I’m Sorry, I Actually Cannot Endure Another Couples Massage

I’m Sorry, I Actually Cannot Endure Another Couples Massage

As a wife, I tend to make lots of little sacrifices for the sake of my marriage: Getting Thai takeout when I’m actually in the mood for Indian, being a plus-one at events where I don’t know anyone but my husband, going to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving because we’re doing Christmas with my family—you get the picture. But the one I struggle the most to get behind? My absolute least favorite couples activity? The one I’ve been putting up with for years (!!) without so much as a single peep? Couples massages. Let me explain.

First and foremost, I am well aware that paying upward of $100 (per person!) to get my weary muscles rubbed down in a calming, incense-filled room with the love of my life is not a hardship by any stretch. I’ve kept my distaste for couples massages to myself up until this point, primarily because I know it’s so cringey to complain about such a privileged activity. Also, because my husband loves them and he never (fine, rarely) complains when I rope him into things I like doing, like going to pop-princess-themed spin classes and having rom-com movie nights.

But as we celebrate our first full year of marriage (plus eight years of dating before that), it’s time I spoke my truth: Every time I get a couples massage with my husband, I spend 45 minutes wearing my fakest placid smile, figuring out the right timing to let out little soft “hmms” of enjoyment so the massage therapist knows they’re doing a good job and wondering if I missed the class where we were taught how to act during these things.


This is a good time to admit that I’m not really a fan of solo massages either. It’s not that I don’t like how it feels—I love when my husband and I take turns giving each other massages at home—but in the actual setting of a spa or massage parlor, I just can’t get my brain to calm down enough to let my body enjoy them.

My massage-related anxiety runs deep. I was 16 when I got my first one, and I climbed onto the table fully clothed—not because I was uncomfortable with nudity but because I simply didn’t understand the logistics of the process. The massage therapist was kind when she lifted the sheet to see my T-shirt and jeans and informed me of my faux pas, but I was obviously mortified. From that point on, any and all kinds of self-care appointments have led to stress and the fear that I’m doing something wrong: Am I talking too much at the hair salon? Did I ask for an annoyingly difficult nail design? Is my facialist mad at me? I’m so in my head that I can’t let go and relax during these experiences—and isn’t relaxing kind of the whole point of getting a massage?

Before I go on, I should clarify that yes, I approach most of life with this level of overthinking and yes, I am seeing a lovely therapist who is helping me let go of my need to have control over every situation—or at least loosen my death grip a smidge. But as anyone in therapy will probably tell you, it’s a ~process~ that takes “time” and “patience,” and in order to get to that point, I’m trying to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

But couples massages are just…too uncomfortable for me. On top of my baseline anxiety, I also feel an added layer of pressure to have a fun and sexy time with my husband. I’m told couples massages are meant to help partners ~bond~ as they enjoy the experience together and release feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, which can help them feel even closer. Some people treat couples massages like foreplay, getting oiled up and relaxed before floating away on a cloud of contentment to go have fun, slippery sex. I’ve even heard rumors about couples getting freaky on the massage table after a session, but I’m pretty sure that’s only common in porn—or, at least, that’s what I’m choosing to believe, because the idea of getting caught having sex in a place of business might send me into a downward spiral. 😇

There was a time when I believed that if I got enough couples massages, I’d start to see the appeal—as if they were an acquired taste like natural wine or a prickly coworker. But after enduring experiencing couples massages with my husband every few months for the past three or so years, I just…never figured out how to make them enjoyable, let alone romantic. Are you supposed to hold hands? Stare at each other? If you’re actually able to relax enough to get turned on in this environment, what are the ethics of that? We can’t just ask our massage therapists to step out of the room so we can get handsy…right?

Not to go all Black Mirror on you, but I wish there were a button I could push to turn off my brain so I could actually enjoy the process—no thoughts, just vibes. Instead, my internal monologue sounds a little something like this:

  • Welp, Husband booked us another massage. Time for the performance of my life.
  • Is there any way I can sneak a splash of gin into my spa water? You know, just to take the edge off.
  • Oh good, the massage therapists are giving us a few minutes of privacy to undress before they rub down our naked bodies for the better part of an hour.
  • I see Husband in his underwear pretty much every day—why am I all of a sudden embarrassed to look?
  • Damn, this bed is very comfy. Maybe this time will be different and I’ll actually enjoy myself!
  • Spoke too soon. I just sighed out loud and want to evaporate into thin air.
  • Oh my god, Husband just asked his masseuse if she can “ease up on the pressure a bit.” How dare he tell her how to do her job?!
  • Actually, I wish my masseuse would ease up on the pressure a bit—this kinda hurts.
  • I read somewhere that if you hit certain pressure points on the body, you die. What if I die naked on this table? Would Husband know to wrap me in a robe before they come take me away?
  • Husband and I need to update our wills. I should tell him before I forget.
  • Are you allowed to talk during a couples massage? Maybe I’ll just peek over at him and see if I can get his attention.
  • Oh great, he’s asleep. Must be nice.

I knew when I decided to write this anti-couples-massage manifesto that I’d have to finally admit to my husband that I hate one of his favorite relaxation hobbies. His face fell when I told him and he asked why I would put myself through something I didn’t enjoy: “You know I wouldn’t ever want you to do something that made you so uncomfortable, right?” he said.

I thought about it for a moment. Why hadn’t I just told him I hated massages? We’re usually very comfortable doing our own things—I have no problem opting out of the techno shows he likes to go to or declining to hang out with that one friend of his I just don’t vibe with. The truth is, I felt embarrassed that I can’t enjoy something that’s supposed to relax us and bring us closer together. It felt like saying I hate romantic dinner dates or long walks on the beach.

Thankfully, my husband didn’t see it this way. If I didn’t like couples massages, he said, then I shall never have to be subjected to one ever again. Instead, we came to a compromise: From now on, he will get massages on his own, and I’ll come with him to enjoy the spa’s other, far less ridiculous amenities, like the plunge pools, saunas, and my personal favorite, the snack bar. And then we can go home, where he can give me the kind of massage treatment I truly deserve.

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Freelance Writer

Lexi Williams (she/her) is a Brooklyn-based editor, writer, and strategist who has spent the past decade helping readers live their best lives. Her byline has appeared in Bustle, Betches, Elite Daily, The Kitchn, and Wine Spectator magazine, among others. She’s usually obsessing over (and writing about) her latest niche interests, finding reasons to pop bottles of champagne, or taking too many photos of her rescue dog, Benji. Follow her on Instagram.

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