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“One time, this married couple came in, ” began Monica Jaso, the director of spa operations for Swissôtel Chicago’s Spa 42. “And 20 or 30 minutes into the massage, they’re nice and relaxed, and it’s nice and quiet, and all of a sudden you hear her call out, ‘Honey? Honey, how are ya feelin’?’ “And you can see his shoulders raise up a little bit, and she’s like, ‘How ya feelin’ over there? Are you relaxed?’ And he just chuckled and was like, ‘Well, I was until you opened your big mouth!’” Monica chuckled, too, at the memory of the interaction. Luckily, the husband in her story wasn’t bothered much, but not every spouse is as patient. The takeaway: if you’re giving your partner a couples massage, you should probably have a chat before your appointment about, well, chatting. Below, Monica—a licensed massage therapist since 2008—let us in on a few other secrets to help couples get the most out of their co-massage experience. Do plan the entire day around your massage. The treatment itself may only take an hour or two, but its effects last much longer. You should expect to feel relaxed yet somewhat tired afterward, so maybe schedule that tandem bungee jump before you hit the spa. “If you’re gonna do something [afterward], make it really relaxing, ” Monica said. You should also consider your eating schedule. “Eating beforehand is OK, but do it at least an hour before so you’re not lying on a full belly, ” she said. “And don’t have a massage at 6 o’clock and then make a dinner reservation for 7:30, because then you’re rushing to get there and you’re not going to enjoy that nice, relaxing massage you just had.” (Read more tips on achieving massage zen.) Don’t bicker before your treatment. It doesn’t matter who messed up the directions to the spa or who forgot to feed the Tamagotchi—just let it go. “Try to come in a good mood, ” Monica advised. “It helps move things along a little better when everybody’s feeling good.” Do come early (or stay late) to enjoy the spa’s extras. Many spas include complimentary access to saunas, pools, fitness centers, and other amenities with treatment reservations. “By all means, make use of that, ” Monica said. “A lot of people [don’t] take advantage of those facilities.” If it’s a hotel spa, there may even be an onsite restaurant. If your spa doesn’t have those extras, you should still show up a little early. “If you come too close to the appointment time, you might be rushing around, the therapists might be rushing around, and … you can feel that rushed energy.” Monica suggested arriving 15–20 minutes before your appointment time. Do think about add-ons. Has your partner had an especially stressful time at work lately? Then ask about aromatherapy, as scented essential oils can help calm the mind better than massage alone. Is it a particularly cold day? Add hot stones (and read about them here)! Don’t feel like you both have to get the same treatment. As with a solo session, couples massages should still include personalized consultations with the massage therapists. “Usually people have individual wants and needs for their own bodies, ” Monica said. “Someone might have shoulder tension; someone else might have just had ankle surgery and want attention on their legs.” And it’s not just about focus areas, either. Couples should feel free to ask for different modalities. If one person just wants to relax, Swedish is probably enough for them. If the other person wants a more therapeutic treatment, “then by all means, get the deep tissue, get the sports massage. Don’t limit yourself.” Do take it easy on the bubbly. A lot of spas offer champagne with couples massages, but watch your intake before and after the treatment. “If you do drink afterward, it can hit you a lot faster because your circulatory system is going a lot quicker, ” Monica said. A little alcohol is OK, but make sure you drink plenty of water, too. Don’t assume you need a significant other. Sure, couples massages make great romantic gifts for women and men. But Monica said plenty of platonic pairs come through Spa 42’s couples room—siblings, friends, mothers and daughters. “There’s been more than I would have expected.” The most important thing is just choosing someone you can really relax and enjoy the experience with.
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