Sexual compatibility is very important in most marriages. In most cases, the quality of sex determines the quality of marriage. When a couple’s sexual relationship begins to suffer, the marriage is usually suffering. But when a sexual relationship is thriving, the marriage is also thriving.
Usually it’s the husband who has the greatest need for sex, but that isn’t always the case. I find increasing numbers of wives who need sexual fulfillment more than their husbands. However, whether it’s the husband or the wife with the greater need for sex, the partner with lesser need is at risk of a sexual aversion.
Sometimes, as relationships proceed, couples can become used to each other (and bored). That loving and passionate ‘spark’ seems to fade. After an affair, couples will vacillate from having sex every day to not wanting to be touched at all—and everything in between. Right now there is no consistency and little to no trust in the relationship. Do you see yourself somewhere here?
Where Are You Now?
It’s important to face and discuss how the inclusion of other sex partners affects the marital relationship— physically and psychologically.
If you are the one who had an affair, it’s essential to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and to be honest about the results. It’s also necessary to be patient and understanding about your partner’s potential awkwardness or discomfort with sexual expression during the early stages of dealing with this issue.
If your partner had an affair, it’s important to be clear about your concerns about STDs and to insist on being well informed and fully protected. Avoid using this issue as a way to ‘punish’ your partner by denying any form of sexual contact.
This is a good time to rethink some stereotypical beliefs about sex that are erroneous—and damaging to a satisfying sex life. The following page contains a list of some of the common sexual beliefs that can interfere with re-establishing a good sex life with your mate. Tick any of the boxes that apply to you:
Some Myths About Sex:
– I must be ‘in the mood’ to enjoy sex.
– My sex life is ‘ruined’ if my partner has sex with someone else.
– The seat of sexual desire in the body is the genitals.
– Headaches interfere with being able to enjoy sex.
– Sex should be ‘spontaneous’; it shouldn’t be scheduled.
– (Women): I shouldn’t be too aggressive or demanding, but should subtly guide my husband in meeting my sexual needs.
– (Men): I should be the initiator and I should want to have sex as often as possible.
– Sex is a serious business.
– Only sexy-looking people are really sexy.
– Good sex’ is determined by performance.
Intimacy is a process—not a thing. It takes place over time and is not stagnant. In fact, any kind of stagnation in a relationship kills intimacy. Intimacy also can take many forms.
One form of intimacy is cognitive or intellectual intimacy, where two people exchange thoughts, share ideas, and enjoy the similarities, and the differences, in their opinions. If they can do this in an open and comfortable way, they can become quite intellectually intimate.
A second form of intimacy is experiential intimacy or intimacy activity. Examples of this would be where people actively involve themselves with each other, probably saying very little to each other, nor sharing any thoughts or many feelings, but being involved in mutual activities with one another. Imagine observing two house painters whose brushstrokes seemed to be playing out a duet on the side of the house. They may be shocked to think that they were engaged in an intimate activity with each other; however, from an experiential point of view, they would be very intimately involved.
A third form of intimacy is emotional intimacy, where two people comfortably share their feelings with each other, or when they empathize with the feelings of the other person, really try to understand and try to be aware of the other person’s emotional side.
A fourth form of intimacy is sexual intimacy. This is the stereotypical definition of intimacy that most people are familiar with. However, this form of intimacy includes a broad range of sensuous activity and is much more than just sexual intercourse. It’s any form of sensual expression with each other.
Therefore, intimacy can be many things for different people at different times.
Take note of the types of intimacy you experienced in your relationship BEFORE the affair
– cognitive or intellectual intimacy
– experiential intimacy or intimacy activity
– emotional intimacy
– sexual intimacy
How to Develop Intimate Relationships
– Awareness – be aware of yourself, where you are, rather than in some other place. Start with the form of intimacy that feels most comfortable to you. If a particular form of intimacy is difficult for you, whether it’s intellectual, experiential, emotional, or sexual, that’s not the place for you to start developing an intimate relationship with another person. If you’re more comfortable with intellectual intimacy, start by sharing thoughts, talking with another person about opinions and ideas. Once comfortable in an intimate relationship on that basis, then other intimate areas can be approached and developed.
– Knowledge – every intimate relationship does not have to include all the different aspects or types of intimacy mentioned. Many compatible and satisfying intimate relationships can exist in any one of the four areas, or in any combination of those areas.
Barriers to Developing and Maintaining Intimate Relationships
– Communication – one barrier is when a person enters a relationship with some mistaken notions about intimacy or misjudges the needs or the thoughts of the other person in the relationship. The lack of clear communication is one of the main barriers to the foundation of an intimate relationship.
– Time – intimacy takes time to develop, and a person who is not willing to allow time for a relationship to grow into intimacy will not be able to develop that kind of relationship.
– Awareness – it is necessary for a person to be self-aware of him or herself and to realize what she/he has to share with another person. People who are not self-aware frequently are not able to be aware of other people, at least not in terms of the potentially intimate aspects of the other person.
– Shyness – reluctance to share oneself with another person can keep an intimate relationship from developing.
– Game Playing – people who act in stereotypical roles or resort to game playing (even if it’s a romantic game) cannot develop an intimate relationship with someone else simply because they are not being themselves. Game playing can be detrimental to the development of intimacy, which requires two people willing to be honest in a significant way with another person.
How Does An Individual Establish Intimacy?
The Intimacy Hierarchy shows how you have developed your skills for intimacy over your lifetime. For the purpose of this program, we would like to share with you that you can return to any or all of these areas to understand HOW you developed each area over time. If you are working with an Infidelity Recovery Coach, you will explore each of these areas to help you both on an individual level as well as within your relationship.
In Reboot your Relationship chapter called “Understanding Yourself,” you determined your attachment style; this concept forms the base of the Intimacy Hierarchy. If you are Anxious or Avoidant in attachment style and in a relationship, you will generally avoid getting too close to your partner because of your fears. Over the years, this would have affected your intimacy with your partner, making him/her feel distant from you and unloved in some ways.
If you are not planning to stay in the current relationship, you still need to explore this area of intimacy, so you know WHY you had trouble establishing intimacy within the current relationship. Even if you are the ‘faithful partner,’ you need to learn from this experience.