A couple came to see me recently precipitated by the wife discovering that her husband had visited a massage parlor where, in an addition to a regular massage, he received what is known in the massage business as a “happy ending”, i.e., the masseuse masturbated him to orgasm.
The wife was livid and hurt stating that her husband was being unfaithful to her and that the massage he had received was no different than an affair. The husband claimed that he did not go to the massage parlor with the intent of receiving a “happy ending”, but rather it was offered when the masseuse began massaging his genitals; he simply went along with it. His wife retorted by saying what he did was no different than had he accepted a proposition from a prostitute.
I asked the husband how he would have felt were the shoe on the other foot. In other words, would it be OK with him if he learned that it wife went for a massage, and the masseur gave his wife a full body massage including a “happy ending.” He did not have to think very long before responding by saying “no, that would not be OK; I would be jealous.” And then, after a moment’s pause, he said “if it were a masseuse who gave her a “happy ending” I would be surprised but turned on!”
It soon became clear that the husband was holding onto a sexist attitude that views men and women as being held to a different standard regarding sexuality. In his male oriented way of thinking, for him sex was merely sex. And therefore, his act of permitting the “happy ending” was not an act of infidelity. It was merely a complete massage as he would give himself in the shower. And for his heterosexual wife to engage in what he construed as a lesbian connection, would merely be the realization of a frequently held male fantasy of seeing two women engaged in a sexual activity. But for his wife to be have her genitals touched by another man was a violation of their relationship; her genitals belonged to him! He viewed men as merely engaging in a physical activity like they do sports, but believing that for women it is a much more intimate act.
He did not feel guilty about what he did because for him it was not an affair. It was not an infidelity. He did not intend to tell her about it just as he does not tell her when he watches pornography or when he masturbates. Disclosures of this kind are not part of their relationship.
This couple wanted to work on their marriage. Rather than simply ending the marriage because of this act, they wanted to learn something about one another and deepen the level of intimacy between them. This event was bruising, perhaps even causing a fracture, but it was not a major break. They knew they could heal and get beyond it. But they were also committed enough to want to grow from this incident. They began to talk more intimately about their feelings about one another, what marriage meant to them, and more specifically, they began to talk more openly about sex, something they had not done previously.
They talked about the role of fantasy in their sexual life, as well as the role of pornography. She recognized, for example, that she could tolerate certain types of pornography, e.g., she enjoyed 50 Shades of Grey finding the explicitly sexual scenes in the book arousing. This changed her attitude toward her husband whom she knew liked reading the stories in Penthouse magazine. As they explored these areas of their life together, they became more open with each other and developed a stronger bond.
His visit to the massage parlor and subsequently to marriage counseling, resulted in their achieving a happy ending.
What would you have done in their situation? What are your thoughts?
[Dr. Dreyfus is a nationally recognized clinical psychologist, relationship counselor, sex therapist, and life coach in the Santa Monica - Los Angeles. The profits from his latest book, LIVING LIFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT along with his other five books, are being donated to charity through the website Book Royalties for Charity and can be purchased through Amazon.com. Please become a fan on his Facebook Fan Page by indicating "like" on the page by clicking here. You can also find more tools to help you experience a more fulfilling life by clicking here to visit his website.]