Intimacy After Infidelity?
Hi Everyone. I have learned a lot from the boards but never posted. As of the last week I have found myself in a new situation. I’m going to give my backstory and then ask.
I’ve been married 21 years to my husband. About 6 months ago I noticed he was starting to distance himself. I talked to him. I tried everything i knew how to reconnect. Something was just always missing or not quite right. I found out last week that 8 months ago it started with a porn addiction. It grew to anonymous chat rooms that lead to private messaging, sexting, and eventually an emotional/sexting affair for 4 months. when i caught him he spent the first 24 hours denying it. But then the truth finally came out.
He is remorseful. We have schedule an appointment for him to see a counselor. He has found a male accountability partner that has him set up on covenant eyes. We will be going to marriage counseling as well. He is putting in the work and I’m thankful.
Im still very hurt. I’m still very distrustful. And as much as I want to hate him I don’t. I love him. Up until last night the thought of being intimate again made me cringe. However, last night, i had a horrible tension headache from the stress. He, being the person who always gave me massages, offered. At first i said no, but the headache was horrible so i agreed. His physical touch made me miss intimacy with him. But I don’t know if I’m ready.
My question when do you think is the right time to resume intimacy after infidelity. I don’t want to set myself up for more hurt. I don’t want to stall his progress in recovery. I don’t want to start thinking it’s what i want and get triggered by a memory and regret moving there again too soon. I want to make wise decisions but we still have a little time before we see the actual counselor together.
This sounds like an important time to be Spirit led (Gal.5) “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5). The Lord knows exactly what you, your husband and your marriage needs for healing. As you humble yourself before the Lord, I have no doubt the Spirit will lead you step by step, decision by decision, on what it is the right way for you to go. When you feel prompted, be obedient. One week it may look one way, and the next week it will look different. Don’t get it in your head that things have to look a certain way. Reuniting as one could be what is needed to continue in the healing process. My personal conviction has been for me to do what I know the Lord has said in His word for me to do, as a wife, even when my husband has been “disobedient to the word” (1 Pt 3:1, NASB). Although I have not been in your exact situation.
The danger with online forums like this one can sometimes be that people like me, who are not really qualified to offer advice, will offer advice anyway. I am probably in over my head on this one, but felt led to reply, just the same.
I’m a guy; I have not traveled on the road your husband has taken; haven’t been there, haven’t done that. But, I’m a guy. Every man I know has somewhere, at some time, been tempted to color outside of the lines, when it comes to sex and relationships (even if happily married). No excuses here, just a reality with which every man must come to terms. As the Scripture reminds us, soberly: The devil prowls about seeking whom he may devour. For most men, managing our sexual thought and conduct is a primary field of battle. Your husband’s slippery slope (porn habit to anonymous chat to specific ongoing personal conversation with a woman to whom he is not married to the sharing of desire and development of intimacy to sexting and emotional affair … ) is the devil’s game. The good news: sounds like the affair was not physically consummated. Close call, but the Lord intervened. Still, the damage is done. Deep. Painful. Real.
Every story like this has a lot of backstory. The kind of man your husband is, has been, wants to be, and has demonstrated over 21 years, is more than can be captured in a post here. Same for you. But, based on what you have shared, here’s my take in response to your question:
(1) Help your husband understand that you understand the spiritual context of this fight. And, it is a fight. It is a fight for your marriage, for all that is bright and beautiful, for a lifetime, for the future. And, let him know that his fight is yours, too. You are in this together. You will stand by him, not apart from him.
(2) Never be an enabler, don’t pretend. If you are to fight together effectively, both must be authentic, honest, and nakedly so. His deceit–his unwillingness to be transparent–is a large part of how you both got here. If he’s half a man, he is ashamed, but trying to find new footing to stand back up and be the man God made him to be. It’s tricky. You have to both hold him accountable and affirm him. But, never enable sin, even when just turning away from a stumble seems easier and you don’t have the energy to contest it. On the other hand, he needs to know, unmistakably, that he is still a man worth having, attractive, someone you are proud to call your husband, strong and good (if flawed, still repentant), who has much to offer.
(3) Commitment to prayerful, professional, Christian therapy/counseling is necessary; non-negotiable. Peeling back the layers of this onion will take time and needs outside help.
(4) But given all of the above, I am, at last, to the bottom line: If you feel like you want to be intimate with your husband today, tomorrow, or whenever, go with it. He is your husband. If you are drawn to him, allow that intimate intersection–full-on sex, even–to provide some healing. Sex can heal. It is the closest expression of union, completeness, and oneness that can be known in this life, engaging every dimension of our being. You do not want to be ever used by your husband (see “never be an enabler” above), but loving him and being loved by him can be cemented sexually.
If you discover that re-engaging him sexually sets his recovery (or yours) back a few steps, you can always take a break and re-evaluate before “next time.” But, if you are being drawn to intimacy with him, don’t let the enemy of our souls rob you (and your marriage) of what could be an important part of the healing path. It may, more than anything else you can do, reassure him that you are, in fact, committed to fighting together with him for better days. This advice is predicated on what you desire, not giving in to his demands for sex, etc–but, if you’re longing for him, it could be the Lord stirring. The devil’s interest is not in rekindling your passion for him or his for you. That is, however, Heaven’s interest. I say: do it. Allow yourself to be close to him. His response may help answer the rest of the questions that still haunt you or surface along the way.
Okay, but disclaimer, once more: I’m a guy.
And, I have prayed for you and your husband today.
I am so sorry you are going through this. I had a porn addiction since I was 10. I never told my wife about it and 10 years into our marriage I was looking at porn almost every day. I always knew I could be such a man of God if I could kick that to the curb but I’ve never been able to. Then I started to never get into the word, always listening to secular clubbing music, watching everything I could on my computer through streaming. Then one time in 2018 I was working away from my wife and went to a party. I got so drunk and stayed with my buddy in a hotel and even though I didn’t have sex I fooled with a girl. I managed to stop before it got worse but the damage was done, I cheated on her. I went home crying for God to take my life so I wouldn’t have to put my wife through this. As soon as I got home I had to tell her before we got intimate. It was the hardest thing in my life I’ve ever been through and even worse for her as I have gone against our marriage vows. I opened up to her about everything. Needless to say, she was in disbelief, found it hard to process that even with the situation I’ve been cheating on her with porn the past 10 years. She wouldn’t let me touch her hand or anything, I betrayed her and it was something I could never take back. I was fortunate that her parents had gone through the same thing when she was a kid so she was able to open up to them. The next few days were really rough, I wasn’t allowed to be in her presence for the most part of the day, she stayed in her room and ate there. I did my best to take care of the kids, the house, and meals. She did become intimate with me even though she wouldn’t let me touch her she made an exception with sex. She told me that she felt she lost so much about our marriage so she didn’t want to lose the sex otherwise she might feel she lost all love for me causing her to hate me. I couldn’t believe she would do this even though at this point in time she still hadn’t forgiven me. The sex started to heal us. It was the hardest thing she ever did but she pushed through it. Almost a week later after seeing my pastor and many talks and finding out how I got to that point, she told me she forgives me. Now, this doesn’t mean that she trusts me but it was a start. Although she forgave me it took me many months to forgive myself and this is something down the road he is also going to need to be able to do.
We had to set up boundaries. We have what’s called “Accountable2you” installed on my phone which you can also use on your computer. We thought that if I used a friend as an accountability partner it could allow me to slip up and talk to my friend about it instead of her so we made her my accountability partner instead. I had to remove streaming on my laptop. This app is really good. If I click on anything that has anything to do with sex or any words associated with it she gets notified right away with a screenshot of what I was searching. The reason we went this route instead of Covenant eyes was that if I make any changes from blocking a certain keyword to an app to a website she gets alerted, if I tried to delete the app or turn it off and back on again it would send an alert to my wife. This has helped me so much since I kicked porn to the curb. The times I’m tempted I know what’s on my phone and it stops me from going there. It is a paid app but well worth the cost. I had also downloaded a bunch of Christian music any changed my listening habits to be more of God. Also when it comes to watching anything I check out IMDB which is a movie review place and you can go to parental rating to see if the show contains any type of nudity. She basically approves anything I watch. This is part of the consequences of my sin but well worth it to have a healthy relationship with my wife.
A year and a few months later our relationship has been closer than ever before. We talk about everything. Our sex life is intimate and since I started on TMB even more frequent. Our emotional development has been growing and growing. My relationship with God is closer than ever. I still have the app on my phone and I’m not going to take it off anytime soon. I have started a purity group last year for men in my motorcycle club but unfortunately, it’s a closed group. It would be good if he could find something out there though for him. There is a lot of devotional content for men wanting to kill their addiction to porn and lust. Again this is just one take on many ways to handle it but this worked for us. There is a way to fight through what you’re going through but God has to be the center of it.
I’m so sorry for what you are going thru. I have been on both sides of the forgiveness issue, and I know how difficult it can be, whether you are the one who is asking for forgiveness, or the one who is giving it.
It probably seems doubly unfair, but the truth is that the future of your relationship and your marriage is in your hands. He can be perfect from this day forward, but if you can’t get to that place where you forgive and try to regain the intimacy that was taken from you, then you will never recover completely. I don’t say that to place undue pressure on you to do anything. What happened was not your fault. I have heard several times statements along the lines of ” I didn’t do this, and it is his/her job to fix it”. I have heard many well meaning people agree with that sentiment. It sounds fair, and in light of that, it sounds reasonable and correct. It is false. It takes two to make a marriage, and it takes two to rebuild one that has been damaged, regardless of who is responsible for the damage. As I said, that really isn’t fair.
I know plenty of marriages that survived and even thrived after much worse, and many that failed over what seems small and trivial. The difference is summed up in one word. Grace. Some will say that repentance is the required quality, and it is very important, but it is grace that rebuilds what is broken. Repentance only acknowledges the brokenness. For the record, my marriage is one that survived much worse. The short version is that we each committed grievous offenses against the other. I won’t go into that beyond saying that mine was pornography, and an affair that grew out of an online relationship. I won’t go into what my wife did beyond saying that it was as hurtful as an affair, and it can never be made right. Either of us would have been justified in ending the marriage, but we didn’t, but we didn’t truly forgive either, and the damage just kept adding up. I can’t tell you how, or why, but Grace finally won the day. Neither of us deserved it, but once it was applied to all the hurts, things started changing.
I’m sharing that with you so that you will understand that you are the one who holds the future of your marriage in your hands. I know that isn’t fair, and it probably seems like it is beyond your strength right now. But your post shows your heart for your husband and your marriage. If it keeps asking questions like the ones you asked here, I have great faith that it will know the answers in time.
I will add this last thought. As someone who has had to both forgive great hurts, and to ask forgiveness for great hurts, I don’t think I could tell you which is harder. Trying to forgive can sometimes seem an insurmountable goal, but waiting for that evidence that you have been forgiven is also very, very difficult. I don’t say that to pressure you into anything, but just maybe, to tell you that while you are working thru things, your husband will also be hurting and uncertain of the future.
I won’t go into much detail, but I went through this with my ex-fiance. I know some of what you are going through, although after 21 years of marriage your hurt is different than mine was. Those years probably make you feel more betrayed than I did, but those years also give you a stronger basis from which to fight for your marriage.
I was also once in a outpatient hospital program for depression, and one of our members was a sex addict – porn and chat rooms. I saw his struggles, and his need to get back to being faithful to the woman he loved. The things he shared in group have me some insight into what recovery from this is like. I’ve also worked my own recovery through Codependents Anonymous, and have therefore helped quite a few people who have been through similar situations. I’m not a therapist, but my background gives me some insights on how this can be successfully navigated.
You say your husband is putting in the work, which is an excellent sign that he is truly remorseful. The accountability partner is going to be extremely helpful. Your husband is indeed in the early steps of recovery. You are as well. It’s going to be a journey for both of you.
I highly recommend that you see a therapist individually, as well as the marriage counselor. You both have separate issues to work through, and your individual growth will strengthen the work you do as a couple.
You’ve got the benefit of having God be the third strand in the twine that is your marriage. The strands that represent you and your husband are currently weak as a result of his sin, but if you fix your eyes and prayers on God through this process, His strand will keep your marriage together while you work on your individual strands.
In terms of resuming intimacy, it’s okay to allow that to happen slowly. I don’t know if your husband has asked for forgiveness, or if you have given it. But I can say that the mental health community has a term, “forgiveness with caution.” It allows you to continue to love your husband while also keeping yourself safe during the recovery process. And that safety is important. It gives you the chance to heal. There is work involved in this for both of you, and you need to feel safe if the work is to be effective.
It sounds like you’re actually working through this quite well if you’re starting to wonder about resuming intimacy already. Keep up communication with him. It’s important to use “I statements” to communicate your needs without being judgemental. Tell him everything that you wrote in the last paragraph of your post. But take it as slowly as you need to. Maybe stick with massages for a bit since that was all right for you. When you’re ready, move up to kissing or something that seems like a logical next step. Keep the momentum going on the journey back to full intimacy without pushing it too hard.
And through this process, remember that you are both victims – you of his sin, but he of the mental health issues that caused his sin. Pray not just for your marriage, but for the both of you individually. God will lead you back to showing more of the fruit of the spirit that will allow for recovery.
Penny, I’m not going to guess your spiritual background, but I will tell you that this forum is based on what the Bible says about marriage and sex. And the Bible considers this infidelity. We read in Matthew, Chapter 5, verses 27 and 28:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (NASB)
Jesus said it’s Infidelity, and it is! No different than when you hate someone in your heart…Jesus says you have committed murder.