Relationship After the Affair Lakewood Counselor
This week, we have a special guest blogger J. Katie Graber, MM, MA, LAC, NCC, CST, a certified sexual therapist of Holding Hope Counseling in Denver and Elizabeth, Colorado
Katie offers a perspective on sex therapies role in conjuntion with couples counseling in helping couples get back to intimacy after infidelity has occurred.
Repairing the sexual connection/intimacy after infidelity:
I want to start by acknowledging the pain, fear, sadness, anger, and shame that fill a relationship when there has been infidelity. If the infidelity does not cause the relationship to end and both partners want to try to repair the relationship, that relationship takes on a whole new paradigm. I would compare this time with the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; also, just as grief comes in waves and one flows between the stages in a non-linear fashion, so is life after infidelity. (http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/000617)
Often times the partner that was cheated on will want to know details, like who, what happened, who initiated, how did you meet them, were they good, what kind sexual activities went on, etc. As much as the details can be like little hot knives in the chest to both partners, many times this is needed to satisfy our human need to compare self with others. It’s important to understand that the partner who was cheated on is thinking there is something wrong with him/her that drove their partner to have sex with or connect with another person. Many times, the length and depth of the entirety of the relationship will be questioned and analyzed; both partners should be prepared for this.
In regard to intimacy, connection, and sex, expect it to be off. Number one reason, trust has been broken, second, I would say, one or both partners are thinking about the infidelity during most activities that generally create connection…. Lastly, the hurt and shame of the infidelity is going to come out in anger, often snippy remarks, blaming, shaming, and what can feel like LIFE-LONG punishment to the partner who stepped out. This is expected soon after the infidelity and can last for a while depending on the severity of the trust that was broken. The best thing the unfaithful partner can do, especially during the initial phase of talking about the cheating, is to be kind and understanding of your partner, to hold space for his/her anger without getting angry in return, to acknowledge your wrong doing without belittling yourself, and provide space when needed and be there when it is not.
Together the couple should sit down and plan time each week, maybe even every day, to discuss how they are BOTH feeling. It is very easy for the unfaithful partner to take all the blame and not feel worthy of expressing his or her feelings/frustrations because again, LIFE-LONG punishment seems inevitable, but it is very important that both feel heard and understood. For these chats, I suggest using a form of Emotional-Reflection because it allows time and space for each. The idea behind setting aside time just to talk to each other is to re-establish connection, to create the curiosity that was present during the very beginning, and to learn who it is their partner has become in the years since they met and were truly curious about each other. Here are some guidelines for using this form of communication, also known as speaker-listener: http://www3.nd.edu/~pmtrc/Handouts/Speaker_Listener_with_Example.pdf
Generally, the infidelity did not come out of no-where and it not going to disappear that quickly either… The relationship has to grow and change, the partners have to grow and change, and all the assumptions that one had about their relationship will grow and change. COMMUNICATE with each other… right after the infidelity it is going to be very one sided and very blaming, filled with hurt and often disgust. After a while, this too will change if both individuals are willing to work. It is going to be important to work with a couple’ counselor who can mediate discussions about the infidelity and unmet needs; these topics are HOT-BUTTON issues and can easily and quickly lead to anger, fighting, and sadness. A counselor can slow these discussions down and ensure the couple is working toward resolution versus driving the relationship further apart.
Intimacy and sex is going to take time to blossom again, but with regular, deep, striving for understanding communication, it can happen. When both partners feel it is time to take back their intimacy and sexual connection here are a few tips… Take it slow, touch one another in non-sexual ways such as massaging or gentle non-genital touching, take time to learn each other’s bodies again (this too has changed since the beginning of the relationship, guaranteed), compliment one another, do the things that you went out of your way to do in the beginning of the relationship, and remember all the reasons you chose your partner in the first place.
If you feel like you are ready for sexual intimacy with your partner again, but are having troubles coming together, chances are something is still unresolved with one or both people. Start by asking yourself these questions:
– Am I still attracted to him/her?
– Who else (figuratively) is in our bed with us? (this could be the object of the affair, parents, children, grandparents, in-laws, etc.)
– What did GREAT SEX use to be like with him/her?
– Who am I comparing myself with in regard to sex with my partner?
– What am I truly and deeply afraid of?
The idea is that if it is not physical attraction getting in the way of your orgasms, what is? When two people, who once shared an intimate world filled with pleasure and freedom, cannot find their way back, something else or the image of someone else is present. Maybe the question even stems back to… Was our sex life ever good? If your answer is NO, then the affair is only a small piece of the puzzle and I recommend working with a sex therapist.
We are thankful for Katies contrbution to our blog today on your relationship after the affair. Did you find this information helpful? Please leave a comment.