It’s discussion Wednesday again.

Initially after the affair, it will be extremely difficult for you as the betrayed spouse to even consider how you might someday move from pain and anger to a stronger more intimate relationship with your spouse.  But to have a deeply fulfilling relationship once again, you will need to take steps to move in this direction at some point.

Many people confuse intimacy with only being about sex, but it’s much more than that.

Dr. Frank Gunzburg describes intimacy as the deepest sharing that can exist between two people in the following ways:

  • Physical sharing of one’s body with another
  • Describing innermost thoughts, feelings and emotions
  • Discussing future hopes and dreams
  • Romantic gestures to show caring
  • Quality time spent together

Dr. Gunzburg calls these elements of intimacy a “triangle” that consists of romance, emotional connecting of a non-sexual nature, and sex.  He suggests that in order to rebuild intimacy in your marriage that you concentrate first on the romance and the emotional connection points of that triangle. Sexual intimacy may be an area that you will only feel secure in working up to once these two sectors have been strengthened.

So this leads to our discussion questions for this week…

How has intimacy changed after the affair? What was it like prior?

What points of the “triangle” do you think you personally need to work on to rebuild your marriage?

What steps are you taking to accomplish this?

As always, please respond to each other in the comments.


Doug & Linda

See also  Eight Activities for Healing Your Self

    30 replies to "Discussion: Intimacy After the Affair"

    • Elizabeth

      New to this site, but already thankful for it and feeling more encouraged every day. Strangely enough, I don’t feel like the elements of this triangle are an issue for myself and my husband who just within the past month ended a 1 1/2 year affair. Were these issues for us before the affair started? – most definitely “yes” and I knew that. Since I felt strongly that something was going on for the past year, but could never get him to admit it – I have worked very hard to re-build all of these things over the past year, to the extent that I don’t think they are an issue, even now. I believe that these things being re-built over the past year, could be part of why he chose to end things with her, and save our marriage. I am thankful for that. Bottom line for me is, (and whether it was right or wrong of me) since I knew something was happening to us – I did everything I could think of in hopes that things could be turned around. So far, so good.

      • Doug

        Elizabeth, Welcome! And thanks for getting the ball rolling on our discussion. We look forward to hearing more of how you were able to turn things around.

    • Morrigan

      Hello everyone!

      Well first, I just want to say hang in there everyone as I know everything going thru the news this week (arnold & maria) is probably hitting home very hard. I know that here where I live, the radio and tv has it everywhere and they are going as far as asking people call in about “love children” on the radio this morning. What I heard people call in with were horrendous stories and I just have to say that these people, the BS’s are incredibly strong individuals, I was so impressed.

      How has it changed? Well, I think I am much much more aware now of when we are connecting on any level, whether it be through conversation, or action. Prior to it all happening I think we were both humdrum about a lot, so much so that I can barely remember a lot about our relationship before it happened! We were just walking through life…This happening hasn’t only made me more aware of us, but so many other things around me that I enjoy. I woke me up to more then just our relationship.

      I would say of the 5 keys listed, I wish he would share a little more about his emotions, he is very much a typical man, and only lowers that wall after a couple of drinks, lol! Which he did recently and really said some things that felt really awesome to hear. He was in a “safe” place to say them, and that was important for him.

      Steps being taken… I am making sure to value everything, take nothing for granted, and read his actions more. That is important to do when they have a difficult time expressing themselves. These things haven’t been hard to do, but have made HUGE long strides in repairing what was broken.

      This last weekend was our 14 yr. anniversary. We went out for dinner and had to most wonderful time! I realized that we sat there and ordered 3 extra rounds of drinks because we were communicating so well, and just didn’t want to end the conversation. I really don’t know that last time I recognized us doing that. It felt great. I cherished the time and the company! D-day is less then a month away. I only think about it when I am NOT with him. But it’s gotten much, much easier. Thank you all, Doug & Linda, and everyone who posts here. On bad days I get perspective here…it’s really appreciated.

      • Battleborn

        Funny that you mentioned your husband needs a “safe” place to talk. I just told my husband and my counselor that I needed a “safe place” to ask questions. There is no way to explain it, my husband has never given me a reason to fear him, but I still need a safe place to ask questions about the affair.

    • roller coaster rider

      Morrigan, thanks for a wonderful and encouraging post. I think this topic is huge, because I have also come to see that without true intimacy and every part of that triangle, something is missing in the marriage. My H is very crippled when it comes to emotional intimacy and realizes now he needs help and healing in order to ‘get the rocks out of his heart,’ as he put it this morning. I am exploring ways to draw him out, and am growing in the ways I view everything regarding ‘us’ and trying to challenge my own perspective, which can be skewed when I don’t feel very good. Ironically, although I initially felt I would never want to be physically intimate again, that part of our ‘triangle’ seems not only restored but actually better. It’s the innermost thoughts, feelings and emotions where we have trouble. It’s a process…

      • changedforever

        Wow…I’d really appreciate some pointers on what you’ve done to get your spouse to open up emotionally…AND TO ASK YOU WHAT YOU ARE THINKING & HOW YOU ARE DOING…wow! Thx for any advice you could share with me…

        • Elizabeth

          I read somewhere that a forgiving/understanding spirit can help your spouse to open up, where an accusatory/angry one will only cause them to close themselves off to you. This has defnitely been the case for me.

          • roller coaster rider

            I agree, Elizabeth, but there should be a balance too. Nothing contrived. Sometimes it just hurts and all the forgiveness/understanding in the world can’t change that.

        • roller coaster rider

          I think the only thing I’m doing differently is that I’m not talking as much. He’s not used to that. He knows that he needs to do lots of work to repair the damage and help with my pain. There has been no doubt in his mind that I have felt more pain over what he did than I ever have in my entire life, including losing a baby, losing both my parents, having a teenaged daughter try to commit suicide, then later develop anorexia, and having our son addicted to heroin.

    • roller coaster rider

      Oh, and what we’re doing to accomplish the rebuilding of our marriage is mainly spending time together, when work allows, going to counseling, reading this blog and other materials, my husband asks me regularly how I’m doing and what I’m thinking and shares better than he ever has his own thoughts and feelings. We also pray together for God to fix what we can’t.

    • michael

      Its that WALL.
      It may be a wall of shame, wall of guilt, wall of fear, or a wall of pain that gets in the way the most.
      Like any obstacle it can be overcome.
      Many of us, me included, just don’t know how to.
      For some maybe its finding a way over, around or straight through. It can be done.
      But for most of us, we just sit and stare and imagine it as impossible. We can give every reason why we can’t get over it. Talk ourselves out of trying. Even turn our head to it and hope it disappears.

    • changedforever

      I am 7 mths past DDay of my H’s PA that lasted 9+ weeks w/an add’l 4 weeks of withdrawl WITH contact with the the OW during those 4 wks.
      I don’t know about anyone else but its hard for me to read these bulleted points Dr. Gunzburg quotes above re: intimacy…because my H’s affair was sexual & emotional…and I try not to, but still think of the 2 of them sharing those points together…and it still hurts me very deeply.
      For me, the discomfort of continuing relations came later as the months progress…as I found out more…as I truly became more damaged…knowing now the vast extent of the damage…part of recovery? I guess…

      I try SO hard to get the negative thoughts away/out of my head…they’re fleeting at times…but always there unfortunately.
      We’re using Dr. Gunzburg’s program/workbook…thx for the recommendation of it…but our road is long ahead of us, with the occasional jump in then out of the ‘choppy waters’ of recovery…but I know everything I need to know now and have assumed the role of ‘director’ of our relationship….I really tire of this journey at times but know that this is my ‘lot in life’ now…unfortunately. And yes, its true EVERYWHERE we turn is more about affairs & indescretions … whether its TV or news….but at least my H offers to turn the channel when something of this nature comes on now…he IS more aware now, finally.

    • melissa

      Describing innermost thoughts, feelings and emotions – I feel like I’m hitting a brick wall. Today I told my H that I often think about why I fell in love with him and asked him if he does so too. He said he doesn’t have time, is too busy working. I just hit rock bottom. He DID have time for sweet love notes, dinners and lunches, texts and emails when it came to the OW.

      I am thankful for this post because without it, I would have felt even worse. I do feel that we are doing quite well on the other three levels so that’s something.

    • B

      I think the hardest part for all of us in this is that we see en emotional disconnect with our spouses as they seem to be building one with someone else. Regardless of what issues may have existed in your marriage previously, one of the most painful things about an affair is this “new” level of emotion and intimacy that your spouse seems to have with the OP. While you may not always think of it rationally becuse of the pain you feel, consider this:

      When a CS is with the OP, they DO NOT have to think about:

      -hectic schedules
      -daily chores

      All they really have to do is spend time with this person that they have ZERO ties to. It is and always will be a fantasy. I’ve tried a strategy lately that seems to be working a little. Instead of moping, pouting, and pressing for answers; I’m thinking of myself as the “other person” I’m being sweeter, doing little things I did in the beginning, being more appreciative, and making life fun again. These are all things I have done before, but as with any marriage, the constant ups and downs get in the way. Trying to regain your intimacy when you aren’t really sure where your spouse stands can be tough, but if you really love them, you will try and you will “outsweet” the OP. Somedays it is hard. Somedays I have to go into a corner and talk myself down because I feel like I can’t do it, but in the end, I’m not budging. I’m taking back the control and putting a positive spin on everything. My wife is telling me she loves me and she is happy, she is telling me she made a mistake, but she is also constantly asking me what is wrong. She seems to be worried about what I’m thinking. Sunday 5/22 is our 15th anniversary and this week my sole focus is on making it our best one yet. I’ve reached the point where I am not asking anymore, I’m just enjoying being alive. She is either going to see that and come along for the ride, or she’ll choose to leave. But my days of whining, pouting, and feeling sorry for myself are over. I finally looked in the mirror and saw what I was worth, and you know what? I am a pretty damn good catch.

      • Elizabeth

        Very well said, I could not agree more! Thank you!

      • Holding On

        Thanks B. I needed your positives! I’m going to copy the last part of your letter to read over when I’m feeling down.

    • B

      I guess what I’m saying is that rebuilding intimacy may have to be initiated by you and it may be only you for a while. Your end game should be to live life as if you only have one day left. Say “I love you” more, say “thanks”, recognize what they are doing, and be available to listen. My heart tells me that if you operate like that with your spouse, it should be easier for them to pull away from either talking to or thinking about the OP. It will eventually get to a point where they are ashamed of themselves and any attempt by the OP to contact them, or any thought they may have about the OP will result in their disgust. It may be private disgust and they may not share it with you, but it will be there. You can’t bring someone back to you by being a shell of yourself. They didn’t start an affair because of you, they married you because of you. Their affair is a result of self-loathing, low self-esteem, and a need to feel desired by someone who doesn’t “have” to love them because of marriage. If they see you enjoying life, they begin to realize just how much they stand to lose. The only way you can truly rebuild intimacy is to toughen up and show your spouse that you deserve it, you know how to give it, and no one does it better than you. Easy to say, VERY hard to do.

      • Morrigan

        I can’t agree with you more B, on both your messages. “being more appreciative, and making life fun again.” that confidence you show sparkles and your spouse sees it. I think it has made a huge difference.

      • Melvin

        Bingo B. My sentiments exactly. I echo your points on being the best spouse you can be. Just to re-iterate my beliefs (reinforced by my counselor), showing your best side will win him/her over in the end. It will take time. It’s really the one key item we all control.

        Before and during DW’s EA, I thought I was doing all 5 of the key intimacy points listed. I really believed that I was meeting her on these 5 levels. However, there were behavioral issues she had with me that, instead of bringing them forward, she chose to ignore and instead pursue an improper relationship with her ex-fiance. Even before D-Day, I was making changes she wanted to see in me from anger management to a different flavor of quality time spent together. I made sacrifices in my volunteer efforts to calm my stress levels and began to do more things with her that she liked. And eventually, the 5 key intimacy points seems to become better with time. Not all the way there, but better. We are just 3 months from D-Day.

        If I had to highlight one point that really helped us, it was quality time spent together. Date nights with her driving the events went a long way to re-connecting us. The other 4 points became better with successful time spent alone.

        Marriage is really a two-way street. Both sides have to compromise in order to make the street maneuverable by both spouses. Look into the mirror and make that change (to borrow a Michael Jackson line). Be all you can be and let the chips fall where they may.

        Best always.

      • changedforever

        Wow – thank you for this….

    • ppl

      this subject reminds me of a discussion i had with marriage councellor. she told me that i needed to woo my wife back after her EA. it got me angry to think that i was doing all the work to keep things together in family while wife was dysfunctional and still involved and on top of that i was supposed to be romantic and fun. to court her again. i think that only rewards the cheater and reinforces their behavior. how about them (the cheaters) trying to woo back the innocent spouse). she always tried to minimize wifes behaviors by making excuses for them, even before wife could speak for herself. it was the same female councellor who also advised me to use condoms if i started going elsewhere for sex but advised my wife to pick her next affair partner wiser with better character traits. i realize now that of course councellors have their own baggage and biases. she did do one thing right and recommended the book not just friends. an excellent one. i was able to later ask her whether she believed in it and its methods. she said yes and then her answer to why we were not following the therapy recommended in the book…she could only say it had been a while since she read it and had loaned out her last copy and never got it back. she and her husband have a joint practice. i then saw the husband who helped me tremendously. he told me i could only change my own behavior, not my wifes. there is no truer line. he didnt try to minimize my wifes actions nor invalidate my concerns. PICK YOUR PROFESSIONALS CAREFULLY. alway reevaluate their performance as well.

    • D

      H0w is it different? Well, for one, during the affair our sex sky-rocketed so in a weird way I’m kind of bummed it ended (sort of kidding.) Now though, we’re at a healthy level but I can’t deny some resentment. I used to be more accommodating. Even though I tried to initiate more romance, I was satisfied with a quickie before work.

      Now, however, I need to see more of an effort. I mean, if she could slip away from work and drive 10 miles to a hotel in the next town for a four hour rendezvous then I don’t think it’s asking to much that she muster more enthusiasm than just 10 minutes just because we both happen to wake up before the kids.

    • Mark

      I like the comments about being the best spouse you can be. The implication that the spouse will see that and be attracted to it may turn out to be a fallacy. I did this a few months back. I came home from work at night and didn’t sit down. I’d immediately do the dishes, laundry, clean, make the kids dinner while she was at work (in the adjoining salon in our home). She saw the effort I was putting in. This went on for a couple weeks. What did it get me? It got me an email from her that it was killing her to see me putting in this effort and it made her feel guilty because she didn’t have “loving” feelings for me.

      This devastated me. A few weeks later I caught her with a tracphone she purchased to continue texting the cheat without me seeing it on our bill. Of course I caught her again texting him with her new phone while she displayed the other phone on the table next to her so her idiot husband would think nothing was going on. Unfortunately for her, I’ve become superintuitive now. I can tell when she is lying just by looking at her. After this event, we had it out and unfortunately my 17 year old son became involved when he came into the salon to tell us to keep it down because our 14 y/o twins were upset by the shouting.
      My son knew what was going on and told my wife point blank that whatever my wife decided was fine, but he would never support her if she was with a man who would cheat on his own wife. That seemed to shock her back into reality. She recommitted to our marriage. I thought things were on the right track again.

      Well, a month ago, my radar was tingling again. I saw texts from
      a number I didn’t recognize. I started checking her cell phone again. I put a keyboard tracker on our computers on a Friday night. It took less that one day to find the proof I needed. She had gotten up on a Saturday morning at 5 am to engage in sexual texts with the husband of her childhood friend. (they live 10 states away now). I had everything in writing this time. Every dirty detail. I saw how she described how they’d have to be careful so “he doesn’t see the records”. As bad as the content of their “conversation” was, I think seeing the deceit in action….how she planned to stay up all night talking when she was out of town…. how to keep me in the dark, hurt more than anything else. It showed the total lack of respect for me. The total absence of conscience.

      I don’t know where I’m going with this post, but I need to talk. She again has repented, this time to Jesus. I think I believe her. I see her actions this time. She has given me all her passwords. She spends all her time with me….and yet… I still don’t know what to believe. I can’t talk to her about it because she gets so defensive and says I should see in her actions that she’s sincere.

      I’m sorry , but after what I’ve been through, I can’t just recover fast enough for her. I want to recover…I want to be over the fear and anxiety and pain, but I can’t do it on an artificial timetable. So….what was the topic of this thread again? lol….

      Oh, triggers. Yes, I have triggers…multiple triggers. Radio, Tv, cell phone, texts, FACEBOOK, you name em. If I see pictures taken during the time the affairs happened, I can’t look at them.
      I feel sick when I realize that during activities with our children, texting was occuring right next to me. Sports, school concerts, etc. Going to movies with her….and by extension with the other asshole via texts. I am so damn bitter about it.

      I don’t know what to do with my questions and feelings anymore. Last night she was crying and saying I was punishing her. I don’t even know how to respond to that. She is able to cry and express her feelings all the time and since the last discovery I made I haven’t been even able to shed one tear. Something happened inside and I know I have a flood of emotions waiting to be released and yet….nothing.

      I am in a no mans land.

    • Rx lady

      I am so sorry you are going through all of this. I’m sure all of us have gone through hell and back because of these affairs.

      To Elizabeth: I am happy for you!

      Melvin: I agree wholeheartedly!

      To all the rest of you bloggers: I have also decided to make myself the best “me” I can be. I’m reading Dr. Gunzburg’s books and learning a lot about communication that my husband and I are sorely lacking. I hope he can turn his end around. I was invited to his counseling session today, initially in order to present my observations about his behavior (they are thinking perhaps bipolar). However, the conversations turned to communication and dating, and his counselor felt very strongly about making time for dates (this is how this relates to Doug and Linda’s original discussion). My husband has a 6 month lease on the house he is living in, and the counselor asked him “then what?” He stated that he would probably return home, if not sooner. I am praying for all of us “standers”, that things WILL come together, that we CAN restore intimacy, and that we can create a new and better relationship with our spouse. My 2 sons are depending on me at this point, and I want our lives restored for their sake also.

      Sorry if this is too hard to follow. Bottom line: working on myself in order to make that triangle come together!!!

      Have a great weekend!

    • roller coaster rider

      Mark, I have to say that I heartily agree with your comment that sometimes you can only do so much. I also agree that for you to have trust in your W at this point doesn’t make sense. Even though she’s spending time with you and has given you her passwords, there is an awful lot of pain to work through and hopefully you let her see that now. I also relate to what you said about being shut down emotionally. Sometimes when you have been betrayed multiple times or experienced an earthquake-like stab to the heart, it takes a lot of time to even be willing to feel anything. “Empty and Numb” sounds a whole lot safer, right?

      With that said, I think your W needs to read some of what is recommended on this site and others, at least to show you she is serious about trying to help you heal. Probably the best one I’ve seen (and shortest, too) is How to Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair: a compact manual for the unfaithful by Linda J. MacDonald.

      Hoping for better days for you both.

      • Melvin

        Good advice RCR. I also highly recommend the compact manual that you mention. I purchased it from a tip on this site and gave it to my wife. It really helped. And it’s a quick read. Maybe read it first and highlight some sentences that are important to you.

        Best always.

    • lostinlove

      a forgiving spirit i gave…and it resulted in him feeling off the hook for having to even try to make up for how he devastated me. now i realize i have everything going for me and if i decide that i want to stay will be on my terms.because there is no telling whats really going on with the man i thought i knew

      • Rx lady

        I agree with you lost in love. My H told the counselor in front of me that he has a 6 month lease on his house. When the counselor asked what then, he stated he would be moving back home, if not sooner. But did he ask me if I wanted him back? He just assumed it. Maybe I won’t be ready. He still refuses to acknowledge his parallel reality with the OW. I can’t trust him if he can’t communicate with me….

    • InTrouble

      Can I comment on last week’s discussion? For us sex has never been better than since my husband found out about my EA.

      What concerns me is that he never, ever mentions it. Of course we discussed it when he found out about it, and we talked about it for a few days after that, but I get the distinct impression that he doesn’t want to talk about it now. For him, well, he believes it’s over. For me, I’m still in a psychological mess (although the actual EA seems to actually be over). I think he feels that by not talking about it it really will go away.

      This is not a new pattern in our marriage of course, but it does feel like one more simmering thing.

      • roller coaster rider

        InTrouble, I would like to suggest you get a copy of How to Help your Spouse Heal from Your Affair. It may give you some insight as to what he needs from you right now, and also potentially really help you as well. I wish you the best, and hope that your marriage will improve so you are finding your emotional needs met by the one you have committed to.

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