Your relationship was rocked by infidelity. Now, nothing feels the same. Even though you’ve decided to stay together, you can’t seem to muster up feelings of intimacy towards your partner. Perhaps, this makes you feel even more anxious. You know sex is an important part of a relationship, so you’re left wondering if your relationship will suffer more trauma because you can’t connect with your partner in this way. Even though it may seem impossible right now, rebuilding your sexual relationship is possible. Today, I will discuss the Gottman Institute’s approach to affair recovery and sex after an affair and discuss how you and your partner can have a healthy and successful relationship after infidelity.
The Three Phases of Affair Recovery
The Gottman Institute developed a three-phase process for affair recovery. Before we dive into repairing your sexual relationship, it’s important to discuss these. Repairing your intimate relationship cannot be done if these other steps have not been completed.
Phase 1: Atone
The first step in repairing a relationship after an affair requires the partner who committed infidelity to atone for their actions. This means they must show remorse for what happens. They also must disclose information about the affair to their partner. Although that may be difficult, it’s an important step towards healing. This allows you to gain insight into what happened prior to the affair (ie: what feelings lead the partner to stray from their relationship).
One key element in this phase is understanding that there will not be a next time. If the partner who committed infidelity is not willing to end their affair and change their behaviors, then you cannot continue to step two.
Phase 2: Attune
During this phase, the couple makes the decision to continue their relationship and work towards achieving forgiveness. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget, but it does mean you will not hold your partner’s past actions against them in the future. During this stage, both parties must be willing to make a commitment to make their relationship a priority.
Phase 3: Attach
This is the phase where a couple begins to re-build their intimate relationship. Dr. Gottman explains that “Without the presence of sexual intimacy that is pleasurable to both, the relationship can’t begin again.” Positive sexual intimacy is built from a solid emotional connection between both partners. The Gottmans assert that the way to build this emotional connection is through intimate conversation.
Rebuilding Your Sex Life
In affair recovery counseling, we often see phase three play out in two ways some couples have lots of sex. While others, stop altogether. Both scenarios are valid and understandable given the circumstances. The couple who has a lot of sex after infidelity is uncovered may be using it as a bandaid and an attempt to connect when everything else feels broken. Other couples struggle even with the idea of being intimate. The partner whose trust was betrayed may not be able to get past the mental image of their partner’s infidelity. Sex with their partner becomes a trigger and it appalls them and hurts them to even think about it. Or perhaps the partner who committed the affair feels so guilty they are not able to move forward.
Talk It Out
When this happens it’s important to have an open and honest dialogue about sex. It’s key that both partners understand what’s going on and where the other is at in regards to rebuilding intimacy in the relationship. There’s no need to rush, it’s okay to take a moment and regroup when need be.
When you’re ready to reintroduce sex into your relationship it’s important to also discuss what they look like. Understanding what each party wants and is attracted to is empowering. In fact, many couples find that once they have gotten to this point in their recovery, their sex life becomes better than ever.
Affair recovery counseling takes a lot of work and commitment from both parties. It takes time and patience to rebuild a healthy relationship once the trust has been broken. But, it is doable. Therapy is a really important component in the healing process. Working with a skilled couples therapist allows you and your partner the opportunity to both express your concerns and desires in a safe and non-judgemental space.
Begin Affair Recovery Counseling in the Sacramento Area
Recovering from an affair comes with time, commitment, and trust. Our Roseville, CA-based therapy practice would be honored to help your relationship thrive. Our practice has caring affair recovery therapists who are ready to support you and your partner with affair recovery counseling. To start your affair recovery journey, follow these simple steps:
- Contact us to schedule a free 20-minute phone or video consultation
- Meet with a caring therapist
- Rebuild the intimate bond with your partner
Other Services offered at The Relationship Therapy Center in California:
In addition to affair recovery counseling, Our Sacramento area counseling clinics located in Roseville and Fair Oaks, CA are pleased to offer a variety of mental health services. Our couples services include: Couples Counseling, Counseling after infidelity, sex therapy, co-parent counseling, family therapy, divorce counseling, intensive couples retreats, and premarital counseling. Our individual therapy services include anxiety treatment, therapy for children, teen therapy, depression treatment, codependency counseling and individual relationship counseling. Our therapists offer online counseling in California to treat a variety of mental health concerns. Please reach out to our Sacramento area therapy office to learn more about the many ways we can help you or your loved ones.