Party of 2
Feeling out of touch with your honey? Forget that expensive weekend getaway and make a spa date instead.
What do candlelight dinners, watching beautiful sunsets over a bottle of bubbly and day-in-the-country escapes have in common? For couples, these traditionally make up a surefire arsenal of romance deployed to coax some intimacy back into flagging relationships.
Trouble is, sometimes the mere act of getting away isn't always enough to swat away the mental clutter that can permeate our stretched-to-the-limit schedules. Not to mention, if our heads are elsewhere chances are our bodies are likewise out of kilter: Shoulders that creep up to the ears, teeth that clench in frozen faux smiles, and breathing that turns thin and hollow don't tend to disappear on command.
So what's a couple to do? According to many spa operators, couples have a better chance of shedding deeply held tension—the kind that can come from trying to balance work, family demands and general togetherness ennui—and recharging their batteries if body and spirit are in on the act. That's why the latest spa treatment to garner a faithful clientele is couples massage. Call it a luxurious stopgap to breakups or divorce.
John Eakin, a geologist who specializes in oil and gas exploration, learned about taking the time to reconnect with his significant other through trial and error. "I'd been married a couple of times and the marriages didn't last," Eakin says. "A big reason was that over time you get on different wavelengths. One of you might be busy with business and stressed out and the other one isn't."
Eakin, now happily in a three-and-a-half-year relationship with girlfriend Kelsy Jones, was determined to make time to rekindle the passion beyond birthdays or Valentine's Day. It was he who picked up the phone and called the Peninsula Spa for the couple's first of many duo massage appointments. "For me, relationships don't unfold naturally without trying," he says. "I have to work at it." Eakin describes couples massage as "a bonding experience" that "settles you down and promotes good communication."
Jones agrees. "When you're first in a relationship everything's new and great," she says. "But after a while, if you don't keep it exciting—keep that spark alive—it's going to get stale." Both say the benefits last beyond the typical one-hour treatment, but Eakin says the couple has no problem relinquishing real-life pressures in the moment. "During the massage, the settling effect is not only going on within you, but also the person you're close to," he says. "Sometimes we hold hands, sometimes we joke and sometimes she politely tells me to shut up."
Many spas offer elaborate (and sometimes pricey) services that involve the well-known three C's of romantic luxury—chocolate, champagne and candles—but other spas are getting on the couples bandwagon and opting for simpler services; all that's really needed is a treatment room large enough to accommodate two massage tables, two massage therapists and willing partners.
Vanessa Saleh, owner of Ame, a small Lincoln Park spa that opened its doors a year and a half ago, says that when designing the spa's couples treatment she took her cues from the simple traditions of ancient cultures. "I've traveled to a lot of places in my life," Saleh says. "I've been to spas in the Maldive Islands in Asia, I've been to spas in Singapore, and I've found the most rewarding places were the ones that have a lot of special little touches that promote the union of the couple." One of âme's offerings is a postmassage "wash down." It's a purifying and cleansing ritual performed with bath of sea salt and selected fragrances. Saleh says another handed-down tradition is to leave quotes on clients' pillows "that are relaxing and inspirational."
Some spas are even going the extra mile by incorporating a little DIY into their treatments. Spa Space, for example, offers a treatment that lasts a full three and a half hours, part of which is dedicated to instructing couples on massage techniques that they learn on-site to be replicated at home later.
Sure, couples massage has romance written all over it, but spa operators are not discriminatory when it comes to the service. They report that traffic going in and out of their treatment rooms is not just for the married or those otherwise bound by sensual love. Tiffani Kim, owner of Tiffani Kim Institute—which has been treating twosomes to joint massages for seven years—has specifically given its service a more generic designation, calling it the "dual massage." "There's a growing popularity for this among friends," Kim says. "The younger population considers it lifestyle thing. Because they're so busy, they're finding that a way of doing things together is to have a massage."
Couples-friendly spas around town
Ame,1006 W Armitage Ave between Sheffield and Kenmore Aves (773-929-4999, www.ame-soul.com). Romantic Couples Massage. Two therapists; 60 minutes each, $180; 90 minutes each, $240.
Lincoln Park Massage, 630 W Webster Ave between Geneva Terr and Orchard St (773-296-6300, www.lincolnparkmassage.com). Couples massage. Two therapists; 60 minutes each, $170.
The Peninsula Spa, 108 E Superior St between Michigan Ave and Rush St (312-573-6860, www.peninsulaspachicago.com). Couples massage.Two therapists; 55 minutes each, $250.
Megi's Spa, 5050 N Cumberland Ave between Memory Ln and Argyle St (708-452-6353, www.megisspa.com). Couples massage. Two therapists; 60 minutes each, $150.
Purity Day Spa, 115 W North Ave, second floor, between Sandburg Terr and Clark St (312-440-0088, www.puritydays.com). Couples Retreat. Two therapists; 60 minutes each. Begins with chocolates and a glass of champagne. Includes a hydrating scrub and facial. Concludes with light lunch. Total time: three and a half hours. $350.
Spa Space, 161 N Canal St between Lake and Randolph Sts (312-466-9585, www.spaspace.com). Spa Lovers Art of Touch. One therapist; 45 minutes each of instruction on massage techniques, then a one-hour, four-handed massage. Includes dual pedicures and a complimentary glass of wine. $420.
Tiffani Kim Institute, 310 W Superior St between Franklin and Orleans Sts (312-943-8777, www.tiffanikiminstitute.com). Dual massage. Two therapists; 50 minutes each, $180; 80 minutes each $230.