April 14, 2011 -- Whether they've been married for years or are just stuck in a rut, some couples find it hard to keep that sizzle in the bedroom, but two sex experts seem to have a solution for maintaining that sexual spark: a weekend away at an intimacy retreat.
Diana and Richard Daffner, both in their 60s, are the authors of the how-to book, "Tantric Sex for Busy Couples," and they offer weekend "intimacy retreats" out of their studio in Siesta Key, Florida. There's no nudity, just instructions on how to spice things up. All participants' last names have been withheld.
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While one may conjure up the scene from "Meet the Fockers" when Ben Stiller walks in on his mother, played by Barbra Streisand, hosting a sex therapy class, this is no movie set. Couples shell out $600 to learn the Daffners' secrets for curing bedroom boredom.
And the Daffners are certainly experts. Married for 25 years, they said they have sex every day at 10 a.m. for at least 10 minutes. It's like clockwork, they said -- but don't mistake this for routine sex.
"We end all of our tai chi, and all of our lovemaking for that matter, with Namaste bow," Richard Daffner said.
After being together for years, the duo said they have cracked the code on what it means to have meaningful intimacy.
"I think we had a very traditional early marriage where she was being 'the good wife' and I was being satisfied on a regular basis," Daffner said. "But I wasn't taking the time to really give her the time of day, so to speak."
Teaching their clients just to talk to each other is one of the main lessons the Daffners preach at their retreat. They say it's something that worked for them.
"She just said, 'You know, we can have more,'" he said. "I said, 'You're probably right but you've got to take me there.' And she did."
At their retreats, the Daffners lead lessons that incorporate the martial art of t'ai chi, tantric sex techniques and a few personal bonding exercises – such as holding your hand over your partner's heart.
For the couples who participate, it was clear that even simple gestures are foreign to them. The tension was obvious, especially with Rick and Pamela from New Mexico. Married for 14 years, then divorced, the couple said they came to the Daffners' retreat to give their relationship another try.
"Without a doubt, she has the biggest heart of any person I've ever known," Rick said. "Through the bad times, we kind of got lost and we're trying to pull it all together now, and we saw this as a step in the right direction…I think we're capable of anything and that's why we're here."
Another important lesson is pampering. First, the men are instructed to wash their partners' feet. The Daffners explain it's about learning how to give and receive, something that Becca, another participant, said was never a priority in her marriage.
"I was in a 15-year marriage prior to this and there was no giving to Becca at all," she said. "So the ceremony that we had with the washing of the feet was very, very emotional for me because I didn't have that."
Keeping Relationships Lively
Becca said that she was at the Daffners' intimacy retreat with her boyfriend of six months, Ben -- and this was already their second time. They said they learned so much from the first time that they wanted to come back for more.
Another couple, Dave and Joanne from Kansas City, who have been married for 11 years, said after having kids, their relationship became like work. They said they wished they had come to a program like this earlier in their relationship.
"It's powerful, really powerful," Joanne said.
"A lot of this practice of meeting each other and focusing on each other, that's helped a lot," Dave added. "We've been surprised at how powerful it's been."
The retreat also came with tantalizing afternoon homework assignments, or, as the Daffners called it, home "play" assignments. Participants are instructed to go back to their hotel rooms and try different exercises, such as having the men give the woman intimate massages, but the women can't return the favor.
"We're all unique," Diane Daffner said. "Our whole body is a unique sexual map and it can change from one day to another."
The group then gathered later in the evening to share their experiences and there were varied results. "It took a little time for me to relax and get comfortable with it," Laurie said. "I thought it was a great experience for me."
Other couples didn't fare so well.
"It brought up a lot of issues and it highlighted the whole reason why we're here," Joanne said. Her husband Dave said he was "rather angry" and "disappointed" during the exercise and didn't understand why it was so one-sided.
"I actually felt a sense of betrayal," he said. "We were honest with each other, but honesty hurts sometimes, and you know, we had to work through it. But I think we've done a great deal together."
On the final morning of the retreat, the couples were given lessons on how to make their new-found fun last after they got home. The Daffners said they hope every couple leaves their retreat reinvigorated as better friends and better lovers.
"I feel, not just hopeful," said Rick, one of the participants. "I feel that we seriously accomplished something here. I mean, huge."