Dear Dr. Jane,
Any advice for rebuilding a sexual relationship after infidelity? Even with yourself...
I recently found out that my partner cheated on me. Since I found out, I've pretty much stopped seeing myself as a sexual being. Even though we had a good sex life before I found out, now I don't get turned on or think about sex generally. When my partner tries to initiate with me, my reaction is usually to be caught very off guard, at best, sometimes I lash out at worst. Any advice?
From, Feeling Devastated
- Source Weekly
Realizing that your partner has been unfaithful hurts terribly. For many of us, it's our greatest relationship fear—that our beloved will be intimate with someone else when they've promised to be faithful.
It sounds like you and your partner have decided to stay together. I hope that you're getting professional help from someone to support you as you rebuild trust and intimacy and that your partner has compassion for your situation. It's terribly difficult to feel sexual when you've been hurt like this.
Infidelity is heartbreaking. If you're like most people, you feel betrayed, abandoned, lied to. You ask questions about why it happened, when it happened, and what they did together. You wonder if your partner thinks about the other person when you're together. You may feel sexually inadequate, wondering if the affair partner had some way of being, looking or acting that drew your partner away.
You might want to know absolutely everything and then hate finding out the details. Knowing more can fuel your questions. You may feel obsessed and then exhausted.
Infidelity hits you in the place of your deepest vulnerability. It hits you where you're most tender. It's understandable that you don't feel sexual right now—even with yourself.
In your question you mention that since you found out, you've pretty much stopped seeing yourself as a sexual being even though you had a good sex life before all this happened. I understand how the shock of your partner's behavior is keeping you from getting turned on. But, your sexual essence still belongs to you. It's completely yours—an important part of who you are. And it matters.
Thoughts about the affair can cause you to shut down sexually. You can easily get triggered and find yourself disconnecting from the idea of pleasure. But, even though it's so difficult to resolve these feelings, letting your partner's infidelity rob you of your sacred sexual self is losing twice.
Healing the rupture in your relationship begins with getting help and working to rebuild trust. But eventually, it's also important to reclaim your turn on and your openness. As time passes and you begin to feel better, you'll realize that all sorts of pleasurable touch is healing—including orgasm.
You don't have to start with something too big. For now, try a little bit of something comfortable. Maybe hold hands or kiss gently.
What to do:
Look at this experience as the start of your relationship Version 2.0. Some people like to repeat their vows or commitments when they're ready.
Limit the time you spend discussing the affair so that it doesn't consume your life together. Perhaps only talk about it during sessions with your therapist. Or, write your thoughts into a journal and share them later.
Lower your sexual expectations as an individual and as a couple, Try some non-threatening intimate touch. Things like gentle, non-sexual massage can be very healing for both of you. Be sure to tell your partner when you're feeling triggered and take a break when you're feeling uncomfortable. Your body needs time to feel safe.
I'm sorry you're going through this right now.
PS: The process you go through to heal your relationship needs to include making amends, building trust AND sexual healing. That's the part that many couples miss. I love the fact that you're asking me about your experience of being sexual after infidelity. Release fear in order to fully receive pleasure and connection—despite the betrayal you've experienced.