. We went on vacation.” 

This was a common refrain from couples that award-winning relationship expert, certified sex therapist, and sexuality educator Marissa Nelson heard from her clients. Three years after starting her private practice, Marissa founded IntimacyMoons in 2016, a couples retreat to reignite relationship sparks. 

“There were a lot of instances where people were just busy with life and kids and work, and they were utilizing the intervention of vacation to reconnect with one another,” Marissa said.

Marissa believed other couples — like those who don’t attend regular couples therapy — could benefit from IntimacyMoons. “I thought to myself, well, nobody ever had a problem going on vacation,” she said. 

Marissa’s clients tend to be business owners and entrepreneurs seeking support in their relationships. Her ethos for building IntimacyMoons centered on creating an intensive format of skill building, intimacy exercises, and playful fun to create valuable experiences that lead to long-term change. 

Couples flock to Marissa’s retreats to learn from her unique expertise and extensive experience. As a therapist and businesswoman, she understands “the intersection of business, scaling, and leadership, and the effects of things not going well at home.” 

Marissa also knows the impact of personal problems bleeding through in professional settings and the connection to blind spots around unmet needs and childhood upbringing. Couples working with Marissa can expect to hit the ground running with consultation calls and coaching before entering the retreat so the healing process can begin swiftly. 

What to Expect From an IntimacyMoons Couples Retreat

All of Marissa’s retreats are tailored to fit the needs of each participating couple. The days are filled with equal parts relaxation and healing work. Retreats are all-inclusive, so an average day can begin with couples getting breakfast and then leading into partner yoga. 

If that’s not your speed, couples can do things they don’t normally get to do at home, like take long walks on the beach, swim, or jog. 

Couples will spend time interacting with other couples as well. “If it’s a group I’m working with, then we have a group share around what they’re learning, what they’re working on, and what’s coming up for them,” Marissa said.

marissa nelson, founder of intimacy moons
IntimacyMoons hosts life-changing retreats for couples.

Staying is the fun part, but leaving can be tricky, especially for couples with kids. “Some couples have shared with me that this is the first vacation they’ve ever taken without their kids, so they might feel a little scared, sad, and missing their children. Being in this space can bring up emotions like guilt and shame.” 

To counteract these complex feelings, Marissa starts couples by the water, tending to what’s coming up for them. To help couples focus on looking inward, Marissa guides them through somatic healing exercises like breathwork and connecting exercises. 

Marissa gave us an example of an exercise for couples. “I’ll say, ‘Here is your prompt for conversation: Power dynamics in your relationship. Who do you think holds the power? Why? How does that play out sexually, emotionally, financially, and with parenting?” After talking privately they come back and share as a group. 

Other exercises Marissa leads include a vow renewal and recommitment ceremony, and a rock-finding mission to represent the couples’ commitment, decision-making process, and how to surrender and release their conflicts by letting go of the rock. 

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going on Retreat

Not sure if couples retreats are right for you and your significant other? Marissa has some advice for couples interested in going on retreat. 

The first big question she suggests you ask is, what is your relationship worth to you? When choosing what retreat to go on and whether to invest in it in the first place, Marissa suggests couples find someone who’s accredited and does this kind of work for a living. There are a lot of people claiming to have the knowledge, but they lack the experience and credentials to back it up.

With a sense of humor, Marissa told us, “I love a good deal. But when it comes to relationship and intimacy support, know the difference between somebody credentialed and does this work versus a coach or somebody who doesn’t have an accrediting body to answer to. They’re just a coach. There is a distinction and a difference.”

intimacy moons couples retreats
Marissa is an experienced couples retreat guide.

Because of the vulnerable nature of this work that deals with relationships and trauma, couples need someone who knows how to hold space, can de-escalate conflict, and is trained to support couples when issues arise. 

After leading retreats for almost a decade, Marissa is well-versed in creating a personal and group experience that feels safe and supportive. 

Marissa suggests when finding a person to lead a couples retreat, “Work with somebody that you feel an emotional connection with, somebody whose methodology and curriculum matches your ethos. When you get to that experience and work with that person, that can change the trajectory of your relationship.” 

One big question Marissa poses to people interested in going on a couples retreat is: Are you ready to do the work or just go on vacation?

“Sometimes it only takes a weekend to get through the stuff that holds couples back from getting to the relationship they desire,” she said. “When couples decide to put in the work and take the retreat seriously, aside from having fun, that’s when couples get the most out of their experience.”

When it comes to issues like infidelity, reviving a sex life after 20 years of marriage, or feeling more emotionally connected after a health crisis, “all of that flows through some difficult conversations, some self insights, some leaning in, some vulnerability, and both people putting in the work.”  

If you’re ready to go on a retreat, and not just take a vacation, then you’re ready to lean in, and you’ll be in an environment that supports that effort. 

Marissa Nelson Guides Couples to Rediscover Romance

IntimacyMoons has a great success rate. According to Marissa’s website, couples come away from the retreats with newfound clarity and hope. She never promises she’ll save a marriage or a relationship, but she does promise a clarifying experience that helps couples make the best decisions for their relationship. 

“When I first got into couples therapy and became a therapist, I wanted to wear a superhero cape and save everybody,” Marissa said.

“I wanted to save marriages. But if you look at IntimacyMoon’s website, it never says that. My promise is that I’m not gonna save your marriage. The promise is I’m gonna help give you the clarity you need so that you can make the best choices for your relationship.”

intimacy moons
IntimacyMoon’s offerings help couples reconnect, mind, body, and soul.

Couples enter retreats with different goals. Some want to stay together, some want to reignite their love, and some to be better co-parents. It’s about working through issues to feel more connected and at peace.

“Some of the most heartwarming comments I’ve gotten are ‘you’ve saved our marriage. We were worried and scared. We didn’t know what to expect. We came on this retreat. We’re better than we ever have been. This is the most I’ve smiled in years.’”

The number one thing Marissa hears? “For the first time, I feel hopeful. I’m excited about our future.” Even couples who have been together for years say they can discuss things they’ve never spoken about in years and see each other in a new light.  

At the end of the day, Marissa is here to help couples on their journey to connection and truth, create safe spaces for people to explore their dynamics, and learn how to communicate with a supportive presence alongside them.