The week starts off strong, with Wilkinson and Baskett loaded up and headed out for their intimacy retreat with renowned sexologist Dr. Ava Cadell. The retreat gives Wilkinson pause for several reasons — the most obvious of which is her skepticism that it will even help.
"Kendra and Hank feel that Marriage Boot Camp and the counseling they've been getting has helped them a great deal," explains Kevin Burns, executive producer. "But it's also opened up new questions and new issues they need to work through — Kendra's intimacy issues, for example."
Wilkinson's other concern, though, is simply for the couple's kids, little Hank and Alijah (who, for the record, could not be any cuter). Baskett reassures her, saying, "We're leaving them now for one night so we can be together with them for their whole lives."
Still, says SheKnows parenting expert Lori Pace, they did have other options.
"Look, I am all for taking time away and changing the atmosphere to enhance the marriage," she says. "I do also believe that the marriage needs attention to provide a stable environment for the kids. However, this family is apart a lot. Kendra travels, Hank is gone and the kids are just there. So I think it would have been a lot better to spend the time with the kids at home. Time alone can be had after the kids go to bed or just out to dinner and home later. Rebuilding a marriage also includes rebuilding the family as a whole."
But the anxiety in the car is practically palpable, since both parties have essentially accepted that this is their marriage's Hail Mary pass. "If this intimacy retreat doesn't work," says Wilkinson, "I don't know what I'd do."
When they arrive at Dr. Cadell's intimacy lodge, she ushers them in so they can get the healing process started.
Dr. Cadell gets right down to business by explaining some guidelines, which include a few hard-to-swallow rules for Wilkinson, such as no meanness, no quitting and no cell phones. On the plus side, the penalty for breaking the rules involves getting spanked with a giant pink paddle, so there's that.
They then dive in by using stickers to map out each other's erogenous zones. And, hey, we all got to learn something new, since Dr. Cadell informed Wilkinson that feet have a correlation to the clitoris, which is "another reason why women like to go shoe shopping." Indeed!
Later, during couples yoga, the two actually start to seem in sync. Wilkinson even puts her normal hang-ups aside to hug Baskett and rub his feet in the hot tub. But during the surprise dinner that follows, they hit their first — and possibly only — big intimacy retreat snag.
When a buzzing Wilkinson is supposed to hand-feed Baskett the food, she playfully takes bites of everything first. This does not sit well with her husband, who I'm going to guess was just hungry. When Baskett calls her out on it, it hurts Wilkinson's feelings. She storms off crying, and he is left at the table stewing.
And then something echoes in his head. "I remember when we drove here, Kendra said this couples' retreat is the last resort," he says. "Fast forward to now, to Kendra getting up and leaving the table. I have the sinking feeling that last resort may have happened."
Fortunately for Baskett, though, that ship hasn't sailed just yet.
Wilkinson, despite feeling emotional, realizes they are ultimately fighting over a fig. She returns to the table, acknowledges that she should have been more sensitive and accepts his apology when he offers it. Yay! Adulting for the win.
The rest of the intimacy retreat proved to be a breeze once they were able to get through that argument on their own. They laughed, they had fun, they had sex... which is good, says SheKnows dating and relationship expert Laurel House, as sex is often a barometer for the overall health of a relationship.
"In fact, sex is often the most obvious indicator of relationship problems," she says. "With Kendra in particular, who admittedly doesn't like kissing — an activity that requires vulnerability — and would prefer give a guy head — an activity that allows for her to be in control and literally on top — sex is giving up some control and allowing for vulnerability."
And although sex can be used as a Band-Aid, not glue, in the healing of a relationship, "Band-Aids can assist in the healing as long as the work is being done beneath the surface," says House. "Sometimes just allowing for that vulnerability and allowing for that connection is enough to decide to put the work in to actually heal the relationship."
Despite the breakthrough, though, Wilkinson and Baskett should still put in the work. "Healing from a foundation-eroding event can be very difficult, if not impossible, to fully heal from. You can glue those cracks together, but the relationship will always be different," emphasizes House.
That being said, they can (and should) still enjoy the progress they've made.
"Sometimes that glue can fortify the foundation — and therefore the relationship — even more than it was before," says House. "Many relationships don't have a solid foundation to begin with, and taking the time to focus on each other due to a relationship trauma can be the best thing for the relationship. It is broken down so that it can be built back up even stronger."
The one caveat, according to House? "That is only the case if both individuals within the relationship are truly dedicated to repairing it. Both individuals have to put in the work: the time, effort, energy and vulnerability."
As far as continuing to put in the work with a sexologist, the couple doesn't see that in the cards. "There are no plans to continue with Dr. Cadell, but they took a lot away from the retreat. They still do the 'Tantric Hug' every chance they can!" says Burns.
Burns also notes that everything the couple experienced while at the retreat was authentic and unfiltered.
"As the producers, we wanted the entire experience to be 100 percent real. I asked my Executive Producer, Lauren Weinstein, to document the weekend — but to not 'produce it' by stepping in if we missed something. What you saw was what happened, and I believe Kendra and Hank really appreciated that," Burns reveals.
As soon as the duo arrives home, they can't wait to see the kids. Although Alijah shuns Wilkinson for Baskett, Pace says this likely isn't indicative of any bonding issues between mom and baby. At that age, "they go through the 'daddy' phase and then come back to mommy. However, I do think that important early childhood-bonding time with Kendra is lacking and would love to see her take the baby with her more when she travels instead of always leaving her home — or she may never feel close to her mother," Pace cautions.
Following a full family bonding sesh on the living room floor, Wilkinson and Baskett put the kids to bed and prepare dinner for their besties, Jessica and Kyle Larson. It's kinda cute, you guys. They're in the kitchen together, cooking up supper and joking. Baby steps, right?
The dinner is a huge hit, and Baskett even teaches Hall and Larson a thing or two about intimacy. But, at the end of the day, the biggest win of the night is in Wilkinson's final thought: "Honestly, I'm starting to believe in marriage a little bit more and more every day" — a direct reflection, says Burns, that "Kendra is really working on her trust and intimacy issues with Hank."
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