Massage has many mental and physical benefits that promote overall wellbeing. Soft and light touch activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows the recipient to get into a relaxed state of mind. Deep and therapeutic touch releases tension that’s been built up and stored in the tissues for days or sometimes much longer, thus promoting healing. Sensual, sexual and emotional touch promotes intimacy and connection with your partner. Skin contact with a partner releases chemicals that foster bonding.
Massage has so many healing properties and can lead to hours of entertainment, relaxation and excitement. Imagine how massage could be used as relaxation, healing, connection and even foreplay for the overstretched dad or workaholic wife who needs a little extra something to connect to their own body, or simply relax and even get in the mood to be close. Touch can often surpass words. Not only is your partner going to gain something through the process of being touched, but will also appreciate being in the receiving role of some extra attention and affection. Additionally, the act of giving can be connecting, healing, and even exciting and arousing. As a giver, you have the opportunity to really take in those parts of your partner’s body that make you feel aroused, be it their firm and bulging muscles, squishy, soft curves, or sleek and slender physique. As a giver you may get aroused by paying attention to the smell and feel of your partner’s skin, and revel in the enjoyment of knowing that it’s your touch that is creating so much pleasure! Massage also gives you a fun tool to practice communicating your likes and dislikes with a partner, which can sometimes feel intimidating or uncomfortable, especially around sexuality.
Techniques For Building Intimacy With Massage
Step 1: Set The Scene
You can do a massage with clothes on, but it will be easier to see and feel what you’re doing, and possibly more enjoyable for both of you, with clothes off. Being naked increases your vulnerability, which, with a trusted partner, can enhance the experience and be a super sexy part of building intimacy with massage. As they say at the spa, undress to your comfort level! As the Giver, you can “set the stage” for the type of experience you want your partner to have. You can enhance the romance by dimming the lights, lighting candles or incense, and putting on relaxing music.
At some points in this exercise, you may want to use a lubricant on the skin. Any massage oil will work. For sensitive skin, coconut or jojoba oil are great choices and can be found at most drug and food stores. Jojoba oil is special because it is similar to the sebum that your skin naturally produces. Lotion is an option but will absorb quickly into the skin, causing frequent interruptions to reapply. You can always lay a towel or soft sheet down to avoid getting your bed or couch greasy. Your partner can be sitting up or lying face down with head turned to either side, while you straddle their butt or sit to their side, whichever is most comfortable for both of you. Make adjustments as you need to.
Step 2: A Little Anatomy Lesson
Before you start, it is important to have an understanding of anatomy. Massage is great for skin and muscles, but less so for bones. Notice how the spine runs from the base of your skull all the way to where your hips connect to your butt and along the center of the spine you can feel tiny bones sticking up. Avoid putting pressure on these bones along the center of the spine. You will notice that on either side there is softer tissue. This is muscle that loves being pressed. Other important bones to avoid applying direct pressure on are the scapulas. These are the triangular shaped bones that hold your shoulders in place. You will notice the scapula protrudes if you put your hand behind your back and try gently to reach your other shoulder. Be mindful not to press too hard where the bone pops out. However, like the spine, the muscles around the scapula are massage gold. In addition to being mindful of bones, some people find areas like their sides, neck or hips to be more sensitive, but everyone is different and you can get to know specifically what your partner likes, as well noting what your favorite spots are to rub and squeeze!
Step 3: Getting Feedback
Everyone likes different pressure when getting massages, so when starting out, ask your partner how the pressure feels. You could ask if they like more or less pressure and adjust accordingly. You can use any or all of the techniques described below, but it can be most effective to start off with a lighter touch and work your way deeper as the tissues relax. Checking in verbally is a great way to get clear feedback. You can simply ask what feels good, or if they aren’t sure, you could try two different methods and ask if the first or second is better.
Other ways to get feedback about whether your partner is enjoying their massage is to read nonverbal cues. Signs of pleasure usually include the breath becoming slower and deeper, the limbs feeling loose, and moans of delight. Your partner may lean into the touch as a sign they are enjoying themselves. Signs that something does not feel good are usually holding of the breath, tightening the body, stilted groans, or moving away from the pressure. Use this exercise as a way to learn your partner’s verbal and nonverbal cues, which will come in handy if things get more hot and heavy!
Step 4: Be Mindful and Connect
Both giver and receiver can practice being mindful and present during this experience of building intimacy with massage. You can encourage your partner to really let the mind go and focus on the sensations felt in the body. As you give, let your pleasure build with your partner’s moans and let yourself connect deeply enough so that you almost can’t tell where your hands end and their skin begins. This exercise of building intimacy with massage can go way beyond a physical level and help you merge with your partner emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Step 5: Light Feathery Touch and Scratch with Fingers
To start the exercise, try using “feather strokes” where you take the tips of your fingers and lightly brush them from the top of the back to the bottom, and back up again. Consistent repetitive motions can feel really good. You can also go side to side, make zig zags or write a note to your partner for a cute effect! You can modify this technique by gently using your nails instead of your fingertips, or perhaps a combination of each. If your partner likes a harder scratch you can do that here as well, but build the pressure slowly for a more erotic and exciting experience. If your partner is open to having their head touched, it can feel amazing to gently scratch the scalp. Take a moment to play with their hair, which can be a real turn on for you both.
Step 6: Soft Gliding Touch with Palms
Next use flat, relaxed hands to slide up and down the back. This is where a lubricant comes in handy to provide an easy glide. Place your hand at the base of the spine on either side right above the butt. Slowly glide your palms up the back until you reach the neck, then part your hands to glide over the tops of the shoulders. The shoulder area (trapezius) right next to the neck is a prime spot for tension. You can focus a few extra strokes over this area, but make sure to decrease pressure as you reach the edges of the shoulders where the bones stick out. You can also get creative with how you stroke the back with your palms. Try windshield wiper motions, or zig zags up and down and side to side. Get sensual with it. Listen to how your partner responds to each motion. Feel free to take your flat, relaxed hands over the backs and sides of the arms, and if your partner consents, down over their butt cheeks and legs and back up again. This motion can feel incredibly relaxing. If something you’re doing is tickling your partner and tickling is not the intended sensation, try using slightly more pressure and a slower stroke.
Step 7: Kneading to Work Out Tension
Next if your partner is interested in more pressure, you can focus more directly on specific muscle groups. To massage the muscles along the spine, make sweeping motions away from the spine with your thumbs and work your way up and down either side. You can also take thumbs and alternate putting pressure with the tips on either side of the spine, also working that motion up and down each vertebrae. If your thumbs get tired you can use the meaty area on the thumb side of your palm to apply pressure to the muscles. Your can use a circular motion on either side of the spine, anywhere from an inch to three inches from the center.
To get the traps, those pesky muscles in between your neck and shoulders, take the muscle between your thumb and fingers and knead like dough. Use sweeping motions with your thumbs on the top and back of the traps. Be careful not to pinch too hard. Sweep thumbs from the spine out to the shoulders and from the upper back, in between the shoulder blades, up to the base of the neck and/or out to the shoulders.
To get the lower back, use the thumb side of your palm to make circular motions on either side of the spine. Press from right next to the spine out towards the hips. You will also notice an indentation in the center/outer portion of the butt. You can gently make circular motions in this hip area. If your partner is ready and interested in a more erotic touch, this could be a great time to really explore the mesmerizing squishiness of their butt cheeks, all in the name of getting out tension, of course!
As you use deeper pressure, you might notice some lumps and bumps under the skin. Pressing on a bone will feel sharp and painful. Pressing on a knot will feel like a "good hurt." Ask your partner if what you’re doing feels good. A massage should never hurt in a bad way, and you do not need to suffer through a heavy painful massage to experience muscle release. If you find a knot, you can use thumbs or palms to make gentle circular motions on top of and around it, or move over it, going up and down and side to side, or sometimes even just holding with a firm yet manageable pressure for a few seconds or minutes until the knot moves or softens. Sometimes the uncomfortable sensation of a knot builds a bit right before it releases, but remember, it’s supposed to be a good kind of hurt.
Step 8: Finish The Massage By Working Your Way Back To A Light Touch
To finish the massage, work your way out just as you worked your way in. Go back to long soothing palm strokes with relaxed hands. Then transition to fingertips or scratches. If you decide to take this massage to other body parts, please be mindful to be gentle around sensitive areas like behind the knees, front of the neck and the armpits. Arteries run through these areas and should not be pressed hard. Do not bend or pull joints; leave that to a professional. Ask your partner for consent before touching any body parts, especially breasts and genitals. This exercise of building intimacy with massage can last as long or as short as you would like, but to do thoroughly, give yourself a good 15 to 20 minutes to get through each step. So go have fun, be creative, touch, explore and play!
To help you process the experience of completing Building Intimacy with Massage Exercise, explore with your partner the following questions.
What did you like about the massage your partner gave?
What would you want your partner to do again?
What would you want to do again?
What types of touches felt the best to give/what types of touch felt best to receive?
What parts of your body did and didn’t you enjoy having touched?
How did it feel to be the giver?
How did it feel to be the receiver?
How easy was it to give direction and feedback during the massage?
What style was most effective?
What did you notice about the way that communication was given or received?
As the giver, what sort of verbal or nonverbal cues were easiest to follow?
As the receiver, what sort of verbal or nonverbal cues were most enjoyable to use?
What made you feel the most open and vulnerable?
What made your partner feel the most open and vulnerable?
What made you feel the most connected?
What made you partner feel the most connected?
What kind of massage did you give (hard, soft, sensual, etc.?)
What kind of massage did you receive (hard, soft, sensual, etc.?)
What did you learn about each other from this exercise?
Massage can be a fun, playful and sensual way to build intimacy and connection with a partner and facilitate relaxation and healing. Use these techniques to experience the physical and emotional benefits of touch and add excitement into your sexual repertoire. If you would like more assistance in building intimacy with a partner, please contact one of our therapists at The Center for Growth by calling 215-922-LOVE.