In many ways our culture has associated touch exclusively with sexual intimacy. We learn at an early age to “keep our hands to ourselves” and to maintain an appropriate space between each other. I’d like to take a moment and remind you that there are many ways that touch can be used to express a connection with someone – and that sexual touch is only one of them. During this Valentine season, it’s a perfect time to re-connect with someone you love through the touch of massage that is both nurturing and sensual, yet doesn’t have to be sexual. In this post, I’ll offer some suggestions to help you give massage to someone you love that is both satisfying for them to receive and gratifying for you to give.
First, let’s explore the definitions of those two key words above. The word nurture is a verb and it’s primary meaning is to feed and protect, as in to nurture one’s offspring. In fact, anthropologists surmise that the origin of the kiss is associated with the nurturing act of an adult partially chewing food and feeding it to a child. We see this in many examples of other species feeding their young. Today (now that we have baby food in a jar), a kiss is a sign of affection and respect. The manner in which we touch someone is another way we can convey this intention to feed and protect. Expressing this desire to nurture your partner is key in giving a Valentine’s massage that is satisfying.
Sensual is an adjective and while it can have connotations of over-indulgence and a lack of moral restraint, I believe that in its pure definition it pertains to the physical senses and what can be experienced through the physical senses. Touch is one of our primary physical senses and that is why in giving our massage we will want to pay close attention to not only how your partner’s body feels in your hands, but also how your hands feel on your partner’s body. This awareness will tell you if you are using too much/too little pressure, squeezing too tightly or anything else that might make your touch uncomfortable for the recipient.
One more definition: Intention. This is a noun and it is your purpose for doing something with the expectation of achieving a specific outcome. As it relates to giving your massage, you can have many intentions for your Valentine’s massage and what ever your intention, your partner will feel it through your touch. This is important to understand, because your touch doesn’t lie. Even though you might say you have a specific intention, your true intention will be revealed to your partner in your touch without fail. This is why it’s so important to be truthful in the intention you set.
There are an infinite number of intentions you can set for your Valentine’s massage. My suggestion is to use nurturing as your fundamental intention. The reason is that the basic act of caring for your partner is one of the purest expressions of love. In my mind, connecting through that expression of love is what Valentine’s Day is all about.
Tell your Valentine at the beginning of the day that you have made arrangements for a special massage session for them at the end of their day. Anticipation is a magnifier of the senses. So as they think about it all day, they’ll likely be more eager to receive when the time comes for their massage.
Set the proper room temperature. The location in which you give the massage must be comfortable for your partner. The temperature is best a little warmer than you think you’ll need, because as your partner relaxes, their body temperature will naturally drop and they’ll likely begin to feel chilled. Nothing ruins that nurtured feeling more than being cold.
The same goes for any oils or lotions you might use during the massage as well as the temperature of your hands. Warm them up first. The shock of cold oil on cold hands is definitely a romantic mood breaker.
Dim the lighting. If your light is not on a dimmer, you might shield the direct light with a more opaque shade or screen. Try using a lower wattage bulb or you can just use some candles. Lower lighting levels helps the brain produce the hormones that help your partner relax.
Use some mood music that your Valentine loves. Use slow tempo tunes that don’t have any words. The tempo can help slow your partner’s breathing rate which will enhance their relaxation. If your music has words, that can distract them from your touch which is what you want them to be focused on, not the song. For the same reason, keep the volume low, because the music should support the massage not overpower it.
Trim your fingernails. Being scratched or speared with a sharp fingernail is not my idea of nurturing relaxation. So before you begin, make sure your hands are clean and your fingernails are trimmed and filed. Filing your nails after you clip them is important because it smooths out the sharp edge created by the clipper. (Ladies, this might give you the perfect excuse to get yourself a manicure!)
Giving the Massage
If you don’t have a massage table or a firm surface that is high enough to work over and move around, I suggest that you work on the floor with some blankets and pillows. Invite your Valentine to make themselves comfortable on the blankets and pillows that you’ve set up for them, either starting face up or face down.
Begin with some deep breaths (both for them and yourself). This will help both of you relax. It’s important that you are relaxed as well, because if you’re not, your partner will feel it in your touch.
If your partner is starting face down, the easiest place to begin the massage is with their back – but it really doesn’t matter where you start. Just begin by touching them with a confident and nurturing intention. Use firm but gentle pressure in long flowing movements. Focus on areas with the most muscle and avoid the bony places. You can’t go wrong with massaging your partner’s hands and feet! Most importantly, have fun, listen to your partner and adjust what you are doing to suit their feedback and guidance.
When you are finished, resist the temptation to have them give you a massage in return. This session is for them. You’ll get yours on a different day.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
– Paul Kulpinski, LMT