sex diaries

The Marriage Therapist at a Tantra Retreat

Photo: Victoria Pavlou / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

New York’s Sex Diaries series asks anonymous city dwellers to record a week in their sex lives — with comic, tragic, often sexy, and always revealing results. This week, a marriage therapist who has a “Make Dinner, Make Love” night: 46, divorced, marriage counselor.


5:45 a.m. I’m lying in bed and my man (we’ll call him Newman) kisses me and tells me that he loves me. I’m awake enough to hear but too sleepy to answer, so I just murmur as he slides out of bed and pulls his jeans over his naked behind (no underwear required). “Just going to walk the dog,” he whispers.

I hear him downstairs grinding the coffee beans, feeding my cat, and emptying the dishwasher before he gathers up his dog and the front door clicks shut behind them. We’ve been living together for 11 months, but I still pinch myself every morning to make sure this isn’t a dream. My ex and I were married for 17 years and I don’t think he ever got out of bed before me. Though, to be fair to the philandering globe-trotter, he wasn’t actually in our bed very often — or at least not with me.

6:30 a.m. Newman returns with the dog and, more important, my coffee. He places it gently on my bedside table before sliding his jeans off and getting back into bed with nothing on. Naked Coffee is our daily ritual: We snuggle, talk about our upcoming days, and make love.

8:30 a.m. I’m at the office preparing for my day. I don’t usually start this early, but Newman and I are headed out of town for a Tantra retreat later in the week and I’m trying to squeeze in as many clients — I’m a marriage counselor — as I can.

My first client of the day is a couple with uneven sexual desires. Last time they were in I proposed they forget about sex but exchange their customary flannel pj’s for garments that allow for skin-on-skin snuggling. Today, they look at me with sheepish grins and tell me that the sex didn’t stay forgotten for long. It’s funny, but since I’ve been with Newman there’s been a lot of magic happening in my couples therapy. Several of my clients are planning vow-renewal ceremonies — I’m over the moon that these guys could be moving that way too.

1:11 p.m. Four clients down, four to go. Newman texts to ask how my day is going and thank me for the love note I left in his lunchbox. I need to get my steps in, so I take a walk to the slowest bank in the world and make it back with a couple of minutes to spare.

7:30 p.m. Home. Newman is playing tennis, so I drink wine in the tub and catch up with Bill and Virginia on Masters of Sex.

10:05 p.m. Newman is back, and I’m snuggled between the newly washed sheets.


6:45 p.m. The day was much the same as yesterday, but tonight is “Make Dinner, Make Love.” It’s a throwback to before we lived together, when Newman would show up at my door with a bag of groceries, a bottle of wine, and a large Le Creuset that he’d lugged all the way from his apartment. He’d cook, we’d dump the dishes in the sink, and then spend the rest of the evening in the bedroom until around midnight, when he’d have to go home and walk his dog, sleep for five hours, wake up, and do it all over again. After four months of that, moving in together felt like an urgent matter.

For tonight’s MDML he’s doing lamb lollipops with minted peas. There’s a glass of wine waiting for me on the counter, candles on the table, and Norah Jones’s “Turn Me On” on the playlist. Even a year in, there’s something inordinately sexy about a man who owns a lot of French cookware and knows how to use it. We eat, dump the dishes, and hit the bedroom.

11:59 p.m. I roll over and turn out the light. That was yummy.


6:30 a.m. No clients today, which means we could take a bit longer over Naked Coffee … but things are already perky down there. We get straight on it, side by side in our favorite position. Newman’s getting close but the cat leaps on the bed and peers intently over my shoulder. Newman closes his eyes, trying to concentrate, but the cat’s purring is too loud to ignore, and he starts to soften right before the finish line. Damn.

9:50 a.m. Pilates. My instructor gets me hanging upside down by the knees before pressing me for dating advice. When I was leaving my marriage, stories like mine and Newman’s gave me hope; I’m happy to pay it forward. That is until she pronounces that I’m “lucky,” which always bristles. Don’t get me wrong — I’m very thankful to have Newman in my life, but it’s not as though I just happened upon him in the produce section. I worked my ass off in therapy to make sure I didn’t fall for a newer model of my ex (believe me, I see it all the time), and when I was finally ready to hit the dating scene, I hit it hard. My instructor laughs and says I should hold a seminar. She’s probably right.

12:30 p.m. Home. I’m supposed to be doing my billing, but I’m writing this sex diary instead.

12:33 p.m. Email from the Tantra retreat to remind us that Saturday night’s session will require a two-piece bathing suit. Time for a new bikini.

1:04 p.m. All tangled up in the Target fitting room. Bikini straps really shouldn’t be this complicated.

7 p.m. Now it’s time for our weekly dance lesson. Tonight we’re doing the samba and the waltzba — a cross between the rumba and the waltz in 4/4 time, which means you can dance to almost everything on your playlist. Yay!

10:01 p.m. Banish cat.

10:05 p.m. Make love.


6:30 a.m. You know the drill.

7:20 p.m. Arrive late to Gay Boyfriend’s penthouse for a truffle-making master class. Gay Boyfriend was my get-out-of-jail-free card when I was still married — my philandering ex never worried about him making a pass at me. Like Newman, he’s an amazing cook — his “Marry Me” truffles are my absolute favorite. I gave Newman a Truffles and Tantra cookbook so he could make them for our weekend, but the recipe turned out to be about the mushroom kind and not the chocolate kind. Since I loathe mushrooms with a passion, Gay Boyfriend offered to just teach us instead. So here we are.

10:07 p.m. Home now, and somehow there are only five truffles left to take with us. Newman offers to eat them off my tummy instead. I let him.


4:10 a.m. No time for coffee — naked or otherwise. We’ve got a plane to catch.

6:45 a.m. In flight and super excited. I’ve wanted to learn more about Tantra ever since I found out it was a thing, but the philandering globe-trotter wouldn’t hear of it. Newman, on the other hand, is up for pretty much anything. We speculate about what the other participants will be like. Mostly older hippie types, we imagine.

2:07 p.m. Arrive at our resort and decide to hit the beach.

2:15 p.m. Step outside, only to be greeted with a resounding thunderclap. “Crap,” says Newman. “Mimosa?” I shout above another roll of thunder. We sprint to the nearest bar.

6:50 p.m. Now we’re sitting in our rental car outside the home of our retreat facilitators and observing the arrival of the other Tantra participants. No hippies in sight.

6:55 p.m. Gather courage and venture inside. There’s a Persian rug on the floor and eight pairs of backjacks — essentially seat cushions with a backrest — positioned in a circle. Unexpectedly, they’re quite comfortable.

7:01 p.m. Everyone’s here and I’m fascinated. As a marriage therapist, I’m used to meeting couples for the first time and I frequently find myself wondering what on earth they’re doing together. But here, all the partners match. In fact, if everyone had been standing by themselves, I bet I could have accurately paired each person with their mate. And, with one exception of a couple in their 70s, they’re all around our age.

7:15 p.m. The talking stick is passed around the circle. We’re told to share the quality we love most about our partner. Newman shares how intentional I am about our relationship. I’m surprisingly emotional.

8:02 p.m. We learn that the word “sex” should be considered an acronym for “synchronized energy exchange” and that a definition of Tantric sex could be “orgasm while relaxed.” I guess I’d never thought about it before, but striving to reach orgasm can be a ton of work. Conversely, breathing deeply and allowing an orgasm to arrive when it arrives is quite the novel idea.

8:30 p.m. By now we’ve learned that Tantric sex requires an energy connection running between the heart, mind, and sex parts, not only within ourselves but also in synchronicity with our partner. To help achieve this, our facilitators propose using a partnered tai chi routine. We tumble out to the veranda to practice. Newman is enthusiastically into it and I’m overcome with gratitude that he’s here and willing to do this with me.

10 p.m. We’re done for the night. Our “homeplay” assignment is to repeat the tai chi sequence naked, which would be fine except that the air-conditioning in our room is set to “arctic.” Since we can’t figure out how to turn it off and there are no screens on the windows, we plaster ourselves in bug spray and complete the exercise under cover of darkness on the patio instead.

10:20 p.m. Homeplay complete, we treat ourselves to a glass of wine and some lovemaking. While I can’t put my finger on it, it is somehow different. More intimate, more connected.


10.02 a.m. Today is all about the yoni, which is a Sanskrit term used to refer to the female sex parts. Following an anatomy lesson, the gals are separated from the guys and schooled in the art of receiving. In a few moments, we’re told, our beloveds will emerge to treat us like the goddesses we are. And they do: roses between the teeth, towels over the arm, and bowls of warm water. Newman drops a couple of petals into the water, hands me the rose to smell, and proceeds to caress my feet, saying nothing but gazing into my eyes the entire time.

3:55 p.m. Homeplay today is an hour-long yoni massage, orgasm(s) optional. The key is that we’re not allowed to have penetrative sex before, during, or afterward, because this has to be all about her.

6:45 p.m. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes yes yes yes YES.

6:55 p.m. I’m a bumbling babble of incoherence.

8:30 p.m. We’re back at the retreat, clad in our bathing suits, and the gals are all glowing. Massage tables are set up in the darkness of the veranda, and following tonight’s instruction, we take turns giving each other a sensual, full-body massage. We’re allowed to make use of any items available in the kitchen including scented oils, feathers, kiwi-fruits, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce, while the recipient of the massage lies blindfolded on the table. It’s an incredibly intimate — not to mention trust-building — endeavor.

11:02 p.m. Because it’s a late finish tonight, we’re instructed to complete our homeplay before we arrive in the morning. And, since turnabout is fair play, this time it’s a massage of the lingam, which is the Sanskrit term for the male sex parts. Once again, there’s to be no sex before, during, or after, so Newman and I nab our opportunity to make love tonight while we can.


7:30 a.m. Just as yesterday was all about me, today is all about Newman. I sneak out of bed and make the coffee, then collect pillows, towels, and massage oil to complete our final assignment.

9:57 a.m. We were instructed to take 40 minutes but went an hour and a half. We need to hustle if we want breakfast, but we’re way too entranced with each other to think about such banal things.

11:05 a.m. Back on the backjacks reporting on our homeplay. I’m astounded to learn that less than half of the couples did it. While it may have partly been the late night, the therapist in me is dying to know how many women didn’t want to touch their partner’s lingam versus how many men weren’t willing to make themselves that vulnerable. Either way, I’m sorry that they missed such an incredible bonding experience.

8:30 p.m. The retreat is over. It’s sunset, and Newman and I are walking hand-in-hand along the beach. He stops to draw a heart in the sand with our names and a Cupid arrow. Maybe it’s cheesy, but once again, I’m an emotional puddle; proud, humbled, and overwhelmed all at the same time by this man. I take back what I said at Pilates. I am the luckiest girl in the world.

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The Marriage Therapist at a Tantra Retreat