Intimacy After an Affair

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Dr. Chris Tickner

After an affair, one of the most difficult aspects of the relationship is re-introducing and experiencing intimacy. This process can be painful and traumatic for both parties. Attempting to heal after an affair on your own is often difficult because of the deep betrayal of the relationship. It can be explosive and dramatic without much healing occurring. We work with our clients to help them re-establish intimacy in a safe way.

What is Intimacy in a Relationship?

Intimacy in a relationship is defined as a feeling of closeness, transparency, and supportiveness as well as physical intimacy such as hand-holding, eye-contact, hugs, cuddling, kisses, and sex. In the context of an affair, one party has been completely blindsided and betrayed by their partner. In many situations, the partner who has betrayed the other has also experienced problems with the relationship that they want to address. In order to bring the relationship back to a healthy place, there is a long healing process that has to happen and that begins with affair recovery.

First Step After an Affair

The first order of business after an affair is recovery. It can take a long time for both partners to recover. The loss of trust and respect in the wake of infidelity can be crushing, so it is very important for both partners to give each other time. The partner who has been betrayed gets to call the shots in terms of returning to intimacy. They get to be angry for as long as they like. And if that means they need to abstain from any form of intimacy, that must be respected. But if the couple navigates these rocky water successfully, they can begin to rebuild trust and intimacy. Slow and steady is the key here. At California Integrative Therapy, we work such clients using affair recovery counseling. Couples learn to start with a simple touch, eye to eye, hand on hand, moving slowly closer to one another. 

Intimacy Avoidance and Attachment Avoidance

After an affair, intimacy avoidance and attachment avoidance can go hand-in-hand. Intimacy avoidance is when one partner does not want to engage in intimacy and frequently avoids it. They will find reasons why they cannot be intimate or change the conversation if intimacy is brought up. This is not unusual after an affair because typically the partner who has been betrayed does not feel safe being intimate. In many cases, the partner may have anxiety and attachment avoidance as well. It is difficult to feel safe opening up emotionally and trusting someone who betrayed the most basic tenants of the relationship. This is a complex issue that will take time to resolve. Patience needs to be present on both sides of the relationship and the goal to mend the partnership needs to be present on both sides as well.

For more help on surviving infidelity and affair recoverycontact us. Working with a therapist who can act as an intimacy coordinator and work to heal the affair trauma in the relationship is a smart way to handle the situation. Affairs include a deep layer of betrayal and cannot be ignored. They can also be explosive to heal alone. Working with a therapist can really help.

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