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Wellness

A woman scorned? Take a healing holiday at the Heartbreak Hotel

A UK countryside hotel is offering retreats where jilted women can meet, share and learn important lessons for the future — such as how to spot a narcissist

26 April 2022 - 00:00 By Elizabeth Sleith
The Heartbreak Hotel is close to the village of Gresham in Norfolk, eastern England.
The Heartbreak Hotel is close to the village of Gresham in Norfolk, eastern England.
Image: Heartbreak Hotel

A hotel in the British countryside is looking to take care of a specific clientele: romantically traumatised women. The Heartbreak Hotel offers three-day “transformational therapy” retreats specifically for, as its website says, “women whose hearts have been trampled on by deceitful partners”.

“If you’ve been cheated on ... if your relationship has crumbled ... if you’re in pain, this is the hotel for you.”

Over three days on set dates, groups of six to eight women tackle topics such as transforming their anger into agency, making sense of pain and identifying their “love language” and attachment style. The retreat also promises lessons in how to spot narcissists and cheaters so participants can “avoid them forever” and learn how to meet their own “core love needs”.

Psychologist Alice Haddon and author Ruth Field connected at university over their own heartbreaks.
Psychologist Alice Haddon and author Ruth Field connected at university over their own heartbreaks.
Image: Heartbreak Hotel

The brains behind the operation are two friends, Alice Haddon and Ruth Field, who met at university more than 25 years ago. Private heartbreaks connected them on the deepest level, they say, and they’ve been “talking about heartbreak ever since”, making their collaboration on the Heartbreak Hotel a natural one.

Haddon, a counselling psychologist and lecturer, says the programme she developed for the hotel is informed by years of listening to stories of heartbreak and loss of many different kinds.

She also built the retreat around the idea that short term intensive therapy could be more immediately beneficial and empowering to distressed women than one-hour weekly therapy sessions over the long term. The retreats are a sort of crash course in recovery. 

And they are priced accordingly: the cost is an eye-watering £2,500 (about R49,897) per retreat, but this is justified as being about the same price as seeing a therapist weekly for six months. Considering the additions of food, accommodation, walks on the beach and “fireside care”, “what you’re getting is a therapeutic bargain”, the website says. 

Field is an author, speaker and coach who uses humour as a tool to inspire. Her first self-help book titled Run Fat Bitch Run (Sphere, 2011), became an international best-seller. 

The hotel is set in a converted barn near the charming village of Gresham in North Norfolk in the east of England. When not operating as The Heartbreak Hotel, it’s the award-winning Chaucer Barn — ironically a wedding venue which The Independent newspaper rated as the UK’s sixth best. 

A comfy spot to curl up at The Heartbreak Hotel.
A comfy spot to curl up at The Heartbreak Hotel.
Image: Heartbreak Hotel

The retreats are run by women and only women guests are allowed — though all sexual orientations are permitted. Applicants have to fill out a form on which they are asked to describe their specific heartache to ensure that women of similar experiences are brought together. 

In addition to group therapy and workshops, guests can expect a seasonal menu prepared by the in-house chef, roaring fires, cosy sofas, comfy beds, blankets, hot water bottles, cups of tea on tap and daily trips to the beach “to release that stress and blow away the heartbreak cobwebs”. 

Guests are not allowed to have phones or drink alcohol.
Guests are not allowed to have phones or drink alcohol.
Image: Heartbreak Hotel
Comfy beds, blankets, hot water bottles and cups of tea are all part of the therapy.
Comfy beds, blankets, hot water bottles and cups of tea are all part of the therapy.
Image: Heartbreak Hotel

There is also a detoxifying element to the experience: no phones, tablets or laptops and no alcohol is allowed. (“Numbing our feelings is in conflict with learning what they are and how to manage them,” the site explains.)

“We believe that heartbreak connects us to the essence of what it is to be human and that our vulnerability is also the birthplace of compassionate change and daring creativity,” says Haddon. “Our mission at The Heartbreak Hotel is for our guests to leave feeling empowered and to act according to their own love narratives, values and needs.”

Upcoming retreats include "Moving Beyond Betrayal" in June and “Healing Your Heartbreak” in September.

The pair say they will be branching out into “other forms of heartbreak” in the coming months.

See theheartbreakhotel.co.uk.

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