To Massage Or Not?

Posted by Beth Darling on Feb 23rd 2023

Dear Beth,

My husband of 6 years, has always been obsessed with wanting me to give him massages.He doesn't always need it to be a "happy ending." I can’t stand that any time we have down-time together, he constantly bugs me about it. We both work and have kids. Sometimes, I want to be able to relax on the couch with him. I feel harassed or guilted about not wanting to rub him.

Another piece of this is that he will start massaging me hoping that then I’ll do him. Now, I feel like I can’t even enjoy it. He says that massages are what makes him feel loved, but to me it just feels like work. I’m tired of fighting about this issue. Can you help?

Deirdre N.

Hi, Deirdre,

It’s interesting that massages can be a polarizing issue for lots of relationships. Obviously, some people find massages to be a wonderful, rewarding way to connect. But there are others, like you, who don’t enjoy them the same way.

When this becomes a major source of contention for couples, I suggest they consider things from the standpoint of intimacy.

  • Get specific and honest about what massages actually mean to each of you.
  • Are they always a way of creating sexual intimacy to him, even if they don’t end in orgasm?
  • Is he hoping that when you touch him you’ll be overcome with lust, affirming his desirability?
  • Is he simply seeking physical intimacy and relaxation? Does giving you a massage create the same intimacy for him as when he receives one?
  • Do you always associate massages with (positive or negative) sexual intimacy? Physical Intimacy?
  • Do you resent his willingness to express his desire for massages because you don’t ask or receive what you want?
  • Would you enjoy massages more if there wasn’t any reciprocity?
  • Would it feel better with a time limit agreed upon in advance?
  • I suspect that each of you has unmet needs, underlying fears, or lingering resentments that are causing the frustration. A resolution is possible when you discover the underlying issue, why it is important to each of you.

    One solution would be choosing how you spend your down time together so that you satisfy his desire for massages, but your desires are satisfied just as regularly.

    I suggest that you find aspects of intimacy when giving or getting massages that appeal to you, rather than focusing on the fact that you prefer other forms of connection. For example, you might: remind yourself that massage is beneficial for your physical and emotional health; take pride in the ability to help your husband relax and feel well loved; control the music during massages, or the conversation; like to sit on top of him and touch his body in ways that pleasure yours; ask him to give you explicit details about why your touch brings him so much pleasure.

    I know it can be hard to directly address conflict. I also know it’s the healthy way forward!

    I’ll be rooting for y’all!

    Big Hugs,