|Pic from GibbyT's Blog|
My heart sinks when I hear of the damage caused by extramarital affairs. This scenario is not one I've been through, and my gut wrenches to even think of how I would react to my husband being intimate with another woman.
What I come up with when I receive the question of re-establishing sexual intimacy after an affair is primarily a huge dose of sympathy and prayer for the couple involved. There are two pieces of advice I have heard over and over for recovering from an affair. (One resource for the following is the Homeword with Jim Burns radio show, on which Dr. Burns has interviewed numerous authors and speakers on this and other-marriage related topics).
1. The offending spouse must be willing to be accountable. The person who had the affair will have to report on where he is going, where he has been, when he will return home, whom he has been in contact with, etc. His cell phone and computer are open to being checked by the spouse or an accountability partner. He must avoid contact with the affair partner, even changing jobs or gyms or whatever to ensure that.
Sometimes an offending spouse wants to just be done with the affair and move on. They want to confess, be forgiven, and have their reassurances that the affair is over result in trust. But it doesn't work that way. If you break the covenant and the trust that came with it, you must work to regain it. I believe marriage is worth that effort.
2. The couple must address issues in their own relationship. Of course a spouse should never cheat. However, an affair usually (not always) occurs when needs are going unmet in the marriage. Like or it not, that's an us problem, not a him problem. If only those problem areas had been addressed before the affair . . .
But you are where you are, and those who commit to improving their marriage often report experiencing the very best years of their relationship after the affair. Communicate, seek counseling, find good marriage resources, and discover together what will make you feel loved, secure, and intimate in your marriage.
Additionally, I suggest that all couples should talk about appropriate boundaries. I discussed my own boundaries in The Rule.
With regard to sexual intimacy, I suspect it's like every other distraction, albeit a huge one. A wife may get to the bedroom with her husband, and her brain wanders to thoughts about him cheating. The hurt, resentment, and distrust cause her to tense and a wall to form. The best way to fight doubt and fear is to replace it with truth and love. If your spouse is doing what he should to reestablish trust and work on your relationship, you can remind yourself over and over that he chose you, that he wants you. Your truth will be that you are not sleeping with the guy with whom you had a bad marriage, the one who cheated on you. This is a new beginning, a new man, a new marriage -- renewed by God. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones takes time, but it can be done.
Now I'm going to send you to a fabulous article on the website of fellow blogger, Julie Sibert at Intimacy in Marriage. One of her readers posted the story of how her marriage survived infidelity. At the end of the post, Julie provides links to stories and resources for those who have gone or are going through infidelity in a marriage.
If you have your own wisdom for getting past an affair, please share for others in the comments. You may help other marriages with your story of hardship or healing.
My prayers do indeed go out to those of you who have been hit with the pain of an affair. Thankfully, there are many couples who have recovered, and a couple committed to God can go on to experience their best years of marriage yet.
(Note: I used the husband cheating example here; I believe a majority of my readers are women and I typically aim my posts at them. I do appreciate my male readers. So if it was a wife who cheated, the pronouns can be changed.)