The 3 Phases of Erotic Recovery After Infidelity
After an affair, your well-meaning family and friends may tell you things like, “once a cheater, always a cheater” or, “how can you ever trust them again?” They may encourage you to leave your partner. However, try not to make any major choices about your marriage or committed partnership right away.
In the early stages after the discovery of an affair, most people are in the Crisis Phase, and there are two more phases to go through before you need to make any long-term decisions. As long as you and your children are safe, treat yourself as if you have just been through a car wreck; you are probably feeling like your life has just been smashed to pieces. This time of upheaval will pass, if you get help and practice the skills you learn in each phase of recovery.
And yet, against your better judgment, you might be having more sex with one another than ever before; passionate and intense sex.-Tammy Nelson
During the Crisis Phase you will feel emotionally unstable, you may lose sleep, and might need to remind yourself to eat healthy and take care of yourself. You may have intrusive thoughts about the affair and demand to know details about your partner’s infidelity. This may lead to conflicts and even arguments. And yet, against your better judgment, you might be having more sex with one another than ever before; passionate and intense sex. You could be embarrassed to tell your therapist or your friends. And you don’t want your partner to think that this means they are forgiven.
Sex with your spouse or committed partner is normal after an affair and happens when you are both scared to lose one another. You may desperately want to connect, or want to hold each other. You may each crave the feeling of being intimate and in each other’s arms. Also, now that distance has been created between the two of you, you may find you are drawn to one another to use sex not only as comfort, but to express what is known in the animal kingdom as primal “mate guarding.” It is a way to lay claim to one another when your monogamy has been threatened.
Although this can feel confusing, it is a natural result of a new relationship being formed – who is this person that you thought you knew? What was their outside affair partner attracted to that perhaps you hadn’t seen in them? You thought you knew everything about your partner, but now they are almost a stranger in some ways. This feeling, although painful, can bring back a new sense of allure, a new longing and a sexual attraction that is emotionally loaded for both of you.
For others, there is no allure, and no sexual connection. During the Crisis Phase, you may find there is so much betrayal, anger and resentment you can’t imagine ever connecting to your partner again. Talk to your partner directly about your feelings. Share with them if you don’t feel ready to have sex. Maybe you are okay with some intimate physical time together, like holding each other in bed. Be honest. It is important to take your time and find other ways to feel safe as you move through the phases of recovery.
…you may find there is so much betrayal, anger and resentment you can’t imagine ever connecting to your partner again.-Tammy Nelson
After your partner cheats, it may take time to recover your own self-esteem. One way to do this is to slow down the process and be assured that there is no pressure to have sex before you are ready. Whether you are sexual or shut off, this phase will pass.
You will recognize when you are entering phase two, the Insight Phase, when you start referring to the infidelity as “our affair” instead of “your affair.” There will be less blame and more curiosity. You will ask, “How did this happen to us?” There will be less focus on the details of the affair, (“how many times did you meet with him, where did you have sex, were her boobs bigger than mine?”) and you will focus on the emotional content of the affair (“were you thinking of me when you were with her/him?”).
This is the time when couples therapy is invaluable. An expert in infidelity treatment can help you discern the reasons that the affair may have occurred in the first place.
In the Insight Phase, the focus is on understanding each other and creating empathy. Don’t try and find forgiveness right now. That can be fleeting and temporary. The one who has been cheated on will likely take back their forgiveness when they are feeling powerless, or when they need to rebalance the relationship.
When you can experience empathy, you can begin to explore real erotic recovery… the memory of the third person will no longer be in bed with you.-Tammy Nelson
Empathy is more important during this phase, and here you can begin to explore what real intimacy will look like going forward. Empathy means that both of you validate each other’s feelings and begin to understand what it has been like to live in your worlds. When you can experience empathy, you can begin to explore real erotic recovery. Eroticism becomes a new way to connect intimately and consciously. When that happens, the memory of the third person will no longer be in bed with you.
In order to do this, you will begin to create a new sex life together, with new fantasies and new ways of being together. You may begin to feel hopeful that your relationship can start over, and you can be together, in a better way. Some couples even say that the affair woke them up, and now they are closer than ever.
Phase three is the Vision Phase of your recovery. Now is the time to decide if you want to create a new future for your relationship. You must both create a new monogamy agreement together. You will have to decide and negotiate what that new monogamy will look like. This will include a new erotic life, one that is satisfying to both of you. This understanding is crucial to an exciting and passionate relationship.
If you ignore the erotic part of your relationship and focus only on getting along and avoiding conflict, you will find that you are good roommates, but you won’t feel “in love” with your partner. Eventually you will feel dissatisfied and frustrated. It is through the erotic connection that you will each find that “in love” feeling. But erotic connection takes work. Erotic recovery is a practice, like yoga or meditation. You have to practice it together and commit to a future of erotic recovery, every day.
To find out more about making your erotic recovery work or to find an expert in erotic recovery, contact Dr Tammy Nelson at drtammynelson.com.
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