Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

Rekindling Desire After An Affair

Physical intimacy after an affair is challenging under the best of circumstances. But how do you rebuild intimacy if you don't know what you're doing?

I still remember our confusion as to how to move forward after the affair. Was it okay to be physically intimate if she wanted, or was she enabling me? I wondered why she would ever want to be with me again. What did I need to change to help her feel safe? Where had we gone wrong the first time around? If I'd understood anything about intimacy maybe I would have known where to start. But being relationally incompetent and emotionally constipated left me clueless. Sad to say I wasn't even sure of the objective. Up to that time my need for sex had far out- weighed my commitment to love and cherish my wife till death do us part. The fact that Stephanie didn't want sex as I did seemed to confirm I'd married the wrong person, but now I didn't know. I was no longer sure I even knew what sex was all about.

Thankfully Stephanie's emotional maturity far exceeded mine. I had always mistakenly believed that intimacy consisted of nothing more than orgasms. I didn't understand how to make love to her heart; I only wanted to use her body. I was shocked the first time Stephanie and I came together after discovery. That's when I learned there was a lot more to sex than using someone as a vessel of masturbation. Making love to my wife was something far more profound than I'd ever imagined. It may be hard to believe, but after the affair, Stephanie and I entered a new world of love that I never knew existed.

Recovery is about more than learning to be monogamous; it's about finding a better life of purpose and meaning. At Affair Recovery we believe that severe crisis leads to radical transformation. I was certainly in need of some radical transformation when it came to knowing how to love Stephanie. Thankfully that crisis precipitated a change in my understanding of love.

I'd like to share an interview with an expert in the field of sexology, Nancy Houston, LPC. Her extensive work with couples who've taken Affair Recovery courses uniquely qualifies her to speak to the challenges of couples dealing with betrayal. We spoke for an hour on topics such as rekindling sexual desire, how to bring physical intimacy back, how to repair sexual wounds, etc. Take the time to listen to it; you'll be glad you did.

Resources mentioned by Nancy & Rick in the recording:

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all fine and good but...

I liked the podcast, and found it very enlightening. I even believe/subscribe to a lot of this. It's all fine and good but...my wife has absolutely shut down to the idea of being intimate with me, after discovery of her affair back in March. She does not "feel comfortable" with being intimate. I know a big part of it is because she is still 1) in shock from the discovery 2) has some "mid-life crisis" issues and is not even entirely sure she sees a future between us and 3) does not buy in to a lot of this "self-help" stuff. I'm at a total loss. We have both been remorseful, have both forgiven each other, and yet we are at a standstill. I miss my wife so much! I have told her this, and still..."I'm not comfortable". Help!

Rekindling Desire After An Affair

Wow! His view before recovery is what I was trying to explain. That is how I have always viewed it as well. But how do you change that view and learn the right way to view it?

Great podcast!

Thank you so much for this podcast! Something I want to expand on with what Nancy said is the courting process. Running a bath or offering a foot massage for your female spouse are courting behaviors. Oftentimes in marriage these courting behaviors stop. The female spouse falls in the routine of being the maid, chef, and personal shopper for her mate and is no longer pursued by her mate like during those courting years. Being pursued is crucial to keeping her brain thinking about sex. For a lot of us females, sex was great and frequent when we were being pursued by our mate. The lapse in sex came when we fell into our day to day routines of cooking, cleaning, and taking care of our mate without that wooing factor that addressed our emotional needs and feeling our heart desired by our mate. Instead of our heart being desired it was just our body. That is how the feeling of "duty sex" begins for females. During the courting years, we females expect pursuance of us to continue. Instead we marry our suitor only for all of that wooing to stop and turn into us serving him. It feels like being baited and switched. We ask for date nights and get lectures of lacking funds or being tired from work. During an affair, the courting is not happening with the wife but with the mistress. I told my husband what hurt me the most is that he pursued his affair partner in ways I wished he had pursued me as his wife instead. I wanted that kind of attention but he gave it to another woman. He said things to her I wish he had said to me. He dated her while I was at home alone. Any attempts I made at trying to pursue him were ignored by him because he was already pursing another woman. I would wear lingerie and dance for him, give him massages, run a bath for the two of us to share, send him saucy texts. He didn't need that from me because he was already getting validation from his pursuit of the affair partner without me knowing. I would be rejected. With porn, he didn't even need to pursue anyone because he was getting instant gratification at a click. I was obselete to him sexually. That kind of hurt runs deep and makes it really difficult to restore the sexual intimacy back in our marriage. I can attest to putting the courting back within our marriage has helped a lot with easing the pain of infidelity, but the restoration of bringing back sexual desire in me towards him is a very slow process as I continue to heal from his past transgressions that went on for years. If only he had paid attention to the very clear signs that I wanted him to court me and give me the attention he chose to give another woman instead. He was selectively blind and deaf to my attempts and pleas. He is a sex addict and used porn and his affair to cope with his insecurities. He actually convinced himself that I did not love or want him! Can you believe it? He is currently 55 days into his 90 reboot, and plans to begin karezza are underway for when he completes his reboot. Meanwhile we are practicing bonding behaviors and date nights to start over from scratch to rebuild our emotional connection. I'm very nervous but excited for when the 90 days are up!

What about when it’s the female unfaithful?

I had an emotional affair online for nearly 4 weeks and put myself in a position where I’d booked a hotel for him to to be able to meet me in a public place. I know I wouldn’t have gone to the apartment or slept with him but I opened up myself to that risk. Also my betrayed husband now thinks I would have had a sexual encounter and can not get over the fact I wanted someone else. D day was 20/3. He is so hurt he’s finding it hard being in the same room. He’s quiet and full of contempt for me if I try to communicate on a normal day to day level. This then makes me bring up I’m sorry and can we move on what can I do ? Can I hug you? I just want to help fix it? Etc etc. I don’t know how to deal with what I’ve caused because I hurt so much I’m not eating or sleeping I’m obsessed with reading all your articles and more I’ve bought books. However with all my reading nothing matters if I cannot get my husband to let me in just a little ? We have 3 children and planning things and our future has now become something he cannot commit to. I have disclosed everything but he still thinks there’s more to it ? But there isn’t. I sought advice and support for an illness I’m suffering online and then this friendship developed and I put myself in the position that a risk of developing physically could have happened but that’s not what I was seeking or planned to happen. How do I help us to move on ?

feeling alone and hopeless

I've read and practiced some really bad advice about doing it even when you don't feel like it - not knowing WHY I didnt just not want to do it, but I am averse to it and re-traumatized every time I try again. It was bad our whole marriage because he brought in an addiction and lied about every.single.aspect. of his sexual history and now that he is "recovered" he still displays *actions* of a sex addict and he is putting it on me that I dont want it or I should just be able to be casual about it, and that is just scratching the surface. And a lot of what I find online christian or not is just scratching the surface and our counselor just tells me we have to compromise and I feel like I'm screaming and no one hears me.
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***What can I do? I want to feel safe and healthy and valued and understood and whole and I am so close to giving up on the marriage and on ever again trusting anyone or believing I can be healthy happy and whole again and I've been working so hard and it's not working :'(

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