Research has long focused on the role of affairs within romantic relationships. However, sexual recovery from an affair is often overlooked. While everyone’s experience is unique, there are steps that can be taken to rebuild a romantic relationship after the disclosure of an affair.
It is important to understand that cheating, or infidelity, may be brought on by different factors, some of which are unrelated to sexual desire. These include; lack of affection, loss of fondness toward one another, unaddressed relationship issues that have been accumulating for some time, breakdown of communication or addiction, including addictions related to sex, gambling or substances. No matter the reason behind the affair, the initial stages of discovering a partner has cheated often triggers intense emotions for both parties. Anger, shame, guilt and betrayal are all common to feel during this time.
Sex after cheating varies among couples. Some have passionate sex after uncovering an affair. However, this may be fuelled by the pain of the situation. Others more commonly find it challenging to re-engage in sexual activity as thoughts of their partner with someone else create intense feelings of betrayal. It is common for the person who has been betrayed to have doubts about whether they can feel safe, loved and desirable.
Sex is a healthy and positive aspect of a relationship, which goes beyond the physical act. It can help build self-esteem, reduce stress and provide comfort and connection. During such times, more than ever, the need to re-connect may be strong for both partners. That being said, it is crucial that before deciding to engage in sexual activity, both partners feel ready to do so. Nobody should have in sex out of guilt or just for the sake of having sex. If you are one of the many who feel repelled from sex with their partner after an affair, it is crucial that both you and your partner have healed from these wounds before considering sexual intimacy.
It is also important to keep in mind that sex does not equal forgiveness. If you feel comfortable having sex because it is what you desire, it does not mean you are not allowed to go through the healing process, nor does it mean that the healing process is over.
According to Dr. Tammy Nelson (2013), although it may take years to even consider forgiving a cheating partner, it is possible to rebuild a relationship after infidelity. Dr. Nelson identifies three phases known as the Crisis Phase, the Insight Phase and the Vision Phase.
The 2nd part of this blog will provide a brief overview of the above-mentioned phases, which might help you discover where you currently stand in the healing process and whether you are ready to move toward rebuilding your relationship or letting it go.
Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Chat Bar Coordinator within Willingness Team. Michaela aims to further her studies locally by pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy in the near future.