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The 2 Biggest Reasons Couples Don't Give Each Other Massage

Jan 21, 2008
Ever come home from a hard day at work and ask your spouse/partner/lover for a massage? Chances are, you have. And chances are, your partner obliged. At least once, anyway. But chances are, there were times when your partner complained that he or she was tired and left you to deal with your knotted shoulders yourself. Or even worse, half-heartedly rubbed your shoulders for two or three minutes and then stopped!

Why does this happen and what can be done about it? Well, first of all, the why. Like he said, he's tired! Either that or he feels that he's no good at it. Or maybe it's a little bit of both.

- Energy -

Giving massage takes energy. The types of massage that most of us are familiar with require a good deal of energy and can even leave the giver hurting afterwards, needing a massage himself. To avoid this, there are alternatives, such as compression massage.

Compression massage is a modality where pressure is applied to a knot with the hands, elbows, fore arms, or even the feet, and maintained until the knot releases (or until the receiver has "had enough"), at which point, the masseuse moves on to the next knot. A basic course or even a one-time workshop on compression massage will give you an insight into good body mechanics for massage. With even an elementary understanding, you'll be able to choose positions that will require nothing more of the masseuse than simply leaning - something anyone can do, even if they're tired.

- Communication -

Another issue that keeps people from clamoring back to give their partner a massage is that they may feel they're no good at it. This is where communication becomes crucial. In my couple's massage workshops, I've noticed that people are often hesitant to give feedback to their partners - especially negative feedback. They decide to simply put up with something that doesn't really feel that good until the giver moves on to something more satisfying. What is needed is very clear communication. Your partner has finally agreed to give you a massage, after all. He or she obviously wants to do a good job and for you to enjoy it. So let him or her know what's good. Yes, "what's good". You don't need to focus on what's bad. If you communicate clearly what's good and just how good it is, your partner will want to do more of that, rather than the other things that you didn't comment on.

"So is she saying I should just ignore what's bad?!?!?", you might be asking yourself. No, I'm not saying that, either. I'm saying be clear. Instead of, "Ow!!", you can say, "A little less pressure. Uh huh. ...And still less. Ah... Perfect. That's great." Instead of, "Not there! Up further!", you can say, "Towards my shoulder blade more. Yep. A little more. Ah... Bulls eye..." (Remember that if you're lying on your side for example and say "Up further.", your partner doesn't know if "up" is toward to ceiling or toward the wall in the direction of your head.)

Although the person receiving the massage is mainly responsible for giving clear feedback in a compassionate way, you might be surprised to find just how much the giver can influence this communication style and not set him or herself up for what may seem like harsh criticism. For example, let's take the question that every inexperienced masseuse has asked at least once, "How's that?" By asking the question, "How's that?", the giver could be setting him or herself up for a pretty harshly negative response: "Terrible."; "Not so good."; a little better is "OK..."; or if you're lucky, "Great!" Anyway, it's kind of a gamble. And these responses aren't really constructive. They don't tell you what to do about the fact that it's "terrible."

Compare now "How's that?" with "Which is better? - This? Or this?" Your partner will tell you which is better. You can then move on to comparing the better of those two with yet another: "OK, now that one and this one. Which is better?" You can also ask, "Hey, there's this and there's this. Better? Worse? Just different?" In this way, you can gradually build your repertoire, employing the help and guidance of your partner.

Even veteran massage therapists sometimes ask for feedback during a session. It stands to reason then, that non-professionals also will benefit from feedback. Also, veteran therapists sometimes hurt their joints by not paying attention and getting sloppy in their body mechanics during massage. It's only natural then, that non-professionals would benefit greatly (and therefore give each other massage more frequently) by learning some basic massage body mechanics and communication skills. In this way, couples can make massage a positive experience - not just for the receiver, but for the giver, as well.
About the Author
Lia Suzuki Santa Barbara, CA 805-692-9850 lia@liasuzuki.com http://www.liasuzuki.com
Lia Suzuki is a practicing licensed massage therapist and educator based in Santa Barbara, California. Her clients range from Olympic athletes to Hollywood celebrities, whom she has treated in her office, their homes, and 5 star hotels in Montecito and Santa Barbara.
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