I’ve been going to my massage therapist for over a year now – I randomly found him via an online deal and became a regular client of his almost immediately. He is amazing and we have a very strong connection. He has a Master’s in literature (I’m a writer and was an English major); he’s brilliant, hilarious, erudite, introspective, and genuine, as well as gorgeous. During my hour-long massages we spend the entire time talking with each other – he tells me about his family, his aspirations, his inner reflections, everything under the sun. Oftentimes our exchanges leave him laughing so hard he has to pause the massage. We give each other book, TV, and music recommendations, and I even wrote about him in my blog – twice – and he loved my writing. Seeing him is one of the highlights of my month. (Side note: I’ve gifted massages with him to several of my girlfriends over the past year and all of them confirm that he doesn’t talk to them at all like he talks to me during the massage.)
When I first started going to him last year, he was recently separated – he’s 10 years older than I am and has two young children. For the record, if it matters, he left his ex-wife after many years of feeling emasculated and unappreciated. At that time, he was understandably not looking to date anyone. Now, more than a year later, he says that he is starting to feel more ready to date again. He tells me about older women (in their late 40s or 50s, mostly ex-clients – he’s also a personal trainer) who ask him out after their divorces, but he’s not interested in any of them.
Over the last few months, I’ve been going to see him on weekday evenings. I’m his last appointment and he often extends my massage or chats with me while he closes up the studio and walks me to my car. This past week, he was so wrapped up in conversation with me he forgot to take my payment for the massage and I had to remind him. He later texted me saying, “Sorry if I was a chatty Cathy – you bring it out in me!”
I’ve pretty much always had a bit of a schoolgirl crush on him, but lately I find my thoughts lingering on him constantly and I’d just like to spend some time with him outside of the massage studio. He’s awesome and I’d really like to get a drink with him and talk when we don’t have a time limit (and I’m fully dressed and upright!). But I’m a client! I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Bonus points – I know he loves dogs because he has a yellow lab who hangs out with him at the massage studio – and he even trusted me enough to let me walk him around the neighborhood while he was massaging a friend of mine. A genius dreamboat who loves dogs! What’s a girl to do?
Thank you so much, again, for any advice! — Touchy Feely
Gurrrl, ask him out! He sounds interested, and what do you have to lose? Oh wait, a great massage therapist, I guess. But there are others! If you ask him out and he says no and it’s weird — or if he says yes and you go out and it’s weird — you might feel too awkward to keep seeing him for regular massages. That’s the added risk (in addition to potential rejection). If you think it’s worth the risk — and he sounds like such a great match for you! — I’d tell him after your next massage that you enjoy talking to him so much that you’d love to extend your conversation beyond the massage studio. And then ask if he’s free to get a drink (or a green tea, or a bite to eat, or just go for a walk) when he gets off. If he’s interested in you (and in taking the risk of potentially losing a steady client if things get weird) he’ll say “yes” if he’s free or suggest another time when he is. From there, just let nature take its course. If you aren’t sure if it’s a date-date, kiss him. That’ll definitely answer any lingering doubts.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].
lets_be_honest June 17, 2014, 3:33 pm
This is maybe where a hard on would come in handy. Too bad you’re a girl 🙁
lets_be_honest June 17, 2014, 3:34 pm
Am I the only one who finds it nearly impossible to not get turned on during massages?
GatorGirl June 17, 2014, 4:17 pm
The only massages I’ve had where one by a now ex-aunt and one at a resort in Mexico by a mid-40s lady. So no, massages do not turn me on.
lets_be_honest June 17, 2014, 4:31 pm
parton_doll June 17, 2014, 4:17 pm
I spit this had me laughing so hard! Thankfully I turned away from my computer in time 😉
bethany June 17, 2014, 4:23 pm
I have super tight muscles and always get deep tissue massages which hurt like hell. So getting turned on would be almost impossible for me.
veracityb June 17, 2014, 4:36 pm
God, I always fall asleep. And wake myself up with a small snore. (so not sexy)
honeybeenicki June 17, 2014, 4:44 pm
I usually get deep tissue massages, so definitely not a turn on. I do end up feeling like I was a hit by a train afterwards though.
ktfran June 17, 2014, 4:58 pm
I usually feel like I was hit by a train after sex. I KID!
katie June 17, 2014, 4:44 pm
only sexy massages pre-sexy time. real massages i pay for- nope, never.
lets_be_honest June 17, 2014, 4:45 pm
Ok, so sounds like this happens to every one of you guys too. Cool. 🙁
katie June 17, 2014, 4:54 pm
well at least you have a very defined turn on that you know of. knowledge is power!
lets_be_honest June 17, 2014, 4:57 pm
Wait! Could this be why Peter offers a massage every time I turn him down for sex?
katie June 17, 2014, 4:58 pm
haha. the more you know…..
waterbug June 18, 2014, 2:06 pm
My guy will offer when he can tell I’m not in the mood and he wants me to be. It’s sorta a joke now .
bunnybear June 18, 2014, 3:06 pm
As a massage therapist, I can tell you that this does not happen that often. Many of us (and ALL of the therapists I know), also have zero tolerance for jokes about this (happy endings and such. That’s sex for money and most massage therapists aren’t in the sex trade.). Sometimes men do get a partial erection due to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (aka – relaxation response), but it fades very quickly and is totally different than a “turned on” erection. Obviously, women don’t have the same visual signs, but Im sure there is a range there, too. But, getting turned on in a massage isn’t a common response, generally. I get that people like to giggle about this stuff, but to me, it comes down to a safety issue – would you want to worry about your friend, sister, partner, whatever being sexually harassed (or worse) while trying to administer a therapeutic treatment? Of course not. And it happens. ALL.THE.TIME. In office settings with other people right outside the door. It’s not OK. This sounds like a lecture! 🙂 It’s more me trying to educate what happens and what its like to be on the receiving end of what people think I do for a living. Now….if your getting turned on is a really legitimate situation perhaps you have really sensitive nerves (say…if it always happens when they work on your legs) and you can ask to have that part of the body skipped over.
lets_be_honest June 18, 2014, 3:10 pm
Oh, I hope I didn’t come across as a jerk. You make really good points. I’m probably just watching too much porn, ha. Sorry if I insulted you, but I am really surprised that you say its uncommon (actually, I was surprised yesterday too).
bunnybear June 19, 2014, 11:21 am
Thanks, LBH. I actually thought you might have thought my comment a bit overbearing and rude and Im so glad you didn’t. Because I didn’t intend it that way 🙂 I get on my soapbox about few things, but that’s one of them. You are a cool person – not a jerk, I promise! About it being uncommon, I guess I can’t say that for sure. Though, with men it’s a bit obvious so I want to say it’s uncommon. But people experience a turned on feeling in many ways, so I guess I probably don’t really know for certain after all! Eek!
katie June 17, 2014, 3:37 pm
is there like some rule that a massage therapist cant date their clients? like not a law or whatever but like, code of conduct at the spa he works at? that is the only thing i could see complicating this.
GatorGirl June 17, 2014, 4:15 pm
Yeah, I would assume if he works for a spa (rather than being an independent business owner) there are likely rules about fraternizing with customers.
LW June 17, 2014, 4:22 pm
LW here – he is an independent business owner. It’s just him – he’s a one-man band, if you will.
ktfran June 17, 2014, 4:26 pm
Do as Wendy said and ask him for a drink, or coffee, or tea, or protein shake, or green juice, or, IDK, sex.
GatorGirl June 17, 2014, 4:33 pm
Go for it then. Start with something like coffee or a smoothie. Worst thing you’ll have to find a new massager (I can’t spell the real word).
bethany June 17, 2014, 4:37 pm
Cassie June 17, 2014, 8:02 pm
AHA! (Ask Him Already!)
csp June 17, 2014, 5:04 pm
If the show friends has taught me anything, it is that there is a code. But I think is more where the line of prostitutes come in.
missliss June 17, 2014, 3:49 pm
I can’t reply to comments on my phone, but lbh’s comment made me laugh out loud.
WWS… Just bring up extending the conversation somewhere else. If he works for someone, they probably do sign an ethics/ code of conduct document. If things work out, maybe he can recommend another massage therapist, or you know, give you free ones in your alone time 😉
Marcie June 17, 2014, 4:11 pm
Ask him out! If he says yes get another massage therapist. Also, I can’t stand talking while I’m getting massaged. I like to concentrate on what’s going on.
bethany June 17, 2014, 4:24 pm
ASK HIM OUT!! And then get us all free massages.
honeybeenicki June 17, 2014, 4:43 pm
Oooo yes! Free massages for all DWers! I haven’t had a massage in SO LONG. And I just found out that my insurance *might* cover them so now I have to remember to call and find out.
Miss MJ June 17, 2014, 4:49 pm
John June 17, 2014, 4:55 pm
Hate to burst the LWs bubble, but this isn’t too much different than a guy going into a strip joint and swearing that the dancer likes him because she pays attention to him even though he is paying her. People will be extra nice to you if you are paying them money. Don’t confuse good business practice with attraction.
You have nothing to lose by asking him out-maybe he thinks of you that way. But it would be remiss if someone didn’t point out the fact hat you are paying him regularly and referring him clients and that can be one of the reasons why he is extra nice or flirty with you.
I wouldn’t be surprised if his other clients that asked him out (that he declined) also felt they had a good connection with him. They interpreted his good business practice as interest on his part and they found out the hard way it wasn’t going to happen. You seem to be going down that same path.
LW June 17, 2014, 8:17 pm
John, you might be right about his motives – I haven’t counted that possibility out, and probably some if it *is* that, but it sure would be nice if it was more. And I should clarify, he actually *did* go out with several of the ex-clients, but it didn’t work out with them for one reason or another – most of which he has already detailed to me as well. Just thought I’d add that info.
veracityb June 17, 2014, 5:23 pm
I’d ask him if he fancied continuing the chat at a local coffee spot after one of your lingering, extended sessions, and feel him out then on why he said he wasn’t interested in the other women? Like, if it was a professional line that he’d never cross or whether he just didn’t fancy them. And then make my move accordingly 🙂
Sue Jones June 17, 2014, 5:52 pm
My husband works as a massage therapist, and my answer is NO DO NOT ASK HIM OUT! Unless you are totally willing to find another massage therapist because it would most likely ruin your relationship. You have a professional relationship, and since he is most likely a licensed health professional, he is not allowed to go out with you. There are strict professional rules about this stuff. You are most likely experiencing “transference”, a term used in psychology circles. Look it up. Basically, if you would not ask out your psychologist or counselor or therapist (which I suggest you most certainly do not!) you would not ask out any other health professional. Especially one who touches you in a professional way. And I would suggest you start seeing a FEMALE massage therapist immediately since if you are heterosexual, you would be able to keep the relationship therapeutic. I know if a female client asked my husband out, he would be completely skeeved out and it would be AWKWARD!
Lucy June 17, 2014, 6:13 pm
If the guy is a licensed massage therapist, he is bound by a professional ethical code which (in every case I’ve ever known) includes not sleeping with clients. So if you want to date him, you can’t be his client any more. And if you ask him out and he declines, the relationship may become awkward and you won’t want to be his client any more. So, you need to decide if you are willing to permanently give up this man as your massage therapist in order to date him. Personally, I wouldn’t give up an awesome professional relationship for a romantic relationship that is statistically likely to fail. But that’s just practical old me.
I don’t think Sue’s analogy with her husband is relevant, since this guy is not just single, but also making his personal life a topic of conversation.
Katie June 17, 2014, 6:34 pm
Oh I thought that it was just like known information the LW would have to find a new massage therapist. I don’t think anyone is assuming that she is going to continue seeing this guy in a professional capacity.
ktfran June 18, 2014, 9:12 am
Pretty much. It’s sooooo easy to find a massage therapist. Seriously. Ridiculously easy. It’s not so easy to find a boyfriend.
SasLinna June 17, 2014, 7:06 pm
I disagree with the “find a female massage therapist” part, but I think otherwise you’re right. To me this is one instance where the whole “what if the genders were reversed?” question actually makes sense. If I were a massage therapist, I would NOT want to be asked out by a client. It’s just too awkward in my opinion and it could hurt his reputation. If LW goes ahead, then she has to expect at the very least that it will have been her last massage with this therapist.
Lily in NYC June 18, 2014, 9:49 am
But LW wrote in the comments here that this guy HAS dated other clients. I have a friend who is a massage therapist and ended up marrying one of her clients.
Ronan Lonergan November 3, 2019, 4:59 pm
I’m a male massage therapist and over the years it’s interesting that most of the female massage therapist I know are married to or in a relationship with a former client….. but no male therapists (myself included) have ever dated or become involved with a client. Discussing this with other therapists has lead to an understanding that the basic gender and client / therapist power balance makes male massage therapist very careful to never cross any ‘lines’.
2_j June 17, 2014, 6:56 pm
I’ll say, be careful, but no harm in testing the waters a bit more. Also im kind of surprised that Sue Jones has so many thumbs down ( i really missed these thumbs by the way, its been a while since i checked in) everyone seems so sure , yet one or two different opinions are frowned upon so much haha. I mean, John does have a pretty valid point…anyway, best of luck to you LW just please know your answer can only go one of two ways, be prepared for the “no thanks” or something along those lines. If he is as great, at the massages, then the “no thanks” might make it a bit awkward for both of you in the future. Have a great week everyone!
Sue Jones June 19, 2014, 11:49 am
I think I have offended enough people on this site often enough, that anytime I post, they automatically thumbs me down! I think I am maybe tied with BGM and iwanna! LOL!
Portia June 19, 2014, 12:12 pm
Ha, I wouldn’t think too much about the thumbs. I would say you had some controversial things in there (like pathologizing the LW – is that really necessary?), but the bar is lower to do a quick thumbs down than actually respond to what you say. So I’d listen to more what the people actually responded with, like comparing your married husband to this single massage therapist who overshares with his client.
LW June 19, 2014, 2:37 pm
Portia – thank you, I appreciate your points to Sue.
Sue, I did not respond right away because your comment did hurt and upset me and I didn’t want to be one of those LWs who is knee-jerk defensive, so I went by the safer way of keeping my mouth shut until I could respond in an intelligent and rational manner.
However, I will say that I do know what transference is, thanks, my mother is a counselor, and no, this is not that. Our conversations and connection are way beyond that. I gave plenty of examples in my letter so I hoped that would be enough to inform Wendy and other commenters that this isn’t just a case of transference. The massages he gives me are actually deep-tissue and often hurt me quite a bit; to be honest there is absolutely nothing sexual about them. The emotional connection we have is what I’m attracted to, not his touch.
Also, incidentally, if I can help it, I will never go to a female massage therapist. I have tried several others in the past before I found my current therapist, and I never got a satisfactory massage from a female. I’ve (also incidentally) gotten professional massages from several other men, and have not had this kind of connection (again, emotional) with them either.
I would again echo what I wrote in my letter and add to what others have kindly said: there is a huge difference between your husband and my single massage therapist who shares a lot about his life with me.
Anyway, all that said, everyone’s responses have definitely given me pause about the situation. I think I will continue to see him as my therapist and see what develops, but most likely let him take the lead if he wants anything more with me. We are already very close; he has to know I have a crush on him, so if it’s meant to be it will be.
zombeyonce June 20, 2014, 1:17 am
Boo! No one wants a mature, thoughtful LW, LW. We want juicy gossip about how you confessed your attraction to him and made out with him right there on the table! There you go ruining it all with patience and perspective.
P.S. Although there are lots of valid points, someone before said that it’s easy to find a massage therapist, but hard to find a boyfriend. Don’t let us cower you into not making a move it you really think there’s something there.
SasLinna June 17, 2014, 6:57 pm
Don’t date a guy who says he felt “emasculated” by his ex-wife. That’s all I have.
Stillrunning June 17, 2014, 9:12 pm
The last thing I want when I get a massage is to chat. I get about two massages a year so I don’t have a personal relationship with any one masseuse, but I concentrate on relaxing while I’m being massaged; I don’t want to talk about my life or hear about hers. Outside of the massage room, sure, but not while I’m trying to relax.
His comment about feeling emasculated and unappreciated is a red flag. Honestly, he sounds a little pitiful telling this to a client. Ok, she’s more than a client now, but still.
I also flagged at her feeling grateful that he let her walk his dog. Well, she did say she had a schoolgirl crush on him.
paperwhite June 18, 2014, 3:23 am
No, dont ask him out. you can enjoy the thrill of fancying him as long as you like, but leave it up to him to break the professonal bond.
Its occurred to me that youre probably not getting the full benefit of the therapy if youre having intrusive thoughts, no matter how enjoyable. Much of the clinical benefit is highly dependent on the mind-body connection. The activity in your mind isnt lining up with the therapeutic goal. LIke, if you went to yoga and the instructor was flirtng with the class, you wouldnt get the deep tranquil vibey OM feeling. would you?
paperwhite June 18, 2014, 3:24 am
oh Im such a hypocrite – I banged my hot karate instructor (fortnightly! LOL) for months.
flamingoroom June 18, 2014, 6:58 am
I started seeing my kung fu instructor – attended his classes for about six-months until I graduated to the advanced team. We’re still together and honestly it was really easy to be professional while training – ’cause that’s how me met. We also worked out one-on-one without issues both predating and dating.
However we knew eachother for 6 months working together on projects for our club and talking LOTS outside both f2f and on facebook (like hours every night), so when we moved in for the kill we were both really, really sure that we wanted to be together and that we would have the kind of relationship were we could manage the setting.
Guy Friday June 18, 2014, 9:42 am
So, a couple of people pointed out the licensing/ethical restrictions, but something no one pointed out — and, keep in mind, I know nothing about the kinds of licensing massage therapists need to have — is that some professional licenses not only forbid you from engaging in a relationship with a CURRENT client, but even a PAST client. As a lawyer, for example, my attorney-client relationship lasts for life; even if I finished representing the woman a decade ago I’d still have to turn her down if she asked me out. And if I didn’t, and I got caught, I could get anywhere from a private reprimand to a straight-up license suspension.
So while I understand the idea of “go for it,” I’d at least double-check the rules of the license before you make a step. Otherwise, you might not only get shot down but ALSO lose him as your massage therapist, and that would suck.
SasLinna June 18, 2014, 9:52 am
I don’t know about the law, but LW should definitely take into account that it’s not a “if I get shot down, I can still keep him as my massage therapist” situation. It’s likely that the professional relationship would turn awkward. So whatever the outcome with regard to dating him, he’ll likely not be her therapist anymore if she goes for it.
fast eddie June 18, 2014, 9:22 am
It’s important for a professional massage therapist to keep the business just that but if you offered to massage him and he accepted the extent of his interest would become visibly obvious.
bunnybear June 18, 2014, 3:17 pm
As a massage therapist, I can tell you this is really really really delicate issue. From what I know, it’s not illegal for either party to ask out the other. However, it is absolutely ethically iffy for you to continue your professional relationship while having a personal one. I am licensed in NY which has some of the strictest rules in the country and we had lots of classes about this kind of thing. It’s a power differential – you are in a state of partial (or full) undress lying down and he is fully dressed and upright. You are in a vulnerable position when on the table giving him the power. That’s just the fact of it (not even taking the flirtation into account). His lack of personal boundaries during the session (sharing WAY too much) is also questionable ethically. Frankly, if he likes you, he should have been professional and ended your therapist/client relationship ages ago out of respect, but he clearly has boundary issues. You certainly can ask him out. But, if he says yes, then you must discontinue your professional relationship immediately. And he should probably document it (as part of his session notes) with the date, etc. There have been lawsuits initiated from both sides when the relationship goes sour and one person tries to sue the other for something (therapist says the client sexually harassed them, the client says the therapist assaulted them during a massage, etc.). Third parties have also gotten involved making claims on other people’s situations (exes, disgruntled clients etc.) Dramatic, I know 🙂 But it’s not worth getting burned for. Just document, document, document (for BOTH of your protection). And then go live happily ever after.
katie June 18, 2014, 3:24 pm
that is so intense! i would love to hear massage dramz stories.
Sue jones June 19, 2014, 3:11 pm
Yes, it can get a little squicky… a massage therapist is touching mostly naked bodies all day after all…
Sue Jones June 19, 2014, 3:31 pm
Just wanted to add that at my husband’s massage clinic, if there were these sort of boundary issues on the part of the therapist that became known to the boss, that person would be reprimanded if not fired. He is walking a thin line and I would wonder at the very least about dating someone who fuzzed the professional line that way…
I should also add that I live in a part of the country where wholistic medicine and massage and such are taken very seriously as serious professions in order to distinguish from other sorts of “massage parlours” where they offer “happy endings” and such as fronts for prostitution.
This is a serious professional issue for legitimate and highly trained massage therapists. I think female massage therapists tend to bear the brunt of all that crap…
Junebug June 19, 2014, 3:58 pm
It sounds like there is some transference coming from you now. The LW made a point several times that it is an emotional connection, nothing sexual.
LW: Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has them.
fast eddie June 19, 2014, 8:04 am
I belonged to a massage community wherein we all massaged each other. The only money involved was the flat rate monthly membership fee. Quite often sexual arousal happened during a massage but the rules expressly prohibited acting on it within the facility and you would be evicted if you got caught. Home wasn’t that far away so “your place or mine”. A lot of marriages spawned from there, mine included. Dam shame it no longer exists.
Sue Joness June 19, 2014, 11:46 am
Ah… them were some Hippie Days! I think the massage profession has tightened things up a lot in order to become more legit.
Diablo June 19, 2014, 3:33 pm
Had to laugh at the phrase “the massage community has tightened things up.”
Addie Pray June 19, 2014, 3:35 pm
i love hearing your guys’ stories about your hippie days!
Susan Lippman February 20, 2017, 8:50 pm
It is considered both illegal and unethical for a therapist to have a romantic/sexual relationship with a client. It is not allowed until at least 6 months after the therapeutic relationship has ended. It would be virtually impossible for the relationship to be equal anyway, because of the power imbalance, both physically and financially.
Most of the romances that get started between therapist and client end up disastrously and cause a lot of psychological, and often permanent harm, especially to the client, and the therapist risks loss of license, and loss of other clients who invariably become away of the serious breach of professional ethics.
Not Impressed November 26, 2018, 2:12 pm
You have got to be kidding me. I don’t know where you are or what your Massage therapist is thinking, but that man could lose his license over this kind of behavior. This is unethical on so many levels and Wendy, you have a responsibility to keep ethics in mind when you give advice concerning professional, ESPECIALLY healthcare situations. This is inappropriate all around and this man should not be treating you while building such a closeness. Go ahead and date if that’s what you want to do, but don’t play around the line like this. If he is okay getting this close to you as a client, imagine his lines with other clients. Even if they’re nothing right now, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be. This is everything that gives the Massage Therapy industry a bad name. He doesn’t realize the lines he is playing with and how unimpressed others in his profession are. If his ex-wife found out he was interacting with a client this way, she could report him and his career could be over whether anything has happened or not.
Wendy, please look past the emotions and the drama of this all and make recommendations that keep the future, responsibility, and professionalism in mind. I’ll remember never to ask you for advice.