So in an effort to “let go” of my past hurt and move forward, I flexed my credit card and joined over 200 women – most of whom, like me, have dabbled in therapy and bored themselves senseless with self-help books – at a hotel in St Pete’s Beach.
Matthew gets the crowds at his love retreat energised before a long week of lessons
Sam was right. Love retreats are the new thing for those in search of more fulfilling relationships. From the “Making Love” retreat in Australia to tantric sex courses in Germany, the themes may differ but the core concept is the same. Learn to love yourself so you can learn to love other people better.
Retreats differ from traditional therapy by offering a more collective experience. “Going through the most immersive self-development experience one can have with a group of equally committed individuals creates a completely different type of momentum,” says Matthew Hussey. He’s the author of a global bestselling dating guide, love guru to the stars (Christina Aguilera and Eva Longoria, no less) and probably the most famous life coach you’ve never heard of. And he’s British. Oprah and Lorraine are fans and he’s the resident relationships expert on the American news programme, the Today Show.
It was The Matthew Hussey Retreat that I opted for. The 27-year-old from London (currently “single through choice”) was in his late teens when he began working as a life coach, giving dating tips to female friends. Word spread of his success, leading to his 2013 book, Get The Guy.
Our first day begins with frenetic activity. Matthew marches in to our introductory session and begins jumping up and down to pounding music. With his blue eyes, chiselled jawline and a tight T-shirt emphasising his six-pack, he’s more Abercrombie & Fitch model than love guide. I look around at the women, aged from 20 to 60, throwing themselves around like children. What have I got myself into?
It’s all about getting us “energised” for a tough week ahead, he tells us. He isn’t wrong. The week, which costs £3,000, comprises over 60 hours of coaching, from 7am to 7pm. The goal is to teach us to stop looking for another person to make us happy, and learn to make ourselves happy first. It isn’t exactly new, I know, but we’re being instructed in how exactly to do it.
With his blue eyes, chiselled jawline and a tight T-shirt emphasising his six-pack, he’s more Abercrombie & Fitch model than love guide
Matthew believes that people who complement each other attract. They do this by having “high value” lifestyles – lives that are happy and fulfilled. We’re asked to list things that make us feel good and we discuss how to match our goals to these things.
“If you spend 70 per cent of your time working but work doesn’t makes you happy, what do you do?” asks Matthew. “Change what you’re doing or the way you see what you’re doing.” Treat relationships in the same way.
“What if you aren’t fulfilled at work? You leave, fix the problem or develop new skills so you enjoy your job more. It’s the same in relationships. People shouldn’t always seek new landscapes when a relationship becomes stale but should try to see each other through new eyes by having different interests. In a healthy relationship both parties should think, ‘I’m not here because I need you, but because I love you.’”
Eva Longoria is a fan of Matthew’s dating advice [REX FEATURES]
I know I’ve been guilty of this – I abandoned my interests and activities because my ex had none and I felt guilty leaving him at home.
During another session, Matthew asks us to imagine ourselves in a boxing ring, throwing jabs.
“If you watch a boxer, he doesn’t back away when he gets hit. He keeps moving forwards with his guard up,” Matthew says. This, he adds, is how we should approach finding love. Instead of backing away when we get hurt, the best way to rebuild our self-esteem is to put our guard back up and keep on going.
“Fear is based on our perception of failure,” Matthew tells us. “When you are afraid of being open and going into a relationship it’s because you are afraid that relationship is going to fail. But fear only exists in our minds. And we can only conquer it by taking the very action that frightens us.”
I start to cry when I realise the one person I haven’t forgiven for the breakdown of the relationship is me.
The same applies to women already in a relationship, especially those who are holding back, like me. I told Matt I never wanted to live with a man again, no matter how long we lasted. That’s fear for you.
“Don’t be the person who is always waiting for something to go wrong because of a past hurt,” is Matthew’s advice. “When you aren’t fully committed to who and where you are now, you aren’t truly happy.”
There it is – my light bulb moment – the reason I am not fully committing. Standing with eyes closed, we’re told to picture people in our lives who have hurt us and say out loud that we forgive them. I start to cry when I realise the one person I haven’t forgiven for the breakdown of the relationship is me.
Nilufer with Matthew
But the most powerful lesson comes on the last day. Lying on the floor, eyes closed, we are told to imagine ourselves floating through time, picturing all the major events in our lives. Then we race into the future, until we picture ourselves lying in our coffins. It is terrifying.
“This is it, there’s no going back,” says Matthew. “All the dreams you had – all the things you wished you’d done. Now you never will.”
Cue tears – including mine. But then we are brought back to the present and told we have a final chance to get it right. To start living the lives we want to and making ourselves happy. I know what to do.
Stepping out into the evening I punch Matt’s number into my phone. I say it even before he has a chance to speak: “I love you.” It is the bravest thing I’ve done in a long time.
Matthew Hussey’s relationship tips
Want your partner to be more loving? YOU be more loving first.
and don’t let them slip. It shows self-confidence, which is attractive.
If you want to come across as kind but are mean at work you won’t seem genuine.
Step outside yourself
Ask ‘Whose day can I make today?’ You’ll be amazed at how differently people respond to you.
Other love retreats
This retreat is designed to help people get over a break up. Using special ‘emotional freedom’ techniques, the therapists work on helping people release their anger, sadness and the tangle of emotions they experience when a relationship breaks down as well as helping them put a plan together to face the future.
When facing a personal crossroads, how do you decide which route would lead to a more fulfilling life? You head here for their two-day structured programme. In group of up to ten, participants are ask to examine questions which will help them decide whether a relationship is right for them.
A more spiritual experience that’s all about learning to love yourself, giving and receiving unconditional love, and looking at the passion and compassion you bring to your partner and loved ones.
This is a private residential retreat for singles and couples who want to work on building intimacy. Using a combination of ‘connective’ dance, partner yoga and practical workshops, the idea is to create a healthier roadmap for future relationships.
Shakti offers weekend retreats all year round with workshops specifically for couples who want to explore, deepen and expand the sexual and spiritual side of things.