Sex After the Affair

Sex After the Affair

You are in the aftermath of your partner’s affair, trying to work things out. It’s a time of great emotional upheaval, everything upside down and inside out.  Your relationship feels shattered…you feel shattered, yet somehow something survives and you still hope to work things out. It might be the thing you thought you would never do, stay with someone who has strayed, yet you find that now that you are in the situation, it’s not that simple.  Somehow, amidst  the outrage and devastation there is still love.

Couples in this situation have to rethink their sexual relationship.  In my experience one of three things happen.

The discoverer of the affair cannot stand the thought of reentering the sexual relationship.  He or she might not even be able to stand being touched by their partner.  The sexual relationship feels ruined now that someone else has intruded on it.  Or it might be that withholding sex seems like a good way to retaliate.  And if protection wasn’t used during sex with the other person, there is an added issue of STDs.

The discoverer of the affair might want to resume sexual relations as soon as possible, and tries, but cannot bear the experience as it triggers flashback imagery of her partner having sex with someone else.  Sexual encounters become emotionally charged scenes, sometimes resulting in conflict and or tears.  One or both partners  may begin to avoid physical intimacy altogether.

The discoverer of the affair wants to have as much sex as possible.  This happens for many different reasons, but all have one thing in common.  These encounters are extremely intense, and frequently different in quality than pre-affair sex. Here are several  possible scenarios:

Sexuality becomes a mode of expressing relief that there are no more secrets.  The encounter feels more real and both partners feel much more present than they have in a long time.  You feel closer to each other.

Revenge sex can  occur where the discoverer seeks to restore a sense of power, of having defeated the other person.  “You are mine, not his (or hers).”  The worst possible case of this would be rape, but revenge sex can also take the form of a sudden interest in S/M, or a formerly timid or passive partner becoming aggressive and dominant.  This type of sexual encounter can feel confusing for the discovered.

Sex during this time can also be an act of desperation by the discoverer who might want to use it to get his or her partner to desire them, and only them, once again.  It’s part of a bigger effort to make themselves more physically attractive.  Usually the person who had the affair can feel the desperation.  Sometimes both partners are desperate together.  They hope to restore their bond through their sexual encounters.  Usually they find out it’s going to take a lot more than that.

What all of these alterations of your sexual relationship have in common is that they are most likely temporary.  In my experience, for better or worse, after a number of months, the sexual relationship returns to it’s pre-affair discovery mode.  You can think of it as sex being one of the vehicles for different stages of the healing process.

Some couples in therapy find that after this initial alteration of their sexual relationship they are more able to talk openly about their sex life.  In the safety of the therapy relationship, they find they can give voice to thoughts and feelings about coming together physically in a way they weren’t able to before.

If you would like more information about marriage counseling after the affair, please visit marriage counseling and psychotherapy.

6 thoughts on “Sex After the Affair

  1. My husband of 20 years had an affair with a Licensed Vocational Nurse for 3 years. After discovering his affair I feel nauseated approaching him. I refuse to take a leftover back. They belong with each other.

  2. I was not the best husband in the past, but a good father. I cooked and cleaned and loved my family. Then I caught her cheating and she ran like I beat, her which I didn’t. I then caught cheating again. I still love her. But I feel unloved.

  3. My husband had an affair with another woman, but we try to overcome and forget the past. But until now he won’t have sex with me. It’s almost two years since he had the affair. And they are having communication but I know that the affair is over. But we don’t have sex, just kisses and hugs. Please help.

  4. I been with my husband for 8 years and 3 years of marriage. He cheated the first time in our relationship and all went down. I try to recover from that affair and I have been by his side thru hard times and the good ones too. I have been faithful and I always take care of my home, my self and him. The last year was horrible he cheated on me with 2 women, if you can call them that. They are 10 years older, and he lied after I found out about it. Then I found out he was hanging around with lots of girls and lying to them about me being abusive. He even posted nasty stuff on his Facebook page. I have no friends, and no family. I have been by my self for 20 years now. And he has been my whole world, my family. What he did to me was a horrible thing. And I have been trying to move forward and try to leave this behind, but every minute I see him fucking those people and I fall apart. I have been picking up the pieces but they just keep falling apart.

  5. Cathie,

    I just discovered my wife of 12 years cheated on me with a co-worker. I just discovered this two days ago, though I suspected for months.

    After she was caught, she admitted to her infidelity and I called the guy… (He hung up on me.) I plan on calling his wife to let her know as I would expect the same.

    My wife and I weren’t having sex for a variety of reasons… She as diagnosed with UC/Crohns in 2006. During her worst parts I was cleaning up after her when she couldn’t control her bowels. This took a huge hit on her sense of self worth, knowing what I saw and did to take care of her during this time. At the same time, I was on pain killers for arthritis (off them now thank God!) and that killed my libido. So…We just kind of stopped having sex.

    This went on for years. We would discuss it from time to time but we were so much stronger in other areas than most other couples we knew. We were best friends.

    I am trying to decide what to do now as she is staying at her sister’s house. I love her and I will forgive her… But there will be new ground rules if she is to come back. TOTAL (and sometimes verifiable) honesty is paramount.

    I also plan to see a therapist. You guys need to talk! It sounds like you want to but he doesn’t. Seek out professional help, alone at first perhaps, but then together. I have been reading for days on how to deal with this. Overwhelmingly I see… If the cheater won’t tell you EVERYTHING…. It is time to leave!

    Good luck! I know a little of what you are going through now.

  6. This all makes sense to me (after my husband’s affair at one point I wanted as much sex with him again as possible), however, here’s my situation for the past 4 years. After my husband had at least 2 serious affairs we have been back together for four years. He claims what he did was wrong and stupid and that he does love me and that we should be together for life now.
    Problem is that he won’t have sex with me again no matter what. I’ve tried to plead, talk, ask him to go to therapy and he just shuts down and says he “can’t” and it stems from his guilt. I’ve even told him that I don’t want to be in a sexless relationship and that I plan on having sex again before I die (its been 6 years now)even if it has to be someone else. I’ve brought up having an “open relationship” and he just looks hurt.
    I feel there must be more to all of this than just guilt. I also know that he had a very strong libido and feel that he has to be having sex somewhere – he’s just learned to keep it very discreet. Am I crazy or should I follow my gut feelings, assume he’s still being unfaithful and do what I have to do for myself? And why, if he says he loves me and wants to be with me, is no longer attracted to me?
    Thanks,
    Cathie

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