Ay, there's the rub

A couples massage is not our idea of quality together time.

By Shawn Peters
November 21, 2010

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For my 39th birthday, all I wanted was a weekend away with my wife, Sara. The plan was to drop our two kids off at their grandparents, head to the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, and spend some quality grown-up time together. Forty-eight hours of adult beverages by the pool, deep sleep, and the occasional session at the blackjack tables. The final indulgence was to be a pair of much-needed massages. Sara had a knot the size of a walnut under her right shoulder blade, and my back has been designated a permanent disaster zone by FEMA. When we went online to book our appointments, however, we saw the hotel’s spa offered a “Double Your Pleasure Couples Massage.”

For a moment, Sara and I imagined sharing a room, each of us on a table, holding hands while our respective masseuses worked us over. And the more we talked about it, the more we realized we couldn’t think of a single reason why anyone would want to do it.

To be clear, I fully endorse the idea that massages can be sensual and romantic. Heck, when I was a freshman at Brandeis, I honed my amateur back-rubbing skills and got the majority of my first dates that way. A year later, when I was courting Sara, I realized quickly that the way to her heart was through her trapezius, and for the past 20 years, she’s been my only “client.” But those kinds of massages are about two people connecting in a tactile way.

The point of a professional massage is to relax, be quiet, and cleanse yourself of the tensions in your body and mind. Let’s face it, if married people could do that in the presence of their spouses, there wouldn’t be any need for massages.

I can see the value of couples sharing certain intense experiences, like sky diving or The Amazing Race. But the very idea of getting massages at the same time brought up enough logistical questions to seize up my sacroiliac. Do we talk to each other? Usually, during a massage, I’m about as verbal as Marcel Marceau in a public library. As a habitual chatterbox, it’s one of the only times I make a point of not making a point. But if Sara were in there, I’d feel obligated to throw an occasional “How’s it going over there?” her way. And the whole pictorial ideal of holding hands would take an act of contortionism that flies in the face of true relaxation.

Still, I was open to the premise that I was being prejudiced, making assumptions without ever having experienced it. So I reached out to friends who had given it a shot and asked their opinions. What came back was a nearly unanimous confirmation of my a priori point of view. My old co-worker Travis had had a couples massage with his wife, Jaimi, on a cruise ship because it had seemed romantic. Instead, he felt as if the service had been designed only to romance a few extra bucks out of them. Our friend Ken confessed he had found it relatively relaxing, but said that the best part was the joy his wife, Stacy, got out of scheduling the together time. One of my pals went as far as to point out that he got divorced six months after giving a couples massage a try, though he admitted there were other, non-spa-related issues in play. Lest one think this was a purely male take on the issue, the reviews coming in from female friends were peppered with similar adjectives: “awkward,” “weird,” “uncomfortable.” Not what you’re looking for when you’re spending spa dollars.

So, after due consideration, Sara and I signed up for separate massages, in different rooms. We decided that even though there’s a “we” in “Swedish massage,” there’s also an “I,” and so there was no reason to supplant the “me” time with “we” time, even during a romantic weekend.

Still, when we walked through the glass doors of G Spa at the MGM Grand and found ourselves in the lobby, surrounded by the soothing scents of eucalyptus and relaxing tones of soft world music, there was one more test to face. The pert receptionist greeted us, and when we told her we were checking in for our massages, she asked, “Oh, are you having the couples massage? It’s really wonderful.” This was our final chance to reconsider. All we’d have to do is ask. Without batting an eye, Sara and I both said “No” – and we did that together.

Shawn Peters is a writer and performer appearing in The Ego and the Oracle at Somerville’s The Burren on December 2. Send comments to Story ideas: Send yours to Please note: We do not respond to ideas we will not pursue.

  • November 21, 2010 cover
  • Nov. 21, 2010 cover