Is a massage cheating on your spouse?

Getting a massage can help you destress -- or it can be a major stress on your relationship. Which one depends on how you answer the following questions.

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  • When it comes to whether a massage is cheating, you'll find people who adamantly say "yes," "no," and every shade of "depends" in between. After all, the "hands on" nature of a massage and lack of clothing can really blur the lines for some couples.

  • If you're unsure whether your massage is part of your healthcare routine or bordering on an affair, just answer these simple questions:

  • 1. Is it hidden?

  • First and foremost, does your partner know you're going for a massage? If not, why not? How would they react if they found out about the massage? If they knew that your massage therapist was someone of the opposite sex, would they still give you the green light? Anytime you think about keeping something secret from your spouse (except that surprise trip to Costa Rica), think again. If you're going for a massage, that fact should be on the table.

  • 2. Is the contact appropriate?

  • Sexual contact is obviously wrong, but that's not the only contact to consider. You also need to consider your emotions and thoughts. Do massages bring out your chatty side? Venting is one thing; but be careful about crossing the line into sharing more with your massage therapist than with your spouse. Are your massage table confessions building emotional intimacy that is better left to your other half? Are you finding it easier to open up to your massage therapist than your spouse? If so, it sounds like you may be drifting into inappropriate waters.

  • 3. Is there attraction?

  • Finding someone other than your spouse attractive is normal. You keep appropriate boundaries, don't indulge the attraction, and go along with life. But when that person is the one giving you a massage, that can be an entirely different situation. Attraction alone doesn't mean it is cheating. But going back to that massage therapist because you're attracted to him or her is definitely line-crossing behavior.

  • 4. Do they think it's cheating?

  • It's an obvious question, but an important one! In fact, the most important of the bunch. If your spouse feels that getting a massage breaks a relationship rule, massages should immediately cease. Relationships work when both people agree to and follow boundaries about what is appropriate outside the relationship. If you go for a massage, your spouse needs to be comfortable with it.

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  • What to do when your spouse says no

  • Just because your spouse isn't on board doesn't mean that ship has sailed. It means that there's a chance to get to know them (and for them to get to know you) better! Here are some tips for helping them with their tension:

  • 1. Get chatty

  • Take some time to learn about each other's views on what makes it appropriate or inappropriate. You might be completely missing their concern. Once you've heard them out, they'll be a lot more likely to hear your thoughts. Help them understand what massages mean to you. Hearing each other out may make all the difference.

  • 2. Give them some control

  • Sometimes just letting them pick the massage business or therapist is all it takes for them to be on board. Give them some guidelines (days/times, swedish vs. deep tissue, etc.) so they can set up the appointment and put their mind at ease.

  • 3. Make a date of it

  • Don't leave them out — invite them! Let them know that you're not hiding anything. Schedule a couple's massage, tack on dinner, and enjoy a great Friday night date together!

  • A massage can be wonderfully therapeutic, as long as it doesn't cause more tension than it relieves. With these questions and tips keeping your massages in check, both you and your relationship can stay stress-free.

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Ethan Bratt is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a husband, and father of four. He owns a private practice in northern Colorado. Feel free to reach him at .

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