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How to restore intimacy after an affair

The time after an affair can be an anxious one for any couple. There are often so many questions to answer and emotions to understand, and the process of recovery can be a long one. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel when the right steps are taken.

If you are looking to rebuild your relationship after an affair, then marriage counselling can be a positive step. By gaining the support of an experienced professional, you and your partner will learn about tools needed to answer the tough questions and pull through difficult moments.

The importance of intimacy

Any successful relationship relies on an intimate bond. You and your partner need to feel loved and accepted, cultivating a personal space where you can both feel secure and free to express your emotions.

Sex plays a big role and shouldn’t be ignored, but more subtle expressions of intimacy, such as hand-holding and kissing, are also vital components. Without these parts, relationships tend to drift, and this growing sense of separation can be compounded following an affair.

Below, we talk through some of the steps you and your partner can take when trying to restore intimacy following an affair.

Take your time

There is no quick fix. In fact, moving too fast without going through the full recovery process can cause more problems down the line.

There are a lot of emotions to work through immediately after discovering an affair. It’s natural if you feel uncomfortable with the thought of intimacy at this stage, as feelings of doubt and even inadequacy can be present.

The recovery process can happen at different speeds for different couples – nobody is the same. What’s important is that you continue trying to make the recovery with your partner, even if it’s just tiny steps at the start.

Check out our blog on what to do in the days after discovering an affair for more guidance on this stage.

A gay couple holding hands

Restore communication

Becoming intimate with your partner again after an affair is a process which, for some, has many steps. As mentioned above, jumping straight back into intimacy  may not just be difficult, it may seem impossible.‍

However, it's also quite common to want to "re-conquer" your spouse following an affair. In general, sex is good for a relationship and should be encouraged at all times, so if this is your disposition, please do have sex.

Trust is one of the most impacted aspects of any relationship following an affair, and it is one of the key ingredients for intimacy. Rebuilding trust is something that takes time and, crucially, honest communication. For some partners, only when trust is rebuilt will the prospect of sex feel possible again.

As with trust, communication often breaks down immediately after an affair, so restoring this is a positive first step. You may need to have honest conversations with each other which can make you feel uncomfortable and will take time. However, this step is important to restoring communication and also that sense of trust which is a vital part of any full recovery.

Spend more time together

After an affair, your instinctive reaction can be to create more distance between yourself and your partner. Often, we do this to protect ourselves from further rejection, and it’s important we have our own spaces to work through complicated feelings and emotions.

Once that initial stage has been passed, and communication begins to return, you must spend more time together as a couple. Prolonged time apart is a key reason why intimacy breaks down, so try to restore this time together whenever you are both ready.

As with every aspect of the recovery following an affair, this could be a slow process that stops and starts at different stages. The important thing here is communication, understanding why one person may not be at the same point as another and how both partners can support each other through the process.

Quality over quantity

Being together as a couple isn’t just about the physical distance; it’s also a mental connection. ‘Togetherness’ is about being able to open up in the presence of someone else, and for that to happen, the right environment is needed.

It’s vital that your time together is in a positive space. Catching up after work or watching TV in the evening isn’t enough on its own to repair the divide following an affair.

In the early stages, a walk, or a drive can be a positive way of spending time together. Once you restore that sense of comfort and security with each other, you can then look to be more expansive or romantic with your moments.

A woman with her arms around her boyfriend and smiling

The importance of fun

Even once you’ve restored parity to your relationship, intimacy can feel like a long way away. It’s one thing to be honest and truthful to your partner through communication, and another to feel completely secure and loved in their presence.

The last step for couples returning to intimacy is often the inclusion of fun. It’s vital that you’re genuinely enjoying your time together again, which can help create a relaxed environment where intimacy feels natural.

Once you’re enjoying each other’s company, see if you can introduce more fun activities into your daily lives. Something subtle like cooking together can work, or you can try something new for a more exciting date night.

If the thought of doing something more enjoyable with your partner still feels like a long way away, this is fine. You are probably at an earlier stage in the process. However, when you’re ready, this can be a significant last step to bringing intimacy back to your relationship.

Help and support following an affair

Recovering from an affair can be a daunting prospect, but it’s not impossible.

Here at Remainly, we offer online relationship counselling that can be done at your time and pace, in an environment that suits you. Led by couple’s therapist Andreas L Narum, our videos are perfect for partners that want to work on their relationship for a better future together.

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