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Great Sex retreat hopes to goose long-term relationships

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Remember when your relationship was fresh and exciting and you and your beloved couldn't keep your hands off each other? Just seeing him or her was enough to set your heart aflutter and give you butterflies in the pit of your stomach.

Ottawa sex therapist Sue McGarvie calls that feeling the "squoogies," and if you haven't had it for a long time, you're not alone.

Modern life, with its endless distractions and to-do lists, has a way of pushing passion so far down the priority list that eventually it becomes just another thing to get done -- if it makes the list at all.

"In my practice, I hear it over and over again from clients who say they're just going through the motions, that their relationship isn't as fulfilling as it once was," says Thomasina Charney, a life coach living in rural Manitoba.

So Charney, a busy mom who also runs Rossman Yurts & Retreats with her husband, decided to do something to help couples bring the squoogies back.

The Valentine Weekend Great Sex for Life retreat takes place Feb. 12-14 at Elkhorn Resort & Spa in Riding Mountain National Park. McGarvie will be co-facilitating the event, along with her life partner and co-therapist Blaik Spratt.

Winnipeg standup comic Dan Licoppe will break the ice Friday evening following a meet-and-greet chocolate fondue, and there'll be a '50s/'60s-style dance and social on Saturday night.

The rest of the time, it's all about sex -- everything from building intimacy to improving technique to "keeping it hot."

"This workshop is about the best fun, funny, adrenaline kick-starting ideas to keep your relationship from slipping into the ho-hum, 'Do we really have to, I have a headache,' pattern," says McGarvie, a syndicated radio and television sex-show host and author of Quivering Jello: How to Have Mind-Blowing, Toe-Curling Orgasms and Lean and Lusty: The Libido Diet.

"Everyone wants to have that close relationship, to be that couple who hit their 60th anniversary still goosing each other and chasing each other around the cake, but the daily minutiae can make it really difficult."

Never mind that men and women tend to have different ideas about intimacy -- or at least how to get there.

"I try to explain to men why not doing the dishes can affect their sex life," McGarvie says. "Because if you're not feeling close to your partner, the last thing you want to do is have sex with them. And for men, that's how they feel close."

Any adrenaline-boosting activities that couples do together -- paintball, whitewater rafting, etc. -- will help them bond, she says, especially if it's out of their comfort zone. The five things that great marriages have in common? Regular date nights, stopping the fight before it gets ugly, putting the other person's needs first, sense of humour and inventive sex life.

Regarding the latter, McGarvie says it's important that couples keep it hot with integrity.

"We're not saying that you need leather and Crisco; it has to be suited to your relationship," she says. "We call it being an ethical hedonist."

As for the retreat, McGarvie says there are no lectures, and although it will be "very interactive," it's not group therapy -- and no one will be put on the spot. Discussion topics will be determined by the results of a questionnaire that participants will fill out the first night.

"Maybe you'll learn something, hopefully you're going to feel closer," she says. "I'm expecting you to bust a gut laughing and I'm expecting you to feel connected at the end of it -- and that you did something for your relationship."

(The anatomically correct puppets should help with the laughs.)

The Great Sex for Life retreat is $119 per person (plus tax) or $60 for Friday or Saturday only. Register at Rooms are available at the Elkhorn Resort, which is offering a Valentine's special -- two nights, two mineral pool passes for the Solstice Spa, DVD rental, candle and chocolates -- for $325. Call 1-866-ELKHORN or go to

Individual 90-minute sessions with McGarvie ($130) are available Sunday and Monday. Book through

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2010 E6

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