Six months ago, my husband had an affair with a coworker of his that lasted a few weeks. He came clean, and the usual drama ensued: tears, screaming, and counseling. He’s since changed jobs (not just because of that) and we’re working on our marriage. Things are going fairly well, except that ever since the affair, I have zero interest in sex. My libido has dwindled to nothing. We used to have what I thought of as a healthy sexual relationship, but now I have to talk myself into it, and I usually can’t orgasm, which isn’t like me. My husband is being patient, and we’ve talked it out in therapy, but I feel stuck. I feel like his betrayal is lodged in my body somehow, despite my best efforts to forgive and let go. Help.
He Said: It’s not his betrayal that’s lodged in your body, but your reaction to it. And it’s good that you two are talking it through in therapy, but unfortunately you can’t reason or talk your way back to sexual desire. That you can orgasm at all six months after the affair came to light is a relatively healthy sign and certainly the therapy and talking will help heal the past. But you two also need a plan that doesn’t involve “work.” Find ways to take an occasional break from the dynamic of guilt and forgiveness. Go on dates, go dancing, plan a short getaway. For now, enjoy these romantic activities without necessarily feeling they need to end in sex. That will take the pressure off, and eventually, you two will have enough new positive experiences to lead you back to the healthy physical relationship you once had. Poring over pain and guilt is a great inspiration to help change bad behavior, but it doesn’t usually make for good sex.
She Said: I’m going to tell you about an exercise I learned in a relationship workshop a few years ago. It’s short and simple but extremely powerful. Have your husband stand about four feet away from you, legs slightly apart, arms relaxed, spine tall and shoulders back so that he feels steady and calm. Have him take a few nice deep breaths and continue to breathe deeply during the exercise. You also stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Look straight into each others’ eyes and don’t avert your gaze. Take a few deep breaths, and as you do, call to mind your husband’s affair and the betrayal and pain it brought you. As you feel the anger and hurt well up in your stomach and chest, let it out with the biggest scream you can muster, lasting as long as one exhale. Do not use any words. If any other memories or images of past hurt or betrayal come up as you scream, that’s fine. After your first scream, go silent and take a breath. Your husband, still looking at you, then takes one step toward you and stops, remaining as relaxed as possible. He is there to witness your anger and contain it with love, not to react, indulge his own guilt, or withdraw. Repeat the process with a second scream, after which he takes another step toward you. Finish with a third scream, after which he will be standing directly in front of you without touching you, but still gazing at you calmly and lovingly. The entire exercise takes less than 60 seconds, after which you’ll likely dissolve into sobs. You may feel exhausted (and hoarse). But do this exercise, say, once a week for a few weeks, and don’t be surprised if your sex changes dramatically for the better.
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