Couples Retreat: Movie vs. Reality, Meet the Real Relationship Experts

Couples Retreat: Meet the Real-Life Love Experts

Couples struggling with their relationships have long traveled to far away destinations to try and mend their wounds. And this weekend such trips are likely to take center stage thanks to Vince Vaughn new comedy, "Couples Retreat."

The comedy, which also features Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, Kristin Davis and Kristen Bell, centers around four couples who travel to a tropical island resort for a vacation. While one couple is there to work on their marriage, the others are unpleasantly surprised to learn that the resort's therapy sessions are not optional.

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That premise leads the crew through numerous, painful exercises in counseling craziness, including 6 a.m. couples skill building classes, a swim in the ocean surrounded by sharks and an exercise where they're asked to undress in public. But the folks who run real couples retreats are quick to point out that this is just Hollywood's comedic take on their business.

"What we do is not crazy. What we're doing is trying to bring people together," said Debra Margrave, runs Sedona Soul Adventures with her husband of 19 years, Tom. "And we find it doesn't happen by doing crazy stuff. It happens by bringing them into their hearts and then opening their hearts to each other."

For Richer or Poorer

The Margraves use nature to help "couples reconnect with their essential, spiritual nature." There's is just one of the countless retreats out there touting a return to nature as a lure to couples in search of escape and reconnection. Some are set in tropical locations, others in the mountains.

But others are held inmotel conference rooms. Some focus on sex -- having either more or less. Others look at communications skills. And other try to get the couples to connect better with their sense of being or with god.

Whatever your niche, there is likely a couples retreat for you.

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Tom Margrave said he and Debra focus on "personalized spiritual retreats for couples."

"That is the component that is most missing in most people's lives at this moment in history," said. "People have lots of worldly goods, lots of possessions, lots of opportunities for travel and other things. But what's missing is their life is their sense of connection with something that is greater than themselves."

There are yoga hikes, massages, breathing exercises and psychics running sessions on "why have our souls brought us together."

But the real draw here is the Arizona desert.

Debra Margrave said there is "vortex of energy" in the area that those "special energies come together and can be used for transformation."

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"The fact that this is an incredibly beautiful place helps people go through their changes and transformation," her husband adds. "The idea is that we connect with spirit in many ways but one of the most powerful ways is through beauty. Beauty opens our heart, beauty allows us to shift perspective. It allows us to see things differently. The physical beauty of this place really helps people find that connection within."

The experience does not come cheap. The Margraves require a minimum of three full days; most guest stay for four or five days. Both people have to want to escape to work on the relationship. The average cost, $2,500 for the couple.

In the last eight years they have had 2,300 people do the retreat. A typical week has 10 to 15 guests.

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