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Can we talk about the complications and difficulties that go along with intimacy after infidelity has taken place?   Surely I’m not the only one experiencing these challenges.   Though I write my experiences as a woman, I have to believe that men also struggle with emotions and maybe even response problems in the aftermath of learning that their partner has been with another man or men.   It’s very complicated.  I don’t imagine any of us, men or women, deal with it exactly the same way.   I also don’t imagine that anyone having gone through this same process of recovery, has found intimacy to be remotely simple or without frequent roadblocks along the way.

From my experience In the beginning the conflict was raw but not nearly as complicated as it feels now.   There was hurt and anger and disbelief nearly 24/7 in those first few weeks, but when it came to intimacy there was basically a cold and hot faucet to choose from.  Sometimes the faucet ran cold.  I was too hurt or filled with rage to consider intimacy with the partner that had just betrayed me on the most devastating levels. Or… making love would trigger those feelings and or images of him with another and I would have to stop. But, for the most part,  I would say my faucet ran hot in the beginning.   Most of the time I opted for denial.  While I was keenly aware what had transpired and the nasty mess we were in,  I also chose a deliberate form of denial.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t facing the reality of it or trying to pretend it hadn’t happened so much as I was forcing myself to block the association to the event.   In other words I was disconnected from it, looking in from the outside.    It hurt less on the other side of a two way mirror. I was watching someone else’s life unravel.  dissociating myself from it most of the time, allowed me to remain relatively calm.   Perhaps even eerily calm.   It also allowed me to allow myself to respond to my desire for my partner. 

Sex after infidelity… is an amped up version of make up sex.  

In make up sex we tend to forget that this is the same partner who for months hasn’t really satisfied our needs, or who three days ago were irate with over some matter or another.  All we know is that we don’t want to fight anymore.   Fighting has raised the tension level,  raised the adrenaline, it has somehow “changed” the dynamics in one or dozens of different ways and because of that,  sex feels different.  It feels urgent, hot, satisfying, saturating.  And for the moment we feel connected on some sublime level.     In a healthy relationship I think that this feeling probably lessons in intensity yet doesn’t exactly fade because well, we happen to be in a healthy relationship and we love our partner and we probably somehow solved, compromised or learned to understand the problem during the fight.  Double win.  Improved situation and make up sex.  Life is good…

 In a troubled relationship it’s not as simple as all that.  In a troubled relationship that afterglow fades and as it does the reality of the relationship reappears.   All or most of the same old problems are still there and we feel kind of disillusioned when the make  up sex glow dissipates.  We might even start to develop feelings of resentment as our frustration once again starts to grow inside of us. 

But what about sex after an affair discovery? 

So, you haven’t trashed the house and walked out on your partner, or tried to run them over in the parking lot of Wal Mart (which by the way I swear I have never tried to do and DO NOT recommend anyone else try either).  If it’s the very early stages of discovery and you’ve decided that either you don’t know what you want or that you’re staying to try to save the relationship, sex can very much feel like make up sex on steroids!   It can be more amazing than you’ve ever experienced together before. 

Why is the sex better and is it going to last?

Well,  I can’t answer this other than my own experiences.   For me,  I think I needed to feel wanted, desired.  I was detaching myself from the pain enough that I could allow myself to want him and if you have ever experienced anything remotely close to jealousy you already know it can heighten desire. Heighten the need to possess someone or to feel possessed by them.   I was sick with pain over the images of him with other women, but at the same time it provoked a desire to consume him completely myself.    It was like taking him back from them.  It was a desperate attempt to flood all of his senses with ME.    To be better than they were, to be loved more than they were.  For him to CHOOSE me.   And it was a deep need to believe I was still wanted, that I was still sexy.   It was that same need that follows a fight.  The need to reconnect,  to bond.  The need to feel that everything is going to be OK.  And so you take the experience of the affair,  the intensity of all that pain and anger and doubt and funnel into these other emotions and express them through intimacy.  

In some ways it is healing.  It ‘s a relief to let yourself be held by this person you are fighting against leaving.   It plants a little seed that everything will be ok.  That you are the one they love.  That there is hope for you to go on together.  

This period seems to last a few weeks.  At least it did for me.  And during this period things are almost surreal in the way they satisfy.   It’s like all of this time you have been perfect lovers.  No two people did god ever make for a more perfect union. How could you have missed this before?  How could you have forgotten it could be this good?    And then it changes.   The better more connected we became sexually, the more my mate seemed to want to feel like everything was ok.  That we were half way to healing or maybe even more. Hey, Maybe we were almost through this thing!   Uhm…hello……Bad news.  We are not almost through this thing.    We are in the messy complicated phases of this thing.   When stages like anger and denial and make up sex have exhausted themselves and I have to make decisions about whether I can trust building my life with you again, and whether I can accept the depths of this betrayal and still go on with you.   The ability to disassociate myself with this reality has worn off.   Now is the time I have to face it all,  accept it all.  Deal with it all.  

The more he seemed to want to believe things were getting better, the less satisfied I became with intimacy.   The glow had faded, the reality had set in.  I found myself resenting intimacy.  It was like having his cake and eating it too.  He got away with the affairs and got to keep me!  What is fair about that?    What did I get in return?   The pain and the images have returned, the rage still boils, the questions still roll through my brain,  the self worth issues are starting to rear their ugly heads and remind me that I am NOT all that,  I wasn’t enough to keep him in my bed, etc. etc.   In other words, things are now much more difficult for me intimately than they have ever been.    There were issues between us before we arrived at this decision point following the affairs.   Sex was not always all that satisfying to me.  I wanted it to be,  I longed for it to be.  But it wasn’t.  He was disconnected and too orgasm focused.  He had no art of seduction,  no air of passion about him, I couldn’t feel strength in him.   I was growing angrier and angrier with the string of betrayals I suspected he was continuing with and the lies I caught him in.  I pulled away further from him emotionally.  It got to a point where responding to him was next to impossible but I didn’t want to give him the ammunition of blaming his affairs on a lack of sex between us, so I weathered on, and faked it when I had to.  And I often felt used and a little nauseated afterward.  And angry as hell because I wanted to be loved to be connected to be focusing our energy on so many other things than the bullshit he was pulling us through.     Adding to the confusion of all this is the fact that I find him very desirable, very sexy in his different kind of way.   He doesn’t always know how to please me but he’s also not a bad lover.   He can in fact be incredible when he chooses to restrain his adolescent need for immediate gratification and he enjoys the slow powerful seduction.   My inability to respond to him during those times wasn’t a lack of desire for him but a result of the hurt and uncertainty he was causing me.  And my difficulty responding to him now is, I believe,  a combination of the accumulation of all of that over the years,  coupled with the shattering effect of finding out that I had not been imaging it all,  that the pursuit of women he had become obsessed with had never ended and was very real in our lives.  Present in our lives all the time.  

It has destroyed my image of myself as a woman.  It’s thrown water on my normally sensual passionate nature.   It’s hard to even try to explain how it feels to want someone so badly and at the same time be so hurt and angry and confused.  So shattered that it literally repels you from them.   To try so hard to reconnect and fight so hard against it all at once.   It’s exhausting, it’s emotionally draining, it screws up your head, and every day it makes you feel worse and worse and worse about yourself.   It’s even further complicated by the fact that he is honestly trying to fix things this time.  Making efforts he’s never made before.   I have no idea if he’s capable, or if I can trust him 5 years from now but I have to keep trying.  I need to see if he can do what he swears he will do, be who he swears he really is inside.   He’s trying so hard, and making himself so vulnerable in his pleas for me to not give up and showing such determination in his promises that whatever it takes we will get through this.    Those are all good things, and those are the things that have held me here this final time, but they are also things that add an intense sense of pressure.   Instinct is to run, to hate him, to warn the entire world about him!!   Instinct is to protect myself.    Trying to meet him half way and give him a sense of security is painful.  It causes anger inside of me at times.   And yet I have to try.   I’ve invested too much not to.

Where our intimate life is going to end up I don’t know.  I pray I learn to respond to him more easily, with less work and less self talk and less struggle than it takes now.   I long for the same kind of intense saturating intimacy we felt in the beginning of this process but I don’t know how to face our problems and be that at the same time.     He doesn’t understand that. Can’t understand that, so he has no idea how to reach me or how to satisfy me.    That leaves me trying to satisfy him the best I can under the circumstances, out of a fear I will lose him if I don’t because clearly sex is important to a male and in this case, his case, sex tends to have controlled his life and all motivations.     I’m both angry and sad that it has come to this…but I’m trying and eventually I’ll find my way.     

Share with me if you’ve had this same struggle….