A number of our participants kindly agreed to share their experience. You can read their interviews below (some names have been changed for confidentiality).
Was it a bit of a mission for you doing the Making Love Retreat?
For the last few years, I’ve really wanted to do the Making Love work. I’ve worked a lot with Jayne and Tim, I’d been to five of the Intro talks. Yes, five. But I was with someone who didn’t want to go, then I was single, and then Esther and I got together and the timing was perfect to go to this one. I have to admit I was incredibly happy to meet someone in Esther who wanted to go too.
Why did you want to go so much?
I’d done a lot of intimacy work with Jayne and Tim, and it felt like the natural next thing. I enjoyed having sex and making love but I knew there was more and I wanted to experience it. I wanted to have a deeper connection, a deeper intimacy with Esther as opposed to the hot, steamy making love that I know so well. For me, hot sex is lighting a match, there is a spark and then it goes away in seconds. I wanted to find something that was more of a slow burn and more sensual, I wanted us to be like a candle burning for a long time.
The Opening to Intimacy weekends were significant for you?
They were. I knew that I was yearning to be seen by my partner in a different way, in a deeper way and vice versa. I just wanted those deeper levels so much.
What discoveries did you make on the Making Love Retreat?
That making love is so much broader than I thought. It was so good to do meditation together and also to do exercises, which meant I centred myself first so that I could be so much more with Esther afterwards. I learned that this is not going to be an instantaneous process, it takes a long time to change the way you make love after years of doing it one way.
Jayne and Tim opened the door for Esther and I, now it’s up to us to enter and see what’s on the other side.
It was a surprise that there is a dedicated time for making love. I struggle with being told what to do in that way, so it took some getting used to.
Also I found the Kundalini meditation hard because I’ve got ADHD and I find it hard to be still. Then I discovered I could close my eyes and it became much easier.
There were a few more exercises that I struggled with, but ultimately I was just out of my comfort zone and I was just being vulnerable.
What about connecting to the other couples?
I loved that we were encouraged to talk about our own sexual relationships over meals. I found that fascinating and freeing. But also that Esther and I spent a lot of that kind of time together as a couple. That was special and all a part of making love. And sometimes I didn’t want to talk to others, I just wanted to sit with whatever was going on inside me. With the men, I think I helped them go deeper because I was willing to be vulnerable. I shared that I felt sad and then uncertain with regards to soft entry, and again that was liberating. It’s all part of taking the pressure off.
What helped you stay with the Making Love work?
Knowing and being reassured that nothing was wrong with what I was doing. To know there were other couples struggling and we could talk about it. That’s a huge relief. It really helped Esther and I in that we could say – I’m feeling emotional – when we were triggered. Somehow that created enough space to come through that difficulty in a different way.
What were the most important parts for you?
Getting to really feel what it feels like to not have to perform. That meant I could be so much more in the moment. I hadn’t realised how much I carried around that. I felt such a deep relaxation around that. That has been a profound change.
And being able to allow myself to do the soft entry. That was also profound. I have never done anything like that. That the penis can slip out and it’s still okay. It’s such a different way of being with your partner. So much more like the candle than the match.
To touch my partner without the intention of sexual arousal, that also has been ground-breaking for me. It’s so relaxing. And beautiful.
And knowing it’s okay to not be there yet. We haven’t given up the old way of making love but I do want more of this…
All of it is so much more about love and feeling the love between us, than hot steamy, friction-based sex. I just loved the slow pace. And I felt so safe to go there because of Jayne and Tim.
Why did you decide to do the Making Love Retreat?
Ricky and I had been in a relationship for eight months and I was aware that I’d only ever known one way of making love, so for me, it was about being curious about what else was out there. We actually met on one of Jayne and Tim’s weekend Opening To Intimacy weekends so the idea was there from the beginning. I’m very interested in self-development and this was another way of being in relationship. We didn’t have any issues with our sex life, it was about finding out about being closer and being more present.
Did you read all about it beforehand?
No, I trusted Jayne and Tim’s warmth and wisdom. I’d done 5 Rhythms with Tim as well so I felt innately that they both offered safety to delve deeper and more wisdom about relationships. I love that neither of them put themselves on pedestals, they admit that they still mess up with each other and that they’re human. That works for me. They’re also very personal in their approach, which means I find it easier to open up to them.
And you actually met Ricky on an Opening To Intimacy weekend?
Yes, incredibly. He was the only man there and I’d come out of a long relationship and wanted to look into how I related to men. And there was Ricky who was already interested in doing the Making Love Retreat.
What did you think when you first arrived at the Retreat?
How relaxed it was. How it wasn’t regimented. I felt as though I was in someone’s home. It also felt private – we were the only group there. Tim and Jayne were very welcoming and answering questions. I felt in safe hands. I felt as though I wouldn’t be asked to do anything that I didn’t want to do, and that was very important.
How was it with the group?
I was amazed at how this group opened up so quickly about their personal difficulties and relationships. It was so liberating being able to talk so freely about sex with other couples. Normally you don’t get this opportunity. I felt comfortable to do the same.
What personal discoveries did you make?
I discovered how much fear I was carrying from my former long-term relationships into this new relationship. I’ve been experiencing a chronic skin condition that is red sore and painful, for instance I couldn’t shower properly, and it would get more painful if got hot dancing. It was difficult which I felt was partly related to not being seen. I guess you could say my skin had created a sort of barrier from past grief and now was the time to let go.
For me, another vital bit of the workshop was the time spent connecting to self and not feeling the need to please my partner. A couple of days into it, I was dancing and I realised how free I was feeling. And my skin is so much better now.
As a couple, we learned to be more vulnerable together. That was hard but really an important part of it. We felt so much more connected to each other because of that.
And now you’re pregnant?
Yes, I went to the Making Love Retreat when I was 4 months pregnant. It’s been a delightful surprise with Ricky. And actually this is the perfect sort of making love for pregnancy.
How was the work around separating feelings (heartfelt) from emotions (from the past)?
That was so useful. We were triggering each other. For instance, sometimes at night I couldn’t hug Ricky because of my skin condition. And he would feel rejected and move away. And then I would feel rejected. This was really helped by taking a breath and saying: “I feel emotional at the moment”. It’s a tool, which we’ve been using afterwards.
And what about making love?
It was brilliant to get to do it in such a slow way without pressure for orgasms or outcomes. That so freed us up to be more loving and present. There were challenges and are still. Like soft entry and learning to be more sensitive in the genital areas but it’s great to have a choice now. It’s also so great to include humour and meditation too. The idea of making love is so much broader than we thought.
How did you hear about The Making Love Retreat?
I heard about the retreat through Tim as I’m on his email list & think I’m linked on Facebook too.
How was your sexual relationship before this workshop?
We decided to come on the retreat as our physical relationship had ground to a halt & neither of us knew how to overcome the block.
Just jointly committing to the retreat helped as it confirmed to us both that we were wanting to resolve issues.
Before attending the retreat we read one of the recommended books – The Heart of Tantric Sex by Diane Richardson & found the concept of not focusing specifically on arousal & orgasm but on being & connecting helpful. This was reinforced on the retreat & helped to change the focus of physical relating and broadened the concept of what making love could entail.
How was it when you initially arrived at the workshop?
The large chunk of space for making love each afternoon was initially daunting.
It was useful to realise I don’t necessarily have to be in the mood & if the object was not to achieve an outcome then every moment was about enjoying each moment of intimacy.
What were the significant points for you?
Being mindful & present also meant that some afternoons intimacy did not necessarily lead to penetration because it didn’t feel right (although spending more time increased the probability of
this occurring at other times including being interrupted one afternoon in the hotel before we caught out train home!)
Realised I’d mentioned “penetration” but this didn’t reflect one of the things that had been helpful.
As a woman I found the concept of the vagina as being a receptive vessel & an inviting in of the penis & then enjoying the stillness of the Union rather than focusing on excitement & orgasm particularly opening. The use of plenty of almond oil also meant that, with the aging process, you were not worrying about body response.
What do you feel you have gained as a couple from this workshop?
We have continued with increased intimacy since we’ve been home & the increased communication facilitated by the retreat has helped us negotiate times when we’ve faced difficulties. We still haven’t managed to master soft entry but many possibilities have been opened up.
On many levels we both feel a level of consciousness has been expanded.
How did you find Jayne and Tim as facilitators?
We are both grateful for Tim & Jaynes facilitation & normalising the sharing of sexual matters (such a difficult subject to broach). Their sharing & sharing with other couples was illuminating & helpful & exploring a new way of approaching making love was helped by this sharing.
And the centre?
The retreat centre was beautiful & we were blessed with wonderful weather. Morning walking meditation was a blessing in such beautiful surroundings and with dancing & other meditative practices added a spiritual dimension to our daily experience & to making love. A dimension which continues.
Excellent vegetarian cooking has also encouraged us to extend vegetarian dining at home.
How did you find out about the seven day Making Love Retreat?
A friend told me about Tim and his 5 rhythms class. I checked out his website opentolife.co.uk and found the information about this Making Love Retreat. I’d asked my husband what he’d like for his birthday and he’d said a workshop to improve our sex life. This seemed perfect.
How was your sexual relationship before this workshop?
To be honest, sex was the elephant in the room in our relationship. We’d done lots of different workshops but this was an area that we hadn’t done anything on. I didn’t enjoy sex and felt as though it was being done to me, rather than me having a part in it. I often used to turn over afterwards and have a silent cry. I love my husband and I felt guilty that I didn’t enjoy sex but I didn’t know what to do about the situation. We couldn’t find the words to talk about it, and I didn’t want to upset him.
What did you think about sex in general at this time?
I couldn’t see the point in it, I couldn’t understand why everyone thought it was so great. My pelvic area felt numb and I didn’t feel anything in my breasts or genitals. I’d decided that sex was purely for procreation.
How did you feel once you’d arrived on the workshop?
At first I felt nervous and reluctant to be there. I had always been a bit prudish about sex and sexuality. I was anxious that I might be asked to do something that I felt uncomfortable doing. Luckily we had been on another workshop with Tim and I trusted him. Also, I had always been a private sort of person and really couldn’t imagine having to talk about sex in front of other people. For the first couple of days, I felt like the whole thing was a mountain to climb and that everyone else was in a much more advanced place in love-making than me.
What was your breakthrough moment?
On Day 3 – we were introduced to the idea (all the teaching work is clothed) of soft penetration. When we tried it, I was completely blown away. Suddenly I was totally in the experience of slow sex. I really enjoyed it. It felt so natural, like coming home to me. I’d been at the bottom of the mountain and now I had fast tracked to the top. It was incredible. The experience of being able to gaze into each other’s eyes while staying present in my own body was so softening for me as well. Making love turned into something deeply loving and connecting. As a woman, this was what I’d been longing for. Somehow we began talking too, we said how we were feeling, we laughed and we’ve got the idea that we’re on an adventure. We try something one day, another day it might not feel the same so we try something else. It’s so exciting to explore and not be stuck in a rut. And we’re still doing it.
And what effect has that had on your relationship?
It’s become so much softer and more loving; we had become rather brittle and quick to react with each other. And there’s much more communication and laughter. I feel as though the sky is the limit now. From being someone who couldn’t talk about sex, now I feel open to say what I like and don’t like and I enjoy it. It all seems so simple.
And how is your pelvic area?
Oh my goodness!! It has become wide awake. It feels ready and alive. I think all the bodywork we did during the week’s retreat – 5 rhythms, meditation, clearing the solar plexus – really helped me to feel every part of my body reawaken. The bodywork enables me to be present in my body and myself and I understand the importance of being in one’s own body first before making love. I no longer feel I am giving myself away.
How do you feel about your future now?
Absolutely rosy. It feels like we’ve found the missing piece to our relationship jigsaw. We’re going to grow in love and expand. It has been an amazing leap forwards for me, one that I would not have imagined was possible. I’m totally committed to booking dates and times in the diary to do this sort of making love. This kind of commitment also makes all the difference. It’s at the top of my list now.
How did you find Tim and Jayne as facilitators?
They were perfect. They are so good together, they laugh and are vulnerable and that emanates from them. They made it easy to open up and share. And they totally create a safe space.
How was your relationship before the MLR?
I was aware that our sexual interests were divergent. It seemed to me that my wife was less and less interested in sex and that she was in effect doing it for me. That was okay for a while but then everything went downhill and our relationship was becoming brittle, we were becoming more irritable with each other. During our 15 year marriage, our sex life had changed from being extremely enthusiastic to begrudged. It didn’t feel good and we did not have the skills to talk about it.
Did you know anything about Tantra?
I had read bits over the years. But I couldn’t really see the point in not having orgasms. My wife was interested in making love in a more touchy feely way and we tried that for a bit but it didn’t really work. In the end both of us were losing interest.
How did you find the MLR?
Well, I had wanted to do something about our sex life and my wife found this workshop and bought it for me as a gift for my birthday.
How were you when you arrived at the Retreat?
Full of fears. I’d got into a negative way of thinking about it all and it was uncomfortable to step out of that. I was scared of opening up and sharing too. The one thing that helped is that we were already in counselling with Tim so I trusted him. That enabled me to stay there. The first couple of days, I was full of dread.
What was your breakthrough moment?
When we found out how to do soft penetration that was the key. It was very reassuring, it meant I didn’t have to worry about having erections and that whole performance anxiety. Jayne and Tim were great, they shared their own story too. When we went off and tried this, it was a revelation. It was also such a big relief for both of us.
And how did this change your making love?
Suddenly we were laughing and having fun. And enjoying different positions and activities like eye gazing. It was new territory for us both and we became explorers.
How do you see your future now?
As very positive. This sort of making love has melted the brittleness between us. We’re in a much softer place. Our connection has deepened and it has opened us up to a natural flow. It’s taken away the judgements. Now we are committed to booking in making love time and that feels fantastic. I’ve heard of tantric sex before on many occasions but never got a hold of what it is really about. Tim and Jayne did a great job at explaining the concepts and guiding us through the process. As an older guy I am sold on this approach to sex. It is loving, very connecting on an emotional level and has brought my wife and I to a new place in our relationship.
How was this as a retreat?
It was one of the best retreats I’ve ever done. It opened up a new area that was unexpected. We’re in a really good place in our relationship and we are making love regularly again. We’re both really happy.