"There is one question I ask all of the couples I work with" he told me, his kind eyes twinkling, "and their answer tells me if their marriage can be saved from the brink of divorce."
I leaned in across the cafe table, eager to hear his secret sauce question, to discover his master assessment tool. I was speaking with Dr. Jack Morin, the renowned sex therapist and author.
"I simply ask if they are willing to give one another a massage!" He said, clapping his hands together.
The late and great Jack Morin was a sex therapist in San Francisco and author of several books including The Erotic Mind. His work offers profound insights into not only what causes relationships to breakdown over time, but also on what makes a successful relationship work. He was one of the first to bring the ideas of positive psychology into sex therapy.
When I pressed for more information about this surprising assessment tool, Dr. Morin told me that with years of experience as a sex therapist seeing couples in his private practice he noticed that if a couple wasn't willing to exchange a simple, affectionate massage then they didn't have much hope in reconnecting and resparking intimacy.
Sharing couples massage is an act of tenderness and care. It is an example of the idea that "love is a verb" but is not as charged as full sexual contact. Massage, for many sex therapists, is one of the first stepping stones that can lead a couple back to a passionate marriage. If a couple responds to the idea of exchanging massage with revulsion or rejection, Dr. Morin would suggest skipping sex therapy and heading to the attorney's office to file divorce papers instead.
So ask yourself: would you be willing to take some time to offer your partner a loving massage? Even if you have drifted apart, are you able to share physical affection? Are you willing to receive love through the touch of your partner? Can you relax into their touch or does your body recoil? The answers to these questions will not only reveal a tremendous amount about your current state of intimacy but also exposes the future of your relationship.
For years, sex therapists have recommended a series of exercises called Sensate Focus. Originally developed by pioneer sex researchers Masters and Johnson, Sensate Focus has been widely used for over 50 years. The idea is to slowly reconnect through touch and open communication exercises without the pressure of full sexual contact. Learning massage together taps into the same set of benefits while adding the relaxing effects of full body massage.
Let's face it: stress is one of the biggest enemies of the libido. By simultaneously slaying stress and cultivating the intimacy of affectionate touch, couples massage is a powerful technique for all couples - whether you are still deeply in love or on the brink of a divorce.
You don't have to wait until you are in crisis mode to reap the benefits of sharing affectionate touch through massage. Try exchanging just a few minutes of massage with your partner and see how you feel. Are you more relaxed? Do you feel closer to your partner? You may even find yourself in the mood for sex!
Never underestimate the power of massage to transform your emotional and physical state - almost always in a positive direction. When such a simple act can offer so many benefits, why not give it a chance and surrender to the pleasurable power of massage?